The End of My Sambatical From Organized Religion – Part 1

Nearly one year ago, right after Easter, I exited the church in which I grew up and had attended regularly since I was a child. I had not returned until today.

The cause of my initial exit is trivial, important only to me. There were valid issues, but some problems can just as easily be blamed on my own neuroses, stubborn pride, and failure to deal with disagreements effectively. However, the bigger reasons for my nearly yearlong sambatical, as well as my abrupt decision to return to the fold, are worth delving into because I have more than a sneaking suspicion that there are numerous disenfranchised Christians who, like me, have felt a growing chasm between what they are seeking versus what organized religion in 21st century America currently offers.

My friend The Owl, who is much more devout and genuinely devoted to living a Christ-like life than most folks I know (including your humble Potentate of Profundity), says that the church has become too worldly. He hasn’t found a “home church” in a long time, even though, to his credit, he still occasionally gives it the ol’ college try. He has most certainly spent more time in close proximity to pews & steeples than I have in the past year. However, his devotion, strong faith, and heartfelt determination to, as my Dad would say, “live life closer to the foot of the cross” despite not having close ties to a church has been influential in my own thought process. After all, a church is just a building, right??

Ah yes…a building. There’s a building. There’s land. There are bills to pay, things to buy, and stuff to maintain & repair. These things make money necessary. Fundraising becomes an obligatory evil (atleast in smaller churches). Committees are formed. Disagreements are either argued about or fester quietly for years. Folks jockey for position. Egos are bruised, feelings are hurt. All the sudden instead of focusing on Christ and His teachings, we spend a half hour on Sunday morning with Him…theoretically…at the center and the rest of the time running the business that the church has become. Even worship service is bogged down by meaningless ritual, incongruous nods to secular pop culture, screaming children lacking manners & discipline, and squirmy, visibly disinterested adults who are merely fulfilling an obligation but clearly have no sincerity of purpose. I honestly believe that most adults are more attentive when they shell out $8 at the local cineplex for some profanity laced, overtly sexual, ultra violent CGI crapfest than they are in church. And many are undoubtedly more passionate about a host of other pursuits…golf, fishing, watching the game or the race…than they are in worshiping God and spreading the good news of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.

Sadly, I have been right in the thick of the hypocrisy. I’ve been that disengaged, disinterested, distracted person just going through the motions and only giving my bare minimum (or less) focus to The Lord. I’ve been the person who attends all the committee meetings and helps out with all the fundraisers but has merely a cordial (at best) relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve been the person who attended church on Sunday but sinned freely and capaciously the other 6 days of the week. But at some point something either broke or awakened inside of me and I decided that I didn’t want to be that person anymore. This discontent with my Christian walk culminated with me walking away from the church.

It really all began nearly 6 years ago during what I call My Unfortunate Incarceration. I’ll spare those not “in the know” the details and just give the Cliff’s Notes version of my sad tale. In April 2006 I landed in the hospital with an ulcer on my tailbone. 6 weeks in the hospital were followed by 6 months in a “skilled” nursing facility. That was followed by an entire year homebound until, at last, I had the surgery that probably should have been done right off the bat. Another month in a hospital, a second shorter stint in a “skilled” nursing facility, then a few more months at home finally ended with me resuming normal activities after having, in essence, lost 2 years of my life in my early 30’s. I believe that everything happens for a reason, but I must admit that given the chance I’d skip over or significantly alter that time period in a heartbeat.

Looking back it was during those long dismal months that…atleast subconsciously…the yearning for a closer bond with The Lord blossomed yet I began to grow apart from the church. After all, besides my Dad, sister, and an aging, perverted, hard headed, yet genuinely kind & decent cousin all I had was Him. Regretfully though, instead of embracing the opportunity to cultivate that relationship I chose to wallow in a newfound bitterness caused by being “out of the loop”, “out of sight, out of mind”, and left in solitude by people who I am sure were blissfully unaware they were doing anything wrong. These were the days before Facebook allowed us all to stay in constant contact with hundreds of people across the globe on a daily basis. My Dad & sister would run into people who’d say “Tell Sam we’re thinking about him & praying for him”. I didn’t buy it. I just wanted them to take 10 minutes and give me a call. I was lonely, bored, and probably depressed, yet few people outside of my immediate family seemed to give a damn. When I was in the hospital recovering from surgery my friend Greg & his wife Jenn…who live in Texas…came to visit. Sure they were in town for his father’s wedding (or maybe it was his brother’s), but that visit meant the world to me. It was aggravating that friends that lived thousands of miles away found the time to make contact in my hour of need but others who lived much much closer…many of them “church family”…did not.

