The simple genius of Blue Like Jazz is to me this:
It presents the world as it is–not as we would have it be. In this way, it is like the Bible itself, which presents the human race as we are: as sinners. (Yes, even Christians sin. Shocking, I know).
So there are:
Lesbians, drug references, partying, and general debauchery portrayed on the the screen. Should this surprise us? I defy you to show me a college campus (the movie’s setting) where none of the above occurs (yes, even Christian ones).
This may ruffle some feathers, but so did Jesus. We need to be shaken, to feel uncomfortable. It’s good for our souls.
By that, you’ve probably gleaned that this is not a movie interested in preaching to the choir. What it is interested in is the story–the journey that young Don takes. To me, the road he travels is reminiscent of:
“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:7-12, ESV).
And that to me is the difference between Blue Like Jazz, and other “Christian” films; specifically, that it’s not afraid to show us Don’s (and our) darkness, but in the end it’s not about embracing that darkness, rather it’s about sharing what Jesus means to each of us individually as believers vs. telling others what Jesus should mean to them.
The simple genius there? Show vs. tell. And Donald Miller, Steve Taylor, and company do it very well.
Like the apostles of 2000 years ago, it is my hope that this movie turns the subculture of Christian cinema right side up.
As I asked in the post’s title: “Going the movies this weekend?”
You’ll be glad you did.