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The ShackPosted Tuesday, March 9, 2010, at 10:26 AM
I'm re-reading the recent novel "The Shack" for a Sunday School class in which I participate.
Perhaps you've already read it or have at least heard controversies attached to it. It is a novel about a man who journeys to an isolated shack where he experiences a couple of days with the Christian Trinity.
"Papa" is a black woman, Jesus is Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is "Sarayu" which roughly stands for wind. I won't tell you anything else about the novel for fear of spoiling it for you if you ever decide to read it.
What I will tell you is that I at first fell in love with the novel. Then, I reached one particular paragraph, one particular line in the book, and literally got so upset that I pitched it across the room and swore that I would never finish it.
Days later I did indeed pick it back up and read through to the last page. I found myself thinking that it was a very insightful and entertaining novel, except for that one part that still makes me upset two years later.
I still struggle with recommending this novel based upon my reaction to this one passage in the book.
And thus begins my probing question.
Does one offensive part have a "greater weight" than all of the rest of the book?
In some ways we're geared to elevate what we consider to be the negative above all of the rest. The Colts just had one of the greatest seasons in their history but most of us point to missed plays in the Super Bowl. Whatever your political persuasion, we can think of excellent politicians on either side who have made truly positive contributions but who will be forever remembered for one human mistake.
It's as if we tear down people's accomplishments because they aren't perfect. We demand others to meet our high standards and disqualify them for not conforming to our ideal. In a spiritual sense, it is as if we are looking for "the perfection of God" in all of the wrong people and places.
I know that "The Shack" is just a novel. Yet, that one line is so offensively ... crucial to my understanding of the world that I will continue to struggle with it for a long time. And, I've finally reached the place where I'm not willing to let that one portion outweigh the rest of the work. It really is worth the read whether you agree with that faith position or not. It gives you some great insights into who we are and how we try to make sense of this world of ours.
There. I've said it.
Read the book.
And if you find yourself throwing it against the wall ... then maybe you and I are struggling on some similar issues about life.
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P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.