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Feature Story
reed magazine logoSummer 2009

A Spiritual Odyssey

Being Don Miller can be exhausting. He has written three books since Blue Like Jazz, including one due out this fall titled A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, after which he plans to embark on a 65-city book tour. He travels constantly, staying in touch with a devoted fan following through blogging and tweeting ( He is also developing a movie version of Blue Like Jazz, set to film on campus and scheduled for release next year.

However, Miller plans to take a break from literary pursuits in 2010 and devote the year to promoting a faith-based initiative called The Mentoring Project. Tapping his own experience growing up with an absent father, he hopes to recruit a thousand churches nationwide to pair mentors with boys growing up without positive male role models. His goal is to connect 10,000 kids with mentors.

He has come a long way from his time hanging out at Reed, when he was an unknown writer spending hours and hours talking with students at the Paradox Café.

“I miss the Reed days,” he says. He acknowledges overidealizing the college in his book, adding, “I over­idealize everything.”

Miller has not maintained a connection to campus since turning over leadership of Oh, for Christ’s Sake some seven years ago. Although he still lives in Portland, just a couple of miles from campus, he rarely visits, aside from occasionally walking his dog on the grounds. He has moved on, but he remains grateful for what Reed gave him—not for fame and fortune, but for the friendships he forged there, and for how his own faith evolved and grew stronger on campus.

When he is told that some current students have criticized the book, he seems surprised, and a bit troubled. “It’s always been my concern, that the book would have some negative effect,” he says quietly, adding, “But I’ve never gotten a single piece of negative feedback from a Reed student. I’m grateful for that…I have nothing but a sincere love for the place and the people.”

The qualities he believes defines Reedies—openness, curiosity, intensity—are good traits for Christians, too. He identified with Reed’s single-minded, even selfless, pursuit of truth. “The point is always truth, not ‘me,’” he says.

He is pleased to learn Christian students are applying to Reed, but he has some advice. He wants to make sure they understand what they’re getting into, that Reed is a challenging place—not just intellectually, but spiritually, too.

“If a Christian kid goes to Reed and expects to defend the faith they grew up believing, they will fail,” Miller says. “They will walk away from God, the whole thing. If they allow it to evolve and change, and continue to ask questions, and to hold their faith sort of loosely, and ask, ‘How can all this still be true?’ then they’re going to be fine. The tenets of the faith stand up. The reason they’ve stood up for so many centuries is that they do explain life.”

Romel Hernandez is a freelance writer living in Portland and a frequent contributor to Reed.

reed magazine logoSummer 2009