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Relationships and Religion

What does The Shack’s success say about northwest Christianity?

William P. Young of Gresham wrote a religious allegory as a gift for his children in 2005. Three years later, The Shack debuted. Without a standard marketing plan, and put out by a small, private publisher established specifically for that purpose, it’s been a phenomenal success. (It’s currently number one on the New York Times’ trade paperback fiction list.) Reviewers have given it both ecstatic praise and condemnations of heresy for its humanizing portrayal of the Holy Trinity — one in which God appears is a black woman called “Papa.”

Locally, The Shack has struck a chord with many Northwesterners who are drawn to its portrayal of a more personal relationship with God and Jesus. Among these are members of the “emerging church,” a loosely organized movement that breaks radically from tradition — including holding services in pubs and at yoga sessions. The emerging church has sprung mainly from Evangelicalism, and has many varieties, but many of them share an abiding interest in fostering “relationships, not religion.”

Have you read The Shack? Do you have experience with the emerging church movement? How do the concepts of “relationship” and “religion” shape your spiritual life?


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