Blue Like Sad: Father Longing in Donald Miller’s To Own a Dragon -- By: Robert E. Sagers

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 11:1 (Spring 2006)
Article: Blue Like Sad: Father Longing in Donald Miller’s To Own a Dragon
Author: Robert E. Sagers


Blue Like Sad:
Father Longing in Donald Miller’s To Own a Dragon

Robert E. Sagers

Research Assistant to the Senior Vice President For Academic Administration
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,
Louisville, Kentucky

When I was growing up, my dad received Father’s Day cards from kids all over the neighborhood. No, they were not his children, checking in from broken homes all around the block. They were from boys growing up in homes without men, who saw something fatherly in my dad. Those Father’s Day cards reminded me that, even if I did not know all the reasons why, we had something good at our house, something other kids wanted.

I thought about those Father’s Day cards as I read To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father (NavPress, 2006) by Donald Miller and John MacMurray. The book is almost guaranteed to be a best-seller, since it is written by Miller, one of the gurus of the “emerging church” movement of liberalizing evangelicalism and the author of the runaway bestseller Blue Like Jazz. This book is different though. Miller’s other books try to be theological and “relevant,” but often fall short. In his other books, Miller tries to engage theological debates but often does not even understand terms (the “inherency of the Bible” issue, for instance, or the debate between Calvinists and “Armenians”). He tries to be socially relevant, but can not seem to see the difference between “social justice” and partisan Republican-bashing.

There is very little of that here. Instead, the book is a sad look into the thoughts and affections of a thirty-four year-old man who seeks to understand a “father wound” left by an absent dad. The result is a mix of some good insights, some bad answers, and, occasionally, some somewhat ugly theology.

Father Knows Best

Miller traces some of his thoughts on this subject to a television documentary on elephants. The program mentioned an elephant’s need for an older elephant to show the youngster the ways of elephant life. Miller writes that he “began to wonder if those of us without dads aren’t making mistakes in our lives we wouldn’t make if we had a father to guide us” (34). He continued,

“I wondered if people who grow up with great fathers don’t walk around with a subconscious sense they are wanted on this planet, that they belong, and the world needs them” (34).

What kinds of ways would a father help a son? “Is there practical information we are supposed to know about work, women, decisions, authority, leadership, marriage, and family that we would have learned if th...

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