I promise I will start posting more regularly. This is a promise I make to myself as much as to you guys, since it really helps me to just write stuff out. Sometimes I even write one page flash fiction stories. But those stories don’t get posted on this blog, for reasons I do not wish to discuss.
I was going to do another Stand post tonight, but I am really in the mood to tear into something awful, so, let’s progress with The Shack.
WADE IN THE WATER
We last left off with our protagonist, Mack, finishing up a conversation with Sarayu, the Holy Spirit. She has just told Mack that children do not have the right to be protected. Not only that, nobody has the right to be protected, and that abused people like to whine about their rights instead of put in the work it would take to fix the relationships with their abuser.
This is the book that the publishers want distributed to battered women’s shelters across America. I’m not even remotely kidding. Look up “The Missy Project.”
This chapter is about Mack having (yet another) conversation with Jesus. Because there hasn’t been enough of those lately.
Mack enters Jesus’ workshop and sees “what looks like a casket” on Jesus’ worktable.
Jesus tells Mack that the coffin is a special project for tomorrow, and Mack asks Jesus why they keep talking about tomorrow, like it’s something special.
I’d like to remind you all that, in the very rambly prologue, Mack’s friend Willie went on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about how SO. VERY. INTELLIGENT Mack is!
But here, Mack looks like he is either stubbornly refusing to put 2 and 2 together, or like he is really really dense. Either way, it doesn’t exactly demonstrate his superior intellect.
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Willie is the unreliable narrator.
Jesus tells Mack that tomorrow is a big day, then changes the subject to going for a boat ride on the lake. But it’s worded so badly that it seems like Jesus is saying they will go for a boat ride tomorrow rather than right this second.
Mack assumed they would be taking one of the canoes nestled against the dock pylons…reaching the end of the dock, Jesus turned to Mack and said, “after you.”
Yup, that’s right. Jesus is seriously about to let Mack walk on water with him. I have to admit, this is kind of cool. It’s fun to read about, makes for an interesting movie trailer, and must have been fun to write. In fact, if you took out almost all of the dialogue, this chapter would be perfect.
Mack is a little slow on the uptake. He tells Jesus he’s not really up for a swim.
After Jesus reassures both Mack and the reader that Mack is a really great swimmer, that Mack was even a lifeguard, and a bunch of other unnecessary details that could have been cut out… because we can’t have our audience thinking Mack doesn’t know how to swim. That would be unacceptable, I guess.
Finally Mack grasps what Jesus is saying.
“You’re a quick one, Mack.” Said Jesus. “Nobody’s gonna slide anything past you, that’s for sure.”
You just showed us Mack being slow on the uptake. So either you are presenting Snarky!Jesus (a valid authorial choice) or you are presenting Jesus as the unreliable narrator. (Not a great authorial choice considering your target audience.)
As a Christian, you know you’ve fucked up if you’ve written your god as the unreliable narrator.
But actually, most Christians believe that Jesus is actually incapable of lying, because when he says something, it comes true. So if Jesus says Mack is quick on the uptake, behold, Mack is quick on the uptake.
Unfortunately, the author acts as though that’s how writing works, too. Jesus said Mack was a quick learner, therefore Mack is a quick learner, despite the fact that this has just been demonstrated not to be true.
I actually don’t mind the rest of this scene so much.
How do you step off a dock onto water? Do you jump as if you are landing on concrete or do you step over the edge as if you are getting out of a boat? He looked back at Jesus, who was still chuckling.
Mack is way overthinking this. It’s probably just like stepping off a dock onto ground, if there was ground to step on.
“Will my feet get wet?” queried Mack.
“Of course, water is still wet.”
I would love for someone to rewrite this book with Snarky!Jesus. That would be awesome.
Anyway, Mack is afraid to step out onto the water, but he doesn’t know why. Even *I* know that it would be very hard to trust that I wouldn’t sink, even if I was around people who had previously demonstrated supernatural powers. It’s this little thing humans developed called “self preservation.” We don’t tend to trust people who tell us they can break the laws of physics.”
Jesus and Mack talk for a bit about how scared Mack is, about how powerful the imagination is… how Mack likes to live in the present…..
Then Jesus tells Mack to relax, because this isn’t like, a test or something, jeez!
Someone should rewrite an entire gospel with Snarky!Jesus. I bet it’d be brilliant and you’d sell millions of copies and be able to go on the Christian speaking circuit and make millions. Huh. *I* should write this.
You know, I was expecting this conversation to be about Mack’s trust issues with Jesus. Not this weird conversation about imagination and living in the present and future and past and you know what let’s just move the fuck on because this is stupid.
When Mack and Jesus finally shut the fuck up, the scene is actually fairly decent. Mack is kinda disturbed by how not solid the water looks, so he fixes his gaze on the opposite shore and steps off the dock.
