I graduated from Reed College in 2002, and a little while later Blue Like Jazz came out. That was eight plus years ago and in many ways it was another lifetime. I’m married now, have a 3 1/2 year old daughter, another due in late November, and my faith looks very different than it did when I was twenty-three.
The push to save Blue Like Jazz the movie has naturally got me thinking about Reed, and college, and what it was like to be a new Christian in a place like that. And of course, how Reed shaped my faith. The funny thing is that for Don Reed was the catalyst for a marked shift in the way he viewed the faith he grew up with; for me, I had to leave Reed to see my faith mature.
Above all Reed is a place where your preconceptions about the world come under heavy scrutiny. You learn to live in the grey. We constantly ask: Why do you believe that? Can you back it up? What are your sources? For a postmodern Christian these questions are moot — we don’t try to prove our faith; it just is. But it does cause people who grew up in the church to look at what their faith caused them to believe about the world. And that can be very enlightening, as Blue Like Jazz attests.
For me, I had to leave the Reed bubble, get a job, find a church, interact with non-Christians and those damned evangelicals that I guess I became, in order to see my black and white categories fall apart. Because I was surrounded at Reed by people who thought like me, voted like me, and had the same sensibilities as me, I never really had to confront the “other” and be influenced by their ideas. I could just categorize them, slap the label Republican (synonymous in my mind with bigoted and unkind) on them, and ignore them.
It looks different for me that it did for Don, but I think this lesson, this learning to cross boundaries, to live with the other, to interact with (dare I say love?) what we reject or dislike, even hate, is what Blue Like Jazz is all about – and, I think, what Jesus is all about. At least, that’s what I take away, even if it took leaving Reed to truly understand it.
Above all, this is what excites me about the making of Blue Like Jazz the movie. My prayer is that this movie will be seen by tons and tons of non-Christians, and this is the message they’ll think of when they think of Jesus.
Do you agree? What’s your hope for the film?