Churched is Matthew Paul Turner’s memoir of growing up fundamentalist. From the onset there may be some confusion. Much of the world may view Baptists in general as a fundamentalist faith. From that view, Turner’s stories sound like wild hyperbole. They are funny, but perhaps so exaggerated, they have no value. However, among Baptists, there are distinct differences between fundamentalists, conservatives, moderates, liberals, and a ton of other labels. Turner was raised in a sect of Baptist that originates out of Hammond, IN. In regards to that group, he is not exaggerating.

This is not to say that there is no common ground in this book for those with no experience in that group. There is. Some trends seem universal among the more conservative Christian denominations. If nothing else, Turner’s book finds enough common ground to be amusing. In many ways, it is like laughing at embarrassing pictures in the family photo album.

That is what this book does best. It brings to light the ridiculous and embarrassing elements of his past in an amusing way. Turner is particularly good at telling these stories through the eyes of his childhood. He does not just tell us about the Barbie-burning Sunday School teacher, but he relives it through the thoughts of a wide-eyed boy trying to figure it all out.

Unfortunately, Turner does not tell us much more than that. He sums up his post-high school spiritual journey in a very short chapter. He ends with himself as being a struggling, somewhat skeptical, open minded Christian that wants to worship without being afraid. He does not tell us why he still wants to worship at all. He does not tell us how he manages to wade through the problems in church to find something worth keeping. He has thrown out the bathwater, and does not tell us how to save the baby.

To some extent, Churched comes across as whining. After all, if it were not for such odd characters as those in his book, there would probably not be a Christian culture such that authors like Turner can thrive. However, Turner’s accounts are realistic, and as such, point to some real problems. Churches would do well to consider what certain lessons and examples really say to the mind of a child. If anything, Churched is a warning that the end result of childhood in a church may not be what the church intends.

For those who have been raised in a similar type of church, this book will be a very entertaining look at familiar territory. It really works on that level. I laughed out loud through much of it. Perhaps some of Turner’s other books deal with his spiritual journey a bit more. This book left me wanting to hear more about that.

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