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Thursday, May 9, 2024

Blue Like Jazz and the Evolving Ethos of Ethan Hawke


[Ethan Hawke] belies the primary impressions from his earliest roles and has largely eclipsed the picture Miller is annoyed with. 

In 2023 I lastly learn Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, twenty years after it was initially printed. It felt like his model of a Jack Kerouac stream-of-consciousness memoir, albeit framed by the lens of “nonreligious ideas on Christian spirituality.” As such, it supplies a snapshot of a really particular interval in Christian tradition, introducing characters like Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris whereas highlighting Ravi Zacharias’s writings. We view every of those males fairly otherwise with the passage of time.

Nonetheless, I’m notably desirous about one excerpt from Miller’s guide. He talks about how his buddy likes the actor and author Ethan Hawke. It comes out that she likes him as a result of he’s cool. Miller says:

I used to be in a cranky temper so I requested her if she knew what he believed…Believes about what? She requested. Believes about something, I mentioned. Properly, she informed me as she sat again in her chair, I don’t know. I don’t know what he believes. Do you suppose he’s cool? I requested her. In fact, he’s cool, she mentioned. And that’s the factor that’s so irritating to me. I don’t know if we actually like popular culture icons, observe them, purchase into them as a result of we resonate with what they imagine or whether or not we purchase into them as a result of we expect they’re cool.

I wholeheartedly agree with Miller’s premise that our tradition makes idols out of sure individuals primarily based on their perceived picture (and coolness). There’s one thing superficial about it at the same time as proper beliefs don’t essentially preclude different shortcomings. That’s little question fodder for a complete different essay on celeb.

And whereas I resonate with what the writer is saying, I might contend that Ethan Hawke’s profession during the last twenty years has proved him to be one of the crucial fascinating actors within the business. He belies the primary impressions from his earliest roles and has largely eclipsed the picture Miller is annoyed with. If we do an in depth studying of his more moderen artistic selections and a few of his chosen interviews, we will start to hone in on one thing extra substantive.

Hawke speaks implicitly to Miller’s grievance by acknowledging in numerous interviews that he hasn’t been in a position to make a primary impression in twenty years. Whether or not it’s Actuality Bites or Jesse from The Earlier than Trilogy, individuals suppose they know him, and so they have preconceived notions about who he’s as an individual. Informal followers who solely see him as a celeb both need to hold him in formaldehyde or to work together with somebody who has been part of the cultural zeitgeist as soon as upon a time. It has nothing to do with interacting with one other always altering human being.

In a special dialog, Hawke had a query posed to him about what he considered being a “Scorching younger star” within the wake of his early success, and he comes on the query facetiously. Like several younger man he in all probability thought he was cool, and but he by no means put a lot weight on it. He has admitted that folks have referred to as him pretentious on any variety of events, and but Kris Kristofferson suggested him to not fear as a result of as you grow old individuals shall be nicer, and so they’ll love you for it!

He appears to have grown into his pretension, and whether or not he’s perceived as cool or not at massive, he’s remained passionate in regards to the arts. Moreover, his recommendation to youthful creatives is to be pretentious with a humorousness—you’re not taking your self too significantly—whereas nonetheless aspiring to one thing extra. It looks as if a loftier endeavor past the Hollywood rat race. To this finish, he’s put these aspirations into follow with a few of his latest movie roles.

“Faith just isn’t a heat electrical blanket—it’s the cross.”

In Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, Hawke performs a pastor of a dwindling church who goes by an existential battle within the wake of the loss of life of a younger man he was counseling, and within the face of the approaching local weather disaster. He famous in an interview that we regularly see non secular figures portrayed as ignorant or evil with out ever truly exploring deep problems with why we’re born, why we die, and what we’re speculated to be doing inside this mortal coil.

We stay in a fallen world. To make all of it good and to make all of it heat and fuzzy, you’re probably not speaking about religion.
~Hawke

The movie evokes a want to deal with this subject material significantly with true consideration. It actually does really feel like the next calling, and it’s artwork and leisure for the sake of exploring the deepest human questions. That’s a present for an actor to have the ability to discover and a present for an viewers if an actor is keen to go there. Nonetheless, by the identical token, Hawke has some real reservations about sure non secular pondering as mirrored in Schrader’s movie. He mentioned in a special Q&A:

I don’t perceive an evangelical group that doesn’t appear to have learn the New Testomony. My character is saying, “Why don’t you care about God’s earth? Why aren’t we caring for one another? Why are we not educating, ‘My father’s rain falls equally on the simply and the unjust (Matthew 5:45)?’ We’re all on this collectively,” and he’s feeling this very profoundly.

This is just one instance of Hawke’s earnest consideration of Christian educating. In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Hawke gave an introduction to his main function in James McBride’s Civil Battle-era miniseries on John Brown, The Good Lord Hen. His character was a staunch Calvinist and a really severe Christian who took God and the concept of the imago dei very significantly. After being a non-violent abolitionist, he determined he needed to be keen to struggle and shake individuals out of their apathy. 

