I had a comment on one of my blog posts this morning that made me think a bit. It was on the post “Jesus to a 4 Year Old” and the person posted that we (Christians) are stupid and we’re corrupting our children and making them stupid. Wow. Good morning! I can understand that. There are many that have experienced Christians as judgmental, hypocritical, unethical, and dillusional. There are some who assume that to believe what we believe, we must be stupid, unenlightened, or just ignorant.
It’s ironic reading this comment after watching a screening of the Blue Like Jazz movie last night while at the Refresh campus ministry conference. If you know me, you know I’m a big supporter of the book and have been a big supporter of the movie. I didn’t know what to expect last night and was trying very hard not to get my hopes up or set the bar too high. The book and the movie are VERY different in a lot of ways. It was hilarious last night explaining the differences to the many who had not read the book yet. They are so different that the wonderful Donald Miller wrote a book about the making of the movie – A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Read it. (I may actually it more than Blue Like Jazz.)
Some of the questions afterwards were what kind of audience is this going to be directed to and why was it so different than the book, etc. This is not geared towards the Christian audience that would go see something like Fireproof or Soul Surfer. I don’t know if they would it make it through the slightly over the top first 5 minutes. It’s slightly more appealing to those of who believe that we can be authentic and real people of faith and can still enjoy a good sometimes crude laugh sometimes a la Jimmy Fallon or Bridesmaids. Even still to me it’s really geared to those who have railed against the church and the things that don’t add up when comparing the love and actions of God with the love and action of God’s followers.
The Book of Mormon Broadway musical writers said that it’s a love letter from atheists to people of faith. In some ways I can see this as a love letter from Christians to atheists. In a lot of ways that simplifies it way too much, but it is something different. I can’t say enough: read the book, read the book, read the book.
It’s easy to throw pot shots at each other – whether people of faith or those ticked off at the Church. It’s easy to make judgements and assumptions and believe in the cliches. It’s harder to engage and dialogue and admit fault -not just on a personal level but as this body of believers that we represent. I know there are times when I want to apologize to folks for what some do in the name of Christ and the church. I know there are times when we as Christians hate on each other and judge each other because of worship styles or how we live our lives. Part of it is admitting that there’s something wrong – that we are culpable or personally responsible for some of these things and not just pointing fingers at particular bodies or theologies or idealogies.
All this to say – talk to me – give me a dialogue on what you believe or don’t believe. Engage. Chat. Share a meal or grab a cup of coffee. Don’t just toss an anonymous grenade where you feel self-righteous and filled with purpose, actually get to know people and see them as who they are as people – not just what box you have put them in.
I’m saying this to myself as well. We have put up the walls to our boxes so high and so thick that we don’t get out of those very often…whether we’re scared or angry or indignant or ignorant as to the whos and whys outside of stereotypes. Do you have friends that aren’t Christian? Do you have friends on the fringe? Do you have friends who don’t look like you or talk to you or believe exactly as you do?
I admit that after seeing the movie last night, I’m a little nervous. I’ve used this book countless times in sermon illustrations and small groups. I’ve pitched the amazing story of funding the movie and how I believe in this thing that’s not Evangelical or Liberal but it’s one person’s story of faith and a journey we’re invited into. But the movie is a heck of a lot more risque than that and there are some seens that I’m like – can I promote this movie? Not just in campus ministry/college student land, but to multi-generational crowds? We don’t blink twice about some of the tv shows or movies we watch or what we read, but when we throw Jesus into it, it makes it that much more layered and complicated. So am I going to promote this knowing that there’s profanity and drinking and who knows what else not to mention the disregard and mockery of the church for much of the movie?
Are you? What do you think as pastors, as lay people, as Christians, as people of faith in a sometimes hostile world and a sometimes blissfully presumptive world??
2 thoughts on “Grenades and Blue Like Jazz”
I have some good friends who write, produce and act in Christian movies. They (especially the screenwriters) usually start out wanting to be as authentic as possible. That all changes when the financial backers exercise their rights of review and request major revisions. These often include toning down the depictions of sin in the movies and over-exaggerating the convicting dialogue so that it ends up “on the preachy” side (usually not in a good way but often resulting in awkward, non-authentic dialogue at best and overly preachy sermonizing at worst).
One of the few films made by, starring and marketed to Christians that I think breaks this mold is director Steve Taylor’s first film, “The Second Chance.” I showed that at a bible study once. It angered some in the room. Steve would probably think he did his job – folks don’t always like having a mirror held up in their faces. One person who told me he would never watch the film gave as his reason the fact that “they sinned while making the movie.” That was for the one or two mild curses (some barely so) that I wouldn’t be surprised turned up in a G-rated Chipmunks movie in a year or two. I personally was so bowled over by how well “The Second Chance” came out that when I heard Steve Taylor was also tapped to bring Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” to the screen and I could help by making a contribution, I jumped at the chance to take part.
I’ve got news for those financial backers mentioned above as well as the person who condemned “The Second Chance” without even seeing it: the bible is edgy. The people Jesus encounters in the Bible are edgy. They are sinners. Their sins aren’t whitewashed. They are broken souls in need of a savior. The Bible doesn’t gloss over their actions and their pasts but mentions those elements. Why? It should be obvious. If you’re teaching a message of redemption you have to show what someone is being redeemed from.
In light of all of the above, though I wonder if the question should really be is “Blue Like Jazz” even a film we’re meant to be bringing to large groups of those who already believe? Or is it something we need to bring to the broken? Christ came to the woman at the well, the tax collectors, the adulteress who was getting stoned, the man possessed with a legion of demons; many more we both know and don’t know about (as the end of John’s gospel states). He brought them the message of redemption and reconciliation first-hand and met them where they were.
It sounds to me that “Blue Like Jazz – The Movie” – in not glossing over the pitfalls of real life can reach those affected by those pitfalls. Of course I have to wait until I see the finished film to make a final judgment but I think the potential for an honest, authentic approach to evangelize is much greater than some of the ham-fisted efforts that have preceded it. I guess we’ll find out for sure in April, 2012.
I completely agree! And when I read this in December, I so completely agreed that I forgot to respond to the comment. Slackness on my part. Your post makes me want to see “The Second Chance.” I definitely think the movie is more for those that aren’t already necessarily obsessed with the book. Those that hadn’t read it but saw it really did like it. It was those that were the die hard book fans that were more on the dissatisfied end. I actually had a conversation in my office today with a bunch of students and some of them loved the book and some of them not so much. It will be interesting when the movie comes out to see where people end up in how they feel about the movie. I am thrilled and happy that we (my husband and I) gave personally ourselves and also personally on behalf of the ministry where I work/breathe. I believe in the book and the message and I look forward to seeing the final cut! Thanks again for your comment!!