Today is what Advent is all about. We groan at the gentleness of Jesus's coming. On days like this, I don't want him to exercise his rule in the manner of yeast cells and mustard seeds. I want him to be violent and thirsty for the blood of evildoers, but he will never fulfill that desire. Advent is about hurting as we wait for yeast and seeds.
Ten Interview Questions for “The Next Big Thing”:
What is the working title of your book?
The Shack Bible
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I actually had the idea a couple years before I’d ever heard of “The Shack.” I’ve spent the last decade being spiritually revolutionized by some of the ancient theologians (Athanasius, Irenaeus, Gregory of Nyssa) plus some newer ones (Barth, Torrance, Kruger, Moltmann). My studies were giving me a new (non-Augustinian) lens through which to hear Scripture, and I loved what I heard! I started writing down what I was hearing the Bible say, and friends kept asking me to write more, so I did.
Then the day came when a friend bullied me into reading this silly pop-spirituality novel called The Shack. I was blown-away to discover that this guy, who was just novelizing his personal thoughts about God, was expressing the ancient vision of God I had spent so long studying! Not only that, but he was doing it in a way that was twanging the spiritual nerves of the whole world. As I got to know other fans of the book, I discovered a whole new world of spiritual-but-not-religious people who had little interest in God, Christianity, or the Bible, but resonated deeply with Papa, Jesus & Sarayu. And they all seemed quite certain that, if they wanted to deepen their relationship with that wonderful Trinity, the Bible would be useless for that task. The God of the Bible, it seemed, had little if anything to do with the God of The Shack. Many evangelicals would agree with that, but I did not. So I started modifying my own little paraphrase with the God-language of The Shack. I changed “God” and “Father” to “Papa,” changed “Holy Spirit” to “Sarayu,” and the pronouns for both became feminine.
What genre does your book fall under?
Is “Highly Idiosyncratic Bible Paraphrase” a genre? A proper paraphrase would be something more like The Message, the gold standard of Bible paraphrases, IMO. The Shack Bible is more like an “Interpretive Reading.” It might fit best in the traditional Jewish genre of “Targum.”
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
From my first reading of the book, Papa has always been Gloria Foster—The Oracle from The Matrix. She is no longer technically alive, but my image of Papa is now unchangeable. Jesus has to be noticeably Middle Eastern, and my images there always turn to Naveen Andrews—Sayiid from Lost. Sarayu is harder. My best idea so for is Michelle Yeoh; she has such great emotional depth.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Papa, Jesus & Sarayu have included the whole world in their wondrous dynamic life-together; evil and death have no future.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
If it ever gets mass-printed on paper, it will be through a publisher. I don’t want a pile of these things in my garage.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Still working on that; I’ll let you know.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Um… The Message is the closest, I guess, but it’s a comparison that stretches the genre a LOT.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Something that’s piqued MY interest is the way the Bible addresses various topics that don’t come up in The Shack—like Eschatology, for example, which is a big deal because Jesus talks about it so much in the gospels. It’s illuminating to approach such topics through a lens that tries to be consistent with The Shack without being limited by it.
I tag 5 other bloggers who have meant a lot to me, and have books published or in the works:
This has been a fun exercise; my thanks to Michael Bobo for inviting me!
When I heard that Rachel Held Evans, as part of her biblical womanhood project, was going to call her husband “Master,” I unsuccessfully tried to repress the hot flash of childhood memories of “I Dream of Jeannie” re-runs and the strange new feelings Barbara Eden evoked in me. But once I was able to shake that off, I started to empathize with how hard the “master” thing would be, not just for Rachel but for her husband Dan. Sure, there is part of the male primate psyche that gets off on being submitted to. But the idea of that submission being rigidly one-way–rather than dynamic, free-flowing, and mutual–it’s just not sexy.
What I find in the Bible is a God who is the being-together and submitting-to-one-another of Jesus, his Father, and their Spirit. And I find a humanity in which that divine life is being earthed in human relationships. The Shack seems to see it similarly:
“That’s the beauty you see in my relationship with Abba and Sarayu. We are indeed submitted to one another and have always been so and always will be. Papa is as much submitted to me as I to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.”
Mack was surprised. “How can that be? Why would the God of the universe want to be submitted to me?”
“Because we want you to join us in our circle of relationship. I don’t want slaves to my will; I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me… When I am 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.”
Submission as an aspect of healthy human relationships comes straight out of the nature of God. But as the apostle Paul so rightly observed, proper submission is always mutual (Ephesians 5.21).
