I finished Blue Like Jazz yesterday. I think Don Miller probably verges on being too permissive, and I think that’s the problem that several of my friends have about the book. I don’t agree with that entirely…I can definitely see where it would upset the fundamentalist among us. It turns traditional, conservative Christianity on its ear, and makes you think about whether or not you are simply living by somewhat arbitrary pre-established “religious rules,” or whether you are really allowing yourself to be affected by Christ in a genuine way, and whether that difference is coming across to those around you, by words and by actions.
I thought that it may have been a bit excessive for him to feel that he needed to apologize for all of the “ills done in the name of Christianity” throughout history…I think that history is much too complex of an animal for us to decide what should and shouldn’t have occurred to make us who we are today. I’m not saying that the Holocaust should have happened or anything, please don’t mistake me, but I’ve always felt that it was silly to apologize for things to which we have no tangible connection whatsoever. However, in believing that, I also recognize that he was among a very different group of people who would need to be reached in a very non-traditional way, and I do think that he did the best that he could in the context in which he was working.
What I did like very much was his attempt to reconnect us with the mystical qualities and the allure of our belief structure, while at the same time, bringing Jesus to an accesible level. He says that he view Jesus as someone who would like him, and I think that’s true, but we often don’t picture it that way. We see Jesus as the solemn, sunken-faced, sad man, standing next to God (who is undoubtedly some strange cross between Father Time and Santa Claus) with his nail-pierced hands outstretched, not necessarily to reach out to us, but to show us the wounds. What Don Miller does is bring Jesus to a level that I think was always intended. He was a man, who laughed, lived, loved others, and who, were he to walk in our door, would probably sit down and eat dinner with us, talk to us, listen to us.
He also treats what Joey and I have been discussing lately about “compartmentalizing” our lives, having our “church life,” “home life,” “work life,” and making sure that they intersect as infrequently as possible, and viewing Christianity as a religion rather than as the way we live. I really do believe that’s where we fail as Christians. We sit in our churches and argue about whether or not drinking is sinful, whether the world was literally created in six days and the dinosaurs are just a ruse by Satan to get us off track, and we’re leaving people outside who don’t know that there’s someone out there who’s bigger than they are, someone who knows what’s going on and who can help us, someone who really cares about what’s going in our life, someone who weeps with us when our kitty dies, someone who wants us to talk to Him, to care about Him, to love Him too…and they are people that will listen if we’ll just CARE about them….not knock on their doors and beat them with Bibles and tell them that they’re going to Hell, but genuinely talk to them and care about them and be honest with them.
The face of Christianity is changing; I don’t mean that we should abandon orthodoxy, far from it. I mean that this generation is beginning to understand that we need to change the way we reach people. The “sawdust trail” and “Just As I Am,” while great, just aren’t working anymore like they used to. Our generation is a generation of skeptics, of cynics, of people who are crying out for answers, for someone to listen. We are the children of broken homes, of parents who went wild and created the “ME” mentality. We are beginning to see the hollowness of it, of the vacuous space that comes from caring only about ourselves and our own lives and failing to recognize that someone at this very moment is orchestrating this entire beautiful world in which we live.
We are a generation of people who are realizing that we can’t treat the planet like a piece of trash, that God didn’t put us here to take as we please and do whatever we want and destroy things for commodity, not even for necessity anymore, just to get what would make us more “comfortable,” or the latest and greatest. We are starting to understand that our denominations haven’t encouraged us enough to be STEWARDS of this planet…we are to be good stewards of everything else, money, time, possessions….yet somehow CREATION was left behind. We are changing that.
Don Miller has inspired me to change the way I view my walk. Whatever you think of his book, you must admit that he makes you think about your own walk, about whether you’re really loving the way Jesus commanded, whether you’re living what you believe or whether you’re living a beautiful lie, putting on a pious face for people and casting principles aside otherwise. I want to be genuine. I want to love genuinely, to speak genuinely, to work genuinely, even to fail genuinely.
So, tonight, I leave you with a picture of genuine love, taken by someone I genuinely love of someone I genuinely love. Please think about that tonight. Pray about it.