The landing was softer than he had thought it would be. His shoes were instantly wet, but the water did not come up even to his ankles. The lake was still moving all around him, and he almost lost his balance. It was strange. When he looked down, it seemed that his feet were on something solid but invisible.
This is good. This is done well. Or at least, it’s not horribly written, which for this book is an improvement.
Jesus is standing beside Mack, holding his shoes and socks in his hands.
“We always take off our shoes and socks before we do this.”
Yanno Jesus, the time to tell Mack this is before you tell him to step out onto the water, you douche.
Or maybe Jesus just thought this was too obvious to mention. Maybe he thought that because Mack was SO VERY INTELLIGENT, he would just think of it.
But Jesus knows everything, so that’s not an option. That’s why Jesus kind of sucks as a literary character. He’s all powerful and all knowing. Not much story can be created there because his all knowing and all powerfulness create large plotholes. I might write a whole post about that, actually. For now we kinda need to move on.
Other than a few minor things, this scene is fairly well done and well written. And if one was a Christian, how cool would it be to actually imagine yourself walking on water with Jesus? I like that the author did this and I wish he’d do more of it.
Jesus and Mack sit down on the opposite shore and…. talk some more.
You know, the book is much better when Jesus and Mack aren’t talking. You know what would make this book better? Have Jesus show Mack some more of his miracles. Have Jesus take out a cup of water, turn it into wine, and then enjoy a nice wine on the beach?
The author is at his best when he describes cool things God and Jesus and Sarayu can do. He is not so great at writing dialogue or theologies.
Jesus tells Mack that the planet is in terrible condition. It almost kinda sounds like Jesus is an environmentalist, which is surprising because most Christians hate environmentalism, and I’ve never understood why.
Mack asks Jesus why he doesn’t just fix the earth already if it’s that important.
“Because we gave it to you.”
“Can’t you take it back?”
“Of course we could, but then the story would end before it was consummated.”
Mack gave Jesus a blank look.
For once you and I agree, Mack. I have zero idea what the fuck Jesus is on about.
That’s also a really weird use of the world consummated. It’s probably technically correct, but to see it in this context is a little jolting. I’m sure a better word could have been used.
Jesus brings up the subject of freewill, and how he never forces humans to make certain choices.
“I’ve never taken control of your choices or forced you to do anything, even when what you were about to do was destructive or hurtful to others.”
Because the freewill of the abuser is somehow more important than the freewill of the victim. Even as a Christian I never understood this logic.
“To force my will on you,” Jesus replied. “Is exactly what love does not do. Genuine relationships are marked by submission even when your choices are not helpful or healthy.”
Oh this is so not the type of book I would ever want to distribute to a battered women’s shelter. Do the people who set these things up ever think about the implications of what they’re doing? Don’t they know that women have died because they tried to go back and submit to their abuser?
Jesus then goes on to talk about how he, Sarayu, and Papa all submit to each other. Which…. ok, so, you have an equal relationship. Why even bring submission into it, then? Because submission, by definition, is not equality.
Jesus even tries to argue that he submits to Mack just as much as Mack submits to him, which we all know is bullshit because the Bible is pretty clear on the idea of God and Jesus being authority figures and humans are supposed to submit wholly to God’s will. In fact, how do Christians not see this as some sort of blasphemy? Is it because it’s coming from one of their own? Is it because they want to like this book so badly that they are willing to overlook its inconsistencies?
Is the author trying to pander to the more liberal Christian audience by trying to paint our relationship with Jesus as mutual submission to each other, while then stating in the next few pages that we are to let Jesus live in us and make all our decisions?
Jesus then goes on to say that he doesn’t want slaves, but equals. Then he says this
“When I am in your life, submission is the most natural expression of my character and nature, and it will be the most natural expression of your new nature within relationships.”
He doesn’t want slaves, he wants submissives. Totally not the same thing.
“And all I wanted was a God who will just fix everything so no one gets hurt.” Mack shook his head at the realization.
Why is this unreasonable? It’s probably supposed to have been explained in the previous paragraphs about mutual submission in relationships, but it doesn’t seem related at all.
Mack says that he’s not good at relationship stuff, but Nan is. Jesus says that that makes sense, because men tend to find fulfillment in their achievements, while women tend to find it in relationships. Relationships are “more naturally [Nan’s] language.”
Ummmmm what? Seriously? We’re back to ridiculously rigid gender stereotypes? I thought God told Mack that this weekend was not about reinforcing stereotypes? Bad Jesus, bad!
Mack says that it’s difficult for him to love others because of Missy. Jesus says it’s not just Missy, it’s what happened in the garden of Eden.
“By choosing to declare what’s good and what’s evil, you seek to determine your own destiny. It was this turning that has caused you so much pain.”
Doesn’t this kinda contradict what Jesus said earlier about submission not actually being submissive? And heaven forbid humanity try to control their own destiny and use their brains to determine good and evil rather than have a deity do all their thinking for them. Yes, that is why the world is so messed up. Really.
