About the Author

Matthew Paul Turner is a writer, blogger, and speaker. He’s written more than a dozen books, including Churched, Hear No Evil, and Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever-Changing God.

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  1. Thank you for this piece, Matthew — it is was so inspiring to me who had a husband who could/would not support me. I only wish hed had been so blest. By the Grace of God, please always support your wife as you are doing. God bless and keep you — and yours.

  2. vivid memory…

    I remember clearly the Sunday that someone requested we sing, “Father Abraham” during our group worship time in children’s church – I think we were the ‘eager beavers.’ And the teacher replied sternly, “We are not allowed to sing that song anymore.”

    No further explanation. And the tone implied, “don’t ever ask about it again.” And we didn’t.

  3. Not so much funny but…
    My parents sent me to the “word of life camp” at the age of 13 or 14. The camp is located on an island in the middle of a lake in New York state.

    While all the other kids there were cool and there was some positives, what I remember most was constantly being told why it was wrong to listen to Metallica, Sublime, Moe or any other secular music and that I should throw all my cds into the lake and repent (as they convinced one kid to do!)
    And also the film they made us watched which showed a fictional tail of a christian teen who failed to witness hard enough to his drug addicted friend who after shooting himself in the head the film showed flames with scriptures about hell and then showed the christian teen lamenting about how it was his fault his friend was in hell…

    That is to this day one of the most psychologically damaging, experiences of my life. And is something that to this day makes me question if I even want to be included or thought as part of the “christian” community.

    I have found more love and non-judgemental support systems in pretty much all secular communities that I am part of.

    It is blogs like Jesus needs new PR, churchs like “The Woo” in Worcester MA and books like blue like Jazz that have given me hope and caused me to hold on to faith…

    It is nice to know that all Christians are not judgmental psychopathic wack jobs..

  4. When I think of Church experiences as a child, the one that comes to mind is when I was 4 or 5 years old and my Sunday School teacher told me that Santa wasn’t real. I mean it’s true, she didn’t lie, but that’s not the way I wanted to find out. And my parents certainly didn’t want me to find out that young. Something magical was stolen from my childhood from a well meaning Sunday School teacher.

    Some people don’t believe a child should believe in Santa and all that. I mean Christ is the most important. But, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a bit of magic and wonderment in a small child’s life.

  5. Oh, the Sunday school teacher in me just cringes at the Barbie story!

    When I was in 5th or 6th grade, our pastor retired and we met the interim pastor and his wife one Sunday. The first words out of the pasor’s mouth were not directed to my family, but to his wife as he said, “Notice that two of them are redheads. That devil’s mark is always trouble so we’ll have to keep a special eye out.”

    We switched churches soon after that and fortunately found a very loving, biblical church.

  6. At the risk of being branded a “legalist” I will proceed with my initial question.
    “If Hell is real shouldn’t we be telling people about it? ”

    We all have people who have been in churches, (and not in churches) who have done things to hurt us or effect our psyche in some way. Can we just get over it and not brand everyone with our own horror stories of “them.” We tend to get so upset that more conservative Christians “brand” others but we turn around and “brand” them back.

    People are wierd and have their quirks. Perhaps we sat in a Sunday School class with an imperfect teacher who took an illustration too far. So we castigate the whole denomination or group? We go to a camp where we don’t agree and then spend our life on a campaign against legalism that makes us the be the ones to focus on something other than just the gospel.

    We need to be a bit broader in accepting those who have hurt us as imperfect., struggling Christians on a journey. The same way we wish they would not have demanded perfection from us. I think Jesus cover’s that when he said “Forgive those who have trespassed against you.” So for all of you who have been hurt by a sincere, well-meaning, over-exuberant, imperfect zealot like me….can I just say “Would you forgive us?”

    • Susan,
      I appreciate where you are coming from and yes, at some point, we all need to seek God out for ourselves.
      However, I think you are confusing “over-exuberance” and “quirkiness” with outright abuse. Spiritual abuse was never overlooked by Christ, in fact He spent a lot of energy correcting the view of God portrayed by the Pharisees- who used their position in the church to gain personal power.
      From what you have written, I am assuming you have never been on the receiving end of this kind of destructive behavior. I’m glad for you, but please allow the rest of us the space and time to heal.

      • Shannon, I used the term “we” because, yes, I have been on the end of what would be considered “spiritual abuse”. I guess I would just encourage those who feel the need to heal to seek out those who caused the “abuse” as the Scripture tells us to go to those who have offended us. So many times this could have helped the person to stop the abuse or to as least go in a direction of realizing what they are doing is abusive. I just think that perhaps we should think that if we had gone to a pastor or an elder and let them know how it made us feel then perhaps we would be able to forgive and to heal rather than letting it continue to be a sadness in our life. I just wanted to caution about “over-generalizations” toward groups of people just because one of them has offended us.

  7. In reading just the introduction to this book, I remember that the church is where I learned about gossip, overhearing women talk about my mother. There were other situations like this that caused me to forever ditch the idea of close friendships with women, they’re too dangerous! God, however also took the opportunity to help me find his voice in the church. This is where I learned to sing- a skill I used all through high school as a stress reliever (much to my brothers’ shagrin). I also learned how a place can have a feeling, like reverence and peace, the way sound travels around a room. I’ve used that sensing in every house I’ve decorated. I want people to feel something when they walk into our home: love, peace, humour, comfort…home. Thanks for letting me share.

  8. I have this book on my shelf. I read it once, but can’t bring myself to read it again. Though it was hilarious in some points, it was too much in others. Why? Because I, too, grew up as you described. Shoot, one of the things I most wanted to do when I grew up was to wear a pair of jeans. The memories are too overwhelming. Perhaps I should read it again and allow for a bit of healing…

  9. LOVE THIS! Recovering legalist myself.

    Probably the time that I got most confused was at my elementary school (fundamental Christian—I’ll leave the denomination out) we had a presentation on “Saying No to Drugs.”

    The message was basically if you want Jesus to love you; don’t do drugs.

    HMMM…

    Not that I ever “did drugs” personally, but, that whole mentally really confused me and quickly put me on the path of “climbing the ladder” so-to-speak.

    I am so free in my new relationship with Jesus Christ where I am not working to earn a gold star.

  10. Thanks so much for writing this book! I have recommended it to many members of my family. The laughter and tears were so helpful in identifying the damage that was done, especially in childhood, and bringing greater healing.

    You are a very brave person.

  11. Thanks for offering this precious piece of your soul. Will download it later and listen to it.

    As a youngster, and even still now, music was a big influence on me. I would be in Youth or handbell choir. To get through the “long sermons” I would pick a letter and see how many words pastor said with that letter. My parents did not attend church at that time, but I was there every Sunday AM singing my heart out.

    Now I can’t wait to go to church to see friends and hear and sing the beautiful songs. We have a small loving church family that really cares for each other.

  12. Someone doing the church “sermon” told us that God is a woman. She said we should take our Bibles and put an S before all he He’s in reference to God. To this day, I have no idea why it was said.