Author:  Matthew Paul Turner
Title:  Hear No Evil
Publisher:  WaterBrook

Growing up fundamentalist in the early days of Contemporary Christian music can result in lasting ... I hate to say scars, but it certainly leaves a mark. Matthew Paul Turner bares his bumps and bruises for the world to see in Hear No Evil.

It's not so much a memoir as a series of stories about Turner's life, times, and music. He pulls no punches when skewering the church people of his youth or the music business of today. All that makes for an "oh-my-goodness he did NOT just say that" kind of read. I found myself torn between laughing, wincing, and wondering if we had grown up together and just not realized it. It's all the better because he doesn't say anything many of us haven't thought or said ourselves. We just wouldn't put it in print. At least, not under our real names. (IS that his real name?)

A gifted singer himself, young Turner dreamed of winning Star Search with his rendition of "You Light Up My Life" (the only song he knew that wasn't in the hymnal). That was before a close encounter with a syncopated beat at Sea World led to his conviction that he was destined to be "God's Michael Jackson."

(Not that Turner was allowed to listen to Michael Jackson, of course—he only recognized the song from a Pepsi commercial.) Alas, it was not to be. Turner did go on to major in music business and eventually become the editor of CCM Magazine—an impressive career for a boy so sheltered he mistook George Michael's song "Faith" for a Christian anthem.

Early adventures in Turner's God-fearing world include a covert operation to attend a Sandi Patty concert (his church thought Sandi's music was the soundtrack for the road to hell) and seeing his first movie at age nineteen (the "excrement of hell" otherwise known E.T.). His characterizations of well-meaning (but slightly odd) church people are deadly accurate and deliciously funny. Take this view of his mom, "... a Baptist through and through, which meant she approached her faith like the woman on the Bounty paper towel commercials: quick, with no time for nonsense like spiritual leaks and spills." Or his rueful confession, "I couldn't play guitar, which for a believer at Belmont was like being Jewish and uncircumcised."

It's not all fun and games, though. The story of a vocally-challenged, open-mike night singer takes a sudden heart-tugging turn. The tale of Turner's interview with Amy Grant (and what happened to said interview) ... actually, I'll let you read that one yourself. And you should read it. Some experience with fundamental churches and/or Christian music will make it an even better read, but even if you just enjoy good writing, pick up Hear No Evil.


**This review first published on February 25, 2010.