Hear No Evil Blog Tour…

by Travis Pickell

Matthew Paul Turner, author  (Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess, and The Christian Culture Survival Guide) and popular blogger, is known for his slightly irreverent, yet honest and insightful, humor. In his newest book, Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost, he puts these qualities on display, as he tells his story through the lens of the music which helped shape him into the person he is today.

Hear No Evil is a memoir of MPT’s life told through a series of vignette-like chapters. He begins his book by recounting an experience he had while sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Nashville: a chance conversation with a nervous looking wannabe Christian rocker. In recounting the conversation, Turner takes every opportunity to deride common, trite stereotypically Christian, traits. It is not that Turner is against Christians or Christianity–he is one! It is that he is against inauthentic expressions of it, as the following quote demonstrates:

“I think about how many times I’ve heard this type of conversation. Hundreds, perhaps. The context is sometimes different, but much of the dialogue is the same–people talking about how to creating something ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ rather than just being real and authentic. So many of us Christians are all about being vulnerable, especially when we’re on stage, dressed up in a costume and wearing makeup, putting on a performance we consider ‘a means to an end.'” (11)

From this experience, MPT turns to his own story, and his beginnings in an “ultraconservative Baptist church where emotion and honesty were even less compatible than Christian fundamentalism and self-worth” (8). As a child, despite his circumstances, Turner discovered his natural ability to sing (he dreamed of going on Star Search), his love for pop music (particularly Sandi Patty, who was basically anathematized by his home church because she didn’t stick to the old hymns), and his desire to become the Christian Michael Jackson (the “King of King’s King of Pop”). He describes his first time going out to see a movie (at age 18), his encounter with Presbyterians at Belmont University (described as rebellious, trendy, hyper-Calvinists) and his experience running a Christian coffee shop in Northern Virginia (Jammin Java – a place I used to frequent when I lived in NoVA).

These vignettes are filled with humor and wit. They are fairly entertaining to read, especially considering that the book does not really have a plot. They are loosely held together by the fact that each has something to do with music, and each was an experience of personal and spiritual growth. In one of the final chapters, MPT tells the story of an interview he had with one of his favorite musical artists, Amy Grant, while working for the magazine, CCM. Without giving away too much information, I will simply say that Turner and his editor had personal differences as to how the story should be written, with the result that Turner’s version was scrapped, and a different piece was published in his name. In this chapter, entitle Chasing Amy, Turner attempts to clear the air about what really happened. One is left wondering if the whole book might have been in order to give Turner a chance to do so–but given the popularity of his blog, he probably didn’t need to write a book in order to set things straight.

While Hear No Evil does not really have all of the traditional elements of a plot, it does have an easily discernible trajectory. Through his many experiences, narrated with special reference to the impact of music on his life, Turner transcends his fundamentalist, ultraconservative roots, and embraces a lively, tolerant, yet somewhat cynical, faith. As noted by my wife, who also read the book, Matthew Paul Turner belongs to an increasingly popular genre that I would call “post-religious Christian inspiration,” which places him among the likes of Donald Miller, Anne Lamott, Brian McLaren, and–in the music world–Derek Webb. My only worry is that much of humor latent within the cynicism would be lost on someone who picks up the book, yet is ignorant of the Christian culture (let’s be honest, not everyone in America cares what is overplayed and trite on Christian radio stations, they are watching MTV or browsing MySpace instead).

If you are looking for a quick, entertaining, slightly irreverent read, however, I would recommend Hear No Evil. It may make you think about aspects of Christian culture that you take for granted, allowing you to transcend your own cultural baggage, and discover the radical otherness of the gospel.

If you want to by Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost click here.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.