Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Shack

So I keep hearing about this book, this controversial book about a man who meets God out in a shack. Some people love it. Some people despise it. And to be honest, I had a hard time bringing myself to care about this controversy. I mean, let's face it. Literary brouhahas come and go pretty quickly. How often do people really argue about The DaVinci Code anymore?

But then some of my congregation members started asking me about it. And then my organist bought me a copy for Christmas. And I realized that, in spite of my ambivalence, I would have to read Wm. Paul Young's The Shack.

And so here I am, having just finished this book about a man named Mack who was in desperate need of healing. His daughter was killed by a serial killer and Mack becomes withdrawn and wrapped in The Great Sadness. And then he receives an odd invitation. He's asked to return to the shack where his daughter died. The note is signed by "Papa," the nickname his wife has for God.

And so Mack heads out to the shack, where he encounters God. And God is interested in healing Mack and teaching him more about Him.

Now I can understand why some people might be upset about Young's book. His portrayal of God is a bit unusual. I'll admit I was a bit perplexed by his Holy Spirit, especially her name, Sarayu. But even that was explained. And yes, Young's attitude toward organized religion is pretty obvious and that might rankle those of us who are part of the organization.

But really, I didn't see anything all that shocking. Sure, if you wanted to use this as a theological textbook, there might be problems. If you gave someone this book as the be-all and end-all of learning what it means to be a follower of Christ, they would receive a skewed impression. And sure, you can take stuff out of context and create big scary theological monsters, but really, it boils down to one man's ruminations on God and faith. Keeping it within that context makes it a thought-provoking read.

That doesn't mean that I'm all ga-ga over it. It was an average book, and one that had craft problems. The opening foreword was a massive info dump, stuff that should have been worked into the rest of the text. Young resorts to a lot of telling instead of showing. And most maddening to me is his constant need to both capitalize and italicize The Great Sadness. You can tell that this began life as a self-published book and in this case, that's not good.

So I guess I don't get what the big deal is about. Sure, it gave me a few interesting insights on God that will hopefully help my faith grow. And in the end, that's not too bad.


Lisa Lickel said...

I really had that apathy going about the book, too, and only read it last week. Thank you, and I agree with you one hundred per cent. Frankly, I had a lot more issues with Havah, although at least that book was beautifully written.

Technonana said...

I just read your review of The Shack... I can relate to much of what you I told a friend of mine... I really feel that you need to be rooted and grounded in your faith to understand much of what he is saying.
I can identify with the whole "great sadness" not that I have ever been that far down... My Lord keeps me singing, even in my trials. But I have surely seen people who have been there.
For me it was a good read, but My Father and I already walk hand in hand and have for a very long time now.