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Sunday, March 12, 2017

THE SHACK and WHITE CHRISTIANITY'S COLLUSION WITH WHITENESS

I've read hundreds of books by white authors. I read quite a bit fewer these days.  I'm not as committed to reading big block busters. I look for black authors. But I've read a lot of white written books. 

Overall, I'd say I enjoy books by white authors better when all the characters are entirely white, with the possible exception of the character sitting next to the main white character at work or something.

You know why, right?

When a white author writes a central black character the chances are 8 to 1 that the stereotypes and macro-as-hell aggressions will come out in spades (pun intended).


I explain all this to inform you that I'm used to closing my eyes and skipping over a few words or sentences and continue reading a book. I read one that was shockingly bad last year. But for the most part, I keep it moving when I'm reading a white book. 

But THE SHACK was different. 

The premise was of the THE SHACK was intriguing, promising even. The Christian author decided to write a Christian book were The Holy Trinity (God, Jesus, the Holy Ghost) were represented by a fat black woman, a jewish man, and an Asian woman as I recall. Wisdom was personified as well. There was a Latina depicted as hot latin mami in the book too.  

I don't know if I have each identities lined up right. It doesn't matter. I just know there were stereotypes associated with each character that was NOT depicted crispy WASPY white.   

I managed to finish the book. This was a miracle in itself.  However, the racial stereotypes were so blatant that I felt I had to write my pastor and ask him to never invite the author to speak  as a guest again. 


I sat through that one service with my head in my hands. 

When I got home and wrote the e-mail later that same Sunday. I quite literally threatened my pastor with rushing the stage in an Aunt Jemima costume if I ever saw that man's name on the schedule as speaker again. 

And I'd have done it too.

When I got up there, I was planning on wearing a lot of ill placed padding and quoting his book, especially all the lines around the part where Aunt Jemima God calls the main white male character, the one that must be saved, "Honey Chile." 

Of course white people love this hokey stereotype to death and had no problem Aunt Jemima God. That's why I had to explain in detail, to my white pastor, what was wrong with it. I also had to explain how nobody black or brown was going to tell him to his face --except me in costume, on stage, causing enough ruckus for the police to be called.
I wasn't even kidding. I was actually looking for places to get the costume --just in case. 

The other thing that irked me was that the 81%  (For-Trump -White -Christians) who disliked the book as much as I did, did so based on three completely different reasons: 
1) legalism and/or the fact that the book was conceptual instead of quoting the bible verse by verse. 
2) God depicted as female 
3) God depicted as not-white 
(though the white reviewers never came out and said that was the "problem" too many [white] people had with the "imagery" the real problem to be anything but race)
Coming forward years later to now, I was a bit perturbed when I heard Olivia Spencer was starring in the movie version of this questionable freaking book. But I wasn't surprised. For every great thing Spencer does, like HIDDEN FIGURES, she does something that is somewhere between cringe worthy and vomit worthy such as BLACK OR WHITE with Kevin Costner and now THE SHACK.  

But you know what the biggest thing that bugged me most about this book?
The author probably had a really good idea with a good message that came from a good place in his heart. 
He wanted to describe God by throwing away what God might look like on the outside and instead decided to describe God by showing what God's thoughts, God's character, God's emotions might be. Most importantly the author seemed to want to show that God's love for free will was so strong that He was willing to let us humans wind up being critically flawed.
But, the patriarchal white supremacy completely blocked that message for me.

I wound up feeling cheated.


Then again, the message may not have been that deep. How would I know. 
I mean...I read it. But I was too put off by the stereotypes to sink down into the story the way I should have.

I can't quite remember all the details, but I am almost sure this is the white Christian book where Jesus --the only Jew in the story --was described as having a hooked nose. I do remember that Aunt Jemima God used "Honey Chile" once and I'm pretty sure she used "Honey Chile" twice. By the time I got to the Asian character, in my head I was hearing that fake Asian accent used by a character named 'Kane' in the 1960s television show Kung Fu every time that character spoke.
It was a horrible reading experience. Horrible.  

Since reading this book, I've read article after white article on this book over the years. And I actually started to think I was the only one who thought this book (and probably the movie) was just hell on wheels no matter what the author intended. 

--especially after an older black woman told me how she loved the book.  So I started to wonder if I was crazy. But then...
1) the movie crashed and burned at the box office and 2) I found a review by a feminist that had read the book too.

