Signing Bibles and Sweating to Avril Lavigne: An interview with Matthew Paul Turner

Matthew Paul Turner is a blogger, speaker, and author of Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess, The Christian Culture Survival Guide, and several other popular books. His latest, Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and the Holy Ghost, was officially released yesterday by Waterbrook Press (read the review here). Turner attended Nashville’s Belmont University, where he received a BBA in music business, and is the former editor of CCM magazine. Turner has written for Relevant, HomeLife, Christian Single, and other magazines.  

Online, he’s perhaps best known for his blog, “Jesus Needs New PR,” where he regularly pokes fun at some of the more silly aspects of the Christian subculture, as well as his running commentary on shows like The Bachelor and American Idol on Twitter. Love him or loathe him, Turner gets people’s attention (and a laugh while he’s at it).  

Today’s a special day, because he’s joining us over here for an interview, and I’m giving away a copy of Hear No Evil (provided by Waterbrook Press)! The giveaway details follow the interview. Enjoy!  

 AA: I’m not from a Christian background, so it’s been interesting/bizarre to read about your experiences in such a conservative setting. Because you’ve quite obviously gotten out of the bubble, how do you navigate the tendency to “overcorrect” that can happen?  

MPT: Though it might come across this way to some, I don’t write in hopes of “pro-actively” correcting my past (though it has helped me heal), I write to simply tell my story. Of course, that’s not to say that some people don’t read what I write and “see” that written in the context. I suppose if I’m tempted to “over correct,” it’s in my desire to not exclude anybody from God’s story. And to protect and defend those who most often get excluded. I spent years hating a lot of people and excluding them from God’s story, and I’m certain I probably go too far once in a while in hopes of making that right.  

Did you seriously have people sign your Bible?  

Yes. Mostly evangelists. After they would speak, there’d be long lines of people waiting to get their Bibles signed.  

Have you ever found an answer to why Dylan has a career?  

Sure. He’s a fantastic thinker, poet, and champion of ideas… but I still don’t think he’s a good singer. :)  

What’s the weirdest song you have ever seen co-opted for a church service?  

Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated”– to make it worse, there was a guy who was interpreting the song with sign language. And I am not lying, when the girl finished singing and he finished signing, HE was covered in sweat. Forehead, shirt, armpits–all wet from attempting to translate a Christianized version of Avril’s song to the three hearing impaired people who were at church that day.

Why do you think that Christians in North America are so prone to “ghetto-izing”?  

It makes some people feel safe.  

Does the sub-culture need to exist?  

I’m not sure it needs to exist; I think we’ve just gotten used to it. And change is scary.  

Name your top-five power ballads  

  1. “That’s What Love is For” by Amy Grant
  2. “Hero” by Mariah Carey
  3. “The Power of Love” by Celine Dion
  4. “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” by Meatloaf
  5. “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith

Can you explain Bon Jovi’s enduring popularity?  

I have no idea. And if I did, I probably wouldn’t say it out loud.  

What was the easiest thing about writing Hear No Evil?  

Writing about my childhood. It’s easier for me to write about a time that feels so far away.  

Most challenging?  

Writing about my “here and now.” And writing while trying to be a good husband and father. It can be challenging!  

Was there anything that you, if you had to do it again, would leave out or add in?  

Nah. I mean, if I were really to think about it, there’d probably be something. That’s true for any project like this… As soon as I finish writing, I usually stop thinking about it for a while…  

Since writing your first book, what’s been the thing that’s changed you most as a writer?  

Probably my editor Shannon. I learned so much from her expertise. She challenges me as a writer, storyteller, etc. She doesn’t let me get away with little things, which I love.  

In the opening chapter of Hear No Evil, you describe Adam, a wannabe Christian rocker who tries too hard to look “edgy.” Do you think that “trying too hard to look like you’ve ‘lived'” thing is limited only to Christian artists or is there a fair bit of crossover?  

I think this type of fake authenticity is everywhere! But often, I think it stinks more within the Christian culture because it’s connect to spirituality.  

Follow up to the previous question: What’s with rocker kids wearing their sister’s pants?  

I don’t know, man, perhaps the Holy Spirit offers a spiritual gift of estrogen.  

What’s next on your plate – is there another book on the horizon?  

Yeah, I’m working on another book. It’s currently called Good God. That’s all I can tell you for now. Just getting started.  

Next week, instead of Twitter commentary on the Bachelor, it’d be interesting to see you have a go at Chuck. You up for it?  

I would be. But my wife might make me sleep on the couch if I suggested such a thing!  

Anything else you’d like to add?  

Not really. Trying really hard to not be “unnecessarily harsh.” Ha! Just kidding.  

Thanks, Matthew!  

Thank you!!  

Alright readers – want to win a copy of Hear No Evil ?  

You’ve got three options:  

  1. Subscribe to the blog (feedburner also available); leave a comment or send me an email to let me know;
  2. Leave a comment telling me the weirdest song you’ve ever seen co-opted for a Christian worship service (or one you think could be co-opted for Jesus); or
  3. Send me an email ( or leave a comment telling  you want in the draw

As always, you can enter multiple times. The contest closes Saturday at noon and the winner will be announced in Sunday’s edition of Around the Interweb once their mailing address has been verified.  

Good luck to all who enter!

Get new content delivered to your inbox!