Even Barbara Eden likes to be called “master” sometimes.
I have been reading my friend Rachel Held Evans‘ new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood (and I’m enjoying the heck out of it, I might add), and I’m thinking about the origin of all the Bible has to say about “womanhood.” Regardless of how many (or how few) cultural barnacles have been attached, the Bible’s concerns for womanhood ultimately spring from the inner nature of the Triune God, that feisty group of misfits many of us have come to know as Papa, Jesus & Sarayu. Whatever it means to be Homo Sapiens with more ovaries than testicles, it springs from who God is, how the persons of the Trinity relate to one another. We are, after all, created male and female in their image, after their likeness (Genesis 1.26-27). So as I read through this book, I can’t help thinking about how God is doing at living up to the Bible’s standard of how to be a good woman. And also wondering if a “standard” is really what the Bible is trying to give us….
Rachel boiled down her study of Biblical Womanhood into 12 virtues, and then practiced each one in some specific biblical practices for one month of the year. So I’m going to look at her monthly “To Do List” to see how God stacks up [And just in case you don't already know me enough to understand this, I am doing this somewhat (though not entirely) tongue-in-cheek]:
Year of Biblical Womanhood, Month #1: GENTLENESS. To do this month:
- Cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit, even during football games. I think God does fine here, except for the “during football games” part. I mean, come on. And except for when God is speaking through like Jeremiah or something. And whenever there’s livestock in the Temple.
- Kick the gossip habit. I don’t want to call God a gossip, but how much of the Bible is God telling us about crap other people have done? Granted, but I think gossip is at least partly defined by a malicious intent, so I think God is doing pretty good there.
- Take an etiquette lesson (Prov 11.22). Has God ever been polite? Gracious, certainly, but etiquette conscious? I like Rachel’s quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “It’s not about doing everything right. It’s about putting other people ahead of yourself.” If that’s etiquette, then God is surely at the head of her class.
- Practice contemplative prayer (Ps 131). If anybody knows how to practice the presence of God, it’s Papa, Jesus & Sarayu.
- Make a ‘swearing jar’ for behaviors that mimic the ‘contentious woman’ of Proverbs. OK, so this is the Bible’s [polite?] way of calling a woman a “psycho bitch.” Surely God is not bitchy, but never shies away from telling you what’s what. If being “contentious” means being assertive and brutally honest, then yeah, God is a total bitch (biblically speaking). But I suspect “being contentious” means something bad, so I’m pretty sure God doesn’t do whatever that is.
- Doing penance on the rooftop for acts of contention (Prov 21.9). God is omnipresent, so yes, God’s on the roof.
Stay tuned for Month #2: DOMESTICITY!
I am ShackBibleGuy, and I approved this message. I did get a nifty pre-release copy of this book for free, but I am not being compensated in any way for talking about Rachel’s book. Apparently, biblical womanhood does not include the virtue of “Giving money to obscure bloggers.”
Hi, Papa. I’m so happy you’re the one who’s running things. You are wonderful to me; there’s no one quite like you. I can’t wait for the day when the whole world will know you fully and happily work at your side. But in the meantime, take care of my needs today. Help me to share in your cheerful love for me and for everyone, despite the bad choices we will make today. Help me to respond wisely to today’s little trials, so that they won’t grow into big trials for tomorrow. Help me not to believe lies today. You rock.
If we think Papa, Jesus & Sarayu are a more-or-less accurate depiction of the character of the real God of the Bible (and I do), then sooner or later we have to start finding fresh ways to relate to people of non-Jesus-y religions.
The good news of Jesus is often presented not as news, but as a sales pitch about a religious product–postmortem real estate in a good neighborhood (a.k.a., ‘heaven’), which can be obtained by following a certain religious technique (Obeying the 10 commandments, going to church, praying a particular set of words, adopting a certain belief system, etc). When we buy into this, our relationships with those who follow a different technique (the one taught them by Buddha, for example) get awkward, and we start feeling like we ought to become salespeople to them, because just being their friend is not enough.
Methinks some rethinking is needed.
One who has done some good thinking on this subject is Brian McLaren. His previous books have always been great for me, and I am looking forward to reading his new book–Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World.
If you found The Shack thought-provoking in a good way, I bet Brian’s book would provoke your thoughts even more, and in a similar direction.
NOTE: I am ShackBibleGuy, and I approved this message.
Nobody asked me or paid me to promote this book.
I just think it looks cool and wanted to share.
