Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Literary snob: I liked The Shack!

Sometimes I think we literary types try too hard to find things wrong with novels. (If everybody were Faulkner, then Faulkner wouldn't be Faulkner. So don't expect everyone to approach that mark.)

I just had a Twitter exchange with John Carney and Greg Milinovich about The Shack. I tweeted about it because I didn't think I had enough to make a substantial blog post about it, but after going back and forth with Greg for a bit, I think I do.

Yes, The Shack is clich├ęd at points, predictable in others, but it's still worth reading.

Greg tweeted, "some are really against it thought saying that it is a wolf in sheep's clothing: a venue for heresy. i don't agree." Neither do I. I do think some people have way too big of a problem with the idea of God presenting Godself as a large black woman who goes by "Papa." In fact, in my borrowed copy, my friend's father's bookmark rested just a few pages after Papa introduced herself. My friend's guess is that it challenged her dad's thinking a bit more than he wanted to admit.

The thing is dripping in grace theology, a concept lost on most humans much of the time. But lots of scholarly texts say more about grace than does The Shack. The difference here is that it's actually readable for someone who isn't interested in a textbook or a sermon.

(Part of me wishes there was more detail about tracking down Missy's killer, but that part of me just really likes a good detective story. It's not necessary for the plot.)

So, yes, some heavy-handedness in the narrative. But I think as a parable, it can provide a better understanding of love and forgiveness.

(And what if God is Aretha Franklin? Wouldn't you be embarrassed if you'd said God couldn't be the Queen of Soul, and she turned out to be just that? In her Inauguration hat?)

Anyway, The Shack is easy to follow, holds the reader's attention, and has the potential to inspire new ways of thinking and living. If you haven't read it, consider doing so.


Diane said...

though it's not "great literature" (there's my english major snobbery coming out), our book group had a great discussion of this book last month. our group doubled as many visitors came. We talked about the images for God, the importance of relationships in the book, forgiveness, atonement....

really one of the best discussions we have ever had.

Anonymous said...

i loved it too - i wonder if those who do not like it are offended by the protrayal of the church? i actually thought it was quite honest and readable. approachable theology for those who do not christology, pneumatology, theodicy, etc.

molly said...

I totally agree. I've been saying that it's easily worth a read for two gifts it brings:
-breaking open traditional trinitarian metaphors that often become unhelpfully rigid, and
-offering a useful, gracious option to crappy "everything happens for a reason" explanations for evil.

RevAnne said...

I agree, and thanks to molly for saying it better than I usually do.
My husband, who came from a legalistic background, really wanted to hate it, but the grace in the story really changed his mind.
It's not one of those that I'll read over and over again, but it's certainly one I can recommend to others...and like everything else, it's not for everyone. And that's okay.

~Mad said...

Lurker here - my favorite feel-good part? Lying out on the dock with Jesus, chatting and watching the stars.

How lovely a way to catch a glimpse of my relationship with Christ!

~Mad(elyn) in Alabama

revkjarla said...

Although I personally didn't love it, I do think it is worth the read...and so accessible on many levels. I have considered a book group on it, and now that I hear what Diane says about her group, I think I will!

The Vicar of Hogsmeade said...

I loved the imagery even though I thought the theology was "sloppy" (seminary trained snob that I am).

The grace and the relationships came through as the most important part of being faithful. That is terrific theology!

I think it's ironic that the same people who love Left Behind (fiction) hate The Shack (also fiction).

zorra said...

I was surprised to learn that a friend who is much more conservative than I enjoyed this book very much. (She likes the Left Behind books too, which isw why I was surprised.) That, in itself, piqued my interest.

Mary Beth said...

I have been avoiding it but not because it's not great lit - I read a LOT that's not great lit!

Not sure why.

Interested to have my assumptions challenged. I'll get back to you on this!

oh, and with or without 2 degrees in English I may opine that I don't like Faulkner. Great lit or not!

DogBlogger said...

Not liking Faulkner is perfectly okay, Mary Beth. I don't like Shakespeare....

Anonymous said...

My wife has been reading it, so I guess I'll have to give it a whirl, then.