Monday, October 25, 2010
Saving Blue Like Jazz
About six years ago, a friend chased me down after church and handed me a book. He said, "You've got to read this book. It's every conversation we've ever had about Christianity. This guy gets it. We're not the only ones." I trusted him and knew the book must be something special. And it was. That's my copy, up there. It's tattered and torn. It's been underlined, folded, doused in coffee, and wine, cried over, laughed over, taken several road trips, and been passed around to friends and family. I think I even slept on it one night. Not because I wanted to absorb the words during my sleep, but because I fell asleep while reading it late into the night, and rolled over on top of it.
It's hard to sum the book up in one sitting. And also difficult to explain why it's so important to me, and so many other Christians who felt like we were different, on the fringes, missing something. But I'll try because something pretty amazing has happened in the last few weeks concerning the making of the movie that has me buzzing with excitement.
First, why it spoke to me. All my life, I've been raised in the church. My father started pastoring a Christian church when I was 6 years old. As a child, you accept what you're taught with no questions. But as you grow, and begin to think for yourself, most of us question what we've been taught. So many of the ideas that I was fed about Christianity didn't ring true. And my parents, who were great parents by the way, answered in the only way that they had been taught. Still...the questions and thoughts lingered through the years until, finally, I rejected Christianity altogether.
This book came along many, many years later. Even after I had decided to embrace my lost faith and find those answers for myself. After I read the book, I no longer felt like an outcast or a heretic. I felt like God was real. I felt like I wasn't alone. I felt excited and inspired. Here's a few quotes from the book that spoke to me.
"For me, however, there was a mental wall between religion and god, I could walk around inside religion and never, on any emotional level, understand that God was a person, an actual Being with thoughts and feelings and that sort of thing. To me, God was more of an idea. It was something like a slot machine, a set of spinning images that dolled out rewards based on behavior and, perhaps, chance (p. 8)."
"I felt a long way from the pre-me, the pawn-Christian who was a Republican because my family was Republican, not because I had prayed and asked God to enlighten me about issues concerning the entire world rather than just America (p. 19)."
The book speaks to how self-absorbed we are. I don't think we realize this. I can only speak for myself. Here's one more thing, a poem by C. S. Lewis, who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, that was included in the book on the subject of just how narcissistic we humans are.
All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through;
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.
Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch inside my proper skin,
I talk of love - a scholar's parrot may talk Greek -
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.
Those are the beginning thoughts in the book that lead to a truth I can identify with...a truth that rings loud and clear. The rest, well, you'll have to read for yourself, if you feel so inclined.
And now the second part, the reason that I'm so buzzed with excitement.
Donald Miller, the author of the book, was approached by two guys, Steve Taylor and Ben Pearson, about writing a screenplay adapted from the book. Steve Taylor is an ex-rocker, turned director, to my understanding, and Ben, well, I'm not really sure what his story is but he seems really cool. He seems like a guy I'd like to get to know. And the reason I know that is because another book was born from the screenplay writing experience entitled, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Which, in my humble opinion, is one of the best books ever written about changing your life when you feel it isn't telling a good story. Both of these books are humorous, great storytelling and very insightful. And, I hate this word because it's become so trendy in recent years, but they are both very real. No high-brow religious talk or hiding behind tradition and fears. Just honest, in your face, inspiring, intellectual, relevant reading. Both books ask the hard questions. And whether you're a believer or not, they are great stories. They deserve to be told.
Anyway, the screenplay for Blue Like Jazz has been in the works for a few years now and recently, Donald Miller announced on his blog, September 16th, that the project was dead for lack of funding. Then, lo and behold, two guys in Nashville, who believed in the book, started a campaign to raise the money so the movie could be made. In less than 6 weeks, the word has spread, and the fans of the book have come together to raise an astonishing 341,394.00 dollars as of a few minutes ago. The deadline is midnight tonight. The goal was 125,000. Wow.
Shooting of the film starts this week in Nashville, Tennessee.
I'm inspired. If a group of ragamuffin, beat-up, confused, Christians can come together for this, what else could we do?
If you're intested, there's a link on my sidebar so you can follow along with me on the progression of the movie. And if you want a great read for the upcoming winter months, pick up the book. I think you'll like it.