The Shack was called “deeply troubling” by Albert Mohler while Eugene Peterson (translator of The Message) compared it to well known classic The Pilgrim’s Progress.
As for me, I felt it had its ups (intriguing dialogue) and downs (questionable theology) but overall I can’t say I was gripped by The Shack fever of 2008.
But we’re five years on from all that, so why bring it up again?
I had the privilege of meeting the author of the Shack Wm Paul Young late last year. He taught me an important lesson right at the beginning of that interview, namely the importance of a man hug.
I’d barely said ‘hi’ to the big hearted Canadian before he was coming towards me in the traditional fashion.
Paul is one of the most articulate people I’ve ever interviewed. He believes The Shack gave people the ability to talk about God without it having to be a “religious conversation”. And I suppose he’s right, after all it wasn’t just Christians who were gripped by the book.
One of my favourite quotes of the entire 40 minutes that I had with Paul was when he said of God: “I’m trying to get as far away as ‘Gandalf with an attitude’ as I can”.
As for the controversy, he seemed untouched by the furor.
“I had my first protestors in Orlando, Florida with the bullhorn and the picket line. I was thinking ‘it’s 100 degrees out there and they are working up a sweat! It wasn’t long ago I was cleaning toilets and now I have protestors how cool is this?’ So I’m handing them bottles of water and one of them says ‘so do you work here?’ I said ‘no’ and he said ‘who are you?’
“I said ‘I’m the guy who wrote the book you’re mad about’ so we get talking and I find out not one of the protestors had read it. So we talked for 15 minutes and as soon as I walk away they are on the bullhorn saying ‘this violates the principles of God’.
“And I’m saying ‘God look at us human beings! It’s so much easier to be right than to love’.”
Paul concedes there’s one mistake in the book. “Just one?” I tease. Ignoring me, he explains, “The mistake in the book is where Mackenzie goes back in The Shack and he looks over to where Missy’s bloodstain should be and it’s not there. That’s a mistake it should still be there. Just because you work through your damage and your pain and your loses doesn’t mean the evidence of it disappears. There are still nail scars on Jesus’ wrists.”
We’re getting closer to the heart of the matter. And I’m beginning to understand I got the Shack wrong. In order to understand what Paul is writing, you have to understand his own story and background…
“When you have certain kinds of great sadness’s you’re set up to want to escape. It’s a very tender thing. I have a cousin who took her life just 10 days ago she fought the mental illness of schizophrenia her whole life and finally just gave up.
“I understand that and being in a place where you don’t want to run away anymore geographically and you’re afraid you’re going to hurt people the way you always have and it seems to be the way to get away. I’ve been there.
“There’s a metaphorical line beneath The Shack. You can take it as a story but The Shack is the house on the inside that people will help you build and a lot of us didn’t get good help. Sexual abuse is a part of my childhood somewhere close to 5.
“That’s why you have a loss of children around 5 in the books. In boarding school and an abusively angry father and the issue of belonging as a third culture kid emerges inside the storyline of Crossroads [his latest book]. Then religion teaches you to hide it all and create a façade that you can paint to the expectations you’re picking up from people around you as well as the religious expectations about the character and nature of God.”
“All of these things I’m in the process of trying to work this stuff out. As much as I would like Extreme Soul Makeover where God sends us to Disney world and fix us before we get back it’s not the way it happens.
“The intricacy and the inherent beautiful fragility of the human soul is such that it is uniquely damaged and only God knows how to heal it, and it’s going to take time. God doesn’t become an abuser for our own good. He doesn’t reach in and fix it apart from our participation and that goes back to relationship. He doesn’t even heal you because he wants to use you. He heals you because he loves you and he invites you to play because it’s about a child parent relationship.”
If that leaves you craving more then watch this…
For me, it has been ‘read’.
I’m the guy who loves to browse and buy books. As I write this, there are eight books to my right that are unfinished. Plus two eBooks I’m reading on my iPhone.
My excuse has always been that I don’t have the time to read. I have time to buy the books – that’s quick and easy. But no time to read them.
* * *
This blog is good at a couple of things…I’m not sure what they are, but I am sure this small corner of cyberspace has something to offer. Even if what’s being offered is only consumed by three people per day.
Anywho, there’s one thing this blog has been consistently bad at. Predicting future trends.
The chances are you don’t stop by here to find out what’s the next big movie, CD or fashion accessory.
What I have tried to provide is analysis and reviews of those things (apart from the last one), once they’ve arrived.
But all that could be about to change…
* * *
Back to the reading…or lack of it.
I was engaging in the usual browsing-with-every-intention-of-buying-but-no-intention-of-reading-this-decade attitude.
The shop’s name was Waterstones. For the benefit of my American friends, Waterstones is pretty much the sole remaining bookshop chain in the country. We’ve lost the rest to that great British invention – the Web.
I came across a novel called The Hunger Games. I’d heard a couple of people talking about it and was aware the film was coming out in a matter of weeks. £7.99 though…hmm let’s see what my ingenious iPhone app ‘ShopSavvy’ thinks of that!
One look at the barcode and ShopSavvy informs me I can get it for £4 in ASDA, which is 0.2km away.
The rest is history.
I cannot remember the last time I read a 400 page novel in one week.
It was totally gripping. I haven’t read hundreds of novels and I’m no expert. But to say I “enjoyed” The Hunger Games is a massive understatement.
You see, the problem is not having enough time to read. The problem is I haven’t been reading books that I’ve actually wanted to read. I might have liked the idea of reading them when I bought them, but that feeling soon worn off and I simply didn’t make it a priority.
Not having enough time is never the problem. The problem is making the wrong decisions on how to use your time.
I finished a 400 page novel in a week as busy as any other week. So what did I stop doing in order to make time to read? I have no idea, but whatever it was, I obviously didn’t miss it! It was probably Facebook or something trivial like that.
So let me attempt to make a prediction without falling flat on my face.
The Hunger Games is the next big thing. When the film hits our cinema screens during the last weekend of March, it will create a stir comparable to Twilight and Harry Potter. The only difference will be The Hunger Games is more real, gritty and powerful than anything Myers or Rowling will ever write.
I’ve nailed my colours to the mast. I’m team Collins.
So what are you waiting for? Grab the book and get reading, then watch the film.
You have time.
But at the last minute, an editorial decision has been made to change the title from ‘The Journey’ to ‘A Journey’.
One can only guess the reason is (as one leading agent put it…) to make him sound ”less messianic”.
Amazon is saying Blair’s new book will become the “biggest political memoir of all-time”. They are probably right!
Speaking on tonight’s 6 o clock news, BBC political editor Nick Robinson commented how ballot papers for voting on Labour’s next leader go out the very same day this book is released (1st September).
The majority of tomorrow’s papers will lead with this story and excerpts from the book itself, so if you think there’s been a lot of talk about these memoirs already, you aint seen nothing yet!
Will you be buying the book? Would anyone care to read a review of the book by this blogger? I can’t quite decide whether to buy it or not…