From The Shack to the Courthouse

Since I’ve mentioned the popular novel The Shack in a number of posts, it seems worthwhile to mention the latest real-life twist in the novel’s story. According to the LA Times, The Shack‘s author, William Paul Young, has sued pastors Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings; the start-up the three created to publish the book initially, Windblown Media; and the book’s current publisher, Hachette. Young alleges that he is owed $8 million in royalties through December 2008, as well as other relief. Windblown has counterclaimed for $5 million. Meanwhile, Jacobsen and Cummings have filed an amended copyright filing with the Library of Congress.

I will refrain from commenting on the legal issues (or the legal posture of these cases, which is more than a little muddled in the article), but am posting this merely for general interest.

h/t: Tim Challies

Another Great Review of The Shack

Scott Lindsey has a great review of The Shack.

For my earlier review, see here or this collection of information on The Shack.

EDIT: Don’t miss the scathing review of The Shack from James DeYoung, a good friend of the author (William P. “Paul” Young). Also check out Chuck Colson’s review, Al Mohler’s radio broadcast on the book, and Tim Challies’s booklet.

(h/t Tim Challies)

More Thoughts on The Shack

Joe Holland has posted an altogether excellent review of The Shack (hat tip: Tim Challies). Meanwhile, my blog has attracted a couple comments on the topic. Granted, there are not too many comments, but they contain themes worth a little discussion.

Continue reading More Thoughts on The Shack

More on The Shack

Tim Challies has posted a follow-up on his review of The Shack. As expected, it prompted a vigorous discussion in the comments. (See also this post for another discussion, which Challies cites.)

The one thing I have never figured out about the way people talk about this book is the insistence that The Shack is allegorical. It patently is not, but that does not seem to prevent lots of insistence from supporters that it is.

Earlier coverage:

The Popularity of Christian Books

Intro
I have been thinking a lot lately, as my last few posts may have indicated, about just what American Christians are reading. This has been fueled not only by my own reading of The Shack, but also by my discovery of two great websites. One is a blog by an author named Tim Challies, the other a companion site called Discerning Reader. Neither site is perfect, of course, but both are very interesting.

Anyway, this got the nerdy side – it’s a big side – of my personality fired up, and I started wondering what American Christians are reading, and what they think of it. So, I conducted a little study of Amazon reviews of popular Christian books to see how various books were rated. (Warning: extreme geekery follows…) Continue reading The Popularity of Christian Books

Marketing The Shack

I posted a short review of The Shack here, earlier. I would love to hear from my readers about another, related topic: the book’s marketing. In my opinion, the way in which The Shack has been marketed raises some disturbing questions, of a kind I don’t normally associate with “mainstream” “Christian” books.

First, there is the Missy Project, which is explained in a two-page blurb at the end of the physical copies of the book, as well as on the book’s official site. (Missy, for those who have not read the book, is the name of a little girl who is abducted and murdered in the book.) This blurb encourages people to blog about it, write reviews (especially positive ones, of course), display it, seek positive reviews from others, buy multiple copies to give away, and so on. My favorite:

Talk about the book on email lists you’re on, forums you frequent and other places you engage other people on the Internet. Don’t make it an advertisement, but share how this book impacted your life and offer people the link to The Shack website.

To me, this sounds like straight-up viral marketing. The proceeds of the book, so far as I can tell, are not being donated to any charitable cause, but are going to the publisher and the author. So, either the author and others are really very convinced that the book is life-changing and are committed to bringing their message to a wide audience (which, conveniently, sells more books), or this is a shameless plug.

Then, there is the author’s site, the home page of which opens with this:

If you are so inclined and would like to write a review for Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble, especially a 5 star review, we would greatly appreciate it.

If that’s not a shameless plug for a book, I don’t know what is. In fact, the entire site feels like one big marketing device. Look at it for yourself.

Loyal readers: what are your thoughts?

