Penguin sex, flaming liberalism, living with the hippies ... ahhh, Donald Miller
I've continued reading up on the Emerging Church Movement and decided to chug through two of Donald Miller's most popular works: Searching for God Knows What (SFGKW) and Blue Like Jazz (BLJ). BLJ is more widely read, so I will spend most of my time on it.
I want to challenge the reader to ask those who have read BLJ this question: What is the point of BLJ? I'd be interested to know their answer, because I am having trouble answering it myself. It appears that each chapter is completely disconnected from the next, as if each chapter were its own book. The subtitle is most revealing: "Nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality." That subtitle bother anyone? Me too. I'd like to ask Miller how one can have nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality? It seems to me that Christian spirituality is religious by nature? Oh well, maybe that's just me.
So yea, BLJ gets to his chapter on faith. Amidst the disconnected ideas, Miller compares faith to penguin sex! Don't believe me? Here it is:
""You know what really helped me understand why I believe in Jesus, Tony?"
"Penguins," I told him.
"Penguins," I clarified. "Do you know very much about penguins?"
"Nope." Tony smiled. "Tell me about penguins."
"I watched a nature show on OPB the other night about penguins. They travel in enormous groups ...But after a while they stop sliding, and they get around in a big circle and start making noises. And what they are doing is looking for a mate. It's crazy. It's like a penguin nightclub or something--like a disco. They waddle around on the dance floor till they find a mate."
"Then what?" Tony asked, sort of laughing.
"Penguin sex," I said.
"Yes. Penguin sex. Right there on television. I felt like I was watching animal porn."
"What was it like?" he asked.
"Less than exciting," I told him. "Sort of a letdown."
"So what does penguins having sex have to do with belief in God?" Tony asked.
"Well, I am getting to that. But let me tell you what else they do. First, the females lay eggs. ... Then, the females give the males the eggs. ... They do this for an entire month. ... Then the females come back, and right when they do, almost to the day, the eggs are hatched. The females somehow know, even though they have never had babies before, the exact day to go back to the males. And that is how baby penguins are made."
"Very interesting." Tony clapped for me. "So what is the analogy here?"
"I don't know, really. It's just that I identified with them. I know it sounds crazy, but as I watched I felt like I was one of those penguins. They have this radar inside them that told them when and where to go and none of it made any sense, but they show up on the very day their babies are being born, and the radar always turns out to be right. I have a radar inside me that says to believe in Jesus. Somehow, penguin radar leads them perfectly well. Maybe it isn't so foolish that I follow the radar that is inside of me."" (Miller. Blue Like Jazz. Pgs. 55-57).
Umm, yea. The divine faith that is given to believers is being compared to penguin sex. Wonderful (sense the sarcasm). Can we say, "sacriligious."
Politics. What a shame that I even have to mention politics while writing about Donald Miller's works. But considering the great deal he's written expressing his political views, I feel that politics plays a major role in these books. Miller may not officially affiliate with any one political party. In any case, he might as well sign up for the Democratic Party. He is a liberal. A flaming liberal. Throughout both of his books one can sense his animosity towards conservative evangelicals, especially Republicans. Here are some select quotes:
"Nadine explained to Penny why she was a Christian. She said that she believed Christ was a revolutionary, a humanitarian of sorts, sent from God to a world that had broken itself. Penny was frustrated that Nadine was a Christian. She couldn't believe that a girl this kind and accepting could subscribe to the same religion that generated the Crusades, fund the Republicans, or fathered religious television." (Miller. Blue Like Jazz. Pgs. 45-46).
"All great Christian leaders are simple thinkers. Andrew doesn't cloak his altruism within a trickle-down economic theory that allows him to spend fifty dollars on a round of golf to feed the economy and provide jobs for the poor. He actually believes that when Jesus says feed the poor, He means you should do this directly." (Miller. Blue Like Jazz. Pg. 110).
"And yet another thing about the churches I went to: They seemed to be parrots for the Republican party. Do we have to tow the party line on every single issue? Are the Republicans that perfect? I just felt like, in order to be a part of the family, I had to think George W. Bush was Jesus. And I didn't think that Jesus really agreed with a lot of the policies of the republican party or for that matter the Democratic party. I felt like Jesus was a religious figure, not a political figure. I heard my pastor say once, when there were only a few of us standing around, that he hated Bill Clinton. I can understand not liking Clinton's policies, but I want my spirituality to rid me of hate, not give me reason for it. I couldn't deal with that. That is one of the main reasons I walked away. I felt like, by going to this particular church, I was a pawn for the Republicans. Meanwhile, the Republicans did not give a crap about the causes of Christ." (Miller. Blue Like Jazz. Pgs. 131-132).
