I went to an advanced screening of The Shack and have some thoughts in this quick post. You’re no doubt familiar with the book that came out in 2007. Paul Young self-published (and then got embroiled in a bitter copyright lawsuit that still hasn’t been resolved as far as I know) the book that went on to the top 70 most published (by print run) in the world.
The appeal is predominantly how lead character Mac, interacts with God, revealed in three persons, including God ‘the Father’ most often depicted as God the African American Mother. The book is worth reading simply for the challenge it brings against the traditional Protestant view of the Trinity. It also has a strong message of suffering to restoration.
Full disclosure, I got to see it free, and I rarely consume overtly Christian media. As for the movie, ACT I and III were poor, ACT II was really good.
I don’t know how to compare this to other faith-based movies other than to say a film so heavily dependent on dialogue requires exceptional acting, and I think for the most part it succeeds.
Specifically, ACT I was a pain to get through. The book didn’t win any literary awards, but in the least it included significant tension surrounding the abduction of Mac’s youngest daughter. The movie breezed through Mac’s backstory, current reality, and call to adventure. The production value was the kind you’d expect in a faith/evangelical based film. (And seriously, the fake snow was so clearly fake it detracted from the start.)
Ok, enough with the bad, how about the good? I believe every Christian, especially those from a conservative Protestant background, should see the movie for ACT II alone. The challenge to the traditional portrayal of God is really good. Out, to the dismay of theological conservatives, was wrathful God with a white beard out for vengeance. In was (intentionally for sure) every ethnic minority (black, latina, aboriginal, Jewish) playing the roles of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, shifting context to fit the needs of Mac’s journey.
The movie isn’t a theological statement, but it does challenge widely held assumptions about God in the Western church. The story meandered through a mostly believable premise of brokenness to ultimate restoration, which ultimately resembles the primary narrative of scripture itself. Although the movie ends as flat as it started, more importantly, you left with a different idea of God. Anytime you can capture another piece of the Mystery, it’s worth the time.
In terms of using The Shack as an outreach tool, don’t. Apart from the faith-based crowd, It does have a STRONG message for the ‘dones’, the people who have left church damaged because of the portrayal of an overbearing hateful God intent of burning all pagans. Without a religious memory the movie is hard to follow and awkward to watch at times. I won’t give it any stars because I can’t compare it to other faith-based films, but at some point it’s worth sitting through.