Posted by: serrels | June 29, 2010

Blue Like Jazz – Stuck in Church Book Club

Hey everyone, sorry I haven’t been writing as much. And yes, I’m aware you aren’t hovering over your keyboard feverishly, refreshing the home page every five minutes, but I weirdly feel like I should apologise anyway. Because I’m self-indulgent. And full of myself. And I think the world revolves around me. And I like to think you care.

But to be perfectly, I have been ultra busy. Going overseas for work, getting migraines that felt like my frontal lobe was being attacked by a cheese grater, visiting new born babies in ze familia, (I’m a first time Uncle!)

So yes, the last distraction was awesome, the others not so much – especially the cheese grater episode. Very painful.

Ever had one of these on your brain? Me neither - it was a metaphor.

But in-between it all I’ve been reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, the novel for Stuck in Church’s first ‘book club’! I thought I’d give you guys a quick round up of what I thought, before throwing it out to everyone else.

I really enjoyed Blue Like Jazz for the most part.

Blue Like Jazz, from what I can see, isn’t the kind of book that will change your life. If you believe in God, it may reinforce those beliefs, but it isn’t evangelical in the sense that it’s trying to convince Atheists that God exists. It’s more of an exploration of what it means to believe in God, starting from that end point. Donald Miller doesn’t waste time telling people why he believes or what he believes, he instead talks personally about his own search for spiritual identity – which sounds wanky when I put it on the page like so, but in practice is quite enlightening.

It’s the honesty of it all that is particularly beguiling, the honesty that makes Blue Like Jazz worth experiencing. Anyone that’s ever drawn a breath can appreciate the search for identity and the utterly hideous mistakes that occur along the way. Most of us would like to burn that history to the ground, but Donald Miller is happy to lay it all out for you – like a parade of teenage polaroids – bad haircuts, rubbish beards, dalliances with fundamentalism.

Donald Miller. Not pictured: jazz hands.

When we ourselves look back at such photos, we’re not cringing at the clothes we wore, or the spots dotted on our forehead, most likely we’re cringing at the people we were, or the person we’ve become. We usually can’t look our former selves dead in the eye, but Donald Miller can. And I really enjoy the fact that Miller isn’t afraid to air that dirty laundry, because there’s common ground in it – I, at least, found a lot to relate to.

I think your own perspective will really affect how you read and enjoy Blue Like Jazz. I found certain sections irritating, specifically the section when Miller attacks the ‘trendy writer’ he visits at the cafe. Also, my blind hatred of hipsters often got the better of me, meaning that every time Miller referred to ‘Tony the Beat Poet’ I had to resist the urge to launch the book into the bath (which coincidentally I actually did with my missus’ copy of ‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’… by mistake, kinda).

To an extent a lot of the impact was lost for me. I’ve been married to a Christian for three years now, and I like to think the whole experience has taught me the tiniest bit of tolerance. If you had given me this book when I was 20, however, when I thought I knew better than everyone (and felt the need to shove it down people’s throats) I think I really could have gotten something from this book. As someone who had really never believed in God, and harboured a real twisted dark image of Christianity and all that it had come to represent, I probably could have learned something from Blue Like Jazz. As it is I really enjoyed the honesty, and would recommend it to anyone who wanted to learn something about the Christian experience.

Well, that was what I thought! What did you guys think? Let me know below!



  1. Thanks for your thoughts. Your comments relating to ‘being married to a Christian’ are of personal significance to me. I am curious, how has that impacted / affected / influenced your relationship together being that, if my understanding is correct, you would both have two different worldviews…?

    • Man, that’s what this entire blog’s about! Flick through the different posts. It’s the kind of thing that’s difficult to surmise in one single comment!

  2. i read this book and enjoyed it at one level. for old times sake i put myself into my old sda mindset and from that point of view found it interesting, entertaining, even broadminded..and enlightening.

    then i came back to reality – he does not even have arguments for god’s existence, this is the biggest load of puerile nonsense i have had the misfortune to waste my time on. he talks about god as if he actually exists! then i realized that of course he does not have any logical explanation – he has the “just so ” mindset, from an educated point of view this book is a trifle, an insult to intelligence, he does not have any sane sensible arguments or reasons to believe ( not to mention actual “observations” but that is oo, nobody really expects god to be seen !), he believes because he believes.. even worse he does the straw man thing of pretending to deal with non Christian ( aka rational) criticism without seriously dealing with any of it and dismissed ideas other than his own…

    i was glad to read it to see what it was about, however on an intellectual level am deeply disappointed with the fluffyness. I sense that he is trying to “bottle” the experience factor, probably because a logical, thought out, reasoned approach eludes him.

    an annoying irony when he says writers are so poor – i suspect he makes lots of dosh with this tosh..

