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Hear No Evil, Matthew Paul Turner

2010/08/19

In this funny, sarcastic, and sometimes scathing reflection on the confusing subculture of contemporary Christianity and its soundtrack, Matthew Paul Turner, the former editor of CCM, shares stories about his budding interest in music and the attempts of his parents and community to shield him from the dangers of “the devil’s songs.”

The opening chapter is set at Fido’s, a coffeehouse/cafe in Nashville where I have spent a few mornings myself, and can easily picture the scene that Matthew describes — singers, musicians, and other hopefuls brimming with plans and dreams. His encounter with an aspiring Christian rocker (easily pegged as as “twenty-five-year-old purity pledge playing dress-up”) is laughable in the cliches it explores, but also a bit depressing because that is part of the music industry today. In later chapters, Matthew also explores the paradox of musical talent versus Christian marketability, the divide between church denominations, the evils of syncopated beats, and the cult of Christian celebrities.

As someone who has dabbled in the industry and has friends who aspire to many of the same things that Matthew does, I found this book to be simultaneously hilariously entertaining and condemning, since it highlights issues in both Christianity and the music industry which are contradictory, hypocritical, and just plain stupid. Although there isn’t much spiritual depth or exploration of theology, the book does take a critical look at popular Christian culture through the viewpoint of one who was entrenched in the machine. There were quite a few good, chagrined laughs in this one, simply because I could perfectly picture the situation or the type of person that was described. However, despite all the well-deserved criticism, I feel like Turner could have done a better job at reconciling how he retains his spirituality today despite the flaws which he points out throughout the book. As it stands, the book seems merely to portray the humorous frustration that he has with Christian subculture, without any particular conclusion on his reaction or response.

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