Monday, October 13, 2008

Book Review: Churched

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to think, since I often judge a book by its cover, no matter the well-rooted maxims that seem to run in our mothers’ milk in the South. The press quote by A. J. Jacobs, editor of Esquire magazine, is what gave me a small and materialistic sense of faith in the book. Let the proviso of your readership, however, be that my own apprehension is no reason to avoid something as harmless and potentially life-altering as a book.

Matthew Paul Turner, the author of the famous book The Coffehouse Gospel, keeps his tongue crammed well into his cheek from the get-go in Churched. Throughout the book, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for him to give some sense of context to balance out the slight bitterness to the subsumed chuckle that runs the length of the pages. I’m not sure that it came in the way that I wanted it to – spelled out in legalistic fashion, that is. The context of his banteringly down-to-earth satire is instead found in the certain warmth you feel for the entire cast of characters in his memoir, despite their cornucopia of silly flaws. The best part about this whole read is that Turner taps into the strange and warring sensations and emotions that children (or adults, for that matter) who are brought up in church are faced with. This goes double for folks who have grown up Baptist. Triple for Southern Baptist. Triple for me. For the record, I don’t think that it was an accident for me to read this book at this particular chapter in my life.

Perhaps the wondrous effect of being able to laugh from a safe ink-and-pages distance at the absurd fears of the adults around the childhood vintage of Matthew Paul Turner is that we can walk out onto the street afterwards and laugh a little easier at our own religious nervous tics and those of our nearest neighbors. The polite and slightly neurotic chuckles that we often purport as being legitimate peel back a bit to reveal a true sense of being alright in our own skins, and we get to really laugh at the nonsensical bits, which are certainly manifold. Anyone who has been burned by the misguided fires of religiosity can take a second to share in this, and those same folks would probably do well, while reading, to imagine themselves in a circle of chairs in a taupe-colored room with a ficus plant, saying things like, “Hi, my name is Adam, and I can’t stand the feel of clip-on ties.”

Oh, and by the way, the other shoe does drop in the end, with the great weight that only a crazy sense of hope can have.

          -Matthew Paul Turner:  Official Website

-Churched on


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