There are church goers, there are people who are “spiritual”, there are Christians and Jews and Muslims, there are those who claim to be “religious” but won’t go into specifics…..many many shades of grey. But the truth is you can’t always have your cake and eat it too. Sometimes one must actually make a choice and stand behind it, through the sunshine and the storm.
I first ran across Blue Like Jazz while looking for books about jazz and blues music. Realizing that it had nothing to do with music I moved on. Then a friend with whom I have a lot of conversations about God, the Bible, church, Jesus Christ, etc. mentioned it and I said “oh yeah…I remember seeing that”. He recommended I read it, and I obliged.
At first I was blown away. The writer uses a straightforward humorous tone that’s a little unorthodox but eminently readable. The book is a breezy read, and that’s cool. He has a unique perspective that occasionally made me go “Wow, I hadn’t thought of that. He’s right”. But as I kept getting further into it I was reminded of the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. In one scene Steve Martin’s character is ranting against John Candy’s character and says “And by the way, you know, when you’re telling these little stories? Here’s a good idea – have a point!! It makes it SO much more interesting”. Blue Like Jazz is kind of like that…..I still don’t know what the point is exactly.
I realize what direction the writer was attempting to go. Church these days can be very legalistic, ritualized, and ultimately meaningless. Almost every congregation has its fair share of heathens and what my minister refers to as 7th Day Christians, meaning they’re “Christian” for a couple of hours on Sunday but then do whatever feels good the other six days (I have been that person in the past and am doing my best to improve). As a matter of fact Easter Sunday was just a few days ago and I spotted several Christers myself, meaning people who only go to church on Christmas and Easter. I understand suspicion and trepidation when it comes to the church. But that doesn’t mean one can just ignore everything about Christianity that’s uncomfortable and inconvenient. The church and its people may be broken, but the faith itself is most certainly not.
I kept waiting for some big resolution or lucid path to somewhere conclusive…..but it never happened. Ultimately Blue Like Jazz comes across as one man’s free association about spirituality, with subtle hints at a political agenda. The premise had potential, but the finished work feels more like a first draft that has never crossed the desk of an editor or any kind of authority who may have given the directive for..…well…..direction. It’s not the worst book I’ve ever read at all, but I was expecting better.