Monday, November 24, 2008

A rant re: The Shack

Proof that Americans are just plain wierd (not to mention f***** up) (of course we humans in general are like that, aren't we?) can be found in the recent history of book sales in America.

Okay, maybe these book sales don't just represent purchases by Americans. But .. I'm willing to bet that they *mostly* do.

Right now at Number 8 on's sales ranks for all books (and number one on New York Times' paperback trade fiction) is William Young's The Shack. To (slightly mis) quote the brilliant Dick Staub (I mean I misquote the letter, but I get the spirit of what he said just right), "The Shack is another book in the vein of 'The Prayer of Jabez' and 'The Left Behind Books'."

Oh, by the way, here's my actual review of the The Shack.

The Shack is probably either rapidly approaching or has already left behind the one million in total sales mark.

The 16 Left Behind Books altogether have sold some 65 million copies. At the top of the news section of the web site: "Dating the Book of Revelation--Why it matters."

The Prayer of Jabez sold 9 million copies.

All these strike me as at least bordering on drivel. Sorry to be harsh. I mean drivel has it's place, I suppose. But with this many people paying to read it, it's frightening drivel. I absolutely cannot picture Jesus being into any of this stuff.

It almost makes one want to become Roman Catholic. Or Muslim. Or Australian. Or Welsh. Or something. I bet Muslims and Roman Catholics and Aussies and Welsh, by and large, don't buy this drivel. Or anything much like it. BICBW.


Helen said...

I wouldn't put The Shack in the same category as The Prayer of Jabez and the Left Behind series.

The Prayer of Jabez is a me-focused book about how God will bless you with 'more territory' if you ask for it (that's what Jabez asked for).

The Left Behind series is full of graphic violence and Christians who are happy to steal (for example) as long as they are stealing from 'the enemy'. The series is a scare tactic to try to get people to 'accept Jesus as Lord and Savior' so they will avoid the terrible times depicted in the series.

The Shack is a book to help people come to terms with suffering in their lives and to help them heal from it. People walk alongside Mack as he talks with God about what he's been through - a friendly kind God who cares.

For me what The Shack aims to achieve is much better than the goals of The Prayer of Jabez or the Left Behind books.

stephy said...

I loved in this podcast when Bill said that when we are focused on people who are in more pain that we are, that sometimes means we are unable to own our own pain. That is significant for me. I think it's true.

Benjamin Ady said...


I've been ongoingly surprised by the ways in which people whose opinion I great respect disagree with me on the shack. That's why I was so delighted when Dick Staub so resoundingly agreed with me.

I guess the book bothers me because it seems to keep repeating ultimately unsatisfying answers to really big questions. God seems, as you said, "really nice", in the book, but the truth is that the overwhelming majority of people *don't* get to have this sort of interaction with "God", and yet they are still expected to somehow go along with the aforementioned ultimately unsatisfying answers.

I mean it seems to me that William Young expects them to continue to go along with the ultimately unsatisfying answers, despite the fact that they don't get to have the experience Mack has. Which is to say he seems to me to be rather powerfully propogating a system where people aren't ultimately allowed to say "Well, those answers don't work for me, because the truth is that God *doesn't* show up to be all kind so as to somehow ease the unsatisfyingness of those answers." It seems like Willie is saying, in a sense, like Jesus to Thomas "You have seen and so you believe. Blessed are they who do *not* see and yet believe", which very quickly becomes "You ought to (indeed, *must*) believe, even though you haven't seen, and won't be allowed to see."

Or something.

Benjamin Ady said...


Was that William Young in a podcast? Can you link? That does make a lot of sense to me.

Liz said...

oh, I'll bet that other groups of people have their badly written lame books too. I don't think Americans or Christians have by any means cornered the market on this one. I find cheeseball books in pretty equal measure in the Christian and secular worlds.
Me, I'll take Stephen King any day of the week.

stephy said...

Yes, he said that to you during that podcast you linked in this post.

Helen said...

Benjamin, I hear what you're saying. The answers in The Shack don't work for me personally.

However, I still don't think The Shack is as bad as the other books you mentioned.