If you have never heard of The Shack book or The Shack movie, you might be living in a cave–or a shack (tongue in cheek). The book stirred up quite a controversy in Christian circles back in 2007 when it was first released. And now, ten years later, it’s been adapted for the big screen. It premiered in March and, not surprisingly, is still causing quite a theological stir.
I first read the book in 2007, watched the movie in March 2017, and just finished reading the book for the second time. I am not a theologian and certainly wouldn’t deem myself a scholar in anything. But I do enjoy researching and learning–and then passing on what I’ve learned.
When I taught high school math, I tried to approach every lesson from the point of view of my students, to put myself in their seat, and to not assume anything (wouldn’t it be great if all of our assumers were broken?). So, my purpose in today’s post is to share the facts about The Shack book and its author for those who know nothing or very little about either (spoiler alert). In next Wednesday’s post, I will share what I believe are the pros of the message communicated in the book and the movie. And then, in the following Wednesday’s post, I will wrap up my discussion with what I believe are the cons.
The book’s 62-year-old author, William P. Young, was born in Canada and was the oldest of four children. His parents became missionaries through the CMA (Christian and Missionary Alliance) in the New Guinea Highlands when Young was only a year old. Young describes his relationship with his dad as very difficult. If you watch any of the YouTube videos where he shares his personal story, you will hear him compassionately refer to his dad as not having the ‘chip’ for being a father–because it was smashed by his own dad, long before Paul (the name he goes by) showed up. In other words, Young clearly understands that hurt people hurt people.
Before Young was five years old, he was sexually abused inside the tribal culture in which he lived. At the age of six, he was sent to a Christian boarding school, where he also experienced sexual abuse by some of the older boys at the school.
Young describes his broken relationship with his dad, the sexual abuse he experienced, and the lack of a sense of belonging (missionary kids move a lot), as the “three great sadnesses” he grew up with. This is important to keep in mind because Young uses the phrase, The Great Sadness, quite often throughout his book. The Great Sadness represents the overwhelming loss and grief experienced by a middle-class American father that no one should ever have to endure.
The story (the book is a work of fiction) takes place in the Pacific Northwest and centers around a family of seven: Mack and Nan Phillips and their five children. The two oldest are grown and gone and the three youngest, Kate, Josh, and Missy are still at home.
As a last hurrah of summer, Mack takes his three younger children camping over the Labor Day weekend. They had a wonderful time fishing, canoeing, singing around the campfire, and getting to know their neighboring campers. That is, until the last day. The day when everything changed. The day that The Great Sadness began for Mack and his family. In what seemed like a split second, six-year-old Missy was abducted from the campsite. The massive search for her ends in a dilapidated shack where there is evidence suggesting that she was brutally murdered (and probably sexually abused). Her body was not recovered, though.
The rest of the story revolves around Mack and his personal journey to healing through revisiting the shack–after receiving a mysterious invitation from Papa (the name that Nan uses to refer to Father God). Four years after the unspeakable tragedy occurs, Mack returns to the shack, where he encounters the Holy Trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–all in fleshly form. Papa is portrayed by a middle-aged, African-American woman; Jesus by a young Jewish man; and the Holy Spirit as a beautiful young Asian woman.
Young describes the shack as a metaphor for “the house we build inside ourselves out of our own pain”–often with the help of other broken people. He wrote the story out of his wife’s urging him to get down on paper his “outside-of-the-box” kind of thinking about God. He never intended for it to be published. In 2005, he had fifteen copies of the manuscript printed at Office Depot. Then he gave each one of his six kids a copy for Christmas. The rest he distributed to a handful of close friends, some of which emphatically believed it should be published.
After the manuscript was turned down by twenty-six traditional publishers, Young and two of his friends self-published The Shack through their own company, Windblown Media, in 2007. Through primarily word-of-mouth marketing, the book sold 1 million copies by June 2008, landing it on USA TODAY’s Best Selling Books list. It was the No. 1 paperback trade fiction seller on the New York Times Best Sellers’ List from June 2008 to early 2010. The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association presented The Shack with the “Diamond Award” for sales of over 10 million copies in 2009. To date, the book has sold more than 20 million copies.
No one can deny that The Shack book has touched a multitude of lives. And now that it has been made into a motion picture, its message will continue to have far-reaching effects. The Shack movie is now available for viewing on Digital HD from Amazon and iTunes. The Shack DVD and Blu-ray release date is set for May 30, 2017.
Dear reader, in today’s post, I shared some of the facts concerning the highly controversial book, The Shack, and its author, William P. Young. Next Wednesday, I will share what I believe to be the pros of reading the book and watching the movie. And the following Wednesday, I will share what I believe to be the cons. In the meantime, I would love to interact with you by asking you some questions:
- Have you read The Shack book and/or seen The Shack movie?
- If yes, what was your take away from either or both?
- If no, would you like to see the movie and/or read the book? If not, why not?
If you prefer to interact with me through personal email rather than commenting below, you can do so by clicking here.
Until next time,
P.S. If you enjoyed this post and want to know more about me and the types of content I will be posting, please visit my About Page.
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Kim K. Francis
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