Sunday, August 17, 2008

visiting "the shack"

This weekend I finished reading William P. Young's The Shack.

*SPOILER ALERT* If you want to read the book with totally "fresh" eyes, you might want to skip this post as certain plot and/or character details are revealed.

Here's what I thunk:

I know this is a very popular book, yet I was less than enamored with it. Perhaps it is partially because the book and I got off to a bad start. Here's the premise: Mack's youngest daughter was abducted and murdered during a family vacation. In the midst of Mack's Great Sadness, he receives a note from "Papa" (God) inviting him back to the scene of the crime. I'll admit I was a teensy bit resentful of the note. Because my brother was murdered, I am familiar with Great Sadness, yet notes in my mailbox from "Papa" were conspicuously absent...

There were some good points. I liked the fact that God was initially revealed as an African-American woman. I also thought the author handled the complex topic of forgiveness well. i.e. Forgiveness is not about forgetting or saying everything is ok; rather, it about releasing oneself "from something that will eat you alive". Forgiveness is "first for you, the forgiver".

And yet.

My theology is quite progressive, and I found much of the theology in this book less than progressive. I don't want to go point by point (too lengthy for one thing), but let me just say that calling God "Papa" and worshiping "flat on their faces" was reminiscent of a fundamentalist-type church I once visited -- the same one that didn't allow women in any type of leadership role.

Another thing that bothered me was how the author portrayed the 'looks' of Jesus. Mack is surprised that Jesus isn't better looking. Jesus says, "It's my nose, isn't it? ... I am Jewish, you know. My grandfather on my mother's side had a big nose; in fact, most of the men on my mom's side had big noses."

Wow. Way to perpetuate a cultural stereotype.

Soooo.... at best, this book was a mixed bag for me.

15 comments:

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

so refreshing to read your review... matches with a review i read in a magazine that thought the book wasn't so wonderful as all the accolades suggest... so i've not read this myself, maybe, but not yet.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

(((Barbara))) I'm so sorry to hear about your brother.

After Presby Girl posted her review, I knew I couldn't read it, that I would resent it because of having had two friends murdered.

It doesn't sound like my type of book at all.

Barbara B. said...

ruth, so sorry to hear about your friends too...

Diane said...

Barbara, thank you for your honest review. I should probably read it myself, although for some reason I haven't heard that much about it, in my church.

Rev SS said...

I'll say more after I finish reading it, but two comments now.

First, the reason I want to read it is Eugene Peterson's comment: "This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress' did for his.

Second, regarding the "nose" comment, as I read this, I read: Hey, I was a dark-skinned,olive complected Middle Eastern Jew, not a blond white boy!!!!

Songbird said...

I guess those appearance issues can cut both ways, depending on one's own experience and sensitivities.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the book.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Wow! I am so sorry about your brother. That would make this a really hard read.

I found a lot in the book inspiring, but had trouble with some of the theology. And (my mom agrees with this too) the accident at the end was just sloppy storytelling.

Never read Pilgrim's Progress, but it will be interesting to compare them after I do.

Barbara B. said...

pg, I just ordered Pilgrims Progress -- but, because I am a wuss, opted for the "in today's English" version!

dust bunny said...

wow...fundy churchology...boggles the mind.

dust bunny said...

not to deny the fact that I was happily into fundy churchology until someone slapped me upside the head and said, "Snap out of it!!"

David said...

Having not read the book... The part that would grind on me the most is the "papa" part as well. That just sounds like total BS, and distracts from the deeper issue of the hiddenness of God. For many, including myself, there appears to be no justifying reason as to why God would permit some specific evils. There seem to be countless acts of evil and if there were a God, it would seem that he would prevent evil, unless there were a greater good that could be brought about. A greater good requires the permission of evil. Some specific evils seem pointless though, and no greater good brought about. (For example, a kid suffering ebola taking 4 days to die. Why not 3 days?) However, maybe there is a reason God does not let his reason for permitting evil known to us? Are we even able to comprehend his reason?

The "Papa" note, to me, seems to bypass such important questions. A whole book could be written on just these types of question. The notion that justifying reasons just magically appear in mailboxes is not worth further contemplation. I get that it's fiction, but come on...

Barbara B. said...

david, you raise some significant questions!! (which I can't address since I am leaving for work soon!)

you might want to read the book and then we could discuss more...

thanks for your thoughtful comments

mompriest said...

Well, I would have a real difficult time with the God as "Papa" leaving notes in the mail box image....the nose section probably wouldn't have bothered me - it could be funny (maybe) and a way of saying that Jesus was not this blond blue eyed white guy....if my life experience were like yours I'd have some very particular thoughts on the topic - and on a theology that allows evil...Ok, I do have some thoughts on evil and God...but that's for another post...anyway...sounds like a book I can skip...I have enough stuff to read as it is! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Jan said...

Barbara, this post helps me so much. There have been so many raving reviews for this book that I've wondered if I should re-read it. I skimmed it and then gave the book to a friend, who LOVED it.

I am sorry about the loss of your brother through violence. The book is sacharine in response. . . .

I am more progressive, too. It is really good to read your views about this. Thank you.

Barbara B. said...

to everyone who weighed in here...
THANK YOU SO MUCH!