In 2003, Donald Miller wrote a little book called Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. (You can find my past ramblings about him here.) In his collection of essays, Miller chronicled his personal reflections about his walk as a Christian, based around stories of his time at Reed College in Portland, where Christians are in the vast minority. Miller’s writing is frank (brutally honest, really), and he wasn’t afraid to talk about his doubts, fears, and failures in his faith. Plus, he’s pretty hilarious. It’s no wonder that the book became a bestseller and especially found a following in the 20s/30somethings. I’m not going to lie - it changed my life. I think it was the first time I’d read a true depiction of a “real” Christian, one who wasn’t afraid to say “Hey - I’m not perfect. I’m just a regular human being sins and has fun, who isn't always politically correct, but who also loves Jesus and is sometimes is confused about my relationship with Him and God.. and life is crazy!”
Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
"Believing in God is as much like falling in love as it is making a decision. Love is both something that happens to you and something you decide upon."
"There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.) And as I lay there, it occurred to me that God is up there somewhere. Of course, I had always known He was, but this time I felt it, I realized it, the way a person realizes they are hungry or thirsty. The knowledge of God seeped out of my brain and into my heart. I imagined Him looking down on this earth, half angry because His beloved mankind had cheated on Him, had committed adultery, and yet hopelessly in love with her, drunk with love for her."
“I was watching BET one night, and they were interviewing a man about jazz music. He said jazz music was invented by the first generation out of slavery. I thought that was beautiful because, while it is music, it is very hard to put on paper; it is so much more a language of the soul … The first generation out of slavery invented jazz music. It is a music birthed out of freedom. And that is the closest thing I know to Christian spirituality. A music birthed out of freedom. Everybody sings their song the way they feel it, everybody closes their eyes and lifts up their hands.”
So let's fast-forward a few years, and Miller announces he's working on a screenplay. Christians and his book fans are pumped! Christianity Today is talking about it. They got a lot of backers, and filming is planned! Nashville-based director Steve Taylor is directing. Marshall Allman (of TrueBlood fame) is playing Don. Awesome! I was thrilled about the idea of seeing one of my favorite books in big-screen form.
Until just a year ago, Miller began a blog post with "The book that swept the country will not sweep theaters." The project was kaput. There were several reasons, such as "blahblahblah funding movies is hard, blahblahblah the lead actor has some timing conflicts," but what bugged me was this (Miller's words, from his blog):
"2. Blue Like Jazz is a very hard film for church-going, evangelical Christians to get behind. The folks who invest in Christian movies were scared to death of Blue Like Jazz. While it has a PG-13 rating, there is language, drug use and a scene where the protagonists put a giant condom on a steeple. To me, it’s the only movie that takes an honest look at a Christian kid coming of age in America, a story experienced by tens of millions of students each year. But students don’t fund Christian movies, older white guys do, and they find it hard to relate to the theme."
Surely then you can understand why this movie is so important? Personally, I was truly bummed. I felt this was a chance reach out to so many who have only seen the scary sides of Christianity, who think they are beyond finding a relationship with God. For normal people (like me) who live life with a PG-13 rating.
And here's where the story really gets good. You'll never guess what happened next...
Some guys in Franklin, Tenn. (just a little south of Nashville), started a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise a mere $125,000 in less than a month so that the show could go on. I gave a measly $25 and hoped for the best. It seemed like an impossible task, but once the blogging/social media world started spreading the news, support for the movie spread like wildfire. Before they knew it, thanks to thousands of people donating $10 and $25, with a few more generous donations here and there, they reached their goal in 11 days. At the end of the campaign, they were amazed to have raised just under $346,000... in less than a month. Not only was the project saved, but the surplus of money gave them room to breathe and expand budgets. And Kickstarter named "Save Blue Like Jazz" its Project of the Year.
Are you inspired? I know I was. Still am. I'm still gushing about it. And I was beside myself when they began filming in Nashville, and I got to be an extra... but that's a whole other story you can read here. Regardless, filming has wrapped, and the movie had its first screening in Atlanta this past weekend. Just a few weeks ago, they released the first official trailer:
I can't wait. If you haven't read the book, I urge you to pick it up soon.