The State of The Manofesto 2012

It’s hard to believe we are halfway thru the first month of a new year!! Time flies when you’re having fun…and even when you’re not. So we may as well have fun, right?? At any rate, this feels like the right time for your humble Potentate of Profundity to once again take inventory and assess things here at my own rest stop on the ol’ Info Superhighway.

 

This site will hit its 3rd anniversary in April of this year, and I have felt just in the past few months like I am hitting my stride and achieving a certain level of comfort. I know what The Manofesto is, what it isn’t, and what I’d like it to be. That’s not to say that it will not continue to evolve & grow because that will hopefully always happen, but  what I write is a reflection of who I am and where I’m at in my journey, so therefore as I become more steady in my life that should shine through here. What that means specifically for The Manofesto in 2012 encompasses a few things.

 

First, I have begun to back away just a bit from the political stuff. It just doesn’t interest me as much these days. I don’t listen to my boys Rush & Hannity nearly as much as I used to, not because I don’t agree with them but moreso because I’m not sure the constant bantering about does much to solve the problems we face. I’ve reached a point where I desire more tranquility & stillness. Television, media, technology, etc. all too often become one big bundle of noise that just adds to the confusion & tumult of life. That doesn’t mean I am going completely off the grid or moving to the woods like Thoreau (although that’s not a bad idea), and it certainly doesn’t mean that I no longer have strong opinions. It’s just that I know what I know, think what I think, and believe what I believe, so I don’t really have an overwhelming desire to dive into the muck and mix it up with all the Godless, soulless, open-minded, multicultural, inclusive, anti-Christian, anti-American, baby killing, hedonistic heathenry. I’m not going to change their misguided little minds, so why, as my friend The Owl might say, add to the strife??

 

Secondly, I need to get back to God. It’s not that I’ve drifted completely away, but in 2011 I experienced some dissonance with the human construct known as religion precisely because I began to see thru the disingenuousness & superficiality, the fear of change, the going thru the motions, and the mistaking of habit for tradition. Unfortunately I feel like I have gone too far in the other direction, letting my disappointment progress into bitterness and allowing my melancholy to take over my heart & mind. That’s probably not going to change overnight, but there are steps that can be taken. Most of what needs to be done is “real world” stuff, but here at The Manofesto what I want to do is take some of the focus that has been on frustrating socioeconomic topics and put it on more faith centered subject matter. To that end I will soon begin an analysis of the books of The Bible, studying & writing about each book individually or in a cluster when appropriate. I think we all know this task will end up spread out over the next few years, so I’m not even going to estimate a date of completion. Also we will, of course, continue looking at The Fruits of the Spirit and The Sermon on the Mount, plus dive into whatever else The Voices yell at me about.

 

The tranquility & stillness I mentioned earlier means I’ve been doing less surfing of The Net & watching TV and more reading…of books. Y’all booksremember those don’t you?? I purchased a Kindle a couple of years ago but to be quite honest I never use it. I think maybe I was born just a decade or so too late to fully embrace the concept. I still enjoy the feel of a good old fashioned paper book in my hand. At any rate I’m back to my old habit of being in the midst of reading 4 or 5 books simultaneously, many of which I am re-reading for the express purpose of writing about here. Much of life is about focus, and I think maybe my brain is better served concentrating on good books and The Lord rather than the wasteland that humanity is becoming.

