I interviewed Don Miller last week. I’ve spent a couple days with co-writer and director Steve Taylor. I watched Blue Like Jazz twice at screenings I helped arrange. I’ve written elsewhere about the film. But I’ve been stewing on a question…
When I was talking to Don about the film, he referred to “people who live between faith and doubt, between the Church and the world.” Then somebody I work with sent me a question about the film. Christianity Today published a mixed review. I think the main critique was that the film never quite got to the point of a “Christian movie.” It didn’t provide a bulleted outline of what you should believe, that there was too much on people’s experience and not enough on doctrines. There will be no invitation to accept Jesus into your heart in the theater. “What do you think of that?” my coworker asked.
This is a piece of art. And art does not do a good job of prescribing. When Christians (or anybody) try to make art prescriptive, it trips into sentimentality and cliché. And that is not good art.
What art does do, however, is open up spaces for conversation. Art provokes something in us. Art challenges us. Art invites thought and a response. This is true of the audience of this film. And in talking to Don, this was also true of the team that made this film, that there was a mix of people and perspectives on the project, with lots of conversation and relationships flowing out of the script and the production.
Blue Like Jazz doesn’t offer clear, easy answers. But I think it resonates with the experience of a lot of people have had with the Church in the past twenty years, both as insiders and outsiders. It shows us the tension, the angst, the hypocrisy, the back-and-forth of faith and lack of faith.
So, you shouldn’t see Blue Like Jazz if:
- You want easy answers.
- You can’t consider the possibility of shortcomings in yourself, whether Christian or not.
- You have a hard time laughing.
- You want Christianity to be locked away in its own subculture.
Why are you planning on seeing Blue Like Jazz? (Or not?)