Blue Like Jazz

posted in Books on May 11, 2007

Religion. Anyone who knows me well knows that generally I find religion to be a topic I’d rather skirt than anything else, although I’ll get into a debate here and there just for fun. Organized or otherwise, I can’t seem to find any religion that speaks to me as something I need to invest my time in because due to my logic or how most churches seem entirely fake or whatever it may be, I have problems with saying I’m a “This-tian” or practice “Whatever-ity.” Some of the problems I face with much religious thought are brought up in Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. He’s a Christian, yes, but a lot of the hypocrisies I find in religion he faced as well, so I found the book easier to digest as an outsider looking in.

I’m going to go ahead and start off with the criticisms I had with the book. Those are fun. Really, I only have one glaring one that comes to mind, and this really isn’t a knock against the book, but simple belief differences between him and myself. He states a few times that he believes there is a Satan out to make us do bad things. I just can’t subscribe to that theory. I don’t necessarily have any hard evidence to back up my claim, but when I’m switched into “religious mode” – where I’m contemplating my beliefs and whatnot – I can never come to the conclusion that there is a being that would have enough power to lead us astray. If there truly is a God, and if he is all powerful and all knowing, having a Satan who can convince us to do wrong things alludes to him having more power than God himself. That’s an outcome I can’t accept. Knowing that God makes the “bad” people just as much as he makes the “good” people is much easier to conceive, considering the thousands upon thousands God himself killed in the Bible. I’m nowhere near educated in scripture or religion to start a discussion about these things, but that logically makes sense to me. (I understand that there is a “Satan” figure in the book of Job and others, but I don’t think that counts as being the end-all be-all truth that he exists, especially considering the Bible itself was written and retranslated many times by humans.)

Now, the better portions of the book, where the author describes his dislike for church and the difference between “Christianity” and “Christian Spirituality,” are things that I can get behind. I have never liked church. Ever. Not once have I ever felt part of any sort of community during my brief stints at church as a child. I always felt like everyone there was going simply to get some free tickets in this “heaven” they liked to talk about so much, and I would sit alienated on a pue I couldn’t see over wondering why I was there to begin with. Old men in suits and white haired women that I never met before who smelled funny would ask me questions about this and that, and I just felt awkward. This feeling has never changed, even into adulthood. I dislike going to church for service because I never feel like I’m going because I want to, but because I “have to” for whatever reason. That shouldn’t be how it is. Likewise, the author struggles with self absorbed churches as well, and generally dislikes them, but finally finds one that isn’t all about how much they can talk bad about liberals but about actually doing productive things.

One last thing before I move on: if you’re a parent or are going to become one sometime ever, don’t force your kids to go to church. Bring them along a few times and see if they like it, but if they don’t, it’s not right to force them. That will only turn them away more, trust me on this. Let them decide what to worship or not, and if they choose another religion, support that. I think a God would be more happy to see your son or daughter happy, productive, and doing good deeds with their religion than to sit around and see you bitch about how your spawn don’t go to your church.

The over-arching theme of the book is “nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality.” This is much different than simply describing Christianity, and I’m glad he makes the difference known in the book. Christian Spirituality is something that is easier to digest than what has become of Christianity. This Spirituality includes finding your personal Jesus and holding true to the morals and such found in the Bible, and that’s all fine and dandy. Christianity, however, is a negative term for a lot of people, myself about halfway included. I can fathom that there are people who shout from the rooftops that they are Christians and do in fact love everyone for who they are with the grace that the spirit provides them. BUT, there are also the jackasses who use the name of Christianity to do stupid shit. Our current president leaps into mind almost instantly. I’m sure God really wants us killing other people because he “elected” you to do so. Yeah, good job, Bush; you ass. These type of people are who push me farther and farther away from ever wanting to associate myself with the church. If I ever wanted to “know Jesus,” as many call it, I know it would be a simple matter of me wanting to be spiritual in the Christian way, but I don’t think I could ever call myself a Christian or want to find a church. I just don’t want to be associated with that.

So anyhow, the book itself is an interesting read that you might pick up if you want to see an alternate view on things. You definitely don’t have to be part of a religion to get something out of it. I’m a testament to that. For myself, it hit on points that I do think of from time to time. I’m definitely known as more of a nonreligious sort. I try to do the best I can as a human and do good to others through an unwritten code of human ethics, but I’ll admit that there is definitely something comforting about religious thought. There may be a time when I seek it out, though currently my scientific logic puts up barriers that religion has yet to figure out how to cross. In my eyes, no one religion is right. If what you believe teaches you to be a better person – defined however you wish, but falling in the realm of what is normally associated as “good” to be – then that religion is fine with me. I won’t and don’t have the right to judge, anyway. I also hope that I didn’t piss off too many people in this post who know way more about religion than I ever will.