 

But just because I’m getting all serious & mature doesn’t mean I don’t still need to chill at times, right?? I’ve been really pleased with how the Winning & Musing addition to The Sports Page went last year, so that will definitely be continuing. I plum forgot about the concept of picking college & pro football games every week this past year. It wasn’t until a few weeks into the NFL season that I had the “Oh crap…I said I was gonna do that!!” moment and decided to let the idea rest until 2012. After a few years I think we have established some annual traditions like The Sammy Awards, my NFL prognostications & pre-season college football Top 25, The Sammy Claus Wish List, and me finding any & every way to babble on about how much I love Christmas. I kind of like the idea of having a few things that we can look forward to each year. And of course I’ll still be expressing my unique opinions on pop culture issues, just maybe not as much as in previous years.

 

I need to say a word about the look of the site itself. WordPress offers an abundance of themes and ways to tweak one’s page. I have become more skilled in making these changes and sometimes I can’t help myself when a new theme is added by the mothership. That means that the next time you visit things might look a lot different than the last time. I realize that comes at the cost of “establishing a look” for the site and “building my brand”, the consequences of which I may have to ponder more thoughtfully at some point in the future. But before that happens I need to find ways to grow The Manoverse and possibly make some dead presidents doing this someday. Also, I have been told that the way the site looks to one may not be how it looks to another. I have verified this personally by logging onto other computers. I’ve sat with my laptop open at work looking at a perfectly readable post with easily legible, properly sized fonts while at the same time looking at the same post on a desktop and wishing I had the Hubble telescope to help me make out the Lilliputianized typeface. I have no idea why that happens and no clue how to fix it, but I shall find the answer.

 

So here we are. 2012. Three years in. Your humble Potentate of Profundity going thru some fluctuations in interests, perspectives, & personal development. It’s going to be a fun ride. Join me. You know you want to.

Proudly Closeminded and Intolerant

Facebook is a mixed blessing, a double edged sword. On one hand it provides the type of beneficially mindless entertainment that even those who rail against such frivolity need in appropriately moderate doses and serves as an avenue to stay in touch or reconnect with friends and family. Conversely, it can, as much as one allows, lay bare attitudes and behaviors that may be otherwise unknown by the masses. I am one who probably puts a little too much out there, providing access to my beliefs and views on everything from religion & politics to sports & pop culture. I also observe what others opine and post. I know for a fact that some are outraged and flabbergasted by my sentiments, and I am oftentimes saddened and flummoxed by theirs. This can create regrettable tension. Theoretically these are your friends and you are their friend, but in reality the relationship is often tenuous. The person you went to high school with but haven’t seen for 20 years probably isn’t a true friend, especially if you weren’t even friends in school. The co-worker from that job you had for 6 months ten years ago probably isn’t really your friend either. So when you combine the flimsiness of the relationship with polarizingly passionate perspectives on issues that some may take more seriously than others it is a combustible cocktail. Fortunately the inevitably disastrous fracturing of the fragile association is fairly painless. You can choose to just not have the stuff your friend posts appear in your news feed, you can delete them, or you can ban them completely so that you won’t even see their interactions with mutual friends. I have done all three, and it is likely all three have been done to me by others.


It is never my intention to anger or offend, and I am not easily offended myself. But one of the things I have observed over the course of the past few years is a growing sense of moral relativism. Society has a progressively increasing “if it feels good do it” attitude. Anything and everything is rubber stamped as long as there is no heinous crime being committed or no one is being physically hurt. Those who espouse opinions that go against the grain of this laissez faire attitude are on the receiving end of a rather vitriolic backlash wherein they are labeled intolerant and close-minded. I have been called those things a few times myself over the years, and I used to get upset and angry, loudly proclaiming that I am indeed tolerant and open minded despite what those who disagree with my principles may think. However, I have begun to reassess this standard defense of my values. Maybe I am a little intolerant and somewhat close-minded. And I think that is just fine with me.


Tolerance is a tricky term. Being tolerant used to mean the ability or inclination to put up with things one did not agree with or like. For example, a non-smoker tolerating a friend lighting up in their presence, or a Pittsburgh Steelers fan (like myself) tolerating a Dallas Cowboys fan (such as my sister). It is an absolute necessity that makes our world more interesting. Afterall, how prosaic would life be if everyone agreed about everything?? The key is something my Dad taught me…disagreeing without being disagreeable. But over the course of the last few decades tolerance has found new life as a politically correct code word meaning “anything goes” and not only blurs the line between right & wrong but obliterates it completely. The only wrong in this politically correct universe are those that attempt to insert any type of ethical standards into the situation, especially if they invoke Christian values and the name of God in the process. Likewise, being open minded theoretically means the ability to be receptive to new or different ideas. This too has unfortunately evolved into terminology that means acceptance of all manner of obscenity and abject ideology. The PC crowd has been enormously successful in weaving these thought processes into society while demonizing God and morality.


