Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Hunter S. Thompson of Evangelical Writers

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
review by Mike Dodaro 

I started reading this book while standing in the aisle at Borders. Then I sat down. Finally I bought the book and read it over the next couple of days. Don Miller is an honest and insightful writer who has found a way to go to church without getting mad. He has thrown in with the fruit-nut fringe, but he seems to be right in his observation that this crowd asks more questions and listens to your answers, at least, a little better than most of those jingling the keys to their SUVs. He's got it right when he says it would be nice to walk into a church and feel, after chatting with the locals for a while, that God likes me. One exception on his list of engaging fruit nuts is the prominent writer, now itinerant book-store preacher, who wrote about fishing and baseball before he became a left-wing ideologist. My gut response was similar to Miller's after sitting through one of David James Duncan's sermons promoting his book God Laughs and Plays. I wrote a review of that book in line with Miller's take that made Duncan enthusiasts so mad it is now at the bottom of the Amazon ratings.

I honestly can't imagine how Don Miller ever got started with the religious book publishers. He shows up like a featured speaker at Bible camp, after weeks of camping out with hippies, still unshaved and smelling of pot. Apparently, the publishers have figured out that there is gold in the gutter, along with churches like Mars Hill in Seattle. One suspects that Miller's church, Imago Dei, in Portland has the same raunchy ear-splitting music. It may be Miller got his start with the academic slummers, like the professor who edits SPU's Image Journal and helps to send out graduates of the Christian University who still seem to identify with punk rock, not the Dead Poets Society. However it happened that Miller is in print and a best seller, I'm convinced he's the real deal. I'm less mad at trendy, fruit-nut Christianity and CCM after listening to him for these several hours. But Image Journal still frosts me.

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