Monday, December 15, 2008

Book Recommendation: Churched by Matthew Paul Turner

What happens to a kid who grows up in a fundamentalist church when he or she rejects fundamentalism? Many times, because they "got" the message that fundamentalism is the only "true" Christianity, they wind up rejecting Christianity/religion as a whole. However, sometimes, some people find a path through this forest of legalism, conspiracy theories, and isolated subculture to Jesus...or maybe Jesus finds them.

Such is the case for my friend Matthew Paul Turner. In his book Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess, Matthew recounts his journey of faith through fundamentalism. The narrative that Turner offers is equal parts memoir and satire. Though it could have easily devolved into a bitter rant decrying his upbringing, Matthew succeeds in virtually channeling himself as a child. As such, his story reads with a nostalgic sweetness that brings both laughter and tears. Churched is genuinely funny, and at times quite poiniant. Many readers will find the experience similar to a kind of group they learn to laugh at their own stories too. Far from demonizing the "characters" in his story, Matthew excels at revealing their humanity and sincerity. As hilarious as the stories of his Sunday School Teacher's lesson on manna or his childhood pastor's "boxing match with Satan" are, you get the sense that Matthew also finds a way to honor and respect them. Though it is never explicit, you can clearly see the bruises and scars that Matthew carries and how he has wrestled to find a way to believe. In the end, the implicit main character of this memoir is not Matthew himself, but rather the Savior that he loves who shines through all of the craziness and has led Matthew to a genuine faith that is characterized by hope and love.

I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough. Even if you didn't grow up in a fundamentalist church or subculture, I think you may find surprising resonance and inspiration.


Unknown said...

My name is also Adam Ellis and I'm atheist. You gotta quit mucking up the good name with all of this crazy jesus nonsense.

Adam said...

lol. Do your friends think you are some kind of closet Christian on the internet? Good to know you. Feel free to hang out, comment and question here. My friends will just think I have a deeply conflicted split personality. ;)