Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Two Conversations

Just finished Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, which I began reading about six weeks ago. Everyone else began reading it seven years ago and finished six years and 345 days ago. I know not every Moose reader is a fan of Miller or emergents, emergings, etc. But I'd like to say a few words about this book.

First, I think it's a well written, honest, and sometimes humorous piece of writing. I think it's orthodox, overall, though Miller is not a theologian. And I think Miller shows himself to be a pretty thoughtful guy. There's a certain type of guy who observes and absorbs the world around him, and actually has something interesting to say about it; these are the true, or at least the better, artists. I wish I was more like that.

Reading BLJ is also an interesting experience because it captures well a certain "moment" in American Christianity. Miller articulated well the feelings of a younger generation of evangelicals who were (and are) concerned deeply with the issue of authenticity. If there's one theme that runs through the book, it's authenticity. Coming out of a certain brand of evangelicalism, Miller was discouraged by that which seemed fake, pretentious, unnecessary, and ultimately sub-biblical on the evangelical landscape.

This attitude, arising in the 1990's, marked the rise of the emerging (good) and emergent (not so good) churches, which were tired of the business model of churches, the CEO model of pastors, and the marketing model of evangelism. While not completely free of those traps, I think that for this reason the "emerging church" trend, when it remained biblically grounded, marked a healthy protest. As with all protests, though, there is pride and there are mistakes - in fact, Miller takes jabs at himself over this too.

I realize you are not reading this post anymore since you knew all this already. But for those of you who may have scrolled quickly to the bottom, I thought I'd post a quotation that comes near the end which I think ties into Jeff's post from yesterday:

"When I am talking to somebody there are always two conversations going on. The first is on the surface; it is about politics or music or whatever it is our mouths are saying. The other is beneath the surface, on the level of the heart, and my heart is either communicating that I like the person I am talking to or I don't. God wants both conversations to be true."


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