Jesus is for Doubters: Steve Taylor brings Blue Like Jazz to the big screen
By Mags Storey | Friday, August 3, 2012
In a pivotal scene, a group of young Christians set up a confession booth on campusto confess to the ways the church has failed.
TORONTO, ONIn a pivotal scene of Don Miller's semi-autobiographical New York Times best-seller, Blue Like Jazz, a group of young Christians set up a confession booth on campusto confess to the ways the church has failed.
"We will apologize for the Crusades, we will apologize for televangelists, we will apologize for neglecting the poor and the lonely, we will ask them to forgive us, and we will tell them that in our selfishness, we have misrepresented Jesus on this campus. We will tell people who come into the booth that Jesus loves them."
That scene was so powerful and personally moving for filmmaker and former rocker, Steve Taylor, he knew he had to make it into a movie.
"I remember reading the book and thinking, I'm not alone," he says. "There's somebody who's thinking these same thoughts, and having the same experiences."
The alternative Christian rocker, music producer, and film director started his faith journey as a conservative pastor's son.
"The story itself is very personal to me on that level," he says. "I was actually working as a youth pastor, while I was going to the University of Colorado in Boulder, and realized that I wasn't doing a good job of preparing kids."
The contrast between the university culture around him, and the church counter-culture he'd grown up in, changed the way Taylor talked to young people about their faith.
"I started spending a lot more time on why we believe that Jesus is who he says he is, and why we believe that Christianity is true. Because I don't think I was adequately prepared for that."
Blue Like Jazz the movie, penned by Miller, Taylor and Ben Pearson, tells the story of nineteen-year-old who escapes his conservative Baptist upbringing, to attend Reed Collegeonce dubbed "the campus most likely to ignore God in America".
It is running at The Projection Booth Cinema until August 10, and Taylor is making a special appearance at August 4's screening. Blue Like Jazz is being released on DVD, Blu-Ray, on-demand and download on August 7.
The comedy is rated PG-13, for alcohol and drug use, language and sexuality. While it's not what many would consider a Christian movie, Taylor says, it's a movie "you can take a friend to see without having to apologize in advance."
While both the book and movie have received critical acclaim, they've also raised the ire of some conservative commentatorsespecially for the conceit Christians should repent to the society.
Taylor himself has never been one to avoid controversy. During his solo music career in the 1980s and 90s he challenged Christians to examine their faith, their church and their culture through songs like "Meltdown (at Madame Tussaud's)," "I Blew Up the Abortion Clinic Real Good," "Cash Cow," and "Jesus is for Losers."
"I'm not critical of Christianity," he says. "I'm critical of our hypocrisy. I've always been amused at the thought. I've gotten criticized quite a bit by people saying, why would I want to hold up our dirty laundry for the rest of the world to see? As if they don't already know it. They just think we're too dumb to know it.
"Hypocrisy is one of those things we're all a part of," he adds. "So I'm always walking a really fine line between saying I'm messing up like the rest of us, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do it better…. And we should let the rest of the world know that this is not how it's supposed to be."
"I kind of like to think I'm doing the church a service… I think there's something really good happens when we're the ones pointing out our failings, but saying, Jesus isn't like that.
The movie was nearly shelved early in production due to lack of funding, but was saved by over $350,000 in online donations from the book's fans.
"A faith that's true has no problem wrestling with doubt," Taylor says, "If your faith is true we should be able to ask any question you want to.
"When I finished the book it just left me with a really good feeling of, 'Oh man, I'm not alone.' I just want to leave that for people at the end of the movie."