Last week, I had a blog post over at The Christian Manifesto on what “edginess” can teach the church. And what I meant by “edginess” was something more akin to popular social criticism, as practiced by four writers. (They were meant to be examples, and not an all-inclusive list of everyone who’s out there.) One of those writers is Matthew Paul Turner.
Last fall, I read Turner’s Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess, an account of childhood in not only a fundamentalist church, but a fundamentalist Baptist church (and there’s a difference). And while most people focused on the funny parts (and there were a lot of funny parts), I saw something else, and that was the more serious side of a “social critic” who cares deeply for the church.
Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost advances the story through the teen, college and young-adult-earning-his-own-way years. But there’s a difference from Churched – the humor is still there, but it is a more quite, wry kind of humor. What I see emerging even more strongly is a concern for Christian music, on one level, and for the church in general on a broader level. Churched sounded so much like a kid speaking, which is what was intended; Hear No Evil sounds like a thoughtful young adult, poking fun, to be sure, but not taking himself so seriously, too.
We read about life in high school and college; we sense what a place like Nashville was for a college student in the 1990s, and especially for a Christian college student at a Christian college. We learn about the Christian music scene in Nashville, and it is not at all what we expect it to be. We watch an untalented woman bully her way into an open microphone session at a coffeehouse, and realize, as does Turner, that he was used to bless her. We sit through an interview with Amy Grant, who answers with great grace the questions that the boneheaded magazine publisher insists Turner ask.
Yes, there are funny, laugh-out-loud parts of Hear No Evil. But they don’t at all dominate the book. Instead, it is indeed a story about innocence, and music, and the Holy Ghost, but it’s a story told by a sensitive spirit who sometimes acts the clown but always speaks the truth.
(The publisher provided me with a review copy of Hear No Evil; I asked for it, in fact, because I enjoyed reading Churched. Just so you know.)