I read The Shack. I did not watch The Shack. The Christian community, not to mention much of the North American community, has been greatly impacted by The Shack.
Why all the reaction to this book? The conservative Christian community seems intent on building a case against it.
My reaction to the reading was to be jarred by its divergence from any theological training and exposure I had received. At the same time, the author introduced concepts that were novel and somewhat refreshing. A story fueled by the love and quest of a parent and devoid of salacious content is cause for some recognition.
Why are so many conservative Anabaptists reading and impressed by this novel? What does it hold for them? That is the question I am asking to myself.
After 20 years of teaching in conservative circles, questions arise. My conservative upbringing and training have led me to trust the Scripture and find in it my security and the answers to the searching of my heart and mind. Coupled with the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, the scripture has been both source and stability for me.
Not so for all. Many of my counterparts in the Anabaptist community have reacted negatively to our culture and religion. For them The shack was a breath of fresh air. They met God in His many facets and in His Mother form and have felt His acceptance and care. They read and heard love in its unconditional form. They were introduced to unqualified care and have felt it at its deepest levels.
So, attempting to discredit the book on its theological errors will fall mostly on deaf ears and unreceptive hearts and minds.
One challenge of current, emerging Christendom is that theological accuracy will never make up for Spiritual negligence. What ever you may think of that charge, it is acquiring adherents in the Anabaptist world. Granted, that is not how we should make decisions, but, is there really a reason to sacrifice one for the other? This rising generation feels damaged and jaded by their upbringing. Many of them feel intense pain and feel starved for the love of God. They are looking and they are finding. Can we make a safe place for them so they can stay home and trust and find God here?
Is there really some reason that we cannot bring the blessings of the love of God into our church groups? Is there some reason that we cannot produce a volume that exalts the love and grace of God? Is there a reason that we continue to force compliance by rules and laws when our history clearly recognizes “Two Kinds of Obedience?”
If we can begin to answer these kinds of questions then, maybe we will be able to begin to understand our people and who they are and who we made them to be and maybe we will be able to bring into our theology the love and care of a God who is personal in His love to us. Maybe.
Instead of building a case against this book, maybe we could build a case for The Book – a case for the loving God whose kindness calls us to Himself.
Is God speaking to us through message of The Shack? Quite possibly.
Is God speaking to us through the hearts of our people? Quite certainly.