The Outhouse: Reflections on The Shack, Part Two: Where was God?
[The Shack by William Young is a major bestseller and worthy of comment. This is the second of five quick looks at The Shack from my perspective.]
Mack’s young daughter Missy is kidnapped and murdered. Mack wants to know where Papa was during the murder. Papa is Missy’s name for God who turns out to be a large black woman. Papa assures Mack that “There was not a moment that we [God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, who it turns out is an Asian woman] were not with her” (p. 173). Mack finds that comforting. I find it infuriating.
They were there and they didn’t stop the murder? You would think that God would be in favor of a Good Samaritan Law that holds bystanders culpable for not saving a person like Missy who found herself in such dire straights. Apparently Big Mama and the Asian Chick weren’t paying attention when Jesus shared this particular parable.
Of course Mack, too, wonders why God didn’t intervene, and Papa tells him that she was powerless to do so. You see, God gave the world over to humans and promised not to interfere. It is a matter of free will, God’s and ours. If God interfered we wouldn’t be free to love him (her?), and God wants us to love him, but only if we do so of our own free will.
God is, of course, lying. God interferes all the time. What is the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden, the destruction of almost all life on the planet with the Flood, the choosing of Abraham, the opening of wombs, the sending of Moses to liberate the Israelites, the murder of the tens of thousands of innocent Egyptian first-born, the revelation on Sinai, the genocide of those who stood to interfere with the Israelite take over of Canaan, the story of Jonah, and… wait for it… Jesus himself? Of course God interferes! And anyone who believes God heals some and not others knows that God interferes. God just chose not to interfere in the case of the kidnap, rape, and murder of little Missy.
I would have felt more comforted if Papa had told Mack that she was at an Elvis concert on Venus rather than that she was right there the whole time and did nothing! I understand being out of town, but I cannot forgive callous inactivity. God herself commands us not to stand idle while our neighbor bleeds (Leviticus 19:16), and yet Papa admits to doing just that! “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justly?” (Genesis 18:25)
Why is Mack, and by extension the millions of Shack fans, comforted by this cop-out? Get angry, man! Be outraged! Demand an accounting from the Great Accountant! But that is too Jewish for our Protestant Mack. This is an aspect of Christianity that just breaks my heart. Christians can’t get angry with God. Jews are nothing without our tradition of arguing with, indicting, and even convicting God of unspeakable crimes against humanity. Being angry with God isn’t a betrayal of faith, but the firmest articulation of it. Love God so much that you demand God be holy rather than cruel. Mack doesn’t so much love God as enable God to go on claiming powerlessness when in fact God is simply callous.