    Nerida or others – i have finished mine and it is not the sort of book i see myself wanting to refer to again, hardly reference material.. anyone in Melbourne is welcome to my copy, if i like you enough i might even post it to someone, perhaps mark as a spare?

    for something with real thinking can i suggest the god delusion as next book or the greatest show on earth or god is not great as a shortlist ( TGD 1st as it is probably the easiest read, the evolution book might be hard going for some )

    out of 10 i would give the “blue like jazz ” a score of minus 3, better renamed brown like compost ..

    • I have to say Peter, I think you’ve maybe missed the point. Not all books about religion have to put it upon themselves to prove the existence of God. This is about the search for spiritual identity, I’m glad he sidesteps all that stuff and focuses on something different.

      For some reason I imagine you going through all the classics of literature with a big red marker – “Great Expectations… CROSS. Moby Dick… CROSS. Ulysses… CROSS! Canterbury Tales… CROSS! Hamlet… CROSS! None of these have a reasoned argument regarding the existence of God – to the garbage bin!”

      (I’m joking of course.)

      • I have to say Peter, I think you’ve maybe missed the point. Not all books about religion have to put it upon themselves to prove the existence of God.

        yes i got that bit, he just assumes there is a god and goes around “feeling like god is his friend” like coca cola “bottled experience , is the real thing etc” um no it is not!

        with respect he did mention some arguments for god and dismissed others. sure he begins chapter 10 saying some believe they can prove gos and some believe than can disprove god… he then says he does not believe he will walk away from god for intellectual reasons … bit of a giveaway of belief mindset. no i dont believe i can prove god does not exist, belief mindset nonsense! i see no evidence whatsoever to believe in faiires, goblins or gods .. to the theist it may seem difficult to accept that this is not a “belief” position.
        have fun, enjoy, learn

        that much is obvious, he believes for belief reasons in the 1st place not intellectual ones.

  3. Yeah I have to admit that I haven’t quite finished the book but I’m enjoying it so far!

    I agree with Mark in that it struck me as a story about a search for a spiritual identity and every one of us goes through this – subconsciously or consciously – so I could relate. Some bits I did find a bit young-adulthood-in-the-late-eighties annoying and at times a little “too cool”. This made me cringe a little – kinda like he’s holding a banner that says “look at us! Christians can also be cool!” I found that tedious and ultimately… uncool!

    All up though I’m enjoying the little journey he’s on because although it’s not the way I would express my experience, it is certainly a journey that I have been on myself – and continue to be on!

  4. I hadn’t googled a pic of Donald Miller, thanks for putting that pic up of him Mark, isn’t he cute I wanna pinch his little cheeks! I definately imagined him very differently after reading the book! He doesn’t look very hipster at all!

    That’s my comment on the picture, I’ll have to think a little more before I put up my thoughts on the book which I finished really quickly, I definately enjoyed reading it though.

  5. Although I read it some time ago it was enjoyable and a good first choice for this blog.. thanx mate it’s all been said.

  6. I found Blue Like Jazz a vivid perspective on christian spirituality. This is the first book of this sort I’ve ever read I think.

    Some of his insights into life in general were particularly good, his observation of how we barter with love I think is remarkably true. He touches on some things that anyone human could relate with I reckon.

    Aside from that I found him hilarious and oddly really enjoyed his sporadic writing style.

    A rather interesting and flowing book to start off with. Reading homework should be a breeze at this rate.

  7. Heh- this book actually changed my life. I was raised in church (Southern Baptist preacher’s daughter). I read it when I was 18, and when I got to the part where Don is talking to a girl (I think her name is Laura) and she says, “God isn’t just a choice you make, He’s something that happens to you.” I threw the book down and left the faith. I became an agnostic for awhile and waited for God to “happen” to me. I didn’t commit myself to God until I was 20. I think everybody raised in church has to leave the faith, to some degree, before they can call it their own. Until you walk away, it’s just your parents’ faith- this may not be true for all, but for most I think it is. Blue Like Jazz inspired me to leave and wait for God to call me back.

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