Thursday, December 2

Churched - a story of bitterness

Reading Christian memoirs after reading Blue Like Jazz is a lot like watching fantasy movies after The Lord of the Rings came to theaters. It is inevitable that they would be compared. And when the memoir makes a special point to appear extra humorous while picking at Christianity that comparison only grows.

Case in point, Churched by Matthew Paul Turner. The subtitle is One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess. Matt grew up in a Baptist church during the 70’s. And not just any Baptist church. A Fundamentalist Baptist church. Matt makes that point very clear. Occasionally jumping around in time when events call for it, the book starts around the age of four or five, detailing much of what went out in the Turner household and within the Baptist church.

Any of you who grew up in a Baptist church during the 70’s may recognize much of what he experiences: a fire and brimstone pastor, going to movies was a sin, and dancing was sure to send you straight to hell.

Matt tells this much as a semi narrative story of his life., however it was I found hard to engage. A major distraction for me the lack of large conflict. Yes, he had trouble with his church and was scared of going to hell. But much of what Matt writes seems over exaggerated. He goes into great detail what he thought and did at the age of four. When I remember that age I don’t remember everything I though nor even if it was three, four, or five. I tend to have quick emotions as memories. And I sure doubt I could effectively read an adults mind as if he were an adult.

I guess in a nutshell, the book is a series of stories from Matt’s life. Each story is presented humorously at first. However at the end of the story, instead of a full punch line Matt verbally punches the Baptist church in face. In writing about the extremely fundamentalists in his church Matt often comes across as writing a scathing review of church.

He also includes completely unnecessary asides to his story. In one instance he mentions how a high school student at his school (a Baptist school) would fill in for the secretary for a short time each day while the secretary taught a class. Later he mentions that there were rumors that the principle was accused of sleeping with the girl. It is something that feel completely out of place. The principle is not a key character in his story and only serves to give information that not only is unnecessary but it seems to intentionally cast some from his church in an ugly light for no other sake that to put them in the ugly light.

Finally, there is no strong resolution to the story. There is a quick couple pages at the end where Matt explains that he finally found a church he likes as an adult. But that too feels like an aside. I felt like the whole story was going to lead up to him forgiving the church, though not always agreeing with it. However at the end, the bitterness still seems present and that bitterness infects too much of the story that it almost drowns out the moments of humor.

As I mentioned earlier, this book will draw comparisons to Blue Like Jazz. However that book was told well. There was conflict that felt real. There was loss and disappointment. And then there was forgiveness and there was hope. There was no bitterness, even when Donald Miller would disagree with something. There was love, and love is not something I felt in this book which was saddening given how much Matt seemed to desire his church to show love instead of fire and brimstone.

2/5


I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for your review of Churched. I'm sorry you didn't like it. But I'm glad you offered your honest opinion. I always learn something from both good and bad reviews. So thank you so much for reading it and taking the time to write this review... you're a strong writer and your review is solid.

    Blessing,

    Matthew

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  2. Hi Matt, I really appreciate you're taking time to come out and read reviews for your books. I admire when authors are able to do that. Something I didn't mention in the review but probally affected my view is that I didn't grow up in that era. I'm in my early 20's now so many of the issues discussed in the book are ones I don't connect with.

    Again, thank you for your comments and I'm glad you at least appreciated the review. I loved the sneak peak for your other books and might give it a try. I'll try to post a review when I do, but it looks like I may enjoy it more.

    -Jonathon

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