Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Blue Like Jazz Battles the Christian Movie Industry
Now that Blue Like Jazz has become a reality, Steve Taylor who directed the film has taken issue with the Christian movie industry's response to Blue Like Jazz. Taylor, who is no stranger to controversy, was known as a cutting-edge contemporary Christian recording artist in the 1980s. Back then, there was an effort in the conservative, evangelical church to ban his music and boycott his concerts.
Taylor went on to site a recent e-mail from Provident Films, the distributors of October Baby which debuted theatrically on March 23, in which Provident Films made it clear that they did not want the trailer for Blue Like Jazz appearing before their film. Provident distributes Christian-based content and, perhaps, the executives felt that Blue Like Jazz, which some identify as a Christian film, would not be appropriate for their audience.
He eventually enrolls in a secular, liberal college in the Northwest where he faces new ideals and philosophies that challenge his religious beliefs. The movie contains a fair amount of bad language and drinking and features a lesbian character. That alone would send many evangelicals to the exits. Some Christians feel it’s inappropriate for the church to air their bad laundry (as if the world didn’t know that often we do not live up to the standards set forth by our faith). I have not seen the film, but I have met Steve Taylor. He is a man who takes his faith and belief in God seriously. But he is also not fearful to question that faith when necessary. He is the real deal—a genuine Christian who is trying to live out his faith in a very difficult culture.
The Book’s author, Donald Miller, makes the case for why Blue Like Jazz is important to many people who are asking legitimate questions about their faith as well as why many Christians may have an issue with the movie. He states, “The average Christian wants clean answers, clean characters…. I was bad when Jesus happened to me, now I became good. Not that I grew up in the church and saw a lot of hypocrisy, and I walked away, and I realized God exists outside the church.” Folks, that is a very profound statement.
The bottom line is there is plenty of room for filmmakers who want to make Christian movies to go do their thing. On the other hand, if Steve Taylor wants to make a different kind of film, why should the church, especially the evangelical world, push back on his efforts? And if it’s true about the policy that Sherwood Baptist instituted concerning people who worked on Blue Like Jazz, it’s nothing short of a travesty. I think we can all do better than acting like children. God expects more of us.
The early reviews have also been solid. Blue Like Jazz debuted on March 13 at South by Southwest Film and Music Festival in Austin, Texas. Audiences have embraced the film because of its honesty and its ability to reflect the world as it is—not as one that offers easy answers. Perhaps, that’s the heart of the issue. A lot of Christians just want a happy face—a movie that ties up all the loose ends in a neat bow with a perfect and predictable answer to every question in life. That’s not what you’re going to get in Blue Like Jazz. Life is messy! And just like the main character in Blue Like Jazz finds out, life’s also a journey into the unknown, the unpredictable, and the unexpected. It turns out that we all have to find our own way. But the good news is. God does exist outside the walls of the church, and he is active in the world in ways we can barely imagine.