Sunday, March 15, 2009

Book Review of The Shack ...Traditional Christianity Cross Dressing


The Shack by William P. Young has made it to the bestseller list. After reading it, I wonder "Why?" and I answer myself with, "Ah, yes, I see!"

This book (it doesn't even rise to the level of a "novel" even by romance novel standards) is, in essence, a syncretic blend of Traditional Christianity, New Age Spiritualism, and World Spiritualism. However, let there be little doubt that the New Age/World Spirituality aspects are but the spices in a meat-and-potatoes stew of the typical Christian views of God, humankind, and how the roles of the two interact.

As I read it, I was struck with the parallel between it and the theme of how fundamentalist Christians have used the Intelligent Design Theory as a back door method of introducing Creationism into a science classroom. For more on Intelligent Design Crossdressing, go to

There is a distinction, though, between the proponents of introducing Intelligent Design into the classroom (former President Bush was one) and Author Young: that is, Young is not trying to push an agenda...he is simply a writer who has penned what I would call an "inspirational fictional Christian memoir." It should do well in a Christian Bookstore. That it appears on the Bestseller list is, to say the least, disturbing.

However, let's talk about the book.

In The Shack, a man loses a young daughter to a serial child killer. Her body is not found. (Not initially, that is.) The father and another daughter who feels responsible for Missy's disappearance and death are saddled with guilt over the loss. The father is also afflicted with The Great Sadness.

The father, Mackenzie (Mack), gets a mysterious non-postmarked letter in his mailbox that tells him to go to "the shack", the place where his daughter was murdered. Upon his initial arrival, Mack grieves while viewing the bloodstains on the wood floor and contemplates suicide. Then, predictably, he falls into a slumber. He soon, presumably, awakens, feeling forsaken, "I'm done, God...I can't do this anymore. I'm tired of trying to find you in all of this." Mack goes to leave the shack, but on his trek back to his vehicle the cold winter is suddenly replaced with a "sudden rush of warm air", "The chirping of a songbird" and so on. (You get the picture, right?)

He turns back to the shack and finds that it has been transformed into a beautiful cottage on the lake. He returns to it and, inside, finds God in all three manifestations: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost. But, God is personified as a black woman, presumably to overturn a White God Male stereotype that Mack holds. (Do I need to continue?)

Anyway, Mack walks and talks with God in all three forms. As he does, he learns the meaning of man's control over his destiny, God's role as one who sees and knows but refuses to intervene in daily details (oh, that is interesting...then why did God come to Mack?), and the futility of man's trying to live without God. Ultimately, Mack meets his daughter Missy in the other-world (Heaven?) and knows that she is fine. God assures Mack that throughout her abduction and murder that Missy was never alone.

And--now here's the crossdressing part--Father/Son/Holy Ghost assure Mack that there is not one road to them, but that they will travel all roads to those who believe. Oh, yes, Jesus (he's a carpenter by the way) insists that he is not a Christian.

Eventually, Mack is cured of The Great Sadness and given the choice of staying with the Holy Trinity or returning to the world. Since his wife and children, especially Kate, the daughter who feels responsible for the tragedy, need him, Mack decides to return. On the way back home, he is in a terrible car accident.

Mack is in a coma, from which it takes days to awaken...and it is weeks before he is out of the hospital. Mack learns that the car accident occurred on a Friday, the day he left home for the shack, and not several days later as time had transpired while he was in the presence of the Trinity.

During his recovery, Mack tells Kate that she is not responsbile for Missy's death. Apparently, Mack's verbalization is the first time it occurred to anyone to talk to Kate about her was "...a secret."

After his release from the hospital, Mack leads the police to the place where Missy's body has been secluded this whole time. The police obtain enough evidence to find the bodies of the other murdered girls and arrest the killer.

End Of Story.

Of course, I'm leaving out the parts where Mack walked across the surface of the lake (possible only if Jesus was by his side), where the Holy Spirit manifestation was nebulous, a-shimmer with lights, how Mack had trouble seeing the Trinity through the radianting brilliance of God said that his/her handing down of the Ten Commandments was not to show how to lead a good life, but that all were doomed unless they had God. (Think "Original Sin").

Now, don't get me wrong. This book was on the Bestseller list. Is that scary? To me it is. Am I cynical? Well, let's just say that I am highly spiritual and I try to be as literate as possible. That such a story (it IS a cute story) can sneak out of the Christian Bookstore and into the general market should tell me something. I need to pay attention to what that says, just as the Conservatives need to pay attention to why there was such an overwhelming move toward Obama in the last election: to reword, "I don't understand it but I need to pay attention to this."

Mike Sledge

1 comment: said...

I have to say that "The Shack" by William P. Young was a very thought provoking read.

After reading the book, I was left pondering several things about it – which is a true testament to the book's worth. I had several questions on the validity of some of the descriptions of God but I had to humbly admit that there may be no answers this side of heaven for how God presents Himself to each individual.

I posted a more in-depth review of this book on my own blog