Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Shack

I received an advance copy of The Shack a while back and honestly never felt compelled to blog about it. If you are not familiar with The Shack, it's a novel that tries to be theology or a theology book disguised as a novel -- I can't decide which. The protagonist Mackenzie's daughter is brutally murdered in a shack off in the Northwest wilderness. Four years later, while he is experiencing his "Great Sadness", he receives a letter from "Papa" -- which happens to be his wife's pet name for God -- asking him to meet him at the shack. There Mack meets the trinity -- a big black woman, a Jewish carpenter and a small Asian woman. He comes to deal with his grief, getting to know God through his pain.

There are a few things about this book: first, I had a hard time picking it up to begin with. I've experienced enough pain that this seemed more like sticking my tongue over and over again into a drilled out tooth -- why on earth would one do that? The suffering and pain seemed so ... inevitable. When I realized what was happening, I actually put the book down and walked away for a while. After all, knowing the plot of Schindler's List, I have never ever felt compelled to watch the movie. Why on earth would I?

Well, once I got over that and picked it up again, I read it through. To me it seemed contrived. The theology was occasionally off the beaten path. Not horribly, but enough to make me squirm a little. I am sure that there are others who will be very offended by it. There is an implied assumption that to know God, you have to suffer. Is this really so?

I understand that William Young is wanting to stretch our concepts of God (I actually have portrayed "God the Father" by a "Big Angry Black Woman" myself...) but I see it as just exchanging one set of boxes that we've put God into for another and slightly "more modern" set. I didn't find myself transformed instantly by this book -- I didn't find myself incredibly enlightened. I found the book heavy -- in the same manner a plate of Bangers and Mash can be heavy. It's not bad, it's just dense and my stomach isn't used to it.

I find the brouhaha about the book puzzling. It resembles the brouhaha around "The Celestine Prophesy." This is not a miracle cure. It's not a complete analogy to modern life and suffering. It's thought provoking, yes, but it is not the panacea for all that ails you.

Actually, if it weren't for the brouhaha I would not be writing this review....

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