Thursday, March 22, 2012

Treading the Thin Line

That’s right, I’m an Associate Producer... and I've got the t-shirt to prove it! I wish it meant more, but all it really means is that I gave a (minimal) amount towards the financing of a moving picture show! I don’t know what they used my dough for – supposedly to fine-tune things, as they were almost done when I contributed.

What’s the movie? Blue Like Jazz: The Movie. Now, I don’t know what kind of movie it will turn out to be, but the book it springs from – Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, by Donald Miller – is pretty fantastic. Miller writes in a sort of episodic, self-reflective style, sort of like me – but a million times better and more insightful, of course... He examines from all angles the implications of being a Christian as a young person surrounded by hipsters in Portland, Oregon, and as a person who struggles to be true to himself and to God – two things that are not necessarily mutually exclusive, he discovers.

A bad pic of my
Associate Producer Tee
Despite the fact that it is a movie about faith, made by Christians, the movie's director, Steve Taylor, has expressed the fear that his movie – so lovingly wrought – would get lumped in with all the other movies labeled “Christian.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that... His point was that in the mind of critics and the public this category has come to imply certain things about quality. Specifically (this is a quote from his blog):

- Sentimentality trumps substance
- Good intentions trump artistry
- All conflict must be tidily resolved
- “Safe for the whole family” is a de facto requirement
- Or as writer David McFadzean summarized, Christian movies are like porn – poorly lit, poorly acted and you always know how they’re going to end.

I guess Taylor imagines that once this label is slapped on his (excuse me – OUR) movie, discerning movie goers won’t give it a chance. He actually felt encouraged that the movie had been poopoo-ed by some “establishment” Christian groups for its depictions of campus life at Reed College. I take his point, but I almost wonder if the movie might be perceived as too Christian (see above) by picky movie-goers and too "wild" for Christians. I wondered if he was maybe shooting himself in the foot, but then a friend pointed out that this is not too far from what people said about Jesus back in the day? Here's what Jesus said about it in Matthew 19: "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ (ie. there's no pleasing you people...)

That's why I don't mind being part of this sub-set of people who try to tread this thin line – or maybe it's a sparsely populated wide open space – that overlaps both camps in some places... 

Matthew Sweet
When I gave the money for the movie, my husband said, “What if it’s not any good? Then your name will be in the credits!” But you know, I don’t really mind if a picky viewer like him doesn’t like it. I also don't mind if the Christian "establishment" doesn't like it. And I don’t mind what label gets slapped on it. Critical praise and box office love would be nice, but really, I just care if it tells the truth. And really, if NO ONE EVER gets their knickers in a twist, you might not be telling much truth.  That's how I view my blog – I love it if I get a lot of clicks, or people complimenting me on it, but when it comes down to it, I just want to try to tell the truth – to be true to myself, and to God. Like Donald Miller, in Blue Like Jazz

(PS....Here's a fantastic song for you by Matthew Sweet: The Ugly Truth... and here's the rock version.)

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