May 15, 2006
Donald Miller Isn’t Hip: a gospel for people tired of trying to be cool
In recent posts we have debated the importance of "image" in advancing the ministry of the Gospel. Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and other books seeking to build a bridge between Christianity and those raised in a post-Christian context, was interviewed by Leadership last year. Miller is unimpressed by attempts to spin the faith as "cool" and how our culture has turned love into a commodity.
How do you react to ministries that try to present Christianity as being cool and hip?
Miller: There are many problems with trying to market the gospel of Jesus, not the least of which is that, in itself, it is not a cool or fashionable idea. It isn't supposed to be. It is supposed to be revolutionary. It's for people who are tired of trying to be cool, tired of trying to get the world to redeem them.
I attended the Dove Awards and was brokenhearted. I saw all these beautiful Christians, wonderful people, with this wonderful, revolutionary message of Jesus, who, instead of saying, "Look, fashion doesn't matter, hip doesn't matter," were saying "World, please accept us, we can be just as hip as you, just as fashionable, only in a religious way."
I would say we need to choose our God, choose our redeemer.
You've said that the church "uses love as a commodity." What do you mean?
Miller: We sometimes take a Darwinian approach with love - if we are against somebody's ideas, we starve them out. If we disagree with somebody's political ideas, or sexual identity, we just don't "pay" them. We refuse to "condone the behavior" by offering any love.
This approach has created a Christian culture that is completely unaware what the greater culture thinks of us. We don't interact with people who don't validate our ideas. There is nothing revolutionary here. This mindset is hardly a breath of fresh air to a world that uses the exact same kinds of techniques.
What's the alternative?
Miller: The opposite is biblical love, which loves even enemies, loves unconditionally, and loves liberally. Loving selectively is worldly; giving it freely is miraculous.
If love isn't a commodity, what is it?
Miller: I think of love like a magnet. When people see it given in the name of God, they're drawn to it. If I withhold love, then people believe I have met a God that makes me a hateful and vicious person. And they're repelled.
I have two responsibilities to this world, the first is to love; the second is to speak the truth. I can tell somebody such and such a behavior is sin, and still love them. Why not? Why not bring them food, why not hug them, why not have them over to the house? Won't this only help them understand the truth?
Tell us about your church, Imago Dei, and how love is expressed there.
Miller: Imago has saved me in so many ways. Rick, my pastor, is a perfect example of somebody who speaks the truth in love. He is a genius at saying such and such an idea is true, and it is hard, and sometimes I don't like it, but we must trust that God is good, we must help each other, and we must obey. People feel loved at Imago, but they also feel instructed, guided, and that God is not just a Diety who is there to give them whatever they want.
Imago makes me feel parented and not alone. I spoke at Imago right after the election, and a woman, a homosexual, was sitting on the front row with a giant sign that said, among other things, that she hopes our children die, that the legacy of hate will end.
At the end of the service, her sign was laid down in front of the communion table, and she was being held by me, and many others, sobbing as she had never heard truth being presented in love. She had not known the difference between a parental communication of truth and a judgmental, hate-filled communication of truth.
It is a very beautiful community, and I am honored they would accept me and love me.