Last month two different people recommended I read The Shack, a fiction book by Wm. Paul Young. Since it's unusual for this to happen to me, I took it as a sign from the universe that I should get down to business and read this New York Times bestseller with over seven million copies in print. As it turns out, I half-liked The Shack and half didn't. First, the like part. Young does the much-needed job of explaining why it's useful to reconsider God without the trappings of religion. He irreverently points out that the rules imposed by religion are intended to control followers rather than set them free. This is good stuff. Young also gives a decent interpretation of how and why so-called bad things happen in our world and why God doesn't stop them. It's not God's will, for example, that we experience crimes and disasters, but God doesn't control human choice or force His will upon us either.
The primary reason The Shack didn't 100% appeal to me is because of Young's inconsistent and confusing message about God and love. On the one hand he comes on strong that God is love and does not judge, and on the other hand he presents us with a limited version of God who is capable of anger. Anger, of course, is a form of judgment, attack and separation. "There is a lot to be mad about in the mess my kids have made and the mess they're in. I don't like a lot of the choices they make, but that anger — especially from me — is an expression of love all the same." An uncompromising, unconditional awareness of love would be more powerful, more logical and more convincing than this watered down version of love where anger is sometimes okay and justified by our creator.
Another turnoff is Young's consistent repeating of his belief that Jesus died for our sins. It's the same old story. Someone or something has to get thrown into the about-top-burst volcano to save the tribe. Even though we think we're smart, enlightened, and modern, we cling to the ancient but wildly popular concept that sacrifice has value to God. This idea is the driving force behind terrorists who kill self and others. It would be more helpful to re-examine the misleading concept of sacrifice rather than to reinforce it.