Blue Like Jazz was a book that came at just the right moment. Donald Miller winsomely captured and voiced the sentiments of many Christians who grew up immersed in Christian culture. They felt disillusioned with hypocrisy, unconvinced by politics, and out of place in their churches. The cultural scorn from progressives and the parodies of evangelical life in movies like Saved and shows like The Simpsons rang all too true, and many young evangelicals (like Christians in generations past) wondered if they were a fish out of water, if perhaps there was an alternative from the enculturated Christianity of their parents in the post-9/11 world.
This, in many was, was Don's story, and Blue Like Jazz was a collection of essays and vignettes that reflected upon his journey. The book struck a deep chord and sold like hotcakes. Certainly, Miller's fresh and humorous voice was an essential ingredient in his success, but his timeliness and cultural progressiveness gave the book momentum. Along with a host of "emergent" writers, he painted a picture of a different way of being a Christian in the world. Writers are commonly told, "Don't tell me, show me." This is the power of Miller's work. Rather than yet another didactic how-to for the Christian life, he showed a way of being that readers found hip, compelling, and fresh.
In just one month, on April 13, the film based on Blue Like Jazz will premier in theaters nationwide. It's far more inspired-by the book than based-upon it, telling a largely fictionalized version of Miller's first year at Reed College, a liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon.
At its core, naturalism teaches us that human thought, intention, desire, emotion, compassion, altruism, language, etc. can be (or will someday be) explained solely by material causes. Many influential scientists, philosophers, politicians, economists, filmmakers, media executives, sociologists, (and even some theologians . . . ) have convinced many that science is king and that faith in Jesus is irrational.
One of the easiest rhetorical traps to fall into when discussing faith and science is equating science with naturalism. Modern philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga have wisely identified that the real conflict is between naturalism and science, not science and religion. In reality, naturalism as a worldview has been losing ground among philosophers over the last 50 years. Despite many predictions to the contrary, the legitimacy of theistic belief in academic circles is growing.
On Wednesday, LifeWay hosted a number of pastors and bloggers for The Gospel Project Webcast with Matt Chandler, Ed Stetzer, and J.D. Greear. I'm excited about rolling out the videos soon.
When I think back on all the churches I've attended--and there are many, there is one that sticks out. It's a small church in southern California where they allowed me to lead. They didn't care that I was 23, desperately single, and a girl with strong emotions.
Before that, I wrestled a lot with the church clique. I felt like churches I attended in the past were more concerned with how much a person could give financially, their gender, or the right relationship status.
Without coming out with it or saying it to my face, the typical response to my desire to serve at a church was, "Hey, you can help out with kids ministry! We need lots of volunteers." But I was tired of leading Sunday School, Kindergarten, and Third/Fourth grade.
What about worship? What about youth group? And what about a singles or 20-somethings group?
I knew I was asking a lot for the first two questions. Much to my shock and delight, I found a smaller church that had all three. It felt like heaven on earth. Because the church met next to the ocean, it was a mixed bag of people. Rich people, smart people, and lots of homeless and recovery people who made this small church their home. They welcomed everyone.