DON MILLER - Blue Like Jazz or Green Like Envy
Today is the final installment of this 5 part series on emergent with hurt feelings -one Donald Miller. He is yet again another emergent who has come out with unabashed support for pro murder president elect Barack Obama. All the talk by many of these emergent/liberal/red letter "Christians" for so long about the "religious right" being too political was a complete farce. We now know that the problem was never that they were too political but rather that these social liberals hate their brand of politics. The good thing about these developments is that their true colours are being flushed out. Don Miller's "prayer" at the Democtrat National Convention publicly unveiled his warped value system and no matter which way he postures on the abortion issue the reality is he is NOT pro life. As we continue through Richard Nathan's review of Miller's book "Blue Like Jazz" the core of Miller's faulty theology is revealed - a low view of Scripture, a high view of sinners and a god of his own invention.
A Spokesman for Romanticism (or Imaginative Paganism)
What Miller and many of today’s neo-evangelicals are moving towards is Romanticism.
There’s a pendulum that swings in Church history between the imbalance of legalism and formalism and the opposite imbalance of rebelliousness and paganism. This has become especially apparent since the Renaissance. The Romantic Movement, which was very influential in Europe, England, and the United States in the 1700s and 1800s, focused on rebellion through poetry, art, imagination, magic, mysticism, and intuition. This movement spawned such men as Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche, who greatly influenced Adolph Hitler.
A Rebirth of Romanticism. Today we are experiencing a rebirth of Romanticism in the form of a flood of rebelliousness masquerading as a new wave of Christian freedom and spirituality. It is especially apparent in the Emergent Church Movement and through the writings of such authors as Brian McLaren. But Christian freedom is always deeply tied to Christian truth. And the freedom Miller offers is so disconnected from Christian truth that it cannot truly be Christian—or truly freedom—at all. Its basis is theological, biblical, and historical ignorance. His enormous appeal is to a shift in society and in the Church that is following the culture away from truth to self.
Bohemian/Beatnik Culture. Miller’s approach to writing personifies a shift that arose out of the Bohemian leftist culture that developed in San Francisco’s North Beach area in the late 1930s. The Bohemians were into wine, poetry, and leftist politics. The Beatniks, who followed them, got into jazz, pot, and other drugs. In the 1960s the movement flowered with the hippies and their focus upon Eastern religions and such psychedelic drugs as LSD and Mescaline. All of these lifestyles claimed to represent freedom and creativity as opposed to “square” American middleclass life.
I know something about these movements because I grew up in San Francisco during the 1940s and 1950s in a family that was part of the Bohemian/Beatnik culture. We managed jazz nightclubs and ran a bookstore in North Beach. And I can tell you from personal experience: Beatniks were not loving; they were not pure; they were not unselfish at all. And they definitely were not free. These movements were, in fact, the epitome of self-love and blind egotism.
Nor was the emphasis on love in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District during the Sixties love for others; it was an extreme form of self-gratification—it was the culture of rebellion. And Miller is just aping it and being an apologist for it. Notice that one of his friends at Reed is called “the Beat poet.” In some sense he’s extolling the “glories” of Neopaganism and trying to fit his narcissistic “Christianity” of mysticism and magic into it.
One Final Urgent Question: Why the Rush to Paganism?
Why are evangelicals rushing to read and praise this book when it attacks them and the very foundations of their faith?
What does it say about today’s evangelical movement, and today’s youth raised in evangelical homes and culture, that they love his message and are even using it to evangelize?
The overarching theme of Miller’s book is the glorification of rebellion by preaching false freedom. That’s exactly what the Haight-Ashbury preached; it’s exactly what drugs promise; and it’s exactly what the Emergent Church movement promotes today.
Miller’s inability to differentiate his subjective feelings from the truth of Scripture is all too common in the Emergent philosophy spreading among contemporary young people. His book is fuel for the fire among those Christianized youth who are struggling with some of the narrowness of legalistic upbringings and are seeking the freedom in Christ the Bible promises, but who end up in the devil’s snare of false freedom.
The answer to narrowness and legalism is not false freedom but real freedom in Christ. Miller’s “evangelistic” stance though is to trash conservative Christians and to extol pagans. And in fact his promotion of paganism is far more effective than his evangelism for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Read Blue Like Jazz only if you want an example of the sorrowful state of evangelical youth and Christian publishing today.
Richard Nathan holds a Master of Arts in Religion in Church History and has been a Bible and church history teacher for over twenty years. He wrote his thesis on the debate over the inerrancy of Scripture in a historical analysis. Since 1992, Linda Nathan has been president of Logos Word Designs, Inc., a Christian writing and editing service at http://www.logosword.com. They have taught numerous seminars and classes to Christians. See Richard's blog at www.gloriousriches.blogspot.com for ongoing discussion about such trends in Christianity as Romantic Christianity and the Emergent Church movement. Visit their Web site at http://fictionplumbline.com for articles evaluating Christian fiction from a biblical perspective.