Archives For fitting in

Recently at church I heard a lesson about the importance of building
margins into our lives. The irony of it was that this teaching came
from the pulpit of a megachurch. And generally speaking, it has been
my experience that most megachurches implicitly gravitate towards an
extroverted structure. Thus, for the introvert, there is very little
room for “margins.” (Or at least margins that an introvert would recognize).

Yet that is exactly where I feel I’m at when I’m attending service, or
trying to get involved: in the margins. Donald Miller
wrote–in Blue Like Jazz–“At the time I was attending this
large church in the suburbs. It was like going to church at the Gap. I
don’t know why I went there. I didn’t fit. I had a few friends,
though, very nice people.” I understand this. My family and I live
this. The only connection we have to our large church is a few
friends–friends we made via some activities our kids were once involved
in. Now it’s really our kids that keep us going back. If they didn’t
like it so much, I’m not sure we would.

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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?”

See Blue Like Jazz. Get your tickets at Blue Like Jazz Tickets

You’ll be glad you did.