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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review - "Churched"

Churched - One Kid's Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess
By: Matthew Paul Turner

***Book was provided free of charge through the Blogging for Books service and Water Brook Multnomah publishing group in exchange for posting this review. Although those of you that have followed me for sometime know that matters not a whit when it comes to forming, and INforming YOU of my opinion.

I was smart this time - instead of randomly choosing a title that caught my eye like a shiny object, I actually RESEARCHED the book I chose to review. I let go of any notion that it was going to be HORSE related (for the best book IMO in this genre I've read so far that IS horse related, check out the Amazing Grays, Amazing Grace review) and I chose a book that got good reviews from other people.

Cheating, I know.

But I don't care - you know why? Because I actually got a book that I ENJOYED reading, and I cannot WAIT to foist off unto an unsuspecting family member - in a good way.

Turner's "Churched" is simply a look at growing up in a church. That look that doesn't take itself too seriously, while still giving careful thought and consideration to the lasting effects of doing so.

Why am I so excited to pass this book on? Because Turner has completely nailed on the head the experience growing up in the church, the personalities and eccentrincies, the doubts and fears of the christian child (or at least a christian child named Melinda, and apparently - Matthew), and how in the end, it still seems to all come together. It's interesting that I could identify with Turner as both an adult and a child. In many ways our childhood churches were very different - he attended a fundamentalist baptist church, while I attended a multitude of denominations depending on where my family lived, and which ones believed in the "priesthood of the believers". My pastors growing up were very different from the charismatic pastor described in "Churched", and yet - our thoughts, beliefs, and childhood experience of "church" (at least how he describes in the book) of growing up in church is extraordinarily similar, and the way we function in the church as adults seems to be similar as well (at least as it is described in the book - which is always a good caveat to make).

In the last few pages of the book, Turner describes some of his journey through church as an adult, and once again I see my mirror image staring back at me through Tuner's words.

"Since college, I've bounced from church to church, trying to fit into whatever shape my Church of the Moment considered 'good Christianity'...The people at those churches were nice, even compassionate...I always wondered what would happen if they knew the real me - the weak and vulnerable me."

When he talks about his "pet peeve" of his new church I nod in understanding - nothing bugs me more than a worship section of the service not done "right". And by "right" I mean with hymns and songs read out of BOOK, with a musical STAFF, and nothing written past about 1978. Because everyone KNOWS, just like God-inspired holy books have come to an end, there are NO MORE HYMNS LEFT TO BE WRITTEN. We have plenty, thank you very much, and we'all just need to stick with......but of course Turner has come to an understanding - one that I probably should come to very soon.

"But I've stopped focusing on the light show and recognized it's not hurting anybody. It's not electing presidents, boycotting theme parks, or organizing an apocalypse. It's gaudy beyond repair, but it's harmless. Besides, many people at my church love the praise-and-worship time just the way it is."

Ah yes, the (very good) advice of my elders.

This wasn't a book that revealed secrets or even had me scribbling furious journal notes in self-contemplation - instead it was a validation that there are other people LIKE ME out there, that call themselves Christians, that do their best , and who are trying to reconcile an entire life spent in church and with God and find their place in church TODAY. One of my favorite exchanges in the book was when the adult-Turner sits down with his new Pastor, Pete. Turner has just confessed how he isn't enjoying church very much, and isn't good at "doing church".

"'I'm beginning to to feel enough freedom to be okay feeling that way. And it's not that I don't want to be a part of a church. Jessica (his wife) and I both want some of our spirituality to come from the experiences that happen with a church family. We want to serve people. But I don't fit into the so-called evangelical mold. And I don't want to."

Yep - that sounds a bit familiar.....although I've never had the guts to actually SAY that to my pastor, as I generally smile a lot, titter nervously and do avoidance tactics - much like the child-Turner does.

I feel like I do the book a dis-service by highlighting passages late into the book that are rather serious - most of the book is carefree, lighthearted, and guaranteed to make you laugh at the honesty and absurdity of it all. I don't even think you necessarily need to be a Christian, or a Christian that grew up in the church to enjoy Turner's book, "Churched". My feeling is that little kids all have the same fears and doubts and questions, and whether you ask those questions in the setting of a church, or in some other venue, some part of your inner child will relate to Turner's journey, despite the Holy mess that is life.

BTW - if you do like my review and feel like doing so, I would appreciate your support at "blogging for books" by reading and rating my review there. There are contest and prizes and such for reviews and ratings of the reviews. Or you can ignore my plea out of irritation of yet another off topic book review :). Don't worry - my feelings aren't hurt, I just can't resist a free book opportunity!

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