What I have been trying to work out in my own heart and mind is this: Where is the line between being judgmental and simply standing up for one’s beliefs ??


The Word tells us in Matthew “judge not lest ye be judged”, but I think maybe that is a passage that has been twisted into a self-serving bit of hyperbole by the tolerance police. It is a sad fact in 21st century America that a growing segment of the population openly mock God, but there is another growing portion of society who, while they profess a belief in God, want to water Him down into an easygoing, relaxed, permissive entity who doesn’t care how far off the path we veer. They treat God like a substitute teacher or a benevolent grandparent who will let us goof off, break all the rules, and still give us milk & cookies before reading a bedtime story and tucking us into bed. Even loyal churchgoers who theoretically study their Bible regularly say things like “love the sinner, hate the sin” which, to my knowledge, cannot be found anywhere in God’s Word. It is true that God is love, that He commanded us to love our enemies and our neighbors as we do ourselves, and that He is so desirous of a personal relationship that He sent Jesus to die on the cross so that His blood can wash away our sin, but we shouldn’t mistake kindness for weakness. Jesus did not hesitate to call people out on their BS, so to speak. He was no pushover and ticked a lot of people off. I mean let’s face it…He was crucified!! That doesn’t happen to a lackadaisical milquetoast. We are to emulate Christ and I believe sometimes that means being a bit more of a radical revolutionary than a pushover. Should we go around picking fights?? No. But I think it means we don’t walk away from them either. It’s all in the approach.


And that is the point at which I currently find myself. I have come to realize that my approach may need some…tweaking. Maybe I do come across as judgmental and a bit harsh on occasion. I have had to diminish my exposure to various political media because, whether I strongly agree or completely disagree with the biased angle being presented I tend to get a little too fired up either way. This is when Facebook gets me in hot water because it offers an immediate forum where I can vent my frustrations before taking the proper time to ponder and cool the engines. At the same time, I do not want to sit on my hands and not express my views, especially when it comes to faith. We are to be “fishers of men” and “make disciples of all the nations…teaching to observe all things that Jesus commanded”. Jesus said “they persecuted Me they will persecute you also” and “you will be hated by all for My name’s sake”. He taught that “blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy”. This is a uncomfortable thing for most to grasp because we don’t enjoy rejection. We want to be liked and accepted. We want to fit in, to belong. Especially for Christians it can be difficult to embrace that we are to be a peculiar people. Who really wants to be thought of as peculiar, aka unusual, strange, or weird?? But at the end of the day I think there are times when we must stand our ground and refuse to back down. There are situations in which we need to be close-minded and intolerant.


I suppose it all goes back to what Dad taught me about disagreeing without being disagreeable. We can stand up for our principles without being hateful, even if “hate” is another word too easily thrown around by touchy feely humanists to condemn anyone who disagrees with their warped outlook on all sorts of subject matter. George Herbert, a 17th century poet and clergyman, said that “living well is the best revenge”. Similarly, maybe the best way to convey Godly principles is not to argue but to live a Godly life with Jesus Christ as our role model. Values like salvation, forgiveness, wisdom, grace, mercy, love, peace, faith, kindness, etc. shouldn’t be treated like a product others have to be convinced to buy under duress or like abstract concepts from an tedious book that are taught in a dry, uninspired lecture. They are to be practiced daily. My Mom always said that you can get more flies with honey than with vinegar. Conforming that notion to the present discourse it seems that a better strategy in proving God’s way is the right way…the only way…is to become the best example possible. Stay positive and show the power of God in one’s own life rather than being critical of others’ choices. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used civil disobedience or non-violent protest to make his case, and at the end of the day let’s face it…he made a heck of a case and changed the world. I cannot honestly say my protestations are always as civil as they should be and that is something The Lord and I are ironing out, but I plan on continuing to stand up for what I believe to be right, and on the occasions that I am perceived as being captious or abrasive I will need to decide if that is truly the case and what exactly must be done…or not done.

Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code

The Bookshelf is a much too lightly used feature here at The Manofesto, and that’s my fault. I could blame my job, blame my puppy, blame being involved with church, blame television, etc. But the truth is it is 100% purely me being lazy. That needs to change.

 

Books are an integral part of my life. I love to read. Reading opens up whole new worlds to a person, taking them on a ride as far as the imagination can travel. Books also educate and inform. I am involved with a ProLiteracy organization mostly because I feel compassion toward those who cannot read, who don’t have the privilege of experiencing the pleasure of losing themselves in a good book. Illiteracy is a damning indictment of both our educational system and the shortcomings of parents, but that’s a whole other can of worms to be opened some other time. My purpose du jour is to review two books that I just recently finished reading, Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code.

 

It took me a long time to finally read these books. I am a Christian, and knowing the basic gist of The DaVinci Code (the second book but the one that caught fire first and became a national topic of debate) and how many fellow Christians felt about its contents I was hesitant to read it. Three things changed my thought process. First, a hardcover copy of DaVinci was available at a ProLiteracy book sale I was working…..for $1, a deal I couldn’t pass up. Secondly, an acquaintance who happens to be a fine, God-fearing, Christian woman mentioned in conversation (a conversation about books…a rare treat but one I always enjoy) that a pastor had told her that Christians should not avoid the book at all and actually needed to read it. Right about that time the Angels & Demons movie was coming out and I became aware of what that book (the first book but the second movie…oh that wacky Opie Cunningham)  was about, The Illuminati…..a subject that had always interested me to a degree. The movies were the clinching factor I will admit. I’m a Tom Hanks fan and knew I’d eventually catch the movies on HBO or rent them. So…I picked up a paperback copy of Angels & Demons and decided to read the books in their proper order before that occurred. After reading the books I did see The DaVinci Code on HBO and it was okay.

 

Any examination of these two books needs to be done from two perspectives…..the literary view and the religious view. An analysis of the book for what it is…a book, a work of fiction…seems the easier of the two tasks, so I shall climb that mountain first.

 

Warning…..spoilers lay ahead for anyone who hasn’t read these two books or seen the movies. Don’t say I didn’t give you fair notice.

 

As far as modern popular fiction goes, I’ll give Dan Brown his due. These stories are well written, move at a brisk and exciting pace and tell an absorbing story. I enjoyed Angels & Demons far more than I did The DaVinci Code, and I think there are two reasons for that. First of all, DaVinci had become extremely popular and raised such a ruckus amongst church folks that it was impossible to be as consumed by the story as I likely would have been had I not known the “shocking twist”. I already knew the big reveal was that The Holy Grail isn’t a cup as commonly believed, but a human being, the heroine of the story that turns out to be the only living descendant of Jesus Christ, who according to the storyline married Mary Magdalene and fathered a daughter. With the ultimate ending ruined I was simply left with enjoying the path traveled to arrive at that destination, a trip that was certainly not unexciting. However, that brings me to my second issue…..I had already read Angels & Demons. That story involved The Illuminati threatening to blow up The Vatican during a Papal Enclave, and was fresh, unpredictable, and a great read…a real page turner. The problem is that Brown takes the same basic template used for Angels & Demons and uses it for The DaVinci Code…..comparable characters, similar time frame, very familiar general outline of events. So even if I’d not heard about The DaVinci Code ad nauseum for months before I’d read it I would have probably figured it all out anyway. Many authors have created a memorable main character (as Brown has here with Professor Robert Langdon) and written multi-volume series starring that character. That isn’t a problem at all if done right. But the fact is that DaVinci is just a repetitive sequel to the much superior Angels & Demons. It’s like watching Vegas Vacation or The Godfather III…..it’s not terrible in and of itself, but it’s been done before and been done better. I read somewhere that Brown has about a dozen more Robert Langdon novels planned. If that is true he’s going to have to find fresh territory for his guy to trapse through, otherwise we’re going to tire of him very quickly and move on to something original.

 

Now for the deeper and more disturbing scrutiny, that of looking at these novels through the prism of God.

