Questioning Matthew Paul Turner: Part 2

Matthew Paul Turner is a popular Christian writer and speaker. His newest book, Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost, is now available in stores.

My copy was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

You can download the first chapter here then go here to purchase it.

Read Part 1 of this interview.

I talked with Matthew recently about the book, as well as, his thoughts on honesty, humor, and a whole host of other hot and/or holy topics.

I petitioned my followers for questions to ask you. One person wrote that I should, “ask why he’s a jerk to everyone on Twitter.” I realize that may be touchy but I will vouch for you and say that in our dealings you have been kind. Do you care to address that criticism?

MPT: You know, one person’s “He’s a jerk” is another person’s “He’s funny” or “He’s being truthful.” My tweets are only a small fragment of who I am. They don’t define me as a person. But if that’s somebody’s only interaction with me, then I can understand why they might think that.

Some of the controversy surrounding you is in regards to what you find funny or in what you deem open for ridicule. When is a joke not worth the trouble it causes?

MPT: When it takes too long to write or when you get somewhere in the middle and are bored with its intent. Believe it or not, I actually filter a lot of what I blog about or Tweet. :) It may not seem like it to some people, but I do. I just think that some people take me too seriously. When I’m picking on Lady Gaga’s clothing or Taylor Swift’s voice, I’m just having a little fun. Now, sometimes, my responses to John Piper’s tweets are more serious. But in the end, Lady Gaga’s fashion statement won’t keep a person from engaging the story of God. But there’s a chance that John Piper’s tweet* might limit somebody’s willingness to engage God’s story. When somebody uses his or her theology to define God rather than “study God” or “shed light on a spiritual topic,” it potentially limits somebody’s engagement with the story of the Gospel.

*Turner is referring to a comment Piper made in November about the nature of pornography addiction.

Is there a quote from a Calvinist writer which has proven beneficial to you?

MPT: Of course! The work of Oswald Chambers has had a huge impact on me. And I love some of the old Puritan prayers. Their words were full of passion and surrender. Listen, I think Calvinism is a fantastic and helpful way to study God, I just don’t believe it’s a good way to define him. And I believe that’s true of any theology.

What is the role of humor in a world besieged by tragedy?

MPT: I think humor used well sheds light on our need for hope. It’s an effective manner to give us a glimpse of ourselves. Humor changes people just as much as a good tear-jerker–perhaps more so.

Humor is usually considered synonymous with irreverence. Do you ever worry that you don’t take God seriously enough?

MPT: Sure. But most of the time those worries don’t have anything to do with my humor. It usually happens in regards to my ignoring poor people or when I’m too busy or when my mind is too busy that I struggle to worship. I think all of us should consider this question from time to time.

In Uganda, who made you laugh?

MPT: There was a reason to laugh and smile in almost every village and community we visited. Sometimes it was the funny antics of kids (like the child who kept doing spiderman poses for my camera) or the stories and perspectives on life of the World Vision drivers (their social commentary was hilarious!) or sometimes the group ended up laughing at our own Americanisms… The Ugandan people have a great sense of humor, even those who live amid great poverty find reasons to laugh and smile.

How well did your humor translate?

MPT: I don’t know, really. If I was being funny, it was usually around my group. I had a bad experience in Romania once when my “sense of humor” didn’t translate. Actually, it did translate and it was not good. So out of respect for the culture and people of Uganda, I kept my “funny” to myself.

The writing of memoirs can be sticky business. What considerations did you make: legal, ethical, or otherwise?

MPT: I take all those things very seriously. My goal in writing is to tell my experience, and be as truthful as possible. However, there’s certainly a creative thread to what I write, mostly in the consolidation of a time frame or the description of people.

Has anyone approached you with the notion that they were the basis for characters in your books? How has your family taken to your portrayal of them?

MPT: Nope. Not yet.

How did it affect you when your friend, James, retreated from Christianity?

MPT: I cried. It was one of those times when I realized that I wasn’t in control. Those lessons suck. But in the end, the journey James was brave enough to venture taught me a great deal about my faith.

There is a story you tell in Hear No Evil about a music business course in which the professor raves about Bob Dylan. After hearing “Like a Rolling Stone” you expressed your confusion of how he ever became famous at all. Have you ever learned to appreciate Dylan?

MPT: To some degree, yes. I think he’s an amazing poet and thinker. But I still don’t appreciate his voice or delivery the same way one of his mega-fans would. When you’re sheltered from most popular culture up until you’re 19, it’s difficult to go back and catch up. You pick and choose the art you want to consume. And unfortunately, I’ve only spent a little time with the music of Dylan.

You once believed the Holy Spirit called you to be the Christian King of Pop. Becoming Michael’s evangelical heir-apparent did not pan out, however. I wonder, at what point did you aspire to be the Nick Hornby of Christian writers?

MPT: Funny. :)

Were you miserable because you listened to Christian music?

MPT: Not at all. I owe a lot to some of the artists who make Christian music. In many instances, I found a lot of spiritual hope in their songs.

What are your all-time desert-island top 5 albums?

MPT: Wow. Such a hard question. But I’ll give it a shot.

