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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.