Faith & Fandom
Blues Brothers: God Can Use Anyone
When I was a kid I was completely enamored with the movie “The Blues Brothers.” There was just something epic about it to me. The music, the outfits, the connection to faith even with imperfect vessels, the brotherly comradery, getting a band together, saving orphans, car chases, Princess Leia with a flame thrower - I mean just so much stuff! It would come on TV and I would be glued; that didn’t change as I got older. When I was actually old enough to buy CD’s, I purchased the soundtrack to the movie, then Briefcase Full Of Blues (which I recommend), and even the Definitive Collection. Around the time I hit high school, the Blues Brothers were making a cultural swing back into mainstream consciousness, and so The House Of Blues in Myrtle Beach, SC started becoming a big deal. I started driving there every free weekend I got as a teenager; it kind of became my Disneyland. Then Blues Brothers 2000 came out, and I tried my very best to convince myself it was a good movie. I tried SOOOOOOOOO hard, but yeah, like so many sequels (hopefully not this book though), it was just a sad sad excuse of a film trying to capture the beauty of the original.
I think the peak of all my Blues Brothers enthusiasm came my Junior/Senior year of High School. Being the fanboy that I am, I convinced my marching band
instructor to let us do a Blues Brothers theme for the upcoming football season. Me and my Blues Brother Luke would be on the field in full costume as the marching band marched out. Luke would play electric guitar and I would play harmonica and sing. Then once the band made it out there and started playing, I would dance like a buckwild idiot. It was one of the favorite times of my life. It further escalated when we turned it into a band (which consisted of Luke, Daryl, Brad, & Chris) and performed around town, we even had a big concert where we performed for a renowned Elvis impersonator (As I look at this on paper, I see how lame it sounds, but trust me, as a 17/18 year old, it was amazing). So enough rambling about one of my many fandoms. why is it in the book you ask?
One of the biggest things it showed me is that God can and will use anyone He wants to accomplish His purpose. He wanted an orphanage saved so he tapped some sleazy musicians to get the job done where apparently the Church and its leadership failed. When God calls us to something people may not always be doing cartwheels and flips while James Brown preaches/sings and the clouds part, but God often calls out to us. Often we think we aren’t good enough for Him to use, or we think our baggage is too great. Seeing these foul mouthed, drunkard, rebellious criminals on “a mission from God” encouraged me.
If you are thinking this is fiction though and God doesn’t roll that way, let’s check the Bible, shall we? Noah was a drunk, Jacob was a liar, Moses was a killer and had a stuttering problem, Gideon was a coward, Rahab was a prostitute, David was an adulterous murderer, Elijah was suicidal, Jonah ran from God, John the Baptist ate bugs, and Peter denied Christ and had a tendency to cut people’s ears off. Seriously, God didn’t really use the world’s standard in regards to who He uses.
When God calls us, we need to respond. That’s what Jake and Elwood surely did. He wants us to be renewed in the process; He doesn’t want us to stay in the same broken state He finds us in. Jake and Elwood only had a short time frame to accomplish their task, so sanctification of these two probably would have taken a lot longer, but like The Penguin said, “You are such a disappointing pair. I prayed so hard for you. It saddens and hurts me that the two young men whom I raised to believe in the Ten Commandments have returned to me as two thieves, with filthy mouths and bad attitudes. Get out, and don't come back until you've redeemed yourselves.”
Think about it though, out of the list of people I mentioned earlier, most of these people’s issues took place AFTER they met and were serving God. It’s a long process, and it will not always be smooth transition. There will often be failures and relapses, but God uses imperfect people because that’s the only kind there are. He knows we will never be perfect outside of Him, but He calls us to make the effort to live worthy of the call we receive. Now I seriously doubt God has to send an angry nun to beat us and chuck us down a flight of stairs to get the picture, but Paul does make a similar point a little more graciously.
2 Timothy 2: 20-21, “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” We will never be good enough on our own to serve God, but through the process of serving Him we will draw closer to Him and become more like Him. Jake and Elwood may have been on a mission from God, but they were far from saints. They pulled some serious shenanigans, and at no fault of their own, endured some serious shenanigans. They ran from the police, destroyed a shopping mall, vehicularly assaulted some Nazis, impersonated a country band, and broke every traffic law possible. On the flipside, someone blew up their apartment, flame throwered them in a sewer, tossed them down a flight of stairs, got mouthed off to by Aretha Franklin, and ended up back in prison. I bring this up to say that yes, God can and will use anyone He wants, but that doesn’t mean it will always be pretty.
God will call us to situations that might be traumatic, or would be considered a failure in our own standards, but even if it looks rough in our opinion, God can use it for His purposes. I’m sure there were much less stressful ways to save an orphanage, but that was the way He used it in the story. Again, fiction I know, but it’s not that far-fetched from reality. Look at Joseph. He was abused by his brothers, sold into slavery, sexually assaulted by his employer’s wife, and all this was to save people from an upcoming catastrophe. Look at Joseph’s response though;
Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” If we truly trust that when God can call us, then we should trust the outcome when we follow that calling, even if it’s not what we expect. Elwood makes the epic speech before “Everybody Needs Somebody,” that I think accentuates the whole concept. “We're so glad to see so many of you lovely people here tonight. And we would especially like to welcome all the representatives of Illinois's law enforcement community that have chosen to join us here in the Palace Hotel Ballroom at this time. We certainly hope you all enjoy the show. And remember, people, that no matter who you are and what you do to live, thrive and survive, there're still some things that makes us all the same. You. Me. Them. Everybody. Everybody.” There is something that makes us all the same and Paul tells us in Romans 3:23-24, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
All of us are equally broken, and all of us are equally able to experience the redemption that Jesus offers. The Penguin is no better than Jake and Elwood. The “Illinois Nazis” are no better than “The Good Ole Boys.” As Jake so eloquently put it, “Well me and the Lord, we have an understanding.” And here’s the understanding we all need God’s grace for redemption, and we all can be used by the one who would redeem us.