Okay, this next quote is long, but worth the read (trust me):
"In his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Al Franken included a provocative multipage comic strip about a man named Supply-Side Jesus. In the strip, Supply-Side Jesus walks through the streets of Jerusalem stating that people should start businesses so they can employ the poor and should purchase exotic and expensive clothes and jewelry so their money will trickle in the economy and, eventually, bring bread to the mouths of the starving. In the comic, the disciples come to Supply-Side Jesus and say they want to feed the poor directly, but Supply-Side Jesus says no, that if you give money or food or water directly to the poor, you are only helping them in their laziness and increasing the welfare state. Eventually, Rome catches up with Supply-Side Jesus and, before an angry mob, Pontius Pilate asks the masses which man they want to crucify, Supply-Side Jesus or another man who, in the comic, stands beside Pilate humbly, a disheveled and shadowy figure. The crowd chants they want to free Supply-Side Jesus because they like his philosophies, and they want to crucify this other man, the shadowy figure standing next to Pilate. Pilate tells the crowd this other man is innocent, that he has done no wrong, but the crowd refuses to listen and instead chants, "Crucify him, crucify him." Pilate then lets Supply-Side Jesus go free, and orders the innocent man, whose name was Jesus of Nazareth, to be crucified. I sat there reading the book at Horse Brass Pub in amazement. Here was Al Franken, a known liberal who often lambastes the conservative Christian right but who also, somehow, understands the difference between the Jesus the religious right worships and the Jesus presented in Scripture. One Jesus is understood through conservative economic theory, the other through the Gospels." (Miller. Searching for God Knows What. Pg. 192).
WOW. I will be honest, when I read that for the first time I was furious. It angers me to hear a professing believer in Christ Jesus spouting out such utter nonsense. Donald Miller threw down his gloves with this statement. His true colors come out. First off, he quotes from Al Franken, a major lib. Secondly, the example he cites from Franken, this pathetic excuse for a comic strip, pokes fun of the "Christian right" for holding to the Trickle-Down view of economics. Let me correct Franken and Miller quickly as well: Trickle-Down economics does not forbid private citizens for helping individuals (rather, it encourages it!!!). What the Trickle-Down economic theory does believe is that the government should not give money to the poor (as a general/regular rule), but should give money back to the economy so businesses can create more jobs, which allows those employees to spend money which circulates back into the economy thus spurring the economy on even more! But crazy liberal Democrats like Al Franken, or Donald Miller want a quick fix and believe in Socialism. Donald Miller, NEWS FLASH: we live in a Democratic Republic, not a Socialistic economy. Miller ought to move to Canada or Germany.
Miller then asks how the Jesus of Socialism (Miller's Jesus (since he started with the labels)) was twisted around by the Republicans. He answers his question by stating: "My only answer is that Satan is crafty indeed." (193). WHOA nelly! Apprently Satan is the reason Christians since the Reformation have embraced less government involvement in the lives of its citizens.
Miller's next statement is absolutely hilarious. I kid you not, I was bustin' a gut when I read the next short paragraph: "I realize there are people reading this who will automatically dismiss me as a theological liberal, but I do not believe a person can take two issues from Scripture, those being abortion and gay marriage, and adhere to them as sins, then neglect much of the rest and call himself a fundamentalist or even a conservative." (193). LOL. Alrighty. Thanks for sharing. Oh and Miller, you're right. Your misrepresentations and inconsistencies have caused me to dismiss you as a theological and political liberal.
Another one of Miller's anecdotes describes his month-long adventure living with the pot-smoking hippies. He abandoned his local church and moved out to the woods to live with hippies. He later explains how the love he received from the hippies was much more than what he received from the Church. Miller writes,
"I was even more amazed when I realized I preferred, in fact, the company of the hippies to the company of Christians. It isn't that I didn't love my Christian friends or that they didn't love me, it was just that there was something different about my hippie friends; something, I don't know, more real, more true. I realize that is a provocative statement, but I only felt I could be myself around them, and I could not be myself with my Christian friends. My Christian communitities had always had little unwritten social ethics like don't cuss and don't support Democrats and don't ask tough questions about the Bible. ... I had discovered life outside the church, and I liked it. As I said, I preferred it." (Miller. Blue Like Jazz. Pg. 210).
Hrmmmm, does anything need to be said? =)
Much more could be said of Miller's works; this will do for now. Perhaps if I write an article on the Emerging Church Movement I will reference Miller's books again. I am thankful I am finished with Donald Miller's work. Like Mark Driscoll, Miller writes to an immature audience, with course language and silly stories to fill the pages (though to be fair, Driscoll's Radical Reformission cannot compare with the lows of Miller's writings) and of course, Emerging Church ideals.
To summarize, I feel that both of Donald Miller's books are a complete waste. It saddens me that so many Christians are able to turn off their discernment radar while reading Blue Like Jazz, and yet I know that the Lord is at work in His people. My prayer is that the Spirit will drive those being influenced by Emerging Church authors (Miller, Driscol, and others) back to the Scirptures to examine Miller by the Scriptures.
*As a by-product of Miller's book, he is overly paranoid and leaves his lightsaber extended, ready for attack*