This is one of those books that, given the title and subtitle, it would be practically impossible for me not to pick up and read. Knowing that it’s by Matthew Paul Turner, author of churched and of the blog Jesus Needs New PR, made it even more of a must-read for me.
Hear No Evil is sort of a sequel to churched, picking up the story of Turner’s ultraconservative childhood in a rabidly independent Baptist church and continuing the tale through adolescence and young adulthood. As the title suggests, music is used as a recurring theme throughout this memoir — specifically, Turner’s encounters with contemporary Christian music, beginning with a church background so rigid that even the blandest of Christian pop was taboo. His story of the clandestine church outing to a Sandi Patty concert is hilarious — but probably more hilarious if you’ve actually lived and worshipped in that kind of environment (thankfully, I haven’t personally, but I’ve been exposed to more than enough Adventist craziness to find it totally believable).
Later in life, Turner was not only allowed to listen to Sandi Patty, but worked for a Christian magazine where he got to interview Amy Grant (but the article could only be published on the condition that he got her to apologize for her divorce) and worked at a coffeehouse where he booked contemporary Christian acts. If you’ve read churched (or the blog) you’ll probably be able to guess even before you read to the end that this exposure made him more than a little cynical about the Christian music business — and the business of much of evangelical Christianity. But it’s the stories Turner tells — and the wry, funny voice in which he tells them — along the way to that conclusion, that make the ride worthwhile. Almost any Christian will, I think, enjoy Turner’s writing, but those who have themselves survived conservative church backgrounds will be particularly touched and refreshed by his ability to evoke that world with deadly hilarity, and still emerge with a faith that’s obviously battle-scarred yet strong.