Brown did not incite a revolution and was finally executed, however what he did accomplish was to get up the White Christians within the North. If there’s a typical thread right here, we see two males who’ve an incisive, ardent sense of what Christian religion is. It’s not low-cost, nevertheless it prices one thing to choose up your cross and observe Him (Matthew 16:24).

Ethan Hawke and his daughter Maya additionally share a mutual appreciation for the Southern Gothic writings of Flannery O’Connor. He has spoken about her quick tales from “Parker’s Again” to “Revelation,” which all function the writer’s scandalizing depictions of grace. The query she all the time appears to be asking is what will we do in response to those moments? This is without doubt one of the components that grew to become the bedrock of the Hawkes’s soon-to-be-released movie on O’Connor referred to as Wildcat.

Of their dialog with Bishop Robert Barron, Ethan talks at size about how his mother and father launched him to writers like O’Connor, Thomas Merton, Walker Percy, and Dorothy Day—writers who knowledgeable his worldview as a younger man. His understanding of non secular religion is sort of outstanding given his following assertion. He mentioned:

Faith just isn’t a heat electrical blanket, it’s the cross, and the cross holds the struggling of the world. It is a very profound image of human struggling and failure of group, that they are often introduced with the kid of God and crucify him. We stay in a fallen world. To make all of it good and to make all of it heat and fuzzy, you’re probably not speaking about religion.

Hawke continues to shirk the will to be perceived as cool, and it’s evident he continues to develop and keep curious. These phrases characterize a person who has continued to progress a good distance from Miller’s notion of him in Blue Like Jazz as a result of they recommend an artist with deeply-held beliefs. Curiously sufficient, Miller himself did provide up another person who appears worthy of additional consideration as a part of this dialog.

The Cool Christian & Christ Crucified

Whereas Miller was rightfully miffed by the lots who observe pop idols as a result of they’re cool with no consideration of their beliefs, he additionally highlights an alternate thought he had as soon as to make Christianity cool. He thought he may use artwork to provide the religion extra credibility. It might make individuals come to phrases with their predilection towards sin, and it may change the world. He goes on to say:

My trendy Christian was deep. Deep water. A poet. He studied [Hunter S.] Thompson throughout his drug years, throughout the prostitute years…[Allen] Ginsberg’s “I watched the best minds of my era descend into insanity…” was to him, about sin nature. A part of him was about social justice.

Christianity itself doesn’t require us to be cool. It requires religion, humility, and an acknowledgment of our want for grace—a grace that cuts by hypocrisy and fanaticism.

On a cursory degree, Ethan Hawke shares a lot in widespread with the outside lifetime of Miller’s idealized Christian nicknamed Tom Toppins. He did a complete TedTalk on Ginsberg and the artist’s calling to play the idiot and shake humanity out of their on a regular basis lives. If it’s not evident already, he’s an avid reader, a lover of music, and points of religion and social justice permeate most of the interviews he provides. 

However his candor usually feels extra honest than any Gen-Xer pastiche to make Christianity extra interesting. And but in honing in on the irony of Ethan Hawke being fairly near Miller’s evocation of the Cool Christian who holds real beliefs, it’s necessary to not commit one other distortion. 

Christianity itself doesn’t require us to be cool. It requires religion, humility, and an acknowledgment of our want for grace—a grace that cuts by hypocrisy and fanaticism. Is that this cool? I suppose it depends upon whom you ask, though it doesn’t appear to be it ought to matter. We don’t want Christianity to be cool simply as Christ doesn’t want us. We’d like Christ. It’s that easy. 

Giving Miller the good thing about the doubt, maybe that is what he started to acknowledge implicitly inside the pages of Blue Like Jazz. His idealized Christian finally feels superfluous. As Hawke mentions, “faith just isn’t a heat electrical blanket, it’s the cross.” Nothing can change the underside line: Our sinfulness led Jesus Christ to die for us. Interval. 

Instantly my thoughts goes to Paul’s phrases to the Corinthians. He’s speaking to an viewers of Jews and Greeks, and it may simply as simply be mentioned to extra trendy listeners, each legalistic Christians and those that lean extra antinomian. He says, “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, however to those that are referred to as, each Jews and Greeks, Christ the ability of God and the knowledge of God (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). 

What’s encouraging about Hawke’s story just isn’t that he has a disinterest in fame or subjective coolness and even that he’s intrigued by non secular issues per se, although this may all be lauded. Basically, he has an intuitive understanding of scripture that’s humbling. It cuts by the glut of Christian tradition, getting on the coronary heart of what it means to think about the creator God and the implications of the scandal of grace present in His Son’s loss of life on the cross. There’s extra that Christians can quibble over, however as I don’t know Ethan Hawke, that is all I can say: I might do nicely to be taught from him in humility.  

Blue Like Jazz feels very a lot of its time and for a particular viewers. That doesn’t imply it’s not nonetheless instructive, even significant. Nonetheless, Christianity is rightfully timeless and common. It supplies a story to make sense of the damaged world we stay in. Could God be with Ethan Hawke and all of us as we grapple with life’s necessary questions by religion and thru superbly artistic artworks. Nonetheless, extra imperatively, allow us to throw off coolness and cling to the cross and Christ crucified. 



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