I discovered the existence of Matthew Paul Turner via a link to his blog, Jesus Needs New PR, on someone else’s blog, and immediately knew that churched was a book I had to read. This is a fast-paced, funny, bittersweet look at growing up fundamentalist, and from the moment I picked it up I couldn’t put it down.
The subtitle is “one kid’s journey toward God despite a holy mess,” and the memoir basically explores the often-traumatic journey of Matthew’s family into a very conservative Baptist church, starting when he was a little kid and continuing through his teen years. There’s a lot here than anyone who grew up in any kind of conservative religious background will find easy to relate to — but most importantly, it is very, very funny.
Turner has been compared to a lot of other authors, including David Sedaris, but for much of this book the voice reminded me most of Andy Nash’s sadly underrated Growing up Adventist. Turner has the same ability to capture in a word or phrase the absurdities of church people and church life, and for some of us that single word or phrase ends up evoking a whole childhood full of memories. Admittedly, the tone is a bit darker than Growing up Adventist, because Turner clearly sees the kind of fundamentalism he grew up with — strict and fear-based, with a strong emphasis on hell — as having done him more harm than good. However, as the subtitle implies, fundamentalism didn’t destroy his faith, though he eventually found a different channel for it.
If you want a laugh-out-loud look at conservative Christianity that also forces you to think a little, you will not find a better book than churched. I recommend it very highly.