     ELIZABETH LEMONS wrote: 

"William P. Young, an “ordinary” Christian father of six, was working as a janitor and salesperson for a small company in Oregon when he created quite a splash in the Evangelical community by publishing The Shack in 2007 (WindRumors). The Shack is the story of a man who finds spiritual healing and forgiveness by spending a weekend in the woods with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, all of whom are embodied as people of color. The Shack topped the New York Times trade paperback fiction best-seller list about a year after its publication, and it has sold over ten million copies (Rich, Lodde). 
Readers have gushed that the story is life-changing and faith-renewing, while many Evangelical leaders criticize the book for theological errors, going so far as to call the story heretical (Challies, Rich). On the surface, The Shack seems to be liberatory and ant-racist, but a feminist reading proves it to be otherwise.... "

STOP. 

LET'S REVIEW WHAT WE NOW KNOW

1) I AM NOT CRAZY

I just gots da 
feminist, anti-racism brain syndrome
while others do not

2)  AUTHOR STATS: WILLIAM P YOUNG

White

Christian

White


Janitor (Working Poor?/Low education?)

White


Living in A White Liberal State, Oregon*

White


Um. Yeah. Young sounds like he is a Christian version of Bernie Sanders sans the money and power. A white conservative could have / might have written this book, but a white liberal is exactly who should have written a book like THE SHACK. 

THE SHACK represents good intentions and rather willful white ignorance about all things not-white. This ignorance being so wide spread is how this book rose to the tops of white bestseller lists everywhere while being identified as "anti-racist" by white people --who move in predominantly white circles all over America.

Got it?

So, I understand what's happening with this hit book now.  White people only know themselves in a deep way. And most everything they create reflects this. But this insight does not explain another very-white book I read a while back. I may never understand how that rotten freaking 50 SHADES OF GRAY book got to be a hit. 

By the way, William P Young's THE SHACK should be considered proof that de facto segregation hurts white people. It keeps whites racially ignorant. And white racial ignorance = perpetuation of white racism.
Racial ignorance = racism ignorance = unwilling to see Cheeto Satan for what he is = Bernie Sanders and Cheeto Satan himself agreeing to call the Cheeto Satan-ette voters 'angsty disaffected white working class voters' instead of 'white supremacist voters'  who came together to protect their white interests when their master (the Cheeto Painted Prez) called them together with a series screams, moans, and dog whistle type racism during the 2016 election ALL BECAUSE demographics are shifting brown in the good ole USA   
Cheeto Satanettes (Christian and non-Christian both) recognize the code. They know that MUSLIM BAN and IMMIGRANT RHETORIC = keep the "not-white" out.)
I told someone that the movie THE SHACK would almost have to be better than the book because I thought the book was sooo bad it caused my racial PTSD flare up.  I just didn't think it could be worse. But I was wrong, apparently. 

Read about how and why THE SHACK movie is going down in flames at the box office by googling it. But read Elizabeth's review of THE SHACK below if you want to know how the book is riddled with racist stereotypes.

Christianity’s Collusion with Whiteness: Divine Embodiment in "The Shack"
Elizabeth Lemons

Abstract


The Shack is a story about a Christian man, Mack, who encounters God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit one weekend after experiencing a family tragedy. Mack is surprised to find that each of the characters presents him or herself as a person of color. This seemingly progressive, anti-racist depiction of the trinity was wildly popular among evangelical readers, many of whom gushed that the story is life-changing and faith-renewing. Using feminist scholarship, critical whiteness theory, and a history of Evangelical race relations, this article gives an alternative reading of The Shack, making the argument that the story reifies racist stereotypes and reinstates the authority of the white, male liberal subject. Tracing the influence of Enlightenment discourse on Christian beliefs about bodily transcendence, this article makes the argument that the structures of whiteness are fundamental for American Evangelicalism’s culture and theology. Ultimately, The Shack is an exploratory story about racial reconciliation within the evangelical community; however, The Shack does not challenge the popular evangelical conception that racism is nothing more than conflict between individuals on the basis of racial stereotypes. The Shack continues to ignore the structural privileging of whiteness, colluding with racist systems by ultimately failing to undermine them.
Read More
https://journals.tdl.org/jrwg/index.php/jrwg/article/view/66/31