Wednesday, June 25, 2008

God is an African American Woman

Who knew? Or, at least, in a new fiction novel, "The Shack," God is depicted as an African-American woman. Jesus makes his appearance as a Jewish workman (pretty traditional). And the Holy Spirit shows up as "an indeterminately Asian woman" named Sarayu.
This book is written by an otherwise unknown author, William Paul Young:

"He chose to make God an African-American woman, he said, because he wanted to alter religious preconceptions. “It was just a way of saying: ‘You know what? I don’t believe that God is Gandalf with an attitude or Zeus who wants to blast you with any imperfection that you exhibit,’ ” Mr. Young said."

I had never heard of this novel until I saw an article about it in the NYTimes today. But evidently it is number 1 on the New York Times best seller list for fiction, beating out even Oprah's book of the month, "A New Earth," by Eckhart Tolle. Maybe I should look at the bestseller list more often.

So, in a world in which "Christian Fiction" usually means cheesy storylines or stereotyped end of the world scenarios, How did this book get there? Not by mass marketing campaigns or by celebrity endorsements, but by grass-roots word of mouth, sped up by the blogosphere, the electronic word of mouth. And, perhaps interest has been fueled by the Southern Baptist Convention and other conservatives labeling the book as heresy:

"Sales have been fueled partly by a whiff of controversy. Some conservative Christian leaders and bloggers have attacked “The Shack” as heresy. The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, devoted most of a radio show to the book, calling it “deeply troubling” and asserting that it undermined orthodox Christianity. Others have said the book’s approach to theology is too breezy to be taken seriously."

If the SBC hates it, it must be good! ;) The book seems to take on a more affective cast, which may be part of the issue (SBC folk tend to be rationalistic and play down emotional elements, such as can be found among Charismatic and Pentecostal groups). Although the "undermining" may be that they feel a bit uncomfortable with an African-American Woman as God.

Nevertheless, I doubt I will ever pick it up, since I am just not into the "inspirational" reading material. That's why I study the Bible!

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