Jonatha Brooke’s “Ten Cent Wings”
Amy Grant’s “Lead Me On”
R.E.M.’s “Automatic for the People”
David Gray’s “White Ladder”
Brooke Fraser’s “Albertine”

If “every life has a soundtrack” which 5 songs would your credo consist of? That is, if asked to communicate your faith via mix tape what songs would you use?

MPT:

“Faithless Heart” by Amy Grant
“One of Us” by Joan Osborne
“He is Not Silent” by Out of the Grey
“Yellow” by Coldplay
and the hymn, “In the Garden.”

One final question:

What is your present relationship with the Holy Spirit like?

MPT: He is my counselor.

Get more of Matthew at his blog or follow him on Twitter @JesusNeedsNewPR

About Chase Livingston
  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com The Dane

    I don’t know who Matthew Paul Turner is. That being the case, I won’t really take issue with anything much he’s said and I certainly can’t judge a sense of humour that may well be less acerbic than my own.

    I do wonder at the lingo pop-Christianity chooses to express itself. Who was it that decided to couch everything in terms of “God’s story” and why did pop-Christianity feel that this was a laudable enough direction to take the language that it seems to perpetuate it at every turn? There are certain pet terms and phrases of the current trend that are just obnoxious: God’s story, conversation, authenticity, spiritual abuse at the hands of the established church, and the courage to leave the church.

    It’s all become just so cliche and, ironically I suppose, quite the opposite of authentic. Every time I hear this stuff, I feel like I’m drowning in the same kind of ocean of Christianese that I was swamped in by my minimegachurch youth in Calvary Chapel. These are not fond memories to relive.

  • Joe

    The Great Dane has spoken.

    Mr. Turner is right. Calvinists are so annoying.

  • Chase Livingston

    I don’t think Mr. Turner said that. At all.

    You may have just managed to commend and offend Mr. The Dane in the same comment. Weird.

    And in defense of Mr. The Dane, he is not Great because he is not canine.

  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com The Dane

    I find Calvinists annoying too, but that’s largely on account of the fact that I find people annoying—and people with opinions worst of all.

    But yeah, I didn’t see anything about them dastardly Calvinists in the interview either.

    @Chase – While I am certainly not canine, I am equally not offendable—so no fears on that count.

  • Chase Livingston

    At what point did you become this kinder, gentler version of yourself? ;-)

  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com The Dane

    Oh I haven’t been offendable since high school. Well, not on my own behalf at least. I still will always feel a rage and fury whenever I hear someone presume against the salvation of another professed believer. And I will always find certain viewpoints troubling (most recently, I’ve been having more and more trouble being happy when I see high school graduates I know go off and join the military—to die, to kill, to do something equally unhelpful for the world, for their communities, for their families) and unhelpful to the point that I may use sharp words in eviscerating fashion. But these differences of opinion to not offend me personally.

    Although you’re right that I’m gentler than I once was. It’s age man. I’m just too tired to be as much the non-caninical junkyard dog of yesteryear.

  • Chase Livingston

    That’s actually what we called you back in the day of DYL. Remember, guys?

  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com The Dane

    The non-caninical junkyard dog of yesteryear? Colour me impressed!

  • Donna

    I am not sure about the non-caninical junkyard dog of yesteryear, but I can recall thinking you were just plain scary. My interest in blogging was limited to reading only. I could not bring myself to blog or even to comment on anyone’s blog out of the fear that you would find me and prove me to be unintelligent. I did not possess enough sources or contagious humor.

    Through the years I have come to realize that you have an irreplaceable personality that can only be pulled off by the non-caninical junkyard dog of yesteryear. I think this site or DYL would not have been as interesting without what you add to it (no offense to anyone else).

  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com The Dane

    Donna, that made me almost tear up a little bit. Such fond memories. I get that “scary” thing a lot. I guess one man’s “uproariously funny” is a whole bunch of people’s “scary.”

    If it makes you feel any better, my wife will take no guff and is perfectly comfortable with putting me in my place. She, also, is not caninical.

    And just like that: poof. All discussion about Chase’s fine article is evaporated. Sorry Chase. Sorry guy I don’t know.

  • Donna

    Don’t apologize. We know it was planned.

  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com The Dane

    Of course. You all play into my little plans and schemes so flawlessly. Joe was my first willing-though-unwitting pawn. I love this digital country!

  • Chase Livingston

    @The Dane:

    I’m sure you’ll be pleased I’m taking your above quote re: pop Christianity and its lingo and am crafting a piece called The Greatest Hits of Christianese to be published on this very site!

    Look it up on my Facebook and leave your indelible stamp on the conversation if thou hast the time that is. :)

  • http://scott-schultz.blogspot.com/ Scott

    How is “studying God” better than “defining God”? Making God an object of “study” sounds so belittling.

  • http://jesusneedsnewpr.blogspot.com mpt

    Scott,

    “Theology” means “the study of God.”

    Matthew

  • http://spoonfulofhahne.com The Dane

    Scott,

    [Insert patronizing comment that doesn't really mean anything.]

    The Dane


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