Reviewed by Dale Lewis
Churched by Matthew Paul Turner
"Matthew has a vivid imagination with unbelievable recall and a sweet, creative mixture of off-the-wall humor."
In this humorous, first-hand account, prolific author Matthew Paul Turner shares his amusing and poignant stories about growing up in a fundamentalist environment, including a vivid retelling of a Sunday school teacher's actual burning of a plastic Barbie to scare the children out of Hell.
Churched is a collection of stories that detail an American boy’s experiences growing up in a culture of non-healthy fear . . . a fear of anything that might corrupt the church’s members, (and make them heathens). “Faith involves every aspect of your life. Even the most shallow person becomes changed by it, hurt by it, or finds freedom in it,” Turner says. “And I was a kid who felt everything and wore my emotions on my sleeve. I soaked everything in.”
Despite visiting the mercy seat a few hundred times and being baptized at least five times, Matthew has grown into a Christ-follower who is in love with Jesus and not perfect behavior or rules. His condemnation of the religion he was raised is gentle yet without malice.
His writing style is very conversational making it easy to connect and relate to his stories. You can’t help but smile and laugh even if you are a former fundamentalist . . . or of a Pharisee mindset. I’m sure that you’ll be able to see the absurdity of his many stories. I sure did, as it brought back many of my own memories as a former Salvation Army officer’s eldest son!
Occasionally, as you read Churched, there is a skip or leap from a later to an earlier memory which causes the reader to go back and reread or refocus. The only thing missing for me was his account of the 'in between' years . . . the journey from his early Baptist faith to a more realistic, Christ-centered one. Maybe that will be in another book.
I walked away with at least three insights from Churched. They are, (not in any particular order):
1. Matthew has a vivid imagination with unbelievable recall and a sweet,
creative mixture of off-the-wall humor.
2. Back in the “good old days,” the church or should I say religion did have an outrageous amount of power and control over their members’ behavior.
3. I am so thankful that in God’s plan, His grace and mercy always win over the heavy-handed rules of legalism.
In the end, Turner concludes, "Fundamentalism has little to do with Jesus." His is a journey that's as entertaining as it is eye-opening.