Wednesday, February 17, 2010

review: Hear No Evil by Matthew Paul Turner

Read Matthew's Friday Five from the archives...

Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and the Holy Ghost
by Matthew Paul Turner
Waterbrook Press, 2010

If it was 1991 and Hyper Color was still cool, Turner's book would sweat the term "satire" into a different color--this is biting commentary for those that get it, it is controversial for the innocent and it is enlightening for those that think evangelical Christianity is a monolithic block of tea partiers and Palin apologists.

And all of it is centered on the close-knit Christian communities that Turner finds himself a part and apart of. Oh wait, did I say it's funny? It's funny.

On the flip side, this is not theology or a "new way to do church" or anything emerging anywhere, it is in the most clear of terms similar to something Dave Barry or Lewis Grizzard would write in columns and now most closely resembles David Sedaris' funny parts. It's a memoir of music, told in vignettes of chronology.

In that way, we learn that Turner as a young kid has an unhealthy fascination with Sandi Patti, Amy Grant and wonders if George Michael is a Christian (Turner finds out he's not....). Turner grew up in the type of sheltered environment where a devotion to Michael W. Smith (or "Smitty" as Matthew calls him) is grounds for hell. Yes, the Michael W. Smith of "Friends" and "Place In This World" was going to send Turner to hell. We're treated to a secret undercover van ride to a Sandi Patti concert and Matthew's struggle in holding on to an Amy Grant tape.

Besides the obvious humor in Turner's devotion to such pop luminaries, this book also clearly explicates Nashville's OTHER music industry.

He gives many possible slices for YOU'RE SO NASHVILLE can recognize a Christian rocker by their cleanliness, you have a conversion experience to Calvinism, you are a Christian musician "contractually obligated" to faith, or a girl breaks up with you by referencing that she is dating Jesus only to date a Christian keyboardist two months later.

As someone that spent a few years in Nashville and as a Christian, all of these instances are too familiar, hilarious and cringe-worthy. It hits too close to home and nails the bulls eye all in the same throw.

But Turner rarely makes his point too forcefully, it usually goes down with a healthy dose of with. He never has to say that he's skeptical of Pentecostals' healing power, it becomes all too obvious when they try to pray over his burping problem and their prayer fails. But Turner, being gracious, goes to the bathroom and burps instead.

Skepticism is a strength of Turner, but Turner's willingness to overlook flaws trumps it. There are some kind parts such as when Turner takes pity on a woman who wears too many BeDazzler tshirts.

He also has a strong history with music, I was (selfishly) hoping for a few more examples of the Christian music industry gone amok. The ones provided, such as the Amy Grant interview, are outrageous enough, but I was thinking there had to be a funny Christian music fest experience, a GMA meltdown or something with confused Christian punk rockers.

But that is me wanting the gritty gossip and Turner does a fine job in going above and beyond that.

Turner provides a new trove of potent examples about how Christians have it far from figured out and that some of the biases against Christians and Christian music is most definitely true. Thankfully, there is someone like Turner to give it a punch with his tongue usually in his cheek.

Oh wait, did I say it's funny? It's funny.

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