Blue Like Jazz Interview

Posted: April 20, 2012 by jperritt in Comedy, Drama, Interview

I recently conducted an email interview with the authors of the book, Red Like Bloodgathering their thoughts on the release of the film Blue Like Jazz.  BLJ inspired Bob Bevington and Joe Coffee to write their book RLB.  Those who know anything about BLJ understand that despite the books popularity, it is not universally celebrated among Christians.  Whether you decide to read the book or watch the film, take a moment to read some of the thoughts below.

Did you read Donald Miller’s book, Blue Like Jazz? If so, what were your thoughts?  JOE:  I loved the book. I think Donald Miller is an extraordinary storyteller. He is not merely gifted at telling a story but in choosing stories that express a truth most of us feel deep down. Good stories are like good music. They have the ability to go further in and touch both the intellect and emotion. Reading something like Blue Like Jazz can be a spiritual experience. I think that is why it resonated with so many.

You claim that Miller’s propositions were aimed at deconstructing a lot of what is bogus in the lives of todays Christians. Hypocrisy. Indifference. And intolerance toward injustice.  Please elaborate on what you mean by this.  JOE:  I think it was Ghandi who said, “I would be a Christian if it were not for Christians.” People long for genuine spirituality and feel it is wholly lacking within the established Christian community. I think there is some truth to that but I don’t think it is the whole truth. It does make for an easy target and it is an easy way to gather a crowd.

What would you say to Christians who read, and loved, the book? JOE:  I would say that Bob and I are with you. We loved the book as well as far as it went.

How did BLJ inspire your book, Red Like BloodJOE:  I think we loved the honesty and the rawness of BLJ. I think Donald Miller is very gifted and has a particular style that made reading BLJ an adventure. We wanted to take people on the same type of journey.

How can you say that BLJ doesn’t preach the gospel? In your words, what is the gospel? JOE:  The gospel is not a nebulous feeling of spirituality. The gospel is something that is rooted in an historical event. It is one of the things that makes Christianity different than every other type of spirituality. The gospel is the amazing truth that we are loved to such an extent that we are actually redeemed. In the words of Tim Keller, “The good news is that even though we are more deeply flawed than we have ever wanted to admit to anyone, even ourselves, we are more deeply loved than we have ever dared to imagine.” That love takes the form of a substitutionary sacrifice by Jesus Christ on the cross. His life for ours.

Why would so many Christians like a book that doesn’t preach the gospel?JOE:  I think a lot of Christians believe the gospel is the starting point of Christianity. It is something they did when they were at camp and that got them their Christian ID card. But that is about it. I think many Christians would feel a book about the gospel is for non-Christians to explain how they can join the club.

What are your concerns about the book and the movie? BOB:  They masterfully draw people in with their transparency and vulnerability—because everyone can relate to brokenness caused by our sin. But they leave people short because they don’t draw people to the authentic Jesus—the One who came to seek and save the lost. Telling that story needs a dying Savior or it makes no sense.

Have you seen the movie?  Do you plan on it? BOB: Not yet. But Joe and I will definitely see it as soon as we can.

On your blog you said, “BLJ might turn out to mark a sea-change in Christian film making.”  What do you mean by that and how do you think BLJ will accomplish that?  BOB: Christians like to use movies to preach to people and so it feels almost immediately like a bait and switch. Christian movies feel enormous pressure to make God look good so nearly everything needs to eventually work out in the end. That is just plain cheesy and unlike real life. It is also bad theology.

What advice would you give to Christian filmmakers, actors, etc.?  BOB: Make movies that portray reality. Including the reality of the way sinners actually talk and behave. The gospel is a reality, the greatest reality of all. Don’t leave it out. Creatively intersect the two storylines.

What advice would you give to Christians who truly like the cheesy and unrealistic Christian films? JOE:  Be careful. I would encourage moviegoers to watch all movies critically, both Christian and secular.


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