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What if Christianity was like that?

[Yesterday I posted Part 1 of my review of Blue Like Jazz the movie. This post is not so much a review of the movie, but instead a post inspired by themes from the movie.]

When I first heard about The Hunger Games, I didn’t want to read it. My coworker described the plot to me and I told her that I thought I would pass. I’m more of a chick-lit kind of girl. There was nothing about a story of teenagers fighting to the death that sounded appealing.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I felt like the book was stalking me. It seemed every time I checked Facebook, someone was posting about how much they loved the book. I listened as my sister-in-law gushed about how amazing the book was. I overheard coworkers talking about their mutual love for the book. As the release of the movie drew nearer, it was hard to avoid the chatter about Hunger Games. Every person I heard talking about the book loved it.

Eventually I felt as if I was missing out by not reading the Hunger Games. I wanted to know what was so special about a book about teenagers killing each other. I witnessed so many people in love with the book that I wanted to experience that love too.

What if Christianity was like that? What if all people could talk about when they talked about Christianity was the love they had for it? What if Christians were known as a people who loved instead of a people who judged?

What would it look like if Christianity became something that so many people were in love with that those who weren’t Christians couldn’t help but be curious about it?

When did Christianity become something to be ashamed of? How did we let the actions of a few extremists set the tone for an entire faith?

I wish that people knew that Christianity is not about the rules. It’s not about telling others why they are going to hell. I wish that people knew that Christianity is about a relationship with a loving God who wants to journey with us as we navigate through a life of good days and bad days. I wish that as Christians we remembered that we are not better than anybody else and God never tells us to judge others. I wish we focused more on our duty to love and care for others rather than our tendency to alienate them.

I’m excited about the conversations that will take place as a result of people watching Blue Like Jazz. I’m hoping non-Christians will be curious to learn more about the faith. I’m hoping that Christians will be brave enough to examine their portrayal of God to others.

I don’t have God all figured out. I’m confident I can spend my whole life searching and I’ll never know all the answers. God is bigger and more complex than my human brain can ever grasp. But I know that my life is immeasurably better when I allow God to be a part of it.

My review of Blue Like Jazz the Movie (Part 1)

Last night I went to see Blue Like Jazz. It’s a movie based on the book of the same name written by Donald Miller. Several years ago, I read the book and loved it. I remember reading the book and thinking “Can he really say this in a Christian book?” The book caught my attention and helped me see Christianity from a different view.

I was excited to see the movie because I thought it would be like the book. To be honest, I expected it to be good but I didn’t expect to be surprised by anything. I thought it would be like when I saw Hunger Games. It was a great movie but I knew everything that was going to happen because I read the book.

Blue Like Jazz was not like that. The screenplay was adapted quite a bit to make it more like a continuous story and not a collection of writings. The movie follows Don, a college student from Texas who transfers to Reed College, a liberal school very different from his southern Baptist culture in Texas.

As I watched the movie, I related with Don in several scenes. Having been raised going to church and an active member of my church youth group, I found myself in an entirely new world when enrolled at Ithaca College in upstate New York. I was meeting people who openly rejected the Christian faith.

For the first time in my life, I wondered if I had been scammed by the Christian faith. Was I a Christian because I had been brain-washed as a child? Did I actually believe that a man could be hung on a cross and three days later be alive again? Why would a loving God allow poverty and natural disasters? I listened as people told me about how closed-minded and hateful Christians were. The Christians they talked about were not the Christians I had grown up with, but I felt ill equipped to argue otherwise. I didn’t know how to stand up for Christianity without also defending all the extremists at the same time. Did I really want to be associated with a faith that included people more filled with hate than with love?

I’m not going to spoil the ending but the final scene of the movie really resonated with me. My heart ached as I listened to Don say words I wished I had thought to say years ago. I wanted to apologize for all the same things. His monologue very accurately described my feelings related to my behavior in college. Even now, even as the wife of a pastor, I find myself needing to apologize the way Don did.

I never regret my time at Ithaca College. Much like Don in Blue Like Jazz, being in Ithaca forced me to interact with people and lifestyles I had never been around. I met and befriended people who were nothing like the people I grew up with. They believed things far different than the things I believed. Listening to their worldview made me question the things that I had always accepted as truth. Watching their passion for causes helped me decide what I was going to be passionate about. I graduated college a stronger Christian than when I entered. I still did not have all the answers but I knew that there was a God that loved everyone, even those who didn’t love him back.

The message of Blue Like Jazz is a message of love. I have a lot more to say about that but this post is already pretty long so I’ll follow up with a post tomorrow.

Blue Like Jazz is playing in limited release right now. You can find out if it’s playing at a theater near you here: http://www.bluelikejazzthemovie.com/. This isn’t your typical cheesy Christian movie. There is a lot of beer drinking, some drugs and some profanity. It’s not preachy. It’s not corny. To quote a tweet from Donald Miller, “if you don’t want the people around you to know you’re a Christian, you might identify with [Blue Like Jazz].”

I hope you’ll go see Blue Like Jazz. If it’s not playing near you, I hope you’ll read the book. Christian or non-Christian, I believe both the movie and the book have a message for all of us.