A Christian fatwa Against Blue Like Jazz Movie?

In a new post on the Blue Like Jazz movie website, Director Steve Taylor calls out Christian cinema in general and Sherwood Baptist’s Kendricks Brothers, whose “October Baby” opens this week,  in particular for condemning the film before even screening it. He claims Sherwood Baptist has issued a “fatwa” against the movie. He writes:

So what is it about Blue Like Jazz that the Christian Movie Establishment finds so threatening?

I’ve now sat in on over one hundred screenings of Blue Like Jazz, and I’m convinced that the reason it’s resonating so strongly with audiences across the country is because, like the book it’s based on, it reminds us of our own experiences. Don’s original story certainly resonated with me – I was a youth pastor at a Baptist church in Denver at the time I was attending the University of Colorado in Boulder. I wanted to make Blue Like Jazz because I felt I’d already lived it. Are there certain stories that we’re not allowed to tell, even if they’re not “safe for the whole family”? Wouldn’t the Bible be a much shorter book if we edited out the parts that weren’t family-friendly?

…..

One of the most consistent criticisms I got as a recording artist came from fellow Christians saying, “Why do you do these songs criticizing the church? Why would you go airing our dirty laundry for the public to see?” And, of course, that same criticism had been leveled at Blue Like Jazz.

This perspective has always amused me, as if the public thinks we’ve got our act together perfectly, as if they don’t already see the hypocrisy in our midst. They just think we’re too dumb to see it ourselves.

Which is why the image of a guy in a confession booth finally confessing the truth started my six-year-long quest to make Blue Like Jazz.

When we tell the truth – even the uncomfortable truth – the truth sets people free.

The book “Blue Like Jazz” was banned from some Christian bookstores when it was released in 2003, although it was embraced by many Christians as well. Some objected to its embrace of liberal politics. Others felt the book did not represent orthodox Christianity in theology.

Read my interview with Steve Taylor earlier this month as well as my piece in The HuffingtonPost.

What do you think? Is this adaptation a good thing? Will you see the movie?

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey

  • Dallas Rostad

    I viewed the movie last year at the National Youth Workers Convention in San Diego. LOVE IT! So refreshing to have something done well with a great message.

  • http://homeschool-chronicles.com Tara

    Hey, Rebecca. I’m interested to hear YOUR take on the movie. Did you like it? Do you think it promotes an unorthodox christianity?

    • Rebecca Cusey

      I did like it. It wasn’t embarrassing, which is a good start in these types of movies. The production and direction and acting were all professional.

      Plus, it was pretty funny at times, with Steve Taylor’s wacky sense of humor.

      It definitely had the message at the end. Did I think it was unorthodox? No. But the theology was vague.

      It wasn’t political at all, which I think is partly why people object to Donald Miller. There was one political line in it, I think. Although, it neither embraced nor rejected the whimsical liberalism, socialism, extreme hippism of the setting.

      I’d recommend people go see it. Didn’t strike me as lifechanging, though, but maybe I’m just not in that place.

  • Anne

    I think the movie adaptation is a good thing. I did get to see the movie at a pre-screening. I was not sure how the book of essays could be made into a movie, and although the movie veered from the book, I don’t think it veered from the message of the book. I read the book at a time when I was tired of inauthetic empty words in the church, and looking back, I was wrestling with God Himself. It was refreshing to know that someone else had some of the same struggles and came away stronger in his faith in God. That’s grace.

    Which I realize is what some people had a problem with, and that frustrates me to no end. The gospel message is a message of grace and mercy. What is wrong with saying that God is merciful and gracious and loves people?

    Other people had a problem with Miller’s politics. The book was more political than the movie. In the book the author actually says what he thinks about certain politicians’ policies, though that was more of an aside, a background to the real story. The fact that some Christians took issue with that makes me sad. I say that as someone who does not share the author’s views of those particular political issues. Those Christians were missing the larger point that Miller was trying to make, that political problems, humanity’s problems can’t be solved until we recognize that the problem is ultimately inside each of us – our own sin nature. The movie tells that message without stepping on political toes, so those critical of his politics can rest easy.

    Unless they don’t believe that lesbians can be nice. Or that Christians can have faults and need forgivenss.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks for telling us your thoughts. I’m working on my own review too. I agree with a lot of your thinking.

  • Pingback: Blue Like Jazz: The Anti-Christianity Christian Film | Black, White and Gray

  • Dan Roeber

    A quick fact check: the imdb website gives no credit to the Kendrick brothers for the movie, nor does the October baby movie site (from what I can see).

  • Rain

    Someone actually being willing to “air the church’s dirty laundry” as it were and be honest about life was enough to make me, somewhat of a “de-converted” Christian be willing to see it. And it, unlike the few other Christian movies I have seen, actually did not make me cringe. I felt that it resonated with my own story more than I expected (I read the book a couple of years after it came out – back when I would have still called myself a Christian), although I certainly haven’t gotten to the place that Don had at the end of the film. I think that the attitude of avoiding or fighting against such a book or film is part of what made me leave. Honesty and questions and humour and irreverence and beauty are what we all look for. And I think Blue Like Jazz showed a bit of that.


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