Blue Like Jazz is honest, funny, unreligous storytelling


Every life is a story. Blue Like Jazz is the new movie based on Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. It opens in theaters this weekend.

The movie, Blue Like Jazz has taken considerable license to fictionalize the series of essay and reflections that make up the book Blue Like Jazz, in order to create a narrative story based on the book’s basic ideas. In fact, the movie Blue Like Jazz emphasizes the aspects of storytelling using the acronym SCCR which stand for setting, conflict, climax, and resolution, a device that links nicely  to Don Miller’s more recent projects. Blue Like Jazz is an honest, funny journey through conflict towards resolution.

Raised in a traditional Baptist church in Houston, Don is a nineteen-year-old freshman who enrolls at Portland’s Reed College, the most liberal college in America. He goes to Reed in an attempt to escape conflict and deal with his disillusionment after being disappointed by church leadership. Changing the setting of his life does not allow Don to escape conflict, but he does find a different brand of conflict at Reed.
Each character at Reed is caught up in his or her own set of conflicts that intersect with Don’s story. Instead of stereotypes and moralizing each flawed human being is presented with great affection and empathy. Blue Like Jazz does not try to pigeonhole the characters into Christian or non-Christian, villain or hero. Instead they are all presented as people who are important, not just as bit players in Don’s story, but as beloved to God with stories that matter whether those stories move toward resolution within the telling of Don’s story or not.
Don’s bohemian father tells him that life is like jazz because the music in jazz does not resolve. Don’s life is full of unresolved questions and unresolved relationships. Conflict and lack of resolution is the nature of every life, including Don’s. And mine. And yours. Messy. Deconstructed. Like jazz.
To continue the jazz analogy, this chapter of Don’s life is something like a movement in a longer piece of music. Don’s story is the melodic theme but every character is like a little repeating riff in Don’s song. Each could become the full-blown melody in a different song by the same Composer.
If Blue Like Jazz has a villain, it is the church (small “c.”) Much of the conflict in the movie centers on how the (small “c”) church contributes to distancing some of the characters from God and faith. The judgmental attitudes, hubris, and hypocrisy that sometimes come out of the church require damage control. And an apology. Blue Like Jazz offers that.
The Church (big “C”) that reflects Christ’s love is well represented. The truth is that Christianity is populated with a cast of odd characters that rivals Reed’s student body. We are beloved and flawed too. We need this movie.
Blue Like Jazz is tells a fresh, unexpected story about redemption and faith that is decidedly nonreligious. Invite your non-religious friends. They need it too.

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