Blogger Interview: Matthew Paul Turner

December 18, 2009

Christmas is all about giving, and doing things for other people.  In that spirit, I’m making someone else write my blog for me today.  I’m back with another fantastic blogger interview.  Today, I bring to you not only an amazingly funny and versitile blogger, but he’s the author of fantastic books like Churched and The Christian Culture Survival Guide.

Here’s Matthew Paul Turner.

You’ve been blogging for three years and writing books for a while too. How’d the writing career get started?

It would be easy and cliche of me to say “God arranged it.” But I’m inclined to think if it was all Him, I’d be a better writer. However, his way of doing things was certainly involved.  I sort of tripped into it when I landed my job at Crosswalk.com, then at CCM. Writing sort of came natural to me, at least, the putting-my-personality-down-on-paper part. The “writing in complete sentences” part came later.  I landed my first book deal, and because my “style” was unique in the Christian publishing world, I’ve been able to write full time ever since. My venture into blogging came in 2006 when I started planning for the release of a book called Jesus Needs New PR. The book never released, but the blogging remained. I love blogging because it’s flexible and uncomplicated.

Any blog or author heroes you look up to?
Of course. Some of my favorite writers include, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, Henri Nouwen, GK Chesterton, Cynthia Kaplan, Dave Eggers, and many many others.

Bloggers I enjoy include: my wife at TheMomCreative.com, Pete Wilson at WithoutWax.tv, Jonathan Acuff at StuffChristiansLike.net, and Anne Jackson at FlowerDust.net. I also enjoy Wonkette.com, SketchySantas.com, PeopleOfWalmart.com… I often navigate to the stupid, less serious blogs.

Your author list makes me feel stupid, but your blogger list makes me feel smart.  I have far more time for the stupid blogs. What field of work were you in before writing?

When you say “field,” you mean “mission field,” right? Either way, my “field” was Coffeehouse Ministry Professional. I ran Jammin’ Java in Northern Virginia, an amazing coffee/life music venue. I write a little about Jammin Java in my next book, “Hear No Evil.”

In your pictures, you’re usually rocking the unshaven “I’m a writer, so I don’t have to try to look handsome, it just happens on its own” look. Do you find this inspires your writing, or causes people who see you in Panera Bread typing on your laptop to assume that you are a brilliant professional writer?
That’s my “look”?  Nice.  I suppose it’s inspired laziness.  People at Panera and Starbucks are probably thinking, “I wish that jackass would get out of the leather comfy chairs. He’s been there all day!”  But my “look” gets pretty rough when I’m closing in on the end of a book. During those times, I often go days without showering, shaving, sleeping, or being around people. Yeah, it’s not pretty or professional. But it’s sort of inspiring when a shower becomes your reward for finishing another chapter. Yeah, pray for my wife.

Your blog got a lot of attention for spending a whole week on posts about sex, and now you blog about sex regularly.  Many of us haven’t had a week of sex talk / giggling / awkward silence since junior high health class (except for that kid whose parents didn’t sign the permission slip.) What inspired this?

NavPress, told me they were putting my book What You Didn’t Learn From Your Parents About Sex out of print. I asked them if they were willing to give it away for free. They agreed. So “Sex Week” sort of evolved after that, as a way to get people excited about a free book. But wow. It turned into something much bigger than I expected.

That’s what she said. 

Sex can be an awkward/giggle inducing thing to talk about.  After so much time making people talk about it, what is still the most giggle inducing sex-related word?

Scrotum…
Whisper that word into somebody’s ear and watch the results happen. It’s almost glorious.

You are almost as immature for answering that question as I am for asking it. 

Your blog oftentimes receives comments from people gravely concerned that you are a terrible person. How do you feel about people who don’t get your humor, or think you’re a bad Christian?

Well, I used to think every last one of them were mean-spirited, Obama-hating, hell-loving fundamentalist Christians. But that’s shallow on my part, and quite self-centered. It’s never fair to “define” somebody by a comment or email just like it’s not fair to define somebody by a blog post or even a book.  And online, it’s so easy to become unlike your true self; and do it anonymously. Some of the nicest people in the world can act like bastards online. Did I answer your question? Are you going to send me an email for writing the word “bastard”?

No I’ll just let all of the readers flame you.  That’s strike two, if I’m counting correctly. 

A regular feature on your blog are gloriously weird portrayals of Jesus you find.  What’s your favorite Jesus picture you’ve ever come across?
There are so many! But I must say the “With You Always” series of Jesus drawings are in my top ten for sure.

What preacher, living or dead, would you most like to arm-wrestle? Do you think you would win?
Paula White if I want to win. Or Joel Osteen. He’s a preacher, right?
Mark Driscoll if I want my hand to smell.
Jonathan Edwards if want to feel emotionally and physically beaten up afterwards.

Churched, in my opinion was a great book.
Thank you, Matt. That’s means a lot.

Please let me finish.  Have you fully healed from your childhood religious wounds?
I am at a place in life where I can celebrate the redemption through Jesus without fear. That’s miles away from where I was last year. But I don’t believe I’ll ever fully heal from what I experienced as a child. I’m not sure I’m supposed to. My childhood no longer “defines” me, but it will always be with me. In a lot of ways, it’s “fuel” to remind me to stand up for the people who have been kicked out of church, the people that the evangelical world has pushed into corners, and those who’ve been convinced that they can’t engage God’s story. And it reminds me not to be afraid. Far too many Christians have “fear” rather than “faith.”

Any hints on a new book in the pipeline?
My new book  is called Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost, and it hits stores in February. All of the essays come from my experiences with music (I wanted to be the Michael Jackson of Christian music) and how music affected my innocence as well as my understanding of God and grace.

Thanks for a great interview, Matthew.  Be sure to check out his blog and send him some hate (or prayer) mail at Jesus Needs New PR.