Backward Jazz

by Jacob Ford, Franconia

I read Blue Like Jazz backwards. It was the story of a guy who had the whole concept of love figured out, who went into the woods as his facial hair slowly retracted, and eventually ended up as a child in a conservative Christian household.

No, here’s what I actually mean:

Well, first, a little backstory. In June, RELEVANT Magazine published an article on Donald Miller and the new movie based on his book. Like any good pop culture Christian magazine dealing with a potentially good pop culture Christian movie based on a good pop culture Christian book, the article dug down to the inspirations and environmental elements which led to the author writing certain words and not writing certain words in what eventually became the finished book. But what happened next was fascinating. About halfway through the article, the claim is made that Blue Like Jazz inspired not only a mindset and some inspired thinking among its readers, but was instrumental in birth of an entire new concept of Christianity, a “shift in evangelical culture.”

Generally, we’re talking about the newish liberal quasihipster kind of Christian culture (you may recognize us), but it gets much deeper than I just made it sound.

This is where the backwards comes in. Without realizing it, I had already begun to align myself with this new culture, before reading Blue Like Jazz. As I read, I felt my ideas being validated just as much as I was hearing new ones. I was seeing much of my own thinking on a page written by someone else. This connection made it even more personal and frustrating when I read something that didn’t seem to match up with my thinking. It was fascinating. Rather than simply being inspired by a book I was reading, I was reading a book which was inspired by something I was already a part of.

Read the book. Watch the movie. Do both. Read then watch. Watch then read. I’m not one of those parental crazies ranting about how no movie should ever be watched before it is read (I still have something like eight pages left to read and I might go watch the movie anyway before finishing the last few paragraphs just to bother people).

But here’s my unexpected advice: Don’t watch or read it with a totally open mind. Have your own thoughts. Bring your personal opinions. If you love/hate the church, continue loving/hating the church. Yes, be ready to change your thinking, but make sure you actually have your own thoughts. Blue Like Jazz might change your mind on at least a few things you previously thought were unshakable, but it can only change something if it’s already there.

I hope to soon watch Blue Like Jazz backwards. And not in the Benjamin Button sense.


Franconia Mennonite Church’s Youth and Young Adults are sponsoring a movie showing of Blue Like Jazz at the Grand Theater in East Greenville (252 Main St, East Greenville PA 18041, 215-679-4300) on August 8, beginning at 7 PM. Tickets are $5. For more information about the movie visit