Krista's Reviews > Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
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's review
Jun 02, 2008

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bookshelves: read-in-2008

(Note: I skipped around and read several sections, not the whole book, so I'm probably not giving a completely fair portrayal of the book.) A guy's charmingly awkward memoir of his faith and spiritual growth. It has its interesting moments, like a chapter titled "Church: How I Go Without Getting Angry." There were also places where I got bored or mildly annoyed. The writing is OK but not poetry. It seems to be purposely written in a kind of rough-edged guy style. Random incomplete sentences and all that. Often stops short before going too deep.

Here are some things I got thinking on from the book:
"Every year or so I start pondering at how silly the whole God thing is. Every Christian knows they will deal with doubt. And they will. But when it comes it seems so very real and frightening, as if your entire universe is going to fall apart. I remember a specific time when I was laying there in bed thinking about the absurdity of my belief....I felt as if believing in God was no more rational than having an imaginary friend. They have names for people who have imaginary friends, you know. They keep them in special hospitals...." This is cute and funny and real--it's one of those moments where he says out loud what a lot of people think but are afraid to say, and that's definitely worth something. But then he diverges in his topic, wanders; I wanted more on this topic (I don't know what exactly...).

Later on, interesting discussion about the power of metaphor in everyday language (referencing a speaker he heard)...he talks specifically about metaphors we use for relationships--we "value" people, we "invest" time in relationships--and the suggestion that such metaphors may subconsciously lead us to commodify people and relationships. (page 218)

OK, here's another quote; he is actually quoting a friend of his in conversation:
"'I mean that to be in a relationship with God is to be loved purely and furiously. And a person who thinks himself unlovable cannot be in a relationship with God because he can't accept who God is, a Being that is love. We learn that we are loveable or unlovable from other people. That is why God tells us so many times to love each other.'"

At first glance, I thought, yeah, yeah, interesting, I agree. But then it started to bother me, I started to feel a little depressed by it. OK, so it's definitely true that human love is significant, meaningful, that it can express for us a part of God's love. It's an important reminder that our choice to love others and express our love to others is meaningful, is powerful, is spiritual.

But you have to be careful looking at it from the other direction...the logical implications are troubling. Does this mean that people who aren't loved enough, or who are "unloved" more than they are "loved," are doomed to not be capable of experiencing, receiving God's love? That other human beings control our access to God's love?

I think the idea, taken as is (granted, it's just a rooftop conversation between two guys) misses two important things:

One, if we believe in a loving all-powerful God, we have to believe that God's love is deeper and wider and larger and more powerful by far than human love. Even our deepest love of another falls short. Human love at its best is one part feeble and two parts self-serving. Christian faith requires a leap of imagination to believe that there is a love greater than we are capable of, greater than anyone else is capable of, greater than we have experienced in any human relationship. And further, I've been under the impression that Jesus reached (reaches) out to the outcast and lonely, the unloved and forgotten. Anyway, it's a horrible thought that someone could be rendered incapable of receiving God's love because human beings had failed to love them adequately. Or that their understanding of God's love would be limited by the limitations of human love. (Although I feel like I could debate this question endlessly within myself--the one part hopeful, wanting to believe that the human soul can survive even in drought conditions, that it can stretch its roots deep down into memories of love, that it can derive nourishment even from small, infrequent waterings; and that God is there, is present in the darkest places in people's lives, suffering with us. The other part of me wonders whether God's ways are fair, why circumstances seem random, why some people seem doomed to tragic fates, suspects his love is capricious (a la Orual in C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces).)

Two (returning from tangent), the quote doesn't acknowledge the flip side, which I think is also significant, probably more significant, and more within the realm of our control and choice: We can also learn about God's love by loving others--both the spontaneous kind of love, in which we so easily see and delight in the stamp of God's marvelous creation in another; and the more difficult kind of love that involves making a choice to be kind and respectful to someone we may not easily cotton to, the choice to be kind to strangers (e.g., other drivers on the road, often the most difficult people for me to love...), the choice to see another human being as created and loved by God--to imagine God's deep, deep love based on deep, deep knowledge of that person's deepest needs, gifts, weaknesses, and strengths.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Laura Long, but very well written and thought out. You could write a book as good as, if not better than Miller's.

Bobby Hm... can I ask you... why did you skip some sections? I think because of this you didn't understand the main idea of the book

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