Before reading each article of the series, please take the time to read the (2) disclaimers:
DISCLAIMER #1: The following blog post is NOT theological criticism or a heresy-head hunting game by any stretch of Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack. I am more sympathetic with open & process theisms, so there is no need for this author to scan The Shack for doctrinal errors.
DISCLAIMER #2: Be aware that what I share are from a 2010 joint-presentation I and my friend Adam DJ Brett, a PhD entering his first year of work at Syracuse this fall. Post 5 of this 6 part series will be mostly his research, and his intellectual property. If you wish to use this information, please cite him as the source. Also, given that this setting is a blog, I do not assume that everyone is familiar with the concepts I shall place forth, so, unlike the paper and hopefully forthcoming journal article, I will be making available definitions and sources if need be.
The Godhead Livin’ La Vida Loca
The first 3 posts of this series focused on three characters from William P. Young’s The Shack: Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. In each instance, we looked at the oppressive racial histories behind the ugly stereotypes that Young depends upon. For my second post today on this novel, I offer a brief reflection on Sophia in chapter 11, “Here Come Da Judge.”
Anyone old enough to remember Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Lou Vega, Enrique Iglesias, and Christina Aguilera, et.al, and their rise to fame? In the late 1990s/early 2000s, there was a rise in the Latin American presence in U.S. American pop culture. Believe it or not, there was life before Lady Gaga, and it was J-Lo who flooded the newspaper headlines. Sigh. I remember receiving for my 18th birthday Carlos Santana’s comeback album, Supernatural, which took over the Grammy’s that year.
The more sinister side to this seemingly good news (apart from the immigration debate which I have pontificated over earlier this week) is the white media’s sexual objectification of the rising Latina/o stars. It would not be unheard of for some random Mexican food product to be associated with the hotness with an actor or musician of Hispanic descent. Of course, like the Orientalism that I discussed in the previous post on Sarayu, this sexualization has a long history. Ethicist Miguel De La Torre, in his A Lily Among the Thorns: Imagining a New Christian Sexuality, in chapter 2 “Liberating the Body of Color,” points to Christopher Columbus in his genealogy. As early as 1492, Columbus wrote of the naked First Nations women he encountered, “they were very well built, with very handsome bodies and very good faces” (MDLT, 42). The very first thing that Columbus observed in the new world was not any buried treasure or politics or king or religious rite, but the bodies of women of color asking to be conquered. On Columbus’s second journey to the Americas, a cohort of his, Miguel De Cuneo whipped and raped a Native American woman who had rejected his advances–the image of land as woman (like when we call Americuh a her or she) is an image that relies on a particular vision of conquest.
Like the Oriental, the Native, the hot Latina/o, is considered to be both sexual deviant and desirable. Whether it is the Ricardo Montalban and Antonio Banderas Latin male lover or the Selma Hayek/Carmen Miranda who portray hip-swinging hussies, the bodies of people of color are seen as things to be consumed (MDLT, 41). Even the most “progressive” Christians are not exempt from this at all: in his book, a generous orthodoxy, Brian McLaren “beholding” the glory of the Lord in creation at a restaurant in New Mexico, being blessed by God, considers the people around him as his neighbors, including a young employee, “in her pretty apron and humming a Latin tune” (McLaren, 332-333).
What would happen if emergent folk such as McLaren adopted an aesthetics of the cross, finding beauty and truth in the suffering of the oppressed rather than the aforementioned theology of glory, where persons are considered objects for entertainment. It also changes our definition of “neighborliness” dramatically. Returning to Young’s The Shack, Sophia (God’s Wisdom personified) is a woman with “chiseled Hispanic features,” olive-colored skin, with “stunning” looks, so much so that Mack says to himself, “She IS beauty” (Young, 154-155). Every time she spoke, it sent “delicious tingles everywhere” for Mack, for Sophia is “everything that sensuality strives to be but falls painfully short”(Young, 155). I am just curious to what exactly “chiseled Hispanic features” are and for what purpose. Again, we have the body of a person of color, assessed by anatomy for the purpose of colonial consumption (Young’s colonialism through the gaze of Mack).
Eerily, Sophia offers Mack (and therefore the audience) these words, “You have judged the color of skin and body language and body odor. You have even judged the value of a person’s life by the quality of your concept of beauty” (Young, 160).
No set of words ever rang so true.
Next up, Adam and I take a second look at Papa.
- Sex in The Trinity: A series on William P. Young’s The Shack, Intro (politicaljesus.com)
- Sex In the Trinity: Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack, part1/6 (politicaljesus.com)
- Sex In the Trinity: Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack, p2/6 (politicaljesus.com)
- Sex In the Trinity: Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack p 3/6 (politicaljesus.com)