Friday, June 28, 2013

Blue Like Jazz- Blue and Despondent

I watched the move Blue Like Jazz yesterday. I'd heard about it, of course, and the book as well, as several friends love both- but somehow I never found the time or inclination to watch the movie, but finally I did yesterday. I tend to read movie reviews after I watch the movies, and so I did after watching this one. There is quite a bit written about it, and often somewhat vague reviews- like the movie and the title, they are usually without a satisfying resolution. So instead of a review I just thought I 'd share my feeling after watching this.

I'm a very feeling person- a movie, a book or a work of art is a visceral thing for me. Given that I'm a Christian, and well acquainted with the struggles of identity and conscience that many other believers have gone through (not to mention my own such struggles), this movie reminded me of that pain vividly.

My background being Indian Catholic, the Gospel of Jesus was virtually unknown to me until I attended Madras Christian College. In my final year at MCC, I came to faith. What was once a grey world without meaning, and resembled closely the highly liberal world of Reed in the movie, I found a shining, exciting, new thing. People who came to faith with me shared something special with me. Together we experienced incredible worship, joy, witness, healing and, for many, maturation that has been so Christlike.

Alongside this, something else happened- especially to those of us who had been raised in Christian families. They began criticizing their churches and other Christians. Eventually that evolved into calling themselves anything but Christian, evangelical, Baptist, Born-Again or other such terms. As the years passed I can see a little of why this happened. The secular, progressive world outside, especially in the US, hasn't helped either. While in Blue Like Jazz the antagonism is direct ('Do you have any idea what your hateful, bullying tribe has been up to?'), the real life opposition in my life has been more implicit. The suggestions are more inclined towards diminishing and questioning the sheen of my journey to faith, than a direct statement which would imply prejudice on the part of the questioner.

This movie, while somewhat realistic, mirrors the society's attitude towards Christians. But more importantly it mirror's our own faith. Hardened political Christians who use childish, pithy statements to explain the Gospel, and living hypocritical lives, worldly progressives Christians distancing themselves from their conservative brethren, and seeming in no way different from the world, ideas that are loose and vague, inclusive but not with compassion toward struggling Christians.

I found this to be a true picture of contemporary life. But is is depressing. I find in it and here in the US a world where Christians have lost their moral compass on the right and the left- political grandstanding, either sexual promiscuity or judgmentalism, salesmanship. Is there no hope for this country? Will God rescue us? Or should we bury ourselves and let the world take over?

Donald Miller, the author, has become a revered figure in the emerging movement. I find this movement depressing as well. I simply do not find meaning in the moral infallibility of Gen X and Y seeking to thumb their noses at the others through their acts of charity and generosity. First these acts are not in any way unique to such groups, except that they trumpet them much more, second, they seem to consider doctrinal clarity- even at a minimum- as a bad thing. Reading through the New Testament, there seems to have been no such lack of clarity in the apostles' preaching- or for that matter, in Jesus'. There was of course, love and compassion. Are these opposing forces? Why is it that the Western world with its comforts seem to hold itself up as the authority to speak for Christ, either in the conservative or in the 'liberal' movement?

I feel sorry for American Christians. In my darkest moments, I think of some friends in India who face threats to their lives daily, but who minister to those who are poor and sick- both physically and spiritually. Those to whom they minister consider them as not fundamentalists, but as angels. When I think of them I think of Jesus. Who can Americans think of? The protagonists in Blue Like Jazz? The chasm in my mind is deep and vast.

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