By Mark A. Taylor
I’ve said more than once that some of the best writing sponsored by CHRISTIAN STANDARD doesn’t appear in the magazine! Our two bloggers, Arron Chambers and Jennifer Taylor, post thought-provoking commentary every week at our Web site. The following, posted by Jennifer July 26, is a good example.
I’m a literary snob. It can’t be blamed entirely on my private school English lit degree; even as a child I eschewed Nancy Drew for Agatha Christie (thus learning words like eschew), and the passing years have only made me more selective. Life is too short to read bad books, so I usually avoid Christian fiction.
Thus I planned to skip The Shack, even when people I respect began endorsing it and the church I attended before I moved to Nashville invited the author to speak at weekend services. But when it escaped the Christian bubble and millions of secular readers launched its current climb up the best-seller lists, it became more than a paperback—it became news, and a book I needed to read.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t change my mind about Christian fiction. As I skimmed the book this week I found myself mentally editing unnecessary phrases and tightening sentences. I thought back to Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (a Pulitzer winner who also happens to be a believer) just before stumbling across a pointless description of eating too much fiber on page 129 of The Shack. No contest.
But this isn’t the first acclaimed book (Christian or non) with subpar writing, and like many others in that category it’s the content, not the wordsmithing, connecting to readers. And I have to admit I liked much of the content: new slants on Jesus’ ability to work miracles, the nature of his life in ours, burdensome responsibility vs. joyful response in relationship with God—there’s some good food for thought here. And I love the author’s take on male and female—the woman was “birthed” from man, creating a circle of relationship between men and women to echo relationship in the trinity, followed by all males birthed through women in an ongoing cycle.
Theological insight, not fiction, seems to be Young’s talent, but if you’re looking for some new ways to think about God and his interactions with us, the book is worth a quick read. Although you can skip page 129.
To respond to Jennifer’s review of The Shack, or anything else you see in CHRISTIAN STANDARD, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.