Book Review: "Hear No Evil" by Matthew Paul Turner


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

To get an idea of just how conservative Matthew Paul Turner’s Independent Baptist upbringing was, consider this:

   • In middle school, he “rebelled” by listening to Sandi Patti.

   • In high school, he felt so guilty for buying Amy Grant’s Heart in MotionCD that he destroyed it, and then bought it again, five times.

   • As a kid, he had to cover his ears at Sea World when Ollie the Otter began dancing to Michael Jackson. (“The beat was syncopated,” explains Turner, “and for a young Independent Fundamental Baptist, few things existed that were more frightful than a syncopated beat.”)

   • The first time he set foot in a movie theater, he was 19 years old.

   • When his Belmont University professor began quoting Bob Dylan, Turner raised his hand in class and asked, “Should I know who Dylan is?”

If these tidbits make you grin (or cringe), you will love Matthew Paul Turner’s latest book, Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost.  A collection of anecdotes about Turner’s tumultuous relationship with popular culture through the years, Hear No Evil can best be described as a lighthearted tribute—to growing up, to the evangelical Christian subculture,  to music.

It’s been a while since a book made me laugh this much. I found myself reading some of my favorite lines out loud to Dan—“For a lot of Christians, their imaginations are liabilities, like the five senses and genitals” (p.51);  “Then my father introduced me to Sam, a thirty-something single man who had recently converted from being Episcopalian to Christianity” (p. 52); “A month or two later Laura and Jesus broke up, and she started dating a nice-looking keyboardist from Arkansas” (p. 156).

Those who grew up in the evangelical subculture will especially appreciate Turner’s stories about accountability groups, contemporary Christian music, and how the Holy Spirit was so involved in the everyday decisions of Christian college students that he appeared to work part-time in Belmont’s admission office.

Of course, Turner is at his best when he turns the joke on himself and connects his personal stories to the universal so that the reader can really relate.  In one of the more insightful chapters of the book, Turner explains how he and his college classmates “rebelled” against their upbringing by becoming Calvinists.  Writes Turners, “I liked being Calvinist because it made me feel controversial and edgy to believe something different than what my parents believed. On those trips home, I felt like I was experiencing my own little Protestant Reformation, hammering various disagreements I had with my past into my parents’ faces…Reformed doctrine offered a different way to think about God. And sometimes different, even when it really isn’t that different, is all we need to make us feel alive, creative, and in control of our own destiny” (p.131).

I hope that in his next book, Turner does a little more of this, for it transforms his funny, sometimes bizarre anecdotes into more relatable, human stories and makes the reader feel more like a participant and less like an observer.

If you’re looking for a fun, memorable read, be sure to check it outHear No Evil will get stuck in your head, like a song you almost forgot you loved.

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

So, what have you been reading recently? What are some of your favorite books that humorously highlight the idiosyncrasies of your particular religious culture?

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