Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Blue Like Jazz

Dawn and I did a foolish thing last night. We stayed up to watch to the very end of the Orange Bowl last night. That meant that we didn’t get in bed until 1:00am. We stayed up in part because it was a great football game. I think we also stayed up out of respect for two great men in the college football world, Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. Dawn was pulling for Penn State and I was pulling for FSU. Was it worth the lost sleep? Who can say? But it was a great game. That it is where I find myself on this Wednesday morning as I write.

I just finished reading Don Miller’s BLUE LIKE JAZZ: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality). Much of the book recounts his experiences in attempting to share the message of Jesus in a culture that is at best ambivalent toward the Gospel if not down-right hostile to it. Other parts are of his own spiritual pilgrimage. It can be a challenging read for one who grew up in established churches in the South, but it forces the reader to deal with our own unspoken presuppositions about others and about ourselves that may not actually be true.

I don’t like everything he says in the book, but I found an awful lot of uncomfortable truth in it. Miller raises some points that the church needs to hear in order to continue to communicate the Gospel in a culture that is growing increasingly hostile to what it thinks the message of the church is. They usually don’t understand us … and it’s not because we’re not speaking loudly enough. Here’s an excerpt:
In a recent radio interview I was sternly asked by the host, who did not
consider himself a Christian, to defend Christianity. I told him that I couldn’t
do it, and moreover, that I didn’t want to defend the term. He asked me if
I was a Christian, and I told him yes. “Then why don’t you want to defend
Christianity?” he asked, confused. I told him I no longer knew what the
term meant. Of the hundreds of thousands of people listening to his show
that day, some of them had terrible experiences with Christianity; they may have
been yelled at by a teacher in a Christian school, abused by a minister, of
browbeaten by a Christian parent. To them the term Christianity meant
something that no Christian I know would defend. By fortifying the term, I
am only making them more and more angry. I won’t do it. Stop ten
people on the street and ask them what they think of when they hear the word
Christianity, and they will give you ten different answers. How can I
defend a term that means ten different things to ten different people? I
told the radio show host that I would rather talk about Jesus and how I came to
believe that Jesus exists and that he likes me. The host looked back at me
with tears in his eyes. When we were done, he asked me if we could go get
lunch together. He told me that he had always wanted to believe Jesus was
the Son of God. (p. 115)

That’s enough to think about for now …


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