Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

I got an unsolicited advance review copy of Donald Miller’s new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Apparently I’m supposed to blog about it. Of course, I will. The title intrigues me. Look for a review in the next couple of weeks.

But I’ll be upfront. I didn’t like his first book Blue Like Jazz. I know it’s almost heretical to admit that, and I have to turn in my po-mo, hipster credentials, but the book bored me into a coma.

He didn’t say anything new. For Miller, drinking beer and dropping the occasional f-bomb was evidence of a rebellious Christianity. It felt like he was trying WAY too hard to put his conservative past behind him, without really knowing what to put in front of him.

People compared Miller’s writing to Anne Lamott’s. He could only hope. Lamott has been to alcoholic hell and back. Miller simply grew up in a rigidly conservative church. Lamott is a poet, creating worlds filled with pain and grace, often in the same moment. Miller writes well, has a good turn of phrase here and there, but is still tethered to the world he came from. Lamott made a clean break. Miller has trouble cutting the cord.

But I have hope for this new book. It’s not that I think he’s a bad writer. He’s not. Just a touch over-hyped. That’s all.

What I REALLY wanted from Blue Like Jazz, was more righteous anger, more spitting bile, more fury at authoritarian Christianity. And growing from that anger, a broader vision of what his faith meant for his life.

I guess I’m reacting to my own frustrations with Christianity, specifically the church. And projecting them on to Miller. For me, my faith life often lacks passion, joy, life. Church becomes a matter of running an organization well. And faith becomes either a set of dry doctrines, or a system of behaviour, rather than a fiery encounter with Jesus and the kingdom he proclaimed.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Miller comes up with.

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