I picked up Matthew Paul Turner’s memoir with trepidation, hoping it wouldn’t be another offering by a clueless Christian musician who thinks he is God’s answer to secular music or by yet another Christian musician who rebels against the confines of religion and writes about why being of the world really is OK with Jesus.
Thankfully, “Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and the Holy Ghost” is neither, and through a lens of humor, turns out to be a very readable, honest look at both of those types of Christian musicians and much more. (Ironically, Turner once imagined himself as Christian music’s answer to Michael Jackson.)
Raised in a very strict, fundamental Baptist home where singers like Sandi Patti and Amy Grant were considered too risquÃ©, Turner would not have seemed destined to become an authority in the world of contemporary Christian music. Through a series of circumstances driven by an innate love and ability for music, however, the church soloist-turned-Christian-band-singer, turned Christian coffee house manager finds himself covering the beat (and later serving as editor of CCM Magazine).
Turner’s journey through the music world and with Christ is a thoughtful, honest and extremely humorous one. He had me laughing out loud with stories evoking the style of one of my favorite authors, Bill Bryson, who captures the humor of real-life moments. Turner’s account of popping aspirin before enduring the physical pain of listening to the audition of a Christian singer whose “voice once in a while accidentally fell on key” caused me some embarrassment while reading on a commuter train where my constant, loud laughter was not welcome.
While Turner elicits laughs at the expense of those whom he meets along the way, he never adopts a mocking tone. Most of the anecdotes include the lesson Turner himself learned from the experience and real insight into what God thought about it.
Likewise, though he’s scathingly critical of his fundamental upbringing, his love and respect for his parents comes through very clearly. It would have been nice, though, to have a disclaimer somewhere explaining that not all Christians, or even Baptists, are like the ones described in the book or that breaking away from legalistic fundamentalism doesn’t mean that you have to disregard the Bible.
Though the focus of “Hear No Evil” is on Turner’s experiences in the music world, the book will be of interest to those not in the industry as well. His recollections about life at Belmont University, for example, can be enjoyed by anyone who has been to a Christian college. He has an uncanny ability to see everything as a learning experience that can be applied at any stage of the Christian walk. In fact, non-Christians and skeptics will find the book engaging and nonthreatening as well.
The next time I have some free time for reading, I might just pick up Turner’s earlier works, “Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess” and “The Christian Culture Survival Guide.” Or, if the fundamental part of my faith will allow me a guilty pleasure, I just might laugh out loud all the way through “Hear No Evil” again.
Lauren Yarger is executive director of Masterwork Productions Inc. She writes Broadway theater reviews with an added Christian perspective at Reflections in the Light and a blog of news, book reviews and inspiration for Christian artists, where this review first appeared.