Thursday, July 03, 2008

Book Review: The Shack...

Falsehood has an infinity of combinations, but truth has only one mode of being.
-Jean Jacque Rousseau

I am a latecomer to this book. Apparently, it was quite the buzz a few months ago but since I am not really a follower of pop culture, I didn't hear about it until I was randomly perusing blogs and someone mentioned it. It is called "The Shack" by William P. Young.

It's a challenging book on several levels. It is the story of a man who loses his daughter to a serial killer. In a rather odd twist, he one day receives a mysterious note in his mail box, encouraging him to return to the shack where the killing occurred. It is signed "Papa".

Knowing that is his wife's chosen name for God, he thinks someone is either playing a cruel joke on him or he has, indeed, received a communication from God.

It blew me away! From beginning to end!

Here's a little sample from the book:

"Mackenzie, we have no concept of final authority among us [theTrinity], only unity. We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command or 'great chain of being' as your ancestors termed it. What you're seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power. We don't need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us. Actually, this is your problem, not ours."

"Really? How so?" [Mack]

"Humans are so lost and damaged that to you it is almost incomprehensible that people could work or live together without someone being in charge."

"But in every human institution that I can think of," (Mack says), "from political to business, even down to marriage, is governed by this kind of thinking. It is the web of our social fabric."

"Such a waste," said Papa (God), picking up the empty dish and heading for the kitchen.

"It's one reason why experiencing true relationship is so difficult for you," Jesus said. "Once you have a hierarchy, you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or a system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it. You rarely see or experience relationship apart from power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intended for you."

"Well", said Mack sarcastically, sitting back in his chair. "We sure seem to have adapted pretty well to it."

Sarayu (the Holy Spirit) was quick to reply, "Don't confuse adaptation for intention, or seduction for reality."

".... So, then, we've been seduced into this preoccupation with authority," Mack asked.

"In a sense, yes," Papa said, ".... I'm just looking out for you, son."

Sarayu continued, "When you chose independence over relationship, you became a danger to each other. Others became objects to be manipulated or managed for your own happiness. Authority, as you usually think of it, is merely the excuse the strong use to make others conform to what they want."

This is one of the first books I have ever read by a western author who engages absolutely no cultural propaganda, no trite spiritual salve. It is challenging and often disturbing. It requires much of the reader, mainly an open mind and an open heart.

At the same time, it is a very readable bridge between spirituality and religion. It reads like a fast-paced novel. Although some have claimed the writing is amateurish, I found it to be very good. The conversations Mack (the father in the story) has with God (who presents as a plus-sized Black woman) are filled with light, hope, spiritual truth and redemption. You have to read it to believe it.

So.. if the recommendation of a Christian book from a Theravada Buddhist has any significance, I recommend it. Highly!



molly said...

Sounds like one to add to my list. Thanks for the review!

Catherine said...

You said: So.. if the recommendation of a Christian book from a Theravada Buddhist has any significance, I recommend it. Highly!

For me, of course, that is the most valuable of recommendations. :)

Mariposa said...

Chani, I'm still in the middle of writing that post about The Secret...then I read this! I need to finish that post now so I can read this got me excited on this book...I hope this is available in our local bookstore...ordering it through online will take days, if not weeks.

Olivia said...

Chani, I read The Shack a few months back and loved it, too! Nice to see your review and remember...Peace and joy, O

Maria said...

Thanks Chani, I will definitely add it to my list! Thanks!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I would like to read it.

It sounds a bit like Neale Donald Walsch's "Conversations With God" series, from the excerpt you include. And God as a plus-size black lady is no stretch at all.

hele said...

It sounds like something we all need to read.

Jen said...

This sounds fascinating. I'm making great progress on my reading for my fall classes, so I think I should be able to get to it soon.

Carla said...

Someone recommended that book to me a few months ago, but I was extremely busy at the time. But since you've brought it to the forefront of my consciousness again, I think I will make it a summer read. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

i have this in my stack of books to read....molly sent me over to read your review in fact! i hadn't heard of it till earlier this month, so we'll see how it goes :)