Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hear No Evil by Matthew Paul Turner

rating: ***

publisher: WaterBrook Press

Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and the Holy Ghost by Matthew Paul Turner is one of the most enjoyable non-fiction books I have ever read by a Christian writer. Perhaps because I so related to some of the threads in the story.

While Matthew was raised Fundamental Baptist, I was raised Pentecostal and ( though younger than Matthew) believe we crossed through the same generation of Christian music: Amy Grant, DC Talk, Sandy Patti, Petra and, of course, Michael W. Smith.

I also grew up in a household where secular music was forbidden. I could not buy the latest New Kids on the Block or Tiffany CD and NewsBoys and DC Talk were seen as suitable replacements so that we didn’t “feel the void”, as it were.

My first concert was when DC Talk opened for Michael W. Smith at Massey Hall here in Toronto.

What I enjoy about Turner’s overtly truthful style is that it casts a very knowing, satirical and whimsical look at some of the sheer absurdities of Christian culture, without being negative.

Yes, crazy childhood memories of really awful music confronted me, but I didn’t feel my reverence toward my now-evolved Christianity waning in any way, fashion or form. If anything, I found this book inspiring and powerful. Turner has indeed undergone some severe moments of embarrassment and utter oddity----- a lot of them very universal to evangelical Christian homes in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Indeed, I nearly spewed my orange juice across the table when he mentioned his university music journalism class when he wondered aloud what the big deal with Bob Dylan was, having never heard him before.

I especially enjoyed a vignette with a raucous friend assuring Turner that the hottest girls were Pentecostal: as this was the denomination I grew up in, I found it extremely funny.

Then, of course, there were the rules placed and the glaring eyes cast--- on moments such as when Amy Grant’s “Heart in Motion” arrived and even though it featured a few Christian songs nearing the end tracks was more-or-less secular.

I remember members of my church congregation scoffing “Baby, Baby.” My parents, however, were a little more lenient on this score and I saw that Heart in Motion tour in concert as well.

It brought back a slew of memories: some good, some bad: the Dove Awards, Release Magazine, really bad styles---- the malleability of Christian artists to conform to whatever musical style is hip at the moment (i.e., DC Talk---from rap to grunge to alternative). It cast a knowing eye on some of the double standards of the music industry.

And, above all, it was written by an extremely articulate and knowing voice: at times funny and heartbreaking.

I LOVED this book: it was tight and taut and very readable. I loved its opening when Turner asserts he can spot a Christian rock artist from a mile away; I love Turner’s boyhood assertion that he will not only land a spot on Star Search but become the Christian Michael Jackson and I love the end when he is sitting in an Easter Service at a familiar church and begins speaking to a man turned away from his own church because he is a homosexual. What opens on a note of wise and telling, yet very real and very sardonic observation ends with a cadence of redemption.

I really loved this book.

I highly recommend reading it alongside Turner’s Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess

I also follow Matthew Paul Turner’s blog

And check out the Christian Culture Survival Guide

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