book banter: Blue Like Jazz

image Blue Like Jazz

Donald Miller 


I finished reading Blue Like Jazz last Sunday evening, and I’m pleased to say I loved it. I’d heard some pretty interesting criticism of this book (sorry, Don, if you’re reading this) that made me a little nervous. But the things I heard also made me excited to read it. People were talking about the controversial ideas, or about the author and his “strange” beliefs. Me? I’ve struggled with “Christianity” as a religion all my life. That’s not to say I haven’t been a Christian for years—I have. It’s not the faith I’ve toiled with, it’s the religion. So when I saw the subtitle of this book, “Nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality,” I was immediately intrigued. This sounded fresh to me. I didn’t recognize any of the names on the back of the book singing Donald’s praises, nor did I understand the title. I didn’t get the cover imagery. And I wasn’t sure what these “nonreligious thoughts” would turn out to be. But something about it, about the things I’d heard and what I felt in that subtitle made me want to read it. So I did.

I was right—the perspective in Blue Like Jazz is fresh. It feels raw. It feels honest. It feels like all those questions you’ve always wanted to ask but were always afraid to, because you knew your parents or your pastor would question you questioning your religion. It feels like all those times when you were frustrated that you didn’t understand God or the way this world works. It feels like somebody looking at you in the eye and telling you that you aren’t the only one who has these thoughts.

Here are the three most important takeaways I got from this book:

1) I am worth loving, and I know this because Jesus loves me. I have believed in Jesus for years. I accepted a long time ago that He is God’s son, that He died on the cross for all sinners, and that I believe in Him. I asked Him years ago to come into my heart and save me, and He did. But it wasn’t until Sunday night, after finishing this book, when I went to pray and think on the things I’d just read, that God revealed to me that I am worth loving. No matter what mean things I might say or think, no matter what terrible things I might do, I am still worth loving, and Jesus is proof of this. I felt so relieved and joyful when I realized this.

2) Christianity’s history is pretty ugly, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. In Blue Like Jazz, Donald writes about how he and his fellow students set up a “confession booth” on their college campus, not to take confessions from others, but to apologize for all the wrongs that Christians have done to humanity, from the violence of the Crusaders to their own lack of caring and loving of their fellow students. I’ve always felt defensive in the past when someone would address the evils in Christianity’s past, and even in its present. But it never occurred to me to face these problems and let people know that Christianity isn’t and never will be perfect. After all, this is why we need Jesus in the first place.

3) It is not my responsibility to change people, just to love them unconditionally. I felt so free when I realized this (and it sounds like Don did, too). God has taken the responsibility of changing people off of my plate! I don’t know why I ever thought it was mine to begin with. I’m such a judgmental person. I get it from my father. I’ve always grappled with it and, frankly, never liked it about myself! I want to be someone who can have her opinions without judging people who don’t share them. Instead, I will just love people, and leave the changing up to God.

I realize not everyone who reads Blue Like Jazz will have the same revelations I’ve had. I realize that many people probably already had all this together. But reading a book that is honest and that addresses Christian issues is refreshing and empowering. Many thanks to Donald Miller for his candidness, and to God for dropping this book in my lap. It has changed me.



kal said...

I found your response to "Blue Like Jazz" refreshing. You may want to try "The Shack" if you haven't already read it (sorry about the quotation marks- I couldn't find the italic or underline option).

Anyway, I too have found that loving others unconditionally is my calling. As a psychologist in training, I do not plan to convert my clients. Instead, I try to be Jesus to them and trust him for the rest. He demonstrated this when he healed 10 lepers even though only 1 returned to thank him. Did that one even follow him? Only Jesus/God knows.

In general, I am exhausted by the culture of Christianity that provides comfort for Christian while alienating others. Not to mention the role of fear as a motivating factor for "holy living"...

Thanks for you thoughts.

Misty Bourne said...


Thanks for the comment. You're definitely not alone in your feelings about the stereotypical Christian and how tiring it is to try and convince others differently. But you're right -- all we can do is be as Jesus-like as possible and get out of God's way to do the rest. :)

I've heard a lot about The Shack but I haven't read it yet. I do intend on checking it out, though!

Thanks again for your thoughts!