Let’s Talk About “The Shack: the Movie”

Image result for The ShackYes, let’s talk about Shack, the movie.  For me, I’ve actually read The Shack, twice and I was oblivious to the controversies surrounding the book. The Shack clearly centering on the themes of “forgiveness” and God’s love for his children. Some time ago, I am told of the upcoming film based on the book.

A month ago, I’m told of the upcoming film based on the book. I was glad and I looked forward to seeing it in the theater. I, also felt like it would be a good idea to write about it, too. Yesterday, God answered my desire to do so.

How is the movie? Is it worth seeing? Was I bothered by the depiction of God, as a black woman?  I enjoyed the movie and it’s worth the ticket price.  You should see it, with some friends; as it may provide an opportunity to talk about the various issues raised by the movie.

As for the controversies, I’d like to offer some thoughts on what I’ve seen.

Shall we start with the first one?  I’m talking about the depiction of God, the Father as a black woman. For me, I had no problems. How so?  Unlike some evangelicals, I did not live under a rock. I’ve had the opportunity to read a fair amount of strange depictions of God in literature and television.  Years ago, I read a science fiction novel that depicted God, as cold.  It was a God, who didn’t care about the lives of those, who he created.  It is clearly not a God, who would send His Son to redeem humanity.

I’ve also read other such books in both audio and print. As for television and movies, I’ve already seen a female version of  God. It was on a television show, in the 70s.  Of course, I’ve seen the George Burns’ classic, Oh God!  Yes, I’ve also enjoyed “Bruce, Almighty” and “Evan, Almighty.”  They were not the only ones! With a little research, I discovered that I have only scratched the surface.

Am I supposed to be shocked by “The Shack”? No, I am clearly not.  I am more interested in the message being depicted in the movie or book. Though I love Morgan Friedman, he is not capable of accurately portraying God. He can only go by his understanding of God and the offered script. Why would Octavia Spencer be any different?

Octavia did a very nice job; although it was a little tougher than it would be for Morgan.  She is asked to play someone, who is clearly described as a “He”.  I could say the same thing for Avraham Alush and Sumire Matsubara.  They each took on a challenging role and they gave a nice performance. It’s actually nice to see a Middle Eastern actor play  Jesus; as opposed to the usual white Europeans.

By the way, human beings are made in the image of God.  If so, then I’d ask this question. Why don’t men and women look exactly alike? We’re not supposed to be. We are created to complement each other.  Each has something the other needs and I am not talking sex. That is right; we need each other.

Here is an important fact. You should not confuse gender differences with masculinity and feminity.  They are not the same thing.  Masculinity and feminity refer to the inner qualities that define a man and a woman.  Guess what? They exist equally within God and God calls himself, a “He”.

Our view of God is often shaped by our personal experiences and our understanding of the Bible. If you grew up in an abusive household then it is going to shape your perception of God.  Such a situation can also shape your understanding of the Word of God.  This is actually one of the point brought up in the movie.  It’s why Nan could call God, “Papa” and Mack could not.

Some time ago, I saw an interview with William P. Young and he shared his personal story.  It turns out that William suffered terrible abuse, as a child. He also suffered other hardship that affected his marriage, too.  These events twist his view of God.  Thankfully,  he eventually underwent some serious therapy and healing.

The Shack is actually a fictional depiction of his journey towards healing and knowing God.  As I watched the movie, I had a sense of Young’s heartfelt need to know a loving God; as opposed to the impersonal God that he knew of. It is also the God hat he wanted his children & grandchildren to know about. 

Is William’s depiction of God, correct?  I am not going to answer this question.  However, you should not let a movie or book define your perception of God. It needs to be informed by the Word of God. Though it has been sadly twisted, the Bible is still the only true way to fully know God, the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

There was a time in which I’d have struggled with the concepts shown in this movie.  I’m speaking of God’s love and forgiving others. Does this sound like you?  If so, I’d suggest you get into a Christian bible study with some trusted friends.

Study the Word of God and see what the Bible says about God’s love, holiness, God’s justice and mercy, and God’s forgiveness.  No movie or book could ever do justice to what the Bible can do.  Let the Holy Spirit guide you in such a study.

As for the movie, I already gave my opinion.  I enjoyed it and I appreciated the message about forgiveness.  It’s not an easy thing and the movie did not pretend, otherwise.  It’s also worth noticing that Mack was on the receiving end of God’s mercy and he didn’t know it.  What am I talking about?

You’ll see it in the first portion of the movie.  I’m glad they kept the story found in the book’s prologue.  It would set the stage for a later scene.  Some evangelicals are going to be upset by these two scenes.  It’s really a heart cry for justice.  “Where’s the lightning bolt?”, they will cry out.  For such people, I have this question. Would you like a lightning bolt shot at you when you sin?  

Is it not better to see God’s mercy in action?  If you haven’t seen the movie then I’d encourage you to see how God’s mercy was at work.  How about Mack’s redemption? If not for the controversies, I would have missed this theme.  Have they not heard? Have they not read Romans 2:4?

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

As my friends and I discovered, this movie is rich with great symbolism and metaphors.  I would encourage to talk about it, afterward.  I’d also encourage prayer.  Talk with God about it.  I can easily see the potentials for good or harm, from this movie.

For this reason, I’d encourage you to view the movie through the lens of Scripture and not the other way around! Christians should use this movie, as an opportunity to talk about the nature of God: holiness, justice, mercy and love.

The movie can also be used to share about Jesus. What a shock? The movie is imperfect! Why not bridge the gap and share the real Jesus? For my friends and I, it’s a no-brainer. They already know it.  However, there are many Christians, who don’t think this way.

Barry Brindisi

Author of "You Are Not A Lesser Human".

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