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 available in stores today.
My copy was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. I enjoyed Hear No Evil but I expected I would. I will say I think my mom would like it and I’d even recommend it to my non-believing music snob friends. Will it change your life? Only The Secret can do that but this will make you laugh and think.
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 understand that you’ve recently returned from Uganda. Would you say that your experience, meeting and talking with several Ugandans, enables you to better act as advocate for them?
MPT: Yes, of course. Anytime you experience firsthand a person’s story, you are much better equipped to speak on their behalf, and to encourage others to speak up, too.
What music did you hear while you were in Uganda?
MPT: Most of the music I heard was a mix of singing with various instruments of percussion. The music they sang and danced to was birthed out of their culture and rooted in their history. It was lively, expressive, sexy, and at the same time, very worshipful.
What role does music serve in the lives of people there?
MPT: From what I could tell, making music seemed to be their entertainment, a way to celebrate community, and of course, a way for them to worship God and proclaim his truth.
In Hear No Evil you tell the continuing story of your departure from fundamentalism, a theme first explored in Churched. Growing up, you learned to keep your preference for Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant hush-hush as CCM possession likely warranted excommunication.
When did you decide “enough is enough” and that for better or worse you had to be honest about yourself including your personal views and musical preferences?
MPT: Freedom has come in stages–through conversations, prayer, meditation, experiences. For most kids who grew up in Christian fundamentalism and took the processes seriously, the journey to freedom is slow and hard. Most times when I ran into a new idea or experience, a war broke out in my head. I tend to be an over thinker, and so anything new made my head spin with questions and fears, but also curiosity. Sometimes one lesson came in stages. Healing from spiritual abuse is a process, one that you begin over again many times.
How do you distinguish between that kind of honesty and having no shame?
MPT: Good question. I think balancing honesty and shame and grace is a journey. Most Christians are well-equipped for feeling a certain amount of shame–the honesty and grace is the hard part.
I often say, “Truth is absolute. Our understanding is tenuous.” You’ve expressed uncertainty about such doctrines as hell and inerrancy of scripture. What are you certain of?
MPT: I suppose I’m certain of the same things that each of us are certain of, the human and tangible stuff that all of us experience each and every day. Now, I believe that Jesus–his life, death, and resurrection–is the hope for the world. That’s what I center my faith around, that God through Jesus will make all things new. And that, as his follower, I’m supposed to be a part of that “new.” But I don’t think faith is about certainties. No matter how loud we proclaim what we believe “truth” to be, none of us fully know “truth.” Sure, I believe there are absolute truths. But as much as America’s Christian culture would love to put God and Jesus and faith into human equations or make them into science projects, you can’t. And to me, that’s not faith. A big part of faith in Jesus is about becoming okay with life’s uncertainties, spiritual or otherwise. It’s not about being right.
In what sense is being wrong a concern?
I’m not concerned, mostly because my faith isn’t built on “being right.”
What do you admire about fundamentalists? What advice do you have for them?
MPT: You know, this a difficult question, mostly because of the word “fundamentalist.” It’s one thing for me to describe the people who attended my childhood church as fundamentalists–we liked being called that and, too, I was one of them–but I’ve learned (and am still learning) that my labeling of people is often unfair. And I’m guilty of labeling people, and defining somebody based on MY definition of that label. My goal is to see an individual as a human being, first and foremost. I desire to admire people because of their stories, and furthermore, because God loves them. Is that difficult to do sometimes? Sure, because sometimes I’m convinced, based on the experiences of my past, that I already know and understand the person I deem a “fundamentalist.” That’s more often my issue and not theirs. More than any other group of people, the “Christian fundamentalist” has hurt me and hurt the people I love.
If I was to offer any advice, it would simply be this: Rules and conservative values are fine as long as they don’t cripple one’s ability to love God and love people. For me, that lifestyle did limit my ability to love God and people. But that’s my story… not everybody’s.
Understanding that it is a process, have you been able to forgive them?
MPT: I’m on a good path toward forgiving people, yes. Oddly, human forgiveness sometimes ebbs and flows. But for the most part, I really do believe I’ve made amends with the people in my past. But I do still deal with the effects.
Has your family experienced the same healing?
MPT: Yes, but each of us in a different way. One of my older sisters is still very much involved in a fundamentalist church. And she loves it. She and I get along great because we don’t talk about how we differ, we focus on what we share and what we have in common.