[I originally posted this on the Trinity and Humanity blog].
In my ongoing process of learning to raise my kids in the light of Papa, Jesus & Sarayu, I am starting to rethink the Boy-Scouts model of character formation. You know what I’m talking about:
- I want my child to embrace values like Service, Honesty, Citizenship.
- He won’t embrace these values on his own, so I provide an external motivator (like a merit badge).
- He performs the necessary tasks in order to earn the merit badge, but in the process also (presumably) builds the character traits I wish to see.
- As he matures, he will (presumably) grow to value character more than merit badges.
I’m not bad-mouthing Scouts here. There are probably several contexts where that model of training works great. But I am beginning to doubt its usefulness in the area of spiritual formation, and for parenting in general. Then again, my doubts could be wrong; Christian lists have been around a long time:
- Saint Paul (love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, etc.)
- The medieval church (prudence, temperance, fortitude, etc.)
- The monastic tradition (poverty, chastity, obedience)
- The Puritans (submission, fidelity, industry)
- Purpose-Driven Church (worship, fellowship, discipleship, service, evangelism)
Because of this long history of Christian list-o-philia, I have toyed with ideas of defining a list of Stonecypher Family Virtues, and then being intentional about promoting and pursuing these virtues as a family. I even looked into non-Scout merit badges that you can buy, for anything from Bible-Reading to Dishwashing.
Here’s the rub: These are all ways to manipulate people’s insides so that they will match an external standard. But what if it’s true that Jesus is already inside them? What if it’s true that the Incarnation has already put the Triune Life into the basic human equipment my children were born with?
I’m still figuring all this out, but here’s how I try to parent these days: I live among my children and I keep my eyes and ears open. I look for what’s going on in their lives. I listen for whispers of the Divine Triune passions getting expressed in their feelings and thoughts and actions. I try to fan the flames when and where they arise.
Yes, we still read the Bible together and pray together and all that. We still talk about why patience and honesty and self-sacrifice are good. But I would say these activities are secondary rather than primary.
Trees don’t produce fruit because it gets them merit badges. Tree produce fruit by simply being trees.
This post is part of the
Week of Mutuality synchroblog
My vision of God used to be something like:
- God, the elderly white guy on the throne.
- Jesus, his trusty sidekick or assistant or secretary or something.
The point is, it was always quite clear which one was “in charge.” This was always emphasized to me as being very important—knowing who was in charge and who wasn’t. Because ultimately, humans are made in the image of God, and “being-in-charge” is super-important to God (so much so that those who don’t like it get eternally barbecued), so when I dominate other people, I am being godly. Right?
This vision of God informed my early attempts at being married, but I quickly found that didn’t work. I quickly found that what DID work was collaboration, shared responsibility, and each of us submitting to each other in different situations at different times—what my friend Rachel Held Evans is calling “MUTUALITY.”
Something I love about THE SHACK is the way Papa, Jesus & Sarayu submit to one another. Leaving aside for the moment the fact that this is just good theology, it is a vision that rings true to real life for me. I have never seen domination systems work without chewing people up—crucifying them, if you will.
What I have seen work is relationships where authority is fluid, moving from person to person under the dictates of love and wisdom and shared purpose, not according to religiously inspired pecking orders or who can pee standing up.
P.S. – Here is the ShackBible interpretive reading of a Bible text relevant to this issue:
(21) Jesus lays down his life for you and for everyone around you. To share in his glorious life is to share in his self-emptying, to put it on every day like a garment. So lay down your lives for one another; SUBMIT TO ONE ANOTHER. Here are some examples of what I mean:
(22) Wives, look at how Jesus lays down his life for your husband. Join him in doing that. (23) As Jesus takes care of the church, as the head takes care of the body, your husband’s job is to take care of you. (24) Receive your husband’s care for you, as the church receives care from Jesus.
(25) Husbands, look at how Jesus lays down his life for your wife. Join him in doing that. Love her like Jesus loves the church. Jesus gave himself up for her, (26) telling her the truth about herself so as to make her whole, (27) beautiful, flawless, glorious. (28) Husbands, love your wives like that. Care for her like you care for your own body. (29) Nourish and tenderly care for her, just like Jesus does for the church, (30) because we are his body.
I’ve been accused of a lot of things (and many of those accusations were quite deserved), but I think this is the first accusation of blasphemy: http://shackbible.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/ephesians-1/#comment-610
No details were given, but I wanted to open this up for further conversation, since blasphemy is a big deal, and it’s not something I want to be doing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy