Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

An autobiographical collection of irreverant essays about finding Jesus in the most unlikely places, starting with super-pagan Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

I kept hearing about this book from various people whose opinion I respected, but I was a little skeptical. I am weary of efforts to make Christianity “cool” or “relevant” or “postmodern” or whatever, and I had a preconception that this book fell into that category.

I think this book articulates some things that a lot of people who have grown up in the church feel, mostly having to do with the line that’s drawn between “us” and “them.” My pastor said the other week that some people who talk about Jesus all the time do so because inside they’re afraid that they don’t believe. It’s a kind of whistling in the dark–and it’s not the same as orthodoxy. Miller’s strongest passage comes when he talks about the dangers of being passionate about nothing, and how it’s just as easy to fall into that trap for “us” as it is for “them.”

I was not won over by Miller as a person, which is key to engagement with an autobiography. I that is probably because we are very different people, culturally. He likes Ani DiFranco and went through a hippie phase, while I’m kind of uptight and don’t really get the whole West Coast thing. But his writing is very strong and I respect his ideas, if not his taste in music. I’m probably not likely to read any of his other books, but if I see his byline in a magazine I’ll read the article.

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

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