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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 except 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 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. 

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 crispy WASPY white.   

I managed to finish the book. 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 again. I sat through 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 loved it to death with no problem.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 also disliked the book 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" so many [white] people had with the "imagery." 

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 and a good message that came from a good place in his heart. This idea he had to explain God (to his children as I recall) was a new way of perceiving God that had to do with God's thoughts, God's character, God's emotions, and most importantly God's love for free will having critically flawed us. But, the patriarchal white supremacy completely blocked the message for me.

I felt cheated.



The message may not be that deep. I read it. But I don't know because I was so put off by the stereotypes.

I  can't quite remember, 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'm know 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 I was hearing that fake Asian accent used in the 1960s television show Kung Fu every time that character spoke. It was a horrible reading experience. Horrible.  


Since I read the book, I've read article after white article about this book over the years. I 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. 

An older black woman told me she loved the book just recently. 

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 it 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 lifechanging 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 KNOW

1) I AM NOT CRAZY
I just gots da 
feminist, anti-racism brain syndrome


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 a Christian version of Bernie Sanders sans the money and power. That's exactly who should have written a book like THE SHACK. White ignorance about all things not white followed up by lifting this book to the tops of white bestseller lists everywhere while identified as "anti-racist" by white people moving in predominantly white circles in America.

Got it.  

I understand what's happening with this hit book now. Maybe I'll understand how that rotten freaking 50 SHADES OF GRAY book got to be a hit one day.

By the way, William P Young and THE SHACK are more proof that 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 now Cheeto Painted Prez) called them together with a series screams, moans, and dog whistle racism during the election BECAUSE demographics are shifting brown in the good ole USA   (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. Apparently, I was wrong. Read about how and why THE SHACK movie is going down in flames at the box office by googling it. But you can read Elizabeth's review of THE SHACK below.


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