Book Review: The Shack

I recently read The Shack, which is a novel that came out last spring. In The Shack, a man whose daughter was murdered returns to the scene of the crime, where he meets with three people who claim to be the three persons of the Trinity (Papa, an African-American woman, as the Father; Jesus as Himself; Sarayu, a petite Asian woman who seems to fade in and out of existence as the Holy Spirit). I want to offer a very brief review here.

Plenty of reviewers have summarized the plot on various websites. I want to comment only briefly on the theological questions raised in the book (for a much more complete review, read this excellent one by Tim Challies). The Shack puts words directly into the mouth of God, about topics like sin and salvation. It does so in a way that indicates God may or may not care about faith, may or may not care about sin, and may or may not think the Bible is useful for anything. It also suggests that institutions (including marriage and traditional Christian churches), governments, and economic systems are all inherently things God dislikes; in the book, Jesus even blames all the world’s ills on institutions, economics, and politics.

The Shack is definitely a moving, interesting read. Unfortunately, many readers will see it as “only a novel” (some are claiming it is allegorical, which it is not) and conclude that questioning the theology is unnecessary. Worse, I worry that some will conclude that, because the book is a novel, it doesn’t even contain theology. When God speaks in a novel, however, especially about the fundamental doctrines of a belief system, the novel is theological.

This review is very brief, but I hope it will encourage others to look at The Shack critically, examining it for more than the impact it can have on people’s lives. Ultimately, I think it is a dangerous book, because it presents theological conversations with God, but most readers overlook the fact that the book has theological implications, while simultaneously embracing what it has taught them about God (for examples of this, see most Amazon reviews). The book deserves to be questioned.

For those who need answers to questions about suffering and the evil things people do, I would recommend either the biblical book of Job or The Problem of Pain, by C.S. Lewis.

Public Service Announcement: Tested Advertising Methods

After watching a truly horrifying self-produced commercial, I felt compelled to recommend again a book which everyone in business should read. It’s a classic, called Tested Advertising Methods, and it basically tells you all you need to know about advertising (what works and what doesn’t, why, etc.). Do yourself or the business geek(s) in your life a favor, and pick up a copy. It’s actually very entertaining and informative reading, even if you never put together an ad in your life.

An example of what does not work, when advertising a local Internet access provider, is video of strangely dressed people in an echoing room looking at TVs showing your old ads (which, by the way, consisted almost entirely of your logo) and saying things like, “We’re looking at 10 years of [COMPANY] ads!” Seriously, that was the entire commercial. Geeks, in a room, with TVs, saying stupid things do not make me want broadband any more than I did before, much less provided by said geeks…

 

 

 

 

Review: Mexifornia: A State of Becoming

I have posted a new review of Mexifornia: A State of Becoming, by Victor David Hanson:

In Mexifornia: A State of Becoming, Victor Davis Hanson, a classics professor at California State University at Fresno, examines and exposes what is happening in California and the entire United States, as unchecked and illegal immigration overwhelms social services and the very social fabric. Where assimilation of immigrants was once the norm, our culture now advocates identity politics above the “melting pot” of old and self-identification above such old, non-specific labels as “American.”

This book was a major subject of a speech by Richard Lamm in 2004, titled, “I Have a Plan to Destroy America.” Lamm, a former Democratic governor, believes this book is required reading for anyone who values American-style democracy and liberal freedoms. I agree. Hanson’s book is certainly political, but it is not easily pigeonholed as “leftist,” “rightist,” Democratic, or Republican. I would call it “realistic.” America has a real problem, as this book makes painfully clear for those who were not yet aware. Hanson also proposes solutions to the immigration problems we face, even after 9/11.

All in all, an excellent book and a must-read for anyone interested in immigration, national security, or identity politics in America.

Richard Lamm’s Plan to Destroy America

Richard Lamm, a Democrat and former governor of Colorada (1975-1987), gave the following speech before a 2004 immigration-overpopulation conference. It is worth quoting, in its entirety:

Continue reading Richard Lamm’s Plan to Destroy America