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Blue Like Jazz: Movie Review

Jazz… it’s like life. It’s like God. It’s like me. Unpredictable, without resolution. Well, sometimes. Sometimes I don’t know if my choice is black, white, or a hazy shade of gray. I don’t know if my faith is strong, absent, or just optimistically doubtful. I don’t always pray like I should, give generously without consideration for myself, love the unlovely, or obey unswervingly and without compromise. In fact, most of the time I do not act as Jesus would if He were in my shoes. But wait, He is in me right? Is He real? Does the reality of God really make a difference in my life? Can I follow Jesus and not have it all figured out? Is Christianity a journey or a destination?

These questions and more are explored in the book, now a movie, Blue Like Jazz.  Donald Miller’s provocative style in exploring faith, Jesus, and the Church is raw, real, and so needed. In fact, I would say this book was instrumental in creating a new culture within the church. In many ways, it gave voice to tens of thousands of spiritually bi-polar Christians who were tired of living two separate lives — church and the rest of life.  Today, we speak of being “authentic” in our faith.  Many young people want to be true to their faith and true to Christ, but they don’t have it all together. Nor do they want to if that means just an outward conformity to the religious Christian sub-culture. Life, families, relationships, and even faith are messy and sometimes we find ourselves in places we never intended. Thankfully, God still pursues us in our unloveliness, pride, and selfishness.

Best quote: “God is nothing like me.” Amen. He is not hypocritical. He is not unjust, unloving, or untrue. He does not betray friends. He does not ignore the hurting. He is full of loving kindness even though I, as His follower, am not. Certain things do have resolution and God’s reality is one of them. God’s character is another. Donald sees this and he longs to be more true to this.

The Gospel according to the movie: “The Bible tells me about Jesus. As I got to know Jesus, I liked Him…a lot. I started following Him and have committed my life to Him” (this comes from the character Penny, not Donald). Penny’s life reflects this consistently, though her well-intentioned activism is slightly misplaced at times.  But don’t all of us have things out of place in our hearts and lives sometimes?

Biggest Criticism: Slightly incomplete redemption in the story (but I’m guessing that was intended). It is true, God is not like me, but through His grace and by His Spirit, He is making me more like Him.  The beauty and power of the gospel is in the hope of a transformed life in which Jesus is our joy, our treasure, our King and we are freed from sin. You never see Donald’s transformation, but many people never saw mine either. Sometimes it takes a while for our choices, direction, and affections to catch up with our intentions. Thankfully His grace is sufficient, even perfected in my weakness. Much of my life is lived in that tension. Will we will have to wait for BLJ II for the rest of the story? I wouldn’t hold your breath.

blue like jazz

You will laugh… a lot. It is irreverent at times (but true to how the world sees us). It does earn its PG-13 rating, but you will also come away wanting to talk about this movie with someone. So invite a friend or two and do it.

Ideas for how to use this movie

  • Take people who had a bad experience with the church. It will be healing.
  • Take people who have never entertained the idea of God and the difference He can make in someone’s life. It will spark conversation.
  • Take parents to help them understand how their older kids may be thinking about God and that it’s different and good in many ways.
  • Take college students (it is not really for those under 16) and then talk about it as a group- how it spoke to them, what was true, and how they might use it to encourage others.