 

I’m a Christian, but I’m far from a prude. I’m not easily offended but I do have my beliefs and convictions. This has a tendency to put me in the crosshairs of both fellow Christians, who I am sure think I’m not quite hardcore enough, and the non-believer/atheist/agnostic types who I am sure subconsciously brand me a Bible Thumper or a Jesus Freak. I’ve reached a point in my life where I realize I cannot please everyone and have pretty much stopped trying. That being said, I do try to please God and live every day more Christ-like than the day before, so as I grow older and stronger in my faith I am assuming I will tick off fellow Christians less and annoy the heathens more.

 

The author, Dan Brown, claims to be a Christian. That would probably be mildly surprising news to anyone who has read these novels. The books both show a disdain for the church (specifically The Catholic Church) and paint religion as the bad guy. In Angels & Demons the underlying story is the battle between science and religion, with religion being painted as the bad guy desperate to hold onto its power. A pope, dead as the story begins, is revealed to have fathered a child. That child, who grew up to hold a very important position within The Vatican, is revealed to be a crazed murderer. The scientists are the good guys. In The DaVinci Code the church is written as the mastermind of the most massive cover-up in history. In this universe Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute…..that is a lie fabricated to downplay her importance. Instead, Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus but the church covered that up and put a little creative spin on the life of Jesus Christ, fabricating his divinity for the sake of power.

 

Dan Brown’s beef could very well be with The Catholic Church explicitly. If so that wouldn’t be a huge mountain to overcome. I know a lot of believers who have issues with the church…..church politics, church hypocrisy, church legalism. I myself differentiate between faith and religion. My difficulty is that Brown takes whatever issues he may have a bit too far, especially in DaVinci. In recent times we’ve seen a lot of clergy fall from grace…..TV evangelists who cheat on their wives, priests being accused of sexual misconduct, ministers being exposed as money grubbing charlatans. That’s why I don’t have a huge problem with Angels & Demons…..it simply presents a priest as being something other than what he is believed to be, something we’ve seen occur in real life far too many times. However, in DaVinci the very foundation of the entire faith is called into question. One guy isn’t discovered to be a bad seed…..the whole enchilada is made out to be one giant lie. That’s quite problematic. I am a person who believes The Bible to be the foolproof Word of God. Something as significant as Jesus being married likely would have been mentioned. I’ve read arguments that say that if Jesus was married that would do nothing to take away his divinity. I’ll admit that’s a fascinating hypothesis, but one that doesn’t hold water when it’s pondered thoughtfully. If He was married then why isn’t it in The Bible? And if it was in The Bible but men who craved power took it out, why would they do that if the marriage itself wouldn’t discount the divinity of Christ? It’s a circular argument that makes no sense either way. The only thing that makes sense is what we’ve always known and believed. It makes sense otherwise we wouldn’t believe it. Granted, faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen…..but that doesn’t mean we’re all a bunch of dopes who’ll believe anything. There’s a reason we believe in God, believe in salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ…..but don’t believe (after a certain age) in Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy, and The Easter Bunny.

 

I suppose if I was put on the spot I would highly recommend Angels & Demons, but would be far more hesitant to give an enthusiastic thumbs up to The DaVinci Code. The first is an engrossing read that doesn’t necessarily rank up there with actual literature (think Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, etc.) but is a lot better than the cookie cutter romances and action-adventure rubbish you see in the paperback section at WalMart. The latter is not only a stylistic rehash, but also really rocks the boat on the faith front. If you have a strong foundation and aren’t easily swayed then I’d say tread cautiously. If you are a young Christian still trying to find that firm footing and really understand what you believe then I would say run in the other direction. It’s akin to watching professional wrestling…..it may not be high quality entertainment for anyone, but atleast a reasonably intelligent adult can enjoy it as the fictional soap opera that it is while it may become too real to a child or a less-than-bright grown-up. Ultimately it’s a personal decision. I don’t regret my time spent reading Angels & Demons at all, while I’m glad I only paid a buck for The DaVinci Code and don’t put it on any kind of pedestal as either a great work of literature or some sort of Satanic tool of evil.

 

 

 

Blue Like Jazz

Cover of

Blue Like Jazz

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.