The Shack Chapter 11–Here Come Da Judge

It’s been hard to write anything lately. I know that not a lot of people read me, and it’s very hard to continue to do something that I now I kinda suck at. I’m mostly going to try and finish up the books I started. See where I end up going after that.


Chapter 11 of this waste of trees is actually called “Here Come Da Judge,” which I can only imagine is a lame attempt to sound much cooler than you really are.

I’ll be honest, this chapter was a hard one to get through. Well they’re all hard, but this one had me particularly ragey. Or maybe that’s just the way I feel because I had a particularly brutal day at work and I have no faith left in humanity and I kind of want to send EVERY SINGLE PERSON to hell.

Don’t worry, the feeling usually passes after I relax a bit.

We last left off with Jesus telling Mack to go into a cave. Mack does so, and freaks out for a few moments about how dark it is, and for some reason the intense darkness makes him feel The Great Sadness (yes, it’s italicized like that in the text) even more. I get that this is probably supposed to be symbolic; Mack feels sadness in the dark because his soul is dark or something. Honestly, it just comes across as him being overly whiny….unless being in a dark cave somehow reminds you of your child being murdered in a well lit shack?

Mack’s eyes slowly adjust to what little light there is. he follows the cave in for a little while, and this all takes up like 4 large paragraphs.

Mack stumbles into a chair, and decides to sit in it. Which feels like a very random decision but whatever.

A light moves in front of Mack, and he sees a woman sitting behind a desk.

A tall, beautiful olive skinned woman with chiseled Hispanic features, clothed in a dark flowing robe. She sat as straight and regal as a high court judge. She was stunning.

So, let’s talk about the characters in this book for a moment. We won’t be told this until chapter 12, but I’m going to spoil this for you now: This woman is Sophia, and she is God’s wisdom personified. Yet she is somehow not part of the trinity. Please give up trying to make sense of that right now and this will all go much smoother.


Mack asks Sophia who she is. Sophia does not answer, instead asking Mack if he knows why he is here. When Mack responds that no one has told him, Sophia does a bit more beating around the bush.

“Today is a very serious day with very serious consequences…. Mackenzie, you are here, in part, because of your children, but you are also here for–”

“My children?” Mack interrupted. “What do you mean, “I’m here because of my children?”

Well, she was probably just about to tell you that, asshole.  But you interrupted, so instead we’re going to go on a tangent.

Sophia tells Mack that he loves his children more than Mack’s father loved him and his siblings.

Nope, not buying it. Seriously, this needs to die. This idea that abusive parents don’t love their children. Because this parents that beat their children to within an inch of their lives? They do love their children. Yes, that’s confusing. But imagine how frustrating it is to be a child trying to tell an adult about abuse, only to be told, “your father wouldn’t do that honey, your father loves you.”

Yes, my father loved me. He was also verbally and emotionally abusive and needed (needs) some serious mental help.

So this idea that Mack’s father didn’t love him? Yeah, I’m gonna go with “fuck that.”

Mind you that doesn’t make what Mack’s father did ok. Mack’s father still deserved to go to jail for what he did. And I’m not exactly sorry he’s dead. I believe Mack’s father, in his own way, did love his children. But love does not cover a multitude of sins.

Sophia also tells Mack that it is only through God– “Papa” that Mack loves his children the way he does. This is another idea you run into in conservative Christianity–the idea that every single good thing you do is because of God in your life. This is true even if you are an atheist. In fact, the only reason atheists aren’t giant walking rape and murder machines is because of the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives as he tries to win us over to God.

That love you feel for your child? Doesn’t come from you. Without God, you would be a cold murderous sociopath who would happily throw your child under the bus.

Conservative Christianity does not have a very high view of human nature.

Sophia asks which of Mack’s children he love most. Mack replies that he doesn’t love either one of them more than the others, but he does love them differently. Each child triggers a unique response from him.

“When I think of each child, I find that I am especially fond of him/her.”

I’m not a parent, so I can’t comment. If any parent out there wants to comment on how realistic this is, feel free. For now I am going to move on.

Sophia asks Mack if he still loves his children even when they behave in ways he doesn’t like. Upon being informed that of course he fucking loves his children no matter what, Sophia tells Mack that he is “wise in the ways of love,” a phrase that actually made me barf a little in my mouth.

But sure, whatever.

Sophia tells Mack that the way God loves his children is the same way Mack loves his. At which point Mack asks angrily if Missy was God’s child? It’s a fair question. No human would allow their child to be brutally murdered and (possibly raped), so therefore Mack is a better father than God.

That last sentence isn’t in the book, of course.

Sophia tells Mack to sit down. “Mackenzie….Earlier I began to tell you why you are here today. Not only are you here because of your children, but you are here for judgment.”

Well of course, Mack freaks the fuck out. He k nows that he’s a lost person, because of all the many sins he’s committed. Normally I would say that this was a case of a conservative Christian always thinking they are bad, but I need to remind everyone that Mack’s sins include actual murder. Premeditated murder when he already was planning to run away from the abuse. We’re not even talking accidental murder, or murder that was the only way to get the abuse to stop. Those are at least understandable, even if they’re still morally wrong.

