Tag Archives: The Shack

Sex In the Trinity: Wm. Paul Young's The Shack, p2/6

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.


Gentiles in the Hands of a not-so Jewish Savior

In my last post, I discussed Wm. Paul Young’s description of the first person of the Trinity as Papa, the latest re-imagining of the Mammy black female house slave from 17-19th century U.S. American history. In this post, we shall take a look at Young’s picture of the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus.

One must be quite aware of the systemic anti-Judaism and anti-semitism passed down throughout history in Christianity. This anti-Jewish polemic, whether it be Justin the Martyr or Martin Luther, has real world consequences for how we treat persons who practice Judaism. When I say this, I know that people will automatically go to the Holocaust in Third Reich Germany, but what about the mob violence against Jews that Cyril of Alexandria was silent on in the fourth century? How about the conservative political label of “Judeo-Christian” as a post-World War II construct, to hide the exclusive nature of white protestant hegemony here in the United States? I would say that these phenomena are the best evidences that we have of Christianity’s anti-Judaic vein.

Does anti-Judaism appear in Young’s The Shack? The answer is an emphatic yes, and in the worst of ways, and by that, I do not mean blatant, but something more of a white liberal mushy-cover up of Jesus’ ethnic and religious identity. Jesus is Jewish to the extent that he has the anatomical characteristics of a Jew (phenotype). “I am Jewish, you know. My grandfather on my mother’s side had a big nose. In fact, most of the men on my mom’s side had big noses” (The Shack, 113). Since when did being a Jew have anything to do with having a big nose? Does not that mean that race is biological and natural, and therefore not a construct passed down from generation to generation, as it is always constantly changing? In this instance, Jesus joins the Jews in always being “the Jews” because race here is seen as something inherent and stagnant. Rather than being a set of religious practices, Jesus’ Judaism is a race of people according to Wm. Paul Young.

Jesus in The Shack calls himself a “Hebrew from the house of Judah” and that he is only a “stepbrother” of Middle Eastern families (The Shack, 88). To be a stepbrother is to be an addition to a family that is formed out of the union of one biological parent and another stepparent. Jesus and his Judean ancestors, are, by extension, culturally something unaffiliated with their ancient Near Eastern context. In other words, the historical Israelites and Judeans that we learn about in scripture are culturally disconnected and outside of the surrounding nations by way of their biology, rather than their theology.

This move by Young gives him the room to shape Christ in the image of Whiteness. Amy Jill Levine, in her The Misunderstood Jew, argues that once Jesus’ Jewishness is dismissed, liberal Protestants can turn him into one of them (AJL, page 9). It is with little wonder that Sarayu, the Holy Spirit in The Shack, informs Mack that he should not look for rules in Scripture, but rather communion with God, as if following laws were exclusive to having a relationship with God. The relational deity of The Shack’s white liberal Protestantism supersedes YHWH the law-giving God in the First Testament and thus providing the means for Marcion’s resurrection.

Next, for part 3, we will look at Sarayu the Spirit

Sex In the Trinity: Wm. Paul Young's The Shack, part1/6

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.


I Found God on an Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix Box

Because Wm. Paul Young’s novel, The Shack is a religiously inspired novel, I have chosen to engage this text with literary criticism, from the perspective of Womanist scholars. Womanist theory is a discipline with the academy which analyzes subject matter from the perspective of the bodies of women of color. According to Vanderbilt Divinity School’s Dr. Stacey Floyd-Thomas, in her Mining the Motherlode: Methods in Womanist Ethics, one of the preferred starting points for Womanist religious ethics is to turn to Black Women’s writings as sources of liberation. Black Women’s writings cannot be consider “art for arts sake” but rather literary works with research behind them, specifically in the area of histories of oppression when it comes to race, gender, and class (SFT, page 15). Truth is understood as a narrative, and therefore the line of demarcation where as what is deemed as “historical” and “fictive” are often blurred. Truth, therefore, in Womanist thought is radically subjective; in Christianity, the Truth inhabited a body, and so it is important to examine what are the implications of truth claims as they pertain to the livelihood of human beings.

Ishmael Reed is a black male “postmodern”- a label imposed on him, writer, and he has quite a different representation of black women as such. In his subversive Reckless Eyeballing, the protagonist black male Ian Ball is a playwright who is haunted by his black mother. Ball’s mother is described as “clairvoyant” and “able to look around corners and underneath the ground” (IR, page 4). Ball struggles to escape the accusation of his plays being labeled misogynist by writing a play that supposedly has a more liberating view of women. What has Reed’s Reckless Eyeballing to do with Wm. Paul Young’s The Shack? Two things, first, like the character Ian Ball in Reckless Eyeballing, Young claims that his book is trying to show God as not having the fixed metaphor of father (i.e., evangelical theology)—it is a seemingly earnest attempt to engage critics within a particular audience. And secondly, both Ian Ball and Wm. Paul Young share a vision of black women as the great overbearing cosmic maternal figure who overcompensates for the ineptitude of the criminal, brutal black male. The former image, the same one that appears in The Shack, has a history that we shall explore for our purposes.

While Young’s pursuit is to debunk traditional evangelical theology’s so-called obsession with Father-god prayers (you know, where God is randomly called Father after every petition within a prayer), what Young does is in fact re-enforce the racial stereotypes that are embedded deep within our culture without once acknowledging where these images come from. One could say, in light of the Incarnation of the Divine Logos, that a commentary on God is also a commentary on humanity—what professional theologians call theological anthropology. In capitalist societies, there are roles that need to be played, and for all of its history, corporate-driven capitalist societies, in line with Gayatri Spivak’s notion of overdetermination (see her “Can the Subaltern Speak?”), have depended upon racial and gender stereotypes to determine the roles of groups and individuals within the market. For example, when one sees in comic movies like Iron Man 2 or X-Men 2 that the only Hispanic persons are either farmers or janitors, it is because our images of these communities are engrained in our imagination has having a servile nature. Papa in The Shack speaks in a Southern dialect, cannot seems to articulate American Standard English unless she has something very theologically profound to say (“I gis that’s jis the way I is”), refers to Mack, the main character as “honey,” sings in a high pitched voice, and is described as “radiant,” “glowing,” while cooking in a “long-flowing African-looking garment” with a “vibrant multi-colored headband”(The Shack, 113, 120-121).

Whether Young knows it or not, he is depending heavily upon the mythology of “Mammy” which was popular in the Antebellum South. Mammy was “a well-taken-care-of house servant whose activities in the house of her owners” who personified the possibility of Victorian womanhood for heathen black women. (for more on this, see Delores Williams Sisters in the Wilderness, page 64). Mammies were to be the asexual exemplars of perfect motherhood, loving their white masters’ children as their very own, even to the point of giving up their life for them. Of course, the problem with this notion of maternity is that there is no freedom to choose, for the White Racist God had predetermined beforehand what role black women were to play on the hilltops of the plantations. Papa, in Young’s The Shack, is more than a leftover; she is a re-emergence of a piece of our cultural memory, one that was brought forth out of a history of oppression, i.e., African enslavement.

Next, for part 2, we will look at Jesus in The Shack

Truth and Peace,
Rod

Sex in The Trinity: A series on William P. Young's The Shack, Intro

The Shack

Image via Wikipedia

Recently, there has been a troll commenter on this site just begging to read my views on William P. Young’s The Shack. I have made it well known that my objections to this novel are NOT theological considering that I affirm process/open theism, but out of ignorance, the commenter sees himself as attacking what he sees as a site in the likes of the Reformed CARM.org, of which that comment caused me to have my “Mark Driscoll moment” this week (inside joke between Optymyst Chad and I).

What this commenter seems to not be getting is the recycled trashy racial stereotypes at which I will take aim at in this upcoming series. This series is based off of a joint- paper presentation I did with a friend at a conference, the National Baptist Professors of Religion last year in 2010, as well as a church presentation I did for a bible study. Be forewarned: both presentations made persons extremely uncomfortable, and we did receive both positive and negatively hostile reactions.

Perhaps the commenter, like William P. Young, knows of nothing of racial discrimination given their white liberal biases. I refuse to see my mother and sister as Aunt Jemima’s, and this is not an image of g*d but a construction of white racists who enslaved Africans. That’s the truth, as I will show, not only the problems with Pappa, but other (mis)characters(izations) as well.

It boggles me to no end how white liberals and progressives remain willfully ignorant of their own culturally imperialist assumptions.

Thank you, commenter, for my Mark Driscoll moment, and for making me reveal this series earlier than I had intended.

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