Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Short Book Review:

Miller, Donald. Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2003.

The title of the 243-page book comes from Miller’s description of the stars: “They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz” (100). He regards Christian spirituality to be like jazz music—“something you feel” (239). Miller regards himself as a writer of “new-realism essays” (188). He gave evidence of his postmodern mindset about the lack of absolute truth; rather his decisions are based on emotions, etc.: “I don’t believe I will ever walk away from God for intellectual reasons. Who knows anything anyway? If I walk away from Him . . . I will walk away for social reasons, identity reasons, deep emotional reasons, the same reasons that any of us do anything” (103). He also explained, “There isn’t any truth anymore” (121). He said that Christian spirituality “cannot be explained” and “is something you feel” (57). Miller writes with a shifting style in which many images that involve sensory perception are presented to the reader. He believes that human depravity exists (17-18), and he affirms tithing (197). He grew up as a Baptist (130), but he went to some pains to criticize stereotypical traditional religion in the book, as evidenced by his mention of a “blow-hard preacher” (15) and “big-haired preachers” (33). In contrast, he affirmed his non-traditional church, referring to four of its qualities: “spiritual,” “art,” “community,” and “authenticity” (136-137). His respected friends in the book seemed to have a penchant for tobacco, cussing, and alcohol. Miller made some thought-provoking statements. For instance, while discussing his selfishness he stated, “Life is a story about me. . . . There is no addiction so powerful as self-addiction” (182). This book is a must-read for those people who desire to understand the postmodern mindset of many emergent church attendees.