I have mentioned before that I was reading Churched; one kids journey to God despite a holy mess, by Matthew Paul Turner. I like Matthew, a lot. His wife Jessica is pretty awesome too. I knew the book would be funny because Matthew's blog is funny.
Churched is a really a series of vignettes from the author's childhood growing up in a fundamentalist church and school. I grew up thinking we were fundamentalists, because my parents and school often used that term to describe people who believed the Bible was inspired, literal and inerrant. I don't think I realized what fundamentalists were really like. Legalism and fear pervade that environment and grace seems nowhere to be found. I will say that it probably wasn't until well past college that I really understood grace...in fact I'm sure I still don't grasp it fully, I think that's almost impossible to do because of our human sense of fairness. Grace is radically not fair.
Matthew's portrayal of his family is actually pretty heartwarming. I identified closely with his desire to conform and be found acceptable by his church's standards, all the while inwardly questioning their methods and even rebelling a bit...like in his love of Sandi Patty. That so cracked me up. I know fear played a big role in my life, especially when it came to sexual purity...which is maybe not such a terrible thing, but I suspect there are far more grace-filled ways to keep kids pure. If you've ever taken a Myers-Briggs personality test you'll understand what I mean when I say I'm a strong J. Therein lies my desire to conform, follow rules, and even be a teacher's pet all through school. For that reason I understand why some people like legalistic, fundamentalist churches.
Through the years I've learned the benefits of coloring outside the lines. I've seen that only people who have the courage to stand out, be different, and be authentic are truly successful in whatever they undertake. So it comes back to balance, once again. At times I have been well served by following the rules, dressing a certain way, and conforming. But God calls us to live more radically than that, to love with abandon, to be outrageous and passionate for Him. I'm working on how to do that more these days.
Fundamentalism is one extreme, all rules and fear and no grace. The emergent church is the other extreme, freedom to the point of often missing Christ and the cross, ignoring the sin that needs to be forgiven. I believe in balance between the two.
The book was so funny that the last chapter of Churched caught me completely off guard, and in fact had me in tears because it gave a glimpse into Matthew's heart.
Exactly."I am passionate about Jesus. I think his death on the cross is so much bigger than what I've been told in the past. I don't - or perhaps I should say can't - believe his resurrection was meant to be downsized into one simple equation. That doesn't seem like grace to me. What I'm hoping to find in a church is a place all about joining God in the resurrection story. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem."
Go get this book, you won't regret it.