Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Speaking of God ...

I read The Shack.

A couple of people had recommended it to me. I saw that it was on the bestseller list and read some reviews where readers raved that it had changed their lives, so of course, I had no interest in it. (Blame Jonathan Livingston Seagull.)

But, it had been several years since I forced myself to read the first Left Behind book and it's summer. And if a book with a religious theme is striking a chord in lots of people, I think church type people should check it out.

I will admit that when I picked it up, I expected to not like it.

Reading the first half, I was not moved from this initial prejudice. The writing is often stilted, there are clumsy plot solutions, and the characters lack dimension.

But as I read further, and things that I predicted did not happen, I was drawn in. I was expecting a fictional depiction of standard Protestant dogma -- think Godspell, not Jesus Christ Superstar -- and instead ... huh, he's talking about universal salvation. Huh, that's pretty panentheist. Hmmm.

"Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims.... I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters.” Jesus, The Shack, Wm. P. Young
The Shack did not change my life, nor my understanding of God. There are lots of holes, and an extreme reliance on the message "independence is bad, just leave everything up to God." Don't even get me started on Original Sin. And after doing an imaginative job in illustrating various religious concepts and questions, the author just leaves the big question -- Why do bad things happen? -- with an anemic "God understands more than you can."

BUT ... there's some good stuff in there. There's a bit about loving one's children equally but feeling "I'm especially fond of that one," when thinking about each individually -- it's sweet and a good metaphor for those who feel a personal connection with God. It would make a good reading for a service on parenthood.

There is charm in the book.

Whoa ... do I have more in common with my fundamentalist friends than I think? After completing the book, I googled it.

Bwahahaha. Okay, for some reason, I had it in my head that this was the latest thing that "all" conservative Christians were rallying around, like Babywise, or Left Behind. I mean, it had an endorsement from Michael W. Smith on the back!

Not the conservative, fundamentalist Christians. They have written scathing reviews for its heresy, its emphasis on God as love. They call the book dangerous.

So ... no wonder I wound up enjoying it.

Would I recommend it to UUs? You know, I would -- just so that you can see that this is what people are responding to. God is love. Universalism. Unity amongst religions.

We are not so unusual as we think we are. And a lot of people are looking for us.


Strange Attractor said...

Interesting review. The book was passionately recommended to be my a fundamentalist evangelical so I discounted it immediately. Thanks for presenting a different perspective. Maybe it's worth a look.

fausto said...

many evangelicals are fundamentalist and many findamentalists are evangelical, but they are not necessarily the same. Our predecessor Universalists were evangelical, but hardly fundamentalist. There are still a few evangelicals around who are also universalist (even if not UU) -- as the book exemplifies.

goodwolve said...

I just had a friend recommend this book - hadn't heard about it until yesterday. And now I read your review... hmmm... the universe? ;)

Tara said...

We received this book as a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law (she and her husband are both ministers). I scoffed and put it aside for a few months, until my church's interim minister mentioned that she was reading it and found it interesting. So I gave it a try, and--yeah. Pleasantly surprised.

Earthbound Spirit said...

It will go on my "look for used" list. I still have a lot of required reading to do... (Interestingly, my alma mater is offering a class titled "Dangerous Religious Ideas" this fall! No way I can take it, but it sounds intriguing!)