The Shack

Sunday at church our pastor played a little video clip of an interview with a guy named William Paul Young. Young wrote a book called The Shack which has been pretty popular in Christian circles for the past few years. I had heard about the book, but didn’t bother to check it out for a few reasons: First, it’s fiction and I find most Christian themed entertainment pretty lame and usually just a weak attempt to cash in on God’s name. Second, a lot of people are gushing over it. If something is that trendy, it’s usually not for me.

So this clip comes on of Paul Young and in less than 30 seconds I decided I was going to read his book. Young is one of those guys who’s brutally honest about his relationship with God and his opinion of the establishment we call the church, and that intrigued me. So I went home and began researching The Shack.

The first thing I found was that it’s an hugely popular book. This book has sold something like 4 million copies. OK, that’s fine, whatever. The second thing I found out was that this book has no major publisher. Two dozen publishing houses, Christian and non-Christian refused to publish it, so Young and some buddies published it out of their garage. Now this is getting interesting. The third thing I discovered is that the Christian establishment hates this book. They hate it so much that I found many articles by heavy hitters in the Christian church that actually said it was dangerous to read this book and we should stay away from it. Fiction, dangerous??? Yeah, that cemented it for me, I was GOING to read this book.

So I downloaded it from the iTunes store Sunday night and began reading. Monday night I was finished. Here’s my take.

First of all, it’s important to understand what The Shack is and what it is not. Let’s start with what it is not. The Shack is not the Bible. It is not a replacement for the Bible. It is not an addendum to the Bible. More importantly it does not claim to be any of these. So what IS it then? To put it as simply as I can, it’s a fictional story about a man named Mack who’s been beaten down by life, and ends up meeting God face to face, and having a conversation with him.

I thought it was a fascinating read and for me it really brought out, in a very frank way, a lot of the feelings I think many of us feel about God and about religion. I’ll be honest, at times I’ve doubted that God cares at all about me. I’ve even doubted his very existence at times in my life. And don’t get me started on my feelings about “The Church”. But of course you can’t say that out loud, you heretic! However I think that’s what makes this book so inviting. The author is frank about his dissatisfaction with the church. He voices his doubts about God out loud. He argues with God at point blank range. It’s a brutally honest discussion that pulls no punches. Young writes about what everyone has felt but was to afraid to say. But he doesn’t just bash God and then walk away. That would be cowardly. No, he explores God’s personality, God’s essence, God’s motives, and eventually redeems the main character by strengthening his relationship with God and giving him an understanding of his own shortcomings, the glory of God, and the incredible power in Jesus’ sacrifice.

I honestly was more moved by this book than anything I can remember reading in a long time and it has fueled my interest in digging deeper into the Bible to find for myself the God that has so touched Young. In fact, I sat down immediately after putting this book down and read several of John’s letters and most of Mark.

Now there are some things that apparently have pissed people off… the fact that God is represented as a large black woman, or that the Mack character openly doubts God yet is not immediately torched for his disobedience. I even read one review that claimed that the book was portraying the Holy Spirit as a lesbian! Yeah, that’s exactly what I came away with. (Not!) All I can say is it’s a bit sad that people cannot tell the difference between fiction and non-fiction, and do not understand the concept of using metaphors to explain a concept.

Anyway, I’m going to give this book five crosses and a hail Mary (that was a vague SNL reference, for you hipper folks). I thought it was a very moving and entertaining story, and like I said, it’s really sparked my interest in digging deeper into the scriptures. Check it out.