The Shack Chapter 9



Chapter 9

A Long Time Ago, In a Garden Far, Far Away

I’m not sure why the Star Wars reference. Is this garden actually in the past? Does that mean Mack has time traveled to before the shack was, well, a shack?

In any case, Mack follows Sarayu to the garden, which is very large and also contains an orchard. Sarayu picks an herb and tells Mack to chew the leaves. They’ll stop him from getting diarrhea from the greens he overindulged in at breakfast this morning, apparently.

Thank God, because I really don’t want to have to read about Mack’s GI issues.

Sarayu picks a bouquet of flowers and herbs, then directs Mack to begin digging up a space so she can plant some things there tomorrow. Why God The Holy Spirit doesn’t just use her god powers to work the garden is not something that will ever be explained.

Mack asks Sarayu if she and her Godhead partners created everything. He’s specifically referring to mosquitoes and poisonous plants. Anyone who’s ever read anything about creation science already knows the answer to this question. But I don’t think this book is meant to be preaching to the choir, so we get it spelled out for us.

“We created everything that actually exists, including what you consider the bad stuff…but when I created it, it was only good, because that is just the way I am.”

How are mosquitoes possibly good? Surely something less bothersome could take their place in the ecosystem if it was being designed by anything halfway intelligent.

When Mack voices this, Sarayu shakes her head and tells him that humans aren’t just taking themselves to hell in handbaskets, they’re taking the rest of creation with them.

Indeed, creation scientists also talk about how different things supposedly were before the flood. Poisonous snakes, they argue, weren’t actually poisonous when God created them. But they became that way after the flood. After the flood there was a different amount of air pressure, the world was a lot cooler, and in general a much different place.

Also, sin has corrupted even the plants and animals.

Surprisingly, Sarayu doesn’t say any of that. She points to a poisonous plant and tells Mack that “bad plants” aren’t all bad. This plant, for example, would normally be harmful for Mack to even touch. However, it has some good healing properties.

Are there actual plants that can poison you just by touching a small part of them? Certainly if you had any open cuts on your hand, but I’m unaware of anything that powerful. Usually you’d have to at least ingest it in some form in order for negative affects to occur.

And here’s a thought, why not just make plants that can heal you without the harmful poisonous component?

Sarayu tells Mack that humans often declare a thing “good” or “bad” without understanding the thing. And I can track with that, that’s very true.

Then Sarayu tells Mack that she is referring to the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and she loses me completely. Instead of asking her to elucidate, Mack asks incredulously if the garden of Eden was real.

Nope, you just stretched the bounds of credibility too far. Mack hasn’t exactly been worshiping God, but he hasn’t been shown to be an atheist, or even a liberal Christian before. He’s been shown as just a lapsed Christian who still believes Genesis should be taken literally, but he can’t bring himself to care.

In any case, Mack says that a lot of people think that Eve eating the fruit from the tree was a myth. It is, and I’m told it’s not a very original one at that. I packed all the relevant books, so I won’t get into it now, but a lot of the Genesis stories were borrowed from other religions.

“Let me ask you a question. When something happens to you, how do you determine whether it is good or evil?”

By whether or not it could cause me some form of harm, that’s how. Duh. But the question stuns Mack into silence. He finally gives the exact answer I just gave, but then Sarayu tells him that that makes it all rather subjective.

Well, yeah. What’s good for me is not necessarily going to be good for person X, and vice versa. Sometimes the right thing to do in a given situation is subjective.

Sarayu interrupted. “Then it is you who determines good and evil. You become the judge. And to make things more confusing, that which you determine to be good will change over time and circumstance.”

Yes. And I’m grateful for that. Just a few short years ago, being gay was considered evil. I know it still is by a lot of people, but it’s much more accepted now. I’m glad that humans have the ability to grow and change as we learn to do better. (well. Some of us, at any rate.)

I think we’re supposed to read this as horrifying. That there has to be such a thing as absolute morality, otherwise the planet will descend into absolute chaos.

Actually, even though right and wrong varies across time and cultures, there are a few constants. But set that aside for now.

When Mack says that he can see the problem Sarayu snaps that there certainly is a problem.

“Indeed! The choice to eat from the tree tore the universe apart, divorcing the spiritual from the physical.”

Mack didn’t eat the fruit from the tree, why are you snapping at him?

