Friday, April 13, 2012

God at the movies

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.
James 1:17

So tonight, after a long week of working 2 jobs, my sister & I went to see the opening of "Blue Like Jazz." I have been waiting to see this film for a long, long time now. I think I read the book about 4 years ago. I heard well over a year ago that they were finally going to get it on film, and my belly button has been puckering & un-puckering ever since. Do yourself a favor, go see this film!


Back in the late 70s, Bob Dylan decided to follow Jesus. It is hard to say if he is still following him. I know that he has never recanted his faith. I can't judge his heart. I will say that for a while, he put out some amazing albums that dealt with his epiphany.

Oddly enough, the album apparently got a comment from the late Francis Shaeffer. (At least this is the story I've been told.)

After listening to Dylan's first album since his conversion, Shaeffer is said to have declared that this was the ONLY Christian album he had ever heard. In many respects, his comment was a dig at what passed for "Christian" music at the time.

With that in mind, I will say the following about Blue Like Jazz; "I have seen many, many, many movies that have called themselves "Christian." This is the only movie I have ever seen that actually looked like the Gospel."


Following Jesus is a very messy business. Since we are extremely messy people, this would make sense. And yet, the church in America loves to put on it's masks. We so often love to be "Religious." We have such a hard time just sitting still to simply "Be" and let Jesus do his job in our lives.

The fact is that in some respects it would be better for many to never choose to follow Jesus in the first place. If you have a great life in the here & now and you choose to follow him, he will truly mess you up. The whole process of sanctification can often be very painful, and Jesus gets water and soap suds all over the floor & walls while scrubbing you down. If you are one who doesn't like to be confronted with just how messed up you truly are, then stay away from Jesus.

But if you want something more than the fleeting creature comforts of this world, if you want to go deeper, to get a glimpse beyond a world of credit cards, malls and the latest fad...

Your life is not G-rated. In fact, if you take a good look, it probably isn't even PG13. It's probably rated a tad higher than that.


My sister and I watched the movie in a theater tonight, and we both laughed and cried because we saw ourselves. It is rated PG13, and I enjoyed that. It earned that rating because of some of the themes, and also because there was a good deal of cussing in it. You have no idea how much I appreciated that, because for once this "Christian" film actually felt REAL!

Steve Taylor, the film's director, is fond of quoting some movie reviewers comment about what passes for "Christian" films. This reviewer said, "Christian movies are like porn. They are poorly lit, poorly acted, and you always know what the ending will be."

I have watched many of Kirk Cameron's films. Growing up, I saw many other films that wore the label "Christian." Sadly, the comment about porn is spot on.

Don't get me wrong, I believe that there is a place for Kirk Cameron's films, and I am not trying to pick on him. I do think that there is a place for numerous genres of film. Kirk Cameron, and others who make movies like his have their place, and I still have a weak spot for "A Thief in the Night." (Look that one up if you want a sentimental snicker.) Their place (Maybe) is for people who already follow Jesus, because they tend to preach to the choir. It is for people who do not need...or at least do not think they need, to be challenged, because they are a lot like that comment about porn...minus the sex.

Blue Like Jazz is not a movie for Christians. At least not those types of Christians. Blue Like Jazz is the Gospel, because it is for those outside the church and those who have been burned by it. As such, I am more than happy that both Don Miller & Steve Taylor do not desire the "Christian" label for their film.

It has been interesting to see that there are many "Christian" film makers out there who are not at all happy with Blue Like Jazz. Quite a few have criticized the movie without even having seen it. (Which always demonstrates amazing metal skills.) They do not like movie because it is so messy, and not sanitized...and we can't have that!!!

I read something Steve Taylor, the director, had to say about all the fuss.

"We’re in this sort of strange age where faith-based filmmaking or filmmaking done by Christians is supposedly synonymous with family-friendly. We certainly don’t see that in the stories of the parables of Christ and even in the Old Testament prophets and how they communicated. …I don’t know what it is. It’s almost like … we’re defenders of the faith, like Christianity is going to come falling down unless we’re careful with how we present it. That’s not really how it works, you know? In fact, that’s really kind of arrogant. So yeah, we can afford to create movies that ask questions and certainly don’t have all the answers and use satire and all the different communication tools at our disposal."


Following Jesus is messy. The film is messy. People cuss. They get drunk. They talk about sex..."Lesbian" sex at that. The people in the film lie, deceive, are destructive to themselves and others. The characters struggle with doubt. Not everyone comes to Jesus at the end and lives happily ever after like a Disney movie written by someone in a bubble. In other words, the film is actually about real life...this life...this messy, messy world and what it is like to actually live in it.

This is something the church in America seems to have a very difficult time handling, to say the least.

When I first read Blue Like Jazz all those years ago, it had such and impact on me. Up to that point, I had thought that I was very much alone, that no one else thought the thoughts that I did. It is good to know that I am not alone.

Tonight, when I dropped off my sister, my Dad asked me what the movie was like. This is what I told him:

"Dad, it was REAL!!!! It was real! It was messy, not all clean cut. It was real!

Then I began to scrunch down as I kept talking, like I was trying to squeeze myself into a box. And I said; "It was not like a Kirk Cameron movie, where there is no real challenge, no real messes, no real pain & reality. There was cussing, like in real life! Two of the four main characters didn't end up even becoming Christians. They just learned to respect some of his followers. They didn't all end up being happy, little Christians with the American Jesus riding in on horse back to turn them all into white, conservative Republics who follow the sacred teachings of John MacArthur. It did not resolve into a nice package. It was messy, confusing, confronting, beautiful. It was like real life. It was like it really is when you want to follow Jesus!"

I have seen many, many movies that have called themselves "Christian." This is the only movie I have ever seen that actually looked like the Gospel.

Speaking of messy...



1 comment:

  1. Very well done my brother! To the point and very real. That is what I love about you and your writings you are REAL to the core and you don't hide your feelings, thoughts, or anything. You are authentic! I love reading your stuff when I can. It blesses me to read your blogs and yes even sister's cry at what her brother writes. Very touching at times. Thank you bro for being REAL and telling it like it is! Blessings!