I can think of no greater honor that a blogger can receive than being asked by a publisher to read and review a book for a book’s blog tour. Not only do you get a free copy of a first edition book (I have a thing about first edition hard backs), but you get to lay eyes on something that is new before others. What’s not to like about that?
Such was the case with the new novel Churched by Matthew Paul Turner (http://www.matthewpaulturner.com/). This book takes the reader 30 years back in time to look at Matthew’s youth growing up in a Fundamentalist Baptist church. From the opening story that Matthew tells about his modern day conversations with the Pentecostal pastor who has stopped believing he can speak in tongues, I found myself snickering often while reading this book.
Matthew pulls no punches when discussing his fundamentalist church youth and how ridiculous he thought most of it was as a child. Needless to say, time has not healed those wounds. Matthew’s remembrances of Jesus-shaped cookies, saving a seat for Jesus on the school bus, and fear of his pastor had me reminiscing often about my own time spent in church as a young and impressionable boy. Anyone who reads this book and who grew up in church will more than likely read something that snaps you back in time to your own experiences as a youth in church.
I am not sure if it was purposeful or not, but about two-thirds through the book the laughter dies down and Matthew Turner gives the reader a real glimpse of the effects that being raised to fear God has had on him. Matthew reveals to the reader a teenager who, although he is doing everything his church has told him to, still feels unworthy of God’s love. Further, Matthew wanted to see the love of Christ in his parents. Matthew discussed the fact that he really wanted his parents to tell him that they saw what he was doing and that they were going to point out exactly how they were proud of him instead of where he was falling short. This time never comes and Matthew writes about a discussion he had with his mom as a graduating senior when his mom has to ask Matthew if he knows that she is proud of him. How sad that because a gracious God was not taught to this young man that he grew up wondering if he was not only good enough for his parents, but for God.
I walked away from this book thinking about how people too often hide behind laughter when they are uncomfortable. As I read the latter parts of this book I could imagine Matthew battling with himself about how much to reveal about his true feelings and confusion that was instilled in him. As the book closes Matthew tries to raise that guard of humor back up but it never fully hid him for me and I walked away from this book feeling sorry for Matthew.
Most disappointing was the fact that Matthew failed to heed his own advise. Matthew writes about a lesson a teacher once taught him about knowing that there is poo mixed in with your desert. If you knew that, you would not eat the desert, was the point and it was used to illustrate how one unclean ingredient can ruin an otherwise good thing. I found myself thinking back to that illustration when Matthew expresses his views on the Bible at the end of this book. Matthew continues to believe that because the church and people in the church he grew up with were imperfect, so is the word of God. I just hope Matthew writes another book when he discovers that the only solution to his continued confusion about God is in the Bible. I grew up as a Church of Christ preachers kid for goodness sake, but I don’t blame God for the confusion I felt and handled incorrectly. My wish is that Matthew will stop writing about wanting hope and will start reading about getting hope. Now that is a book I long to read.
I would not recommend this book to a younger person but for the sake of novelty and memory I would definitely recommend it to my peers. This book was a fun journey for me and has motivated me to make sure that my children are not living in fear of God but wonder, amazement, and praise.
If you would like to purchase or read more abut Churched, follow this link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1400074711