Jesus then goes on to say–with very awkward phrasing…. well I’ll just let you read it.
“But that isn’t all. The woman’s desire–and the word is actually her turning–her turning was not to the works of her hands [like it is for men] but to the man, and his response was to rule “over” her, to take power over her, to become the ruler. Before the choosing, she found her identity, her security, and her understanding of good and evil only in me, as did man.”
I wonder if this is the author’s attempt to gloss over this verse in Genesis.
To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
If you read the chapter in context, God is punishing Eve with this. It’s not that women, any women, ever actually turned to their husbands to find fulfillment, which created in the husbands a desire to rule their wives. It’s literally a punishment from God. If you read the verse after it, the man’s punishment is that he will work the ground with his hands.
None of this is stuff that just cropped up because of sin, this is something Jesus actually did to them because they ate a piece of fruit.
Again, how do Christians not see this as some sort of heresy? Well, I guess the more liberal ones might not, and good for them. The conservatives should absolutely be freaking the fuck out at this clear twisting of scripture.
Jesus says that the solution to all of this–the solution to men turning to “the work of their hands” (seriously, who talks like this?) and women turning to their husbands is to come back to Jesus.
“Women in general will find it difficult to turn from a man and stop demanding that he meet their needs, provide security, and protect their identity, and return to me.”
Actually, most women nowadays do not want their men to do any of these things. Yes there are certain needs that romantic partners could and should meet. But if you’re looking for a single man to meet all your needs, provide financial security, and your identity is tied up in a man….none of that is actually healthy.
Fortunately, none of this is what is usually found in relationships. I would venture a guess that most relationships are fairly healthy. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking, I don’t know.
But either way, if you have your identity wrapped up in Jesus, you still have your identity wrapped up in another man. Which is the very thing Jesus just said he wants to avoid….
In any case, Mack then says something that I’ve been wondering my entire fucking life.
“I’ve always wondered why men have been in charge. Males seem to be the cause of so much pain in the world. They account for most of the crimes and many of those are perpetrated against women and children.”
Or rather, I used to think this. I’m not sure what the actual statistics are, but I’d be willing to bet that males and females are responsible for an equal amount of crime, even those perpetrated against women and children. But I don’t really know where I would get the statistics on that, or even if there are any statistics on that….so let us merely note that this is not exactly stereotype breaking and move on.
And then Jesus admits to Mack that if women were in charge, the world would be a much better place.
Which doesn’t exactly sound like a ringing endorsement of the patriarchy. I admit, I’m shocked.
Jesus then says this:
“We want male and female to be counterparts, face to face equals, each unique and different, distinctive in gender but complementary, and each empowered uniquely by Sarayu…”
Oh, I see. Jesus is a fan of separate, but equal. I heard a lot about complementarianism growing up. Men and women have different roles, but these roles are equal and complement each other.
As a Christian, all I could think about was the mural in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. On one side of the mural was a picture of 1960s children in a white school, and on the other side of the picture were children in a black school from the same decade. In big bold letters were the words “separation is not equal.”
The idea that women and men should always have separate roles–the exact same separate roles–is inherently not equal.
I do not understand this next paragraph at all.
Jesus tells Mack that, when Adam was first created, the woman was inside of him so that God would take her out from within him. Man was never created to live alone. From the very beginning God knew Adam would need a woman.
By taking her [Eve] out of him [Adam], he birthed her in a sense. We created a circle of relationship, like our own, but for humans. She, out of him, and now all the males, including me, birthed through her, and all originating, or birthed form God.
“Oh, I get it,” Mack said, “If the female had been created first, there would have been no circle of relationship, and thus no possibility of a fully equal face to face relationship between the male and the female, right?”
“Exactly right, Mack.” Jesus looked at him and grinned.
I’m trying to put my mindset back into Christianity mode in the hopes of better understanding this…. I still do not fucking understand it.
Anybody want to chime in?
Jesus then tells Mack that there’s one more thing he needs to tell him. He tells Mack that he can’t submit outside of Jesus, and I’m nodding along, fairly standard conservative Christian type stuff. Then there’s this and I get all confused.
“Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy. Being my follower is not trying to “be like Jesus,” it means your independence is killed.”
How did Christian!me not see this? Maybe Christian!me was too busy quietly freaking out at the idea that Jesus wanted to kill my independence to notice that the rest of this goes against everything I’ve ever been taught about Christianity.
Jesus does say that he needs to come live inside Mack in order for him to have a relationship with God. He tells Mack that he shouldn’t just do his own thing.
Jesus then tells Mack that he needs to go do something. It’s very abrupt.
“You have an engagement. Follow that path and enter where it ends. I’ll wait for you here.
And so Mack goes, and thus ends the chapter.
Ooooh cliffhanger! What is Mack off to do! The suspense!
Just kidding, I really don’t care.