Thursday, May 05, 2005

Donald Miller, Hero

For the last year and a half, since he's released Blue Like Jazz, Don Miller's been all the buzz - yes, the Cat's Meow if you cool hep cats are down with that - in the frays of the young evangelical movement. Actually, I don't know what else to call this spot. It's not like he's only calling out the artistic or the urbane or the hard-edged or the post-modernist or the outcasts from within and without the EV movement, but actually some sort of inclusive amalgalm of all of them. And the dude's published by Thomas Nelson, the guys who took over Word Music a decade ago and chased whatever cool factor they had left out of the CCM biz (a good thing, probably).

BLJazz was definitely a breath of fresh air in the taxicab of Modern and Post-Modern Christian Living books and received a lot of word-of-mouth on the basis of its conversational tone (a lot of it seems transcribed), informal writing style occasionally throwing out lines like the titular sentence (used, if I can recall, to describe the open country night sky), and neo-memoir style (there are no footnotes or direct citations save Bible quotations and most passages generally originate from a recollection of a conversation or, in the first sentence, someone on tv or something he read somewhere). Something that struck me (besides the aforementioned) was that Miller, despite being praised by the post-mods, called the "Emerging Church" movement out for its fixation on what is cool or hip or relevant. Actually not so much the movement as several eager church planters and churches. Not deriding them for trying a new thing or whatever (old arguments to be tossed out with, "Can God use the Devil's music?"), but calling into question our need to make the Bible look cool, make our faith, our ideas, our institutions look with-it and trendy and relevant to a needy world. Personally, I have trouble with Christians talking about relevancy of the Church. I think if anybody needs to question the Church's relevancy, they need only come to my neighborhood and meet my neighbors. Not the nice folks in the $1k/month apartments or the condos down the street, but the Lazarus' wandering around in front of them. Or the single mothers trying to do it all on their own. Or their children, the youth I work with.

But Miller takes it a step further than I did right there, which is why I appreciate him all the more. I just found Miller's fascination with Jesus liberating and infectious. It's radical that that would be someone's focal point in a work of this sort.

But Searching for God Knows What - released this winter - is a more fundamental work, a better book in my mind. It continues in much the same vein - these almost essay-like quandaries into meanings and our search for meanings. But it really tries to get at the heart of it all. As per Adam & Eve and their nakedness, he comes to a conclusion that them being in the buff and not ashamed originally is because they were completely being taken care of by love flowing freely to them and through them and around them by the Trinity, in much the same way it was flowing within the Trinity before - and after - Jesus came to earth. It was for the ensuing lack of love when they broke the covenant, or trust, with God that they needed a form of physical and emotional protection. Hence the clothes. The Bible makes a pretty big deal of Christ emptying himself of everything in coming to earth, and now I think I can appreciate that more fully in understanding a bit better that relationship.

And Miller's coming out with another book in August. Who is he, Prince?

I'll probably provide some nifty (*) quotes by Donald tomorrow - my day off - along with some music and book reviews. Haven't seen any movies recently. A bit of tv. Maybe if I get some time on Saturday, I'll provide you with a play-by-play analysis of the Bulls victory over the Wizzies. But I doubt I'll have time...

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