Author's Brand Of Christianity Strikes a Chord With Young Adults

By Kelli Kennedy
Associated Press
Saturday, January 19, 2008

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Donald Miller still loves God and Jesus. Don't misunderstand him.

His problem is with Christianity, at least how it's often practiced.

"It's a dangerous term, so I try to avoid it," said Miller, who considered giving up his career as a Christian writer and leaving the church in 2003 because he couldn't attend services without getting angry.

For him, the word conjured up conservative politics, suburban consumerism and an "insensitivity to people who aren't like us."

To quell his rage, he banged out a memoir of his experiences with God, stripped of the trappings of religion.

"Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality" sold just enough to pay a few months' rent. Then five years later, spurred by a grass-roots movement of 20-something Christians longing to connect to God without ties to the religious right, the book became a sudden hit.

Fans were buying caseloads and passing out copies to friends. It peaked at No. 18 on the New York Times list of bestsellers among paperback nonfiction in November. He was mobbed by fans after a recent Young Life conference in Orlando, where he addressed a crowd of roughly 4,000.

Christians tired of the "life is perfect" mantra of some churches revel in his ability to talk unashamedly about smoking pot, living in a hippie commune and the idea that God isn't a Republican.

Supporters say Miller's authentic, graceful approach to God has given a voice to their brand of Christianity. The book also debuted when the emerging church movement -- which emphasizes the individual's faith experience and varied worship styles -- is flourishing, signaling a fertile audience among more socially liberal evangelicals.

Watching TBN one night on TV, Miller, 36, realized the conservative religious network was many people's baseline for Christianity. He wanted to change that.

"These people are absurd. I've been a Christian all my life and I don't even know Christians this weird," said the Portland, Ore.-based writer, who is single.

In his book, Miller describes his disdain for the us vs. them mentality between Christians and non-Christians.

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