I finished the controversial and hugely-selling Christian book “The Shack” the other night. It was a long, hard slog, I tell you.
It tells the fictitious story of a middle-aged man called Mack, who is emotionally crippled by sadness, both as the victim of abuse and also having lost a child in the most horrific circumstances. Mack is given an invite from God to meet him at the same shack his daughter was brutally murdered, and when he takes it up he spends a weekend with God. Well, more accurately, God the father (a big, African-American woman) God the Son (a practical, warm-hearted best-friend type called Jesus), and God the Spirit (a weird pseudo-apparition you can’t quite look at, called Sarayu). They spend the weekend in philosophical nonsensicalness that would make the Matrix sequels seem of modest pretension, and eating more food than the Famous Five ever got through.
If you think that’s silly, the bigger storm is surrounds the criticism the book has received for its allegedly dodgy theology, containing as it does a claim that it presents God as someone who demands no action from us and who gives us love unconditionally. Now this is a theological minefield I don’t think I have the armour-plated wellies for, but I can see the point that the lack of redemption or confrontation of one’s sins is far from the whole story.
However, that is among its lesser crimes in my view. The greater crime by a considerable country mile is cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. The book drips with horrible, schmaltzy, American cheesiness that speaks nothing to people who are either on this side of the pond or who have anything more than absolutely zero pragmatism in their heads. Given the dark undertone of the book, such waves of cheesiness made the book so lacking in credibility, readability or anything else-ability.
I quickly lost interest in the book, and reading the rest of it became a ridiculous endurance challenge I insisted on overcoming.
There were one or two interesting thoughts presented by the book, but the cheesiness overwhelmed them. Now don’t get me wrong, I love cheese. Cheese is great. But it belongs on toast, or in a sauce, or on pasta. Not in music, and most definitely not in books like “The Shack”.