Mack responds, kind of stoically, that he sees now that he spends too much time trying to acquire things he considers good while fearing that which he considers bad.

Um, yeah, and? I bet he also breathes oxygen and expels carbon dioxide. This guy is, after all, supposedly human. And I see nothing wrong with any of those things.

“You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil on your own terms.”

This is a huge red flag. If anybody says this to you, please do yourself a favor and run.

Sarayu goes on for a bit about how good she is, and then Mack says that giving up his right to independence isn’t going to be easy, because

Sarayu interrupted his sentence again. “That in one instance, the good may be the presence of cancer or the loss of income–or even a life.”

An editor. An editor looked at this and nodded his head and kept reading.

I don’t like Sarayu. She interrupts a lot. Also, what she is saying is kind of a little horrifying.

Mack points out that the people with cancer and dead daughters might be a little pissed off at what Sarayu is saying. *I* am a little pissed off at what Sarayu is saying, and I don’t have cancer. Or a dead daughter.

Sarayu says that she keeps those people in mind, and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to make of that.

Then we get this.

“But–” Mack could feel his control getting away as he drove his shovel in hard– “didn’t Missy have a right to be protected?”

“No, Mack. A child is protected because she is loved, not because she has a right to be protected.”

I keep typing out a response to this and then deleting it. How do you respond to something like this?

First of all, this is sadly a common sentiment among fundy Christians. They are opposed to child protection laws for reasons I don’t fully understand. They don’t seem to care about protecting children, and it’s horrifying to think that the reason is because they really don’t think children should have the right to be protected.

Imagine you are a child in an abusive home with Christian parents. You pick up a copy of this book, and then you read that you don’t have the right to be protected from what is happening to you. Imagine how horrible you feel at that moment.

Sometimes I hope there is a hell just so these people can be sent there.

Set all that aside for 10 seconds. So, does that mean that God let Missy die because he didn’t love her enough to protect her?

Anyone who doesn’t believe children have a right to be protected from being brutally murdered and possibly raped is a motherfucking asshole who doesn’t deserve to live.

Mack gropes wildly for some kind of right he can hold on to.

“But what about–”

“Rights are where survivors go, so that they won’t have to work out relationships,” [Sarayu] cut in.

At the end note in the back of this book, the author recommends distributing these books to shelters for battered women.

In light of this chapter, in light of this statement, let that sink in for a bit.

And no, I’m sorry, but a survivor of abuse should feel in no way obligated to work out a relationship with her or his abuser. The abuser has waived that right the minute he started the abuse. This is why people die. In fact, there has recently been a death in my family for this very reason. Abused women are told they are told they must go back and forgive their abuser rather than take their right to live free and unabused. Many of them pay for this mistake with their lives.


Mack was getting frustrated. He spoke louder. “But don’t I have the right to–”

“To complete a sentence without being interrupted? No, you don’t. Not in reality.  but as long as you think you do, you will surely get ticked off when someone cuts you off, even if it is God.”

Wow, Sarayu is a dick.

Also, one would think that God would have better manners than to go around interrupting his subjects. How does he like it when he’s interrupted?

Sarayu then goes on for another paragraph about Jesus and how he gave up his rights to “allow you to live free enough to give up your rights.”

I’ll be honest, this chapter wasn’t hard for me to write because I was busy with school. This chapter was hard to write because of the subject matter. This chapter was hard to read when I was a Christian, and it is hard to read now. As a Christian and as an Atheist, I weep for the women in battered womens’ shelters who read this. I weep for the abused child who reads this and her heart sinks as she starts to really believe that she doesn’t deserve to be protected from the abuse.

And I weep because this book got really popular, which means that there are a lot of people out there who agree that children don’t deserve to be protected from abuse.

You know what? Maybe the Trisolarans should come wipe us all out.






One thought on “The Shack Chapter 9

  1. Well, that certainly explains why some Xns are OK with sex trafficking; those children aren’t loved. Gosh, sick, sick, sick. Apparently, I should have check this book out of the library rather than skimming it at Barnes and Noble because I missed this part and it would have been a deal breaker for me. And, btw, all children are loved, by me, at least, which makes them worthy, according to this, of protection. Every single child I touched at Juvenile Hall, for instance, as I started the exam I thought to myself “I love this child.” Which did not stop me from pressing charges against the one that assaulted me. Tough love!

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