Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Churched" by Matthew Paul Turner, Part 1

So, I finished Churched this morning before not going to church. My plan was to go, but it just didn't happen. I hate that I missed good Transfiguration hymns today, but I'm leading music tonight (that'll be blogged tomorrow or so), and that will be church. I got a lot of reading done on the subway last night to sea shanty singing and back, and I read once I got back and when I got up this morning. Here are a few of my thoughts.

First, turner is a good story teller. His writing is easy, and it's engaging. That's why I read the book in three days. I won't say that it sucked me in, though. I was reading it on the recommendation of a friend, and I was looking for the kind of enthralling whoosh of getting sucked in like I've gotten with other kinds of Christianish books, and it never came. It wasn't a bad book by any measure, just not what I was expecting, which is probably my fault.

It's no one's fault that I didn't really relate to a lot of what he had to say, although I have some good take aways from it, which will be in a second part, per Cary's suggestion to make more entries that aren't as long. I think that he spoke from his experience, but that sometimes attempts at humor I read as dismissive or mean. Some of the stuff in it was funny, but I think coming from my experience of growing up fundamentalist (though I don't remember the church self-identifying that way), I didn't laugh but instead thought, "That's not what my experience was like.:" That being said, I think the reviewers who found it so hysterical may've been taking it all on face value - and maybe rightly so! - and laughing at the kinds of crazy things that happened, but I just thought, "That's not the kind of fundamentalism I experienced."

At the same time, there are some profoundly astute observations that I never put together but agree wholeheartedly with now, and then I'll give some take-away quotations that are just good things to keep in mind. While there were never boxing matches with Satan that ended in verses from the King James Version (I don't even remember any kind of preference being given to KJV), the following, in retrospect, makes perfect sense:
When I was a kid, I needed hell to exist. I didn't understand that at the time, but I needed it. Being fundamentalist was pointless without hell. With no hot and fiery pit existing somewhere below the soil, our views and beliefs lost a good deal of meaning. It was our fear of hell that fueled our motivation for living the way we did. Perfect. Separated. Medieval

What's strange is that how we lived didn't save us from eternal destruction. The only happened by being born again in the blood of Jesus. But being perfect, separated, and content with living in the Dark Ages helped us feel born again.

That just makes sense in my head. I remember that we got saved, but there were lots of things we were supposed to do and not do. It's the spirit behind Derek Webb's "New Law." And like Turner says, those things didn't save us, Jesus did...but we were supposed to do them to show Jesus that we loved him? Not make him mad? Feel separated and born again? I thought of Derek Webb again, at another part in the book that I felt was my experience but not just with Fundamentalism, but through at least a year or two of college and is still my experience somewhat with my family but that's just because changing it is easier over time: life being about perception more than reality. Turner says
How people viewed you was much more important than how you actually were. The truth didn't matter. What people believed to be the truth mattered. I learned early on that if everybody believed I was the well-behaved, good-natured boy without a sin in the world, it didn't matter what the truth was. The truth was secondary to a person's opinion or perception of truth

Webb talks about that in his intro to "I Repent" on The House Show. I think it's "I Repent." Anyway, he talks about repentance and walking in the light. My family thinking that I'm the conservative Republican that I was in ninth grade has persisted until recently, or scales fall away more every day. For parts of college I wasn't honest with people about my general life because I was more concerned with what people thought of me. I preached on this last year at St. Mark's.

I think that quotation from Turner needs to be fully evaluated and thought out not just from a fundamentalist perspective. There's a lot in life in general that isn't based on truth but is based in perception about a whole host of issues, political, theological, whatever. And being truthful requires correcting people's assumptions about you when they're wrong and calling attention to yourself to someone when you've fallen into sin that you may repent - turn around - and return to the Lord. Not misleading others by your silence about yourself and speaking the truth about your silence is repentance.

Those are two things that I identified with from my experience or that made me think or give me something to offer here. Part two is just two quotations that I think are good to reflect on. Read the book. It's a good read, but it didn't change my life or make me say "Yes, yes, yes!" at any point. If you're on the Close and don't mind my marginalia, you're welcome to borrow it.

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