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.
Towards a Negative (thea/theo/thee) -logical anthropology
The problem with much of Christian fiction (film and novels included) is that white privilege goes utterly ignored. So thus, every film that is dipped in Jesus sauce gets to be called speaking for all Christians, when it reality, they do not. The Passion of the Christ? It is one voice of many who identify with Vatican I Catholicism. Fireproof? White Conservative evangelicals of the married and employed persuasion– the perfect movie for Tither-Driven churches. Jumping The Broom? Conservative upper-class black Christians worried about the state of the “Black family”–whatever black may mean, right?
William P. Young’s The Shack reveals liberal Protestant Christianity’s blindspot to racist histories, and I would say that anyone that embraces the racial Others in The Shack uncritically is guilty of the same thing; this is not pointing the finger at every fan of The Shack, but I would say ideas such as The Shack Bible Project would be culpable in this regard. It seemed to me in my and Adam’s endeavor here that we encountered a number of arguments (i.e., emotional appeals seeing this as an attack on Young’s person) that verified for us the accuracy of our findings.
What Christians need to do in their fiction pieces is to start talking about what human beings are NOT meant to be, in other words, a negative thea/eo/ee-logical anthropology. This should involve input from communities that have been historically discriminated against, and ignored as legitimate voices in “The Church.” I would suggest that instead of using The Shack to talk about g*d, why not race relations? There isn’t a textbook about how to go about racial reconciliation, so why not use The Shack as a conversation starter, in exposing how our oppressive gazes interfere with the lives of Asian, Black, Latin@, and Jewish friends alike.