Book Review: Hear No Evil

Title: Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and the Holy Ghost
Author: Matthew Paul Turner
Publisher: Waterbrook Press

“Should I know who Dylan is?”

This question (and the scorn that followed) taught Matthew Paul Turner, author of Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and the Holy Ghost, an important lesson: He couldn’t continue to shy away from music and movies. Raised in an “ultraconservative Baptist church where emotion and honesty were even less compatible than Christian fundamentalism and self-worth” (p. 8), Turner had some hangups about music—if it sounds good, it must be bad for you.

Alternate Reality Living

Reading Hear No Evil was, in some respects, like reading a sociological study. Turner’s descriptions of his childhood life read like an alternate reality. I wasn’t raised in a Christian family nor have I ever been a part of a church that is particularly restrictive in terms of entertainment (aside from use wisdom and don’t violate your conscience). No doubt we’ve all seen news stories relating to “fundamentalist” churches that seem to lack joy and hope in Christ, but it’s another thing to read the story of a man who grew up in the middle of it.

Particularly fascinating is this idea that music with good rhythm was of the devil, and if you were caught listening to Sandi Patty or Amy Grant, there’d be hell to pay. (Now, to be fair, when I was growing up, if I was listening to Amy Grant there’d have been some trouble in my home, too, just for different reasons.)

Turner describes his mother’s discovery of his copy of Amy Grant’s Heart in Motion like this:

I bought Heart in Motion with my own money and hid it underneath the front seat of my car. A month later, Mom found it and stormed into my bedroom like an avenging angel, armed with a pitchfork and cassette tape.

“What is this?” she screamed. “What is this?”

My pale face turned from pasty to transparent. “It’s the Amy—”

“I know what it is! I specifically told you not to bring this junk into this house!”

[...]She went on a long tirade about how much I had changed in the last few months. And then she burst into tears and exited my bedroom dramatically.

I tossed Heart in Motion in the garbage (pp. 193-194).

A month later he bought a new copy of the album and through a cycle of purchasing and throwing away that new copy, he eventually bought Heart in Motion five times. (His family has toned down a fair bit since then, he reveals later in the book.)

Earnest and Sarcastic

Turner is a very good writer. He’s funny without seeming like he’s trying too hard. He’s also very comfortable being open about himself—and taking shots at the “Christian bubble.” He tries to strike a balance between earnestness and sarcasm. To some degree, he comes across as disgruntled with North American Christianity. In many respects, I think his critiques are necessary and very valid. We need to encourage believers to be creative and embrace things like good music, art and literature. After all, God is the Creator and we are made in His image, thus should embrace creativity.

Sometimes though, there’s a mean-spirited tone that comes across, particularly when talking about the church he grew up in and the Christian music industry. Frequently referring to them (and himself) as “born-again Baptists,” highlighting their judgmental tone about other denominations, showcasing the “fakeness” of the Christian music industry… Sometimes it gets to be a bit much. That said, I could be misinterpreting Turner’s tone, but it’s something to be careful of.

Conclusion

Hear No Evil is an entertaining & engaging look at Matthew Paul Turner’s discovery of a love of music and how God has changed him along the way. Sometimes unnecessarily harsh, but still helpful, I think there’s much that any reader can enjoy in this book.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

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