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.
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.
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?
“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.