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Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess Hardcover – October 7, 2008
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–Sara Miles, author of Take This Bread
“Turner’s churched lives in that elusive space between whimsical memories of an innocent youth and cringe-inducing flashbacks of life growing up in the church. Like a visit with long-lost relatives, churched reintroduced me to characters anyone who grew up in the church will find familiar, and I was surprised to find that I was glad to see them. Sweet-hearted, funny, and honest, churched had me reminiscing about the little boy searching for God that I once was and gently reminded me I still have some miles to travel.”
–Dan Merchant, writer/director of Lord, Save Us From Your Followers
“Thanks to churched, Matthew Paul Turner’s vivid, often hilarious account of his childhood, I realized that not having grown up in evangelical culture is less of a handicap than I previously thought!”
–Andrew Beaujon, author of Body Piercing Saved My Life and writer for the Washington Post
“Turner crafts an amusing field guide to fundamentalism that’s both a gentle lampoon of hypocrisy and misplaced fervor, and a model of how to survive being ‘churched’ without cynically rejecting the good with the bad, the Founder with his followers.”
–Anna Broadway, author of Sexless in the City
“Matthew Paul Turner’s memoir has the insight of Anne Lamott and the comic honesty of David Sedaris. His stories force us to wonder which of our Christian beliefs and practices come from scripture and which spring up out of our own preferences and fears.”
–Rob Stennett, author of The Almost True Story Of Ryan Fisher
“Finally! A bona-fide humorist in the North American church! I might be tempted to say Matthew Paul Turner is Christendom’s answer to David Sedaris, but Matthew stands on his own without the comparison. A memoirist who doesn’t take himself or the world too seriously, but still manages to write profoundly and beautifully, Turner gave me a belly-laugh on almost every page. If you grew up believing ‘being conformed not to this world’ meant being the weirdest kid on the block, churched will be the funniest book you’ve read in years!”
–Lisa Samson, award-winning author of Quaker Summer, Embrace Me and Justice in the Burbs
“With his homespun humor and eye for living detail, Matthew Paul Turner’s churched invites readers to rethink the quirks of Christian culture for the sake of uncovering that which is lastingly good and worth holding dear. Turner’s work is a refreshingly gentle discussion of faith and culture with the potential to spark meaningful conversations.”
–Pete Gall, author of My Beautiful Idol
"If you didn't think Jesus-loving fundamentalist kids were very funny, Matthew Paul Turner proves you wrong."
-- Jason Boyett, author of Pocket Guide to the Bible and Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse.
“How can a book be so stinkin’ funny and yet so poignant at the same time? Matthew Paul Turner found his voice! After reading churched I wanted to hug him and then toss out all of my son’s clip-on ties.”
–Jennifer Schuchmann, author of Six Prayers God Always Answers
“Who knew that a journey through faith and fundamentalism could be so painfully funny? I laughed out loud many a time while reading churched. Matthew Paul Turner manages to channel both boyhood innocence and wry retrospective through this fast-moving account of growing up with Jesus in late twentieth-century America.”
–Mike Morrell, TheOoze.com
“A funny, heartfelt portrayal of one man’s attempt to find true meaning despite his upbringing among fundamentalists who taught him that Azrael–the cat from The Smurfs–was an agent of Satan. The true miracle of this book is that its author never manages to lose his faith.”
–Robert Lanham, author of Sinner's Guide To The Evangelical Right
About the Author
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All of these qualities are present in "Churched: One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess." It's about growing up in a fundamentalist Baptist family and church (and not a Southern Baptist church, mind you, those liberal heretics!). And after the first two chapters I stopped counting how many times I laughed out loud.
Turner covers it all - attending the church for the first time; fighting to stay awake during the sermon (not only a fundamentalist problem); getting his first Baptist haircut; attending the church school; home visits by the pastor; the trials of a Sunday School teacher who's asked if God wears clothes; eating Jesus cookies. It's all there.
"Fundamentalism made me weird," Turner writes. "I wasn't alone. It made lots of people weird. But I believe some people at my church believed that was the point, that somewhere in the Bible, Jesus declared, `Blessed are the weird.' Our weirdness was a form of obedience unto God."
As weird as it may have made him, fundamentalism also shaped him in other ways, and it was surprising to see what emerges from behind the humor and the edginess: tenderness, caring and affection. You see this most directly when he talks about his parents. There's a lot of love there.
It wasn't all weird.
"Churched" is a humorous, sometimes painful, look at how religion can turn rules and boot-camp mentality into a substitute for a relationship with the living God. Matthew Paul Turner is not out to point fingers, so much as to encourage others who have survived this craziness. He talks about the "sins" of long hair on men, of backward masking in music, and the little lies that are so important for surviving in a religious atmosphere. He deals with this fear-based mentality and nudges us toward an understanding of a God who hates sin, yes, but who also loves people of all colors, ilks, and sizes--even those dreaded Presbyterians, Catholics, and, gasp, smokers. The black Catholic woman he meets while on an evangelizing foray (with goodies as a reward for converts) serves as a beautiful example of what real church and real life with Jesus should be about.
Turner made me laugh out loud, wince, feel ashamed, and also elated. He details his own journey through this holy mess with the harmless honesty and humor of little Ralphie in "A Christmas Story," innocent, mischievous, and full of dry wit and wisdom. This is a journey worth taking.
I related with almost every word of this book. And here is what I loved most: It was respectful. I assumed the author would tell of his ridiculous past and then of his eventual wild rebellion from God and religion altogether until he was eventually won back through some divine moment with Jesus. I was therefore really impressed with the reserved ending, and again, related so well. The author describes fundamentalism with great respect, despite the amazing humor. He tells stories that will shock many readers, i.e., "How could anyone tell a little child that?" But he doesn't describe them with any hint of bitterness or hatred. They are matter of fact, and we even see the way he basically believed the teachings and followed them even when they didn't make him particularly comfortable.
His journey reminds me of my own in that somehow God became very real to the author even in that "holy mess" as the book describes. Though I understood by the end that Turner no longer pursues the fundamental denomination, there is no story of his breaking from it. You understand by the writing voice throughout that he walked away, and frankly, you're so happy for him.
I'd recommend this book to absolutely anyone. Christians need to read it and examine what they are teaching children, what they believe about Christ, and whether or not the two are truly compatible.