So yeah, I’d say Mack has good reason to be afraid of judgment.

After freaking out for a bit about how he must be dead, Sophia tells Mack that he is not the one being judged, that he is the one doing the judging.

Sophia tells Mack to judge the person who hurt Missy. Mack tells Sophia that the guy can go to hell. Sophia asks about the father of the man who murdered Missy, who abused him and in turn made him like this. Mack says that that person can also go to hell.

“How far back do we go, Mackenzie? this legacy of brokenness goes all the way back to Adam–What about him? But why stop there? What about god? God started this whole thing. Is God to blame?”

So, this idea that abusers are that way because they themselves were abused is a very popular one. But lately I’m not sure how true it is. And even so, just because Missy’s murderer had an abusive father doesn’t make it right for him to murder Missy. Both the abusive father and the murderer should be punished. We don’t let people out of prison because they had crappy childhoods.

Besides, you’re telling me that every single ancestor Missy’s murderer had was abusive, all the way back to Adam? Gimme a fuckin break.

In any case, I will argue that yes God is to blame. He’s the asshole who decided that Adam and Eve’s children and their children’s children would get punished for the sin that they committed. I could go on, but we need to move on before I write a whole fucking essay about how yes, God is absolutely to blame.

And then things get weird. And this is where I think that the God of this story gets downright emotionally abusive.  Because Sophia has decided that Mack is going to judge his children.

“You must choose 2 of your children to spend eternity in God’s new heavens and new earth, but only two.”

This is absolutely emotional abuse. Yes Mack’s children have committed sins. And in the evangelical Christian mind, no one sin is worse than any other. So the rebellious teenager and the murdering rapist are both equally deserving of eternal damnation.

And remember, this is brand of Christianity that believes in eternal torment. At least Adventists believe that people who go to hell will die again, eventually.

Now, at the end of the chapter Sophia will say she was just kidding, of course Mack doesn’t actually have to sacrifice 3 of his children. Nevertheless, she is making Mack believe that he must. And that is emotional manipulation and abuse.

“Mackenzie, I am only asking you to do something that you believe God does….You believe he will condemn most to an eternity of torment, away from his presence and apart from his love. Is this not true?”

Ok, but any God I would respect doesn’t do this arbitrarily. He would of course send rapists and murderers to hell because they are rapists and murderers. I mean, would you want to live next door to a child molester? Neither would I. This is not some arbitrary thing that the God of the Bible does.

Finally, Mack tells Sophia that he will go in his children’s place, at which point Sophia tells him he’s passed the test. He loves his children just like Jesus loves all of us.

Mack realizes he understands Jesus’ love, but doesn’t think he and God are at all alike. He’s also still upset that God allowed bad shit to happen to Missy.

“Did God use her to punish me for what I did to my father? That isn’t fair. She didn’t deserve this. I  might have, but they didn’t.”

Finally, jeez. This is the question a non sociopath would have been asking himself since the day Missy was murdered. Even if it’s not true, it’s a natural human reaction. It’s quite normal for Mack to wonder about this.

“Return from your independence, Mackenzie. Give up being her judge and know Papa for who she is. Then you will be able to embrace her love in the midst of your pain, instead of pushing her away with your self centered perception of how you think the universe should be.”

Yes. Clearly Mack’s problem is that he’s too darn independent. And his self centered view of how the universe should be. May I remind you that so far Mack’s “self centered view of the universe” involves children not being murdered.

How did I miss this the first time I read it?

And then things get even weirder, especially for an Adventist reader. Because Adventist readers do not believe that people go to heaven/hell right away when they die, it seems a little weird for Sophia to just magically pull back a veil or whatever to reveal his daughter Missy playing by a stream.

Mack calls out to his daughter, but is told she cannot hear him.

“She knows that you are here, but she cannot see you. Form her side, she is looking at the waterfall and nothing more. But she knows that you are behind it.”

You can see your daughter running around heaven, but she won’t be able to see you and you won’t be able to talk to each other. I am going to argue that this is also a form of torture, not just for Mack but for Missy. Do children age in heaven? Missy would be 8, right? What 8 year old child wants to be in heaven without any of her family members? I mean, maybe she has a grandparent or something who can take care of her, but still. It wouldn’t be heaven if I was there all alone and my family as on the other side. Especially if I knew how miserable they were without me.

Mack asks if he can go to her, but Sophia says that this is the way Missy wanted it, because she is a very wise child.

That makes no sense. First off, what 8 year old child is that “wise.” Second off, why is this wise? We do not get told. Instead we get told that Mack thinks it’s his fault Missy got murdered. Sophia reassures Mack on that score–Mack was trying to save his son from drowning. No one had any idea that  a fucking serial killer would be lurking around.

Heck, statistically speaking, a serial killer is extremely unlikely, and when I first read this book at age 18 when it first came out, I kind of thought that it stretched the suspension of disbelief and made the novel somewhat unrealistic. Far more realistic for it to have been a close friend or family member.

But I digress.

In any case, after this, Mack says he doesn’t feel stuck anymore. He is happy that Missy is in heaven playing with Jesus, and at the end of the chapter we are told that he suddenly misses Nan very much.