Misplaced Jesus, Pop Culture — June 8, 2011 at 7:38 pm

(Blue Like) Jazz & Christianity

by

Near the end of Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller summarizes his book by saying, “Christianity is more like Jazz; something you feel.”

Miller is correct, to a degree. Jazz is something that you feel. But if you know anything about improvisational Jazz, you realize that undergirding the creativity and emotion of Jazz is a theoretical framework. Musicians train in Jazz improvisation, they learn theory, they are mentored by seasoned Jazz artists. Great Jazz artists don’t just pick up an instrument and play.

Miles Davis, one of the most creative musicians in American history, didn’t produce The Complete Birth of Cool or Kind of Blue by picking up his trumpet and just playing. He practiced and developed a framework that was based upon some of the essential elements–both theoretically and culturally–of Jazz.

Similarly, Christianity is something you feel. We cannot divorce our faith from our emotional connection with God. Love is not merely understood, it is felt. But faith is more than feeling and Christianity is only Christianity in a certain theological framework. A Christian does not develop by just assuming elements. A Christian learns faith through the interplay of experience, scripture, tradition, and reason. From these elements they create the music of their individual faith. True Christianity (and Christian orthopraxy) is rooted in the pursuit of truth and orthodoxy, not just in feeling.

I have heard people try to just pick up a trumpet and play. They sound terrible. Some have more raw ability than others, but for most, it sounds more like they are killing a duck — if they can get noise out at all. Moreover, I have heard novice trumpet players try to play Jazz. They get up and try to put some notes together. Sometimes they sound bearable, but those occasions are rare. They are “feeling” the music, but the music isn’t feeling them.

There are other musicians who can read Jazz on paper, but not improve their sound. This is where Miller’s point applies. Those “Christian” and religious folk who know how to stick to the script may look good, they may have their ducks in a row, but they aren’t always living full Christian lives. They understand the concepts, but haven’t communed with Christ. That relationship is something that is foreign. Certainly, there are those who earnestly feel emotional when the music is scripted. The scripted music is still valuable; people play the scripted music because it is beautiful. Likewise, there are Christians who earnestly live vigorously in Christ, but that seem rigid because they stick to the script. Perhaps for them the structure helps them experience the emotion of their relationship with God.

If we focus too much on the emotion of Jazz (or Christianity), then it becomes something we do for our own consumption rather than because of its beauty. And if Jazz veered away from its roots and began to sound exactly like classical music or sounded too much like grunge rock it would no longer be Jazz.  Likewise, Christianity that looks like generic spirituality is no longer Christianity

But if we are too attached to the rigidness of a score then we allow religiosity to override our relationship with God. The music becomes a set of rules and regulations rather than lifestyle that emerges from who we are and dictates who we are becoming.  The mature Christian life, like good Jazz, spawns from the marriage of knowledge and feeling. It is an expression of faith.

9 Comments

  • These are some abstract ideas which deserve a more in-depth look, in less analogous terms.

    I have nothing against scripted music. I’m a musician myself, and I often like to do songs close to the originals and I don’t have a great love of improvising, perhaps due to lack of practice. But using those metaphors for the Christian life, while providing a nice introduction to the conversation are not coherent arguments in and of themselves.

    If we are speaking into our [evangelical] Christian sub-culture today, then there is a huge conversation to have about this. One of the issues I see is that many Christians are hostile toward improvisation. Deviation from the[ir] “script” is at the very least hit over the head if not outright condemned. Scripted musicians might like playing it a certain way, but they can usually recognize the beauty and skill involved in other forms of musicianship. We don’t have that in Christianity.

    One related thought is that Christianity has never historically played out like a scripted performance. People may like it that way or even think of it that way, but it has always been messy. There have always been disputes, disagreements, and confusion. So the entire premise is in question. Does the analogy really apply? Are the various scripts that people have followed true symphonies? Because to me they seem more like children practicing chopsticks over and over. Of course, that’s just a playful jab and not a serious criticism, because it is mere metaphor and not a direct or in-depth look at what’s really going on.

    What do you or others think?

  • “We cannot divorce our faith from our emotional connection with God” – so true. I like what you have to say here, Joshua. When I separate my heart and emotions from my faith – it becomes something I do because I SHOULD, not out of love, affection, trust and beauty. Thanks!

  • After I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me
    when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve
    4 emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a means you are able to remove
    me from that service? Many thanks!

  • Hey! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know how to make
    your site mobile friendly? My site looks
    weird when viewing from my iphone4. I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to correct this problem.

    If you have any suggestions, please share.

    Appreciate it!

  • My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find most
    of your post’s to be precisely what I’m looking for.
    can you offer guest writers to write content available for you?

    I wouldn’t mind creating a post or elaborating on a few
    of the subjects you write concerning here. Again, awesome web
    site!

  • Thanks for your personal marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it,
    you could be a great author. I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and will often come back in the foreseeable future.
    I want to encourage you continue your great work,
    have a nice afternoon!

  • This article is in fact a fastidious one it helps new the
    web visitors, who are wishing in favor of blogging.

  • CSR Racing 2 has become a pouplar game, so more and
    more powerful version of a CSR Racing 2 hack are out there.
    You are totally right. In fact, the CSR Racing 2
    hack market is growing, but the unfortunate thing for you is that there are a lot of hacks that use
    viruses, malware and other spam ways to maximize their download rate.

    What The CSR Racing 2 Hack Is All About
    Are you tired of running short on in-game resources?

    99% of all CSR Racing 2 gamers are. That’s why we’re proud to release the newest version our
    CSR Racing 2 hack – more stable and efficient than ever.It’s safe to say, that if you have been searching for a
    CSR Racing 2 hack, you have finally arrived.People waste so much time on fake cheats, trainers, hack engines etc, but none of them really work.
    Our version is different.
    But how is it possible to hack CSR Racing 2?
    It’s a hard question, but a simple solution. There are no limits with our
    CSR Racing 2 hack. You can dominate and conquer everything.
    All you need to do is visit our site and click the download
    button – and don’t worry about a single thing.
    You are completely right viruses, bans potential spam, to hack CSR Racing 2 want, from cash to gold.

    If you recently ran out of cash and also gold, you should have your hands on this functioning CSR Racing
    2 hack. The truth is, the game will you to get a personal cash to buy more resources.
    At this moment, if you’re rubbing shoulders with
    true gamers, you’ll know that isn’t the greatest thing to do.

    In lieu of it…
    You Could Hack CSR Racing 2 For 0 $!
    Indeed – zero is the charge for this impressive CSR Racing 2 hack.
    The main reason for it are the spectacular developers who made it, assisting you and the several online players available a lot of money
    in spending money on extended benefits. At this point, gold and
    cash can be gotten in an unrestricted way which has
    no purchase away from your actual bank account.

    As you undoubtedly guess by now, the whole game works with cash, gold and limits and the
    only method to set them in an infinite way is to use a functioning CSR Racing 2 hack.
    So, should you wish to optimize power, purchase goodies and triumph gold,
    cash and more – the CSR Racing 2 hack is again here to guide you.
    So, why not get a hold of it and begin the new gaming experience?

  • What’s up, its nice piece of writing about media print, we all
    understand media is a enormous source of facts.

Leave a Reply to Jake Ulasich

— required *

— required *