The Shack

Visiting 'The Shack' -- Media pros should bone up on some theology before doing so

Visiting 'The Shack' -- Media pros should bone up on some theology before doing so

By this time, “The Shack,” a movie based on the best-selling novel of the same name, has been out a week. It has received lackluster reviews so far, even though it has Octavia Spencer playing God. Can’t get much better than that.

We don’t cover reviews here at GetReligion, since our focus is on news. However, I do wish to suggest that if mainstream media reviewers are going to critique a religious film, they should at least bone up on basic Christian doctrines or find a copy editor who has.

For those who need some background on the film, they could read an actual news report on issues raised in the film. Here's what Religion News Service led with:

(RNS) The 15 copies William Paul Young made at Office Depot did everything he had hoped they would do.
And more.
Young fulfilled a promise he’d made to his wife to write something down for their six children that captured the way he viewed God, and the 15 copies were given to his family and friends as Christmas gifts. ...
After it was rejected or ignored by 26 publishing companies, (author) Wayne Jacobsen and his friend Brian Cummings set up a small company to publish the story themselves. And Windblown Media sold nearly 1.1 million copies out of Cummings’ garage in just over a year.
Now Young’s best-selling book “The Shack” is completing its decade-long journey from the page to the screen in a Hollywood film opening this weekend (March 3), starring Octavia Spencer and Sam Worthington.

The article then summarizes the plot and some of the opposition to the film, which presents a multi-ethnic Trinity in the form of a black woman, an Israeli man and a Japanese woman.

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'The Shack' movie cometh, but mainstream reporters miss the real religion issues

'The Shack' movie cometh, but mainstream reporters miss the real religion issues

I first heard of William Young’s “The Shack” in 2008, about a year after it came out. I knew it was an indie book set in the Pacific Northwest and, as it turned out, one of the main characters was kidnapped at an eastern Oregon campground that I’d once frequented. When the father of the victim wanders about the wilderness near Hell’s Canyon trying to find his daughter –- or at least her body -– I knew exactly where he was driving.

The book got a very mixed reception due to its unorthodox theology, but when I traveled to Oregon in the summer of 2009 for vacation –- and to interview the author -– I found him a likable, unassuming man. Despite the fact that he was now worth millions, he was plainly dressed and we met in a coffeeshop near his home in Gresham, a suburb east of Portland.

So it’s no surprise that 10 years after the initial 2007 release date, this story has been turned into a major movie. A writer for the Washington Post previewed it in a piece under a headline touting God as a "curvy black woman." Here's how that starts:

In the coming film adaptation of “The Shack,” a fictional book by William P. Young about a father’s path to renewed faith and healing after his young daughter’s murder, the character of God -- as depicted in the novel -- is portrayed as a curvy, maternal black woman. ...
At issue is Young’s characterization of the Holy Trinity, seen through the eyes of the story’s main character, who on the four-year anniversary of his daughter’s brutal killing is mysteriously invited by someone named “Papa” -- his wife’s affectionate name for God -- to the abandoned shack in the Oregon woods where the girl died.
He goes, reluctant and angry, unsure if he’ll be met by his daughter’s murderer.
Instead, he finds this: a Middle Eastern, Jewish carpenter named Jesus; the Holy Spirit embodied in a wispy Asian woman who loves to garden and God (played by “The Help” star Octavia Spencer) as the very opposite of the Gandolf-like grandpa figure modern society is used to seeing.
This depiction -- God as a woman despite its gender-less designation in the Bible -- has some critics incensed.

Whoa –- wait –- God in the Bible is genderless?

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