29 June 2007

Blue Like Miller

My Intro to Religious Thought teacher is, in essence, the embodiment of post-modern philosophy. Raised as a conservative Methodist, he majored in Religion as an undergrad, and, as all Religion majors, realized that Christianity is not as simple as it seems. And, as all young adults coming to that this realization, faced the accompanying crisis of faith. After all, if you can accept that most of Genesis is exaggeration (at best, and this is not to mention all of the other things you learn about the Bible in school) and not notice an impact in your faith, something is probably very wrong with you. Studying those like Nietzsche and coming to the realization that you cannot prove what you believe tends to do that to you. Post-modernism is, really, the philosophy of rejection. All our lives are stories, and nobody's story can be correct.

It is into this time that we see (and need) a post-modern response to a post-modern philosophy. Whether or not they claim to be a part of the Emergent movement or not, authors like Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne, and Rob Bell provide this response. And most popular among them (at least among the youth group masses) is Donald Miller. I'll admit, his books are probably among my favorite. You laugh, wonder, think, grow angry, and hopefully, learn. Christianity Today's review of Miller (not his books, but the man himself) says Miller is "often described as 'irreverent' or 'bohemian'". Which means one thing: he fits in with the rest of the world born after 1970.

Though the article focuses, in the beginning, on Miller's current aging-yet-relevant style of being (the author mentions that he is starting to have those mid-age moments, meeting a friend and asking, "Hey, how's your wife feeling these days?"), it later goes on to discuss this new trend of the Christian experience as a whole. Quoting one fan, we read, "I love Blue Like Jazz because it's, like, a Christian book, but it doesn't make you feel bad about yourself." Which means one thing (well, several, but I'll focus on this one): Nietzsche was wrong when he said that guilt is inherent in Christianity. Instead, Miller would probably argue, and I will agree, that Christianity is a post-modern religion. It's about our stories. God's story about how much he loves humanity, humanity's story about how we are trying to get back to God, and our own stories about how we relate to God and humanity. Miller is quoted as saying, "The chief role of a Christian is to tell a better story."

And, as the article points out, this is how Miller writes. Blue Like Jazz is the story of Miller going through life and learning. Searching for God Knows What is a collection of essays drawing from stories - his story of developing his own sense of evangelism, realizing that the world is fallen and needs God's help, and thinking about the role of the Church. In fact, Miller has one book that is really just one long story punctuated with moments of philosophical clarity; Through Painted Deserts is about how Miller discovered Portland.

As the masses start to wake up and smell the stories, they will need leaders, or at the very least, influences. Whether or not he wants to be, Don Miller has taken that position.

So, what's your story?

Rock on.