Sometimes you read a book and then see the film and it is a complete let down. The story is changed, or key parts and characters removed to make it fit into a 2 hour slot that is acceptable for us to sit and watch at a cinema. This is not the case with The Shack. After reading the book whilst on maternity leave with my first son (so about 4 years ago) I was keen to see the film version in the hope that it would do it justice. And it did!
You see the story of The Shack is an extremely powerful one. Not because it teaches truths or aims to be evangelistic in its approach, but because it opens up your mind to think outside the box of religion. It asks us if what we have been shown as God all our lives – a harsh judgmental man in a white robe with a big beard who sits in the clouds far away – is really true.
The film sticks very close to the plot line of the book, only missing out the long section where Mack and the police are looking for Missy (an interesting part of the book, but I can see why it was dispensable for the film) and taking them straight from the campsite to the shack where her dress was found. It also misses out a big chunk at the end after Mack comes out of hospital – that is more of a shame as it takes his weekend adventure at the Shack from just a vivid dream to a connection with reality.
Some people get upset about The Shack and say it could lead us away from God as it is not always biblical in its approach. But I think those people are taking it too seriously. The Shack is a work of fiction. It’s whole approach, just like the Da Vince Code did 10 years ago, is to make people stop and think about what they believe, not to force them to believe anything specific. The author and film makers don’t make any decisions for you, they just ask the questions.
The main theme of the book is that relationship is key – that God loves every single one of his children and wants a proper, living, breathing relationship with them. As Christians isn’t that the one thing that sets us apart?! We do not confess to be a religion of rules and regimes, but of love and hope and relationship. So if The Shack helps people to see that side of Christianity then fantastic! I don’t think the author means to deal with heaven and hell and the afterlife in this book (there is a bit more on that in his second book, Crossroads), so lets not get caught up in that and questioning whether judgement is negated, and instead enjoy the core of its message – that anger, bitterness, pain, blame all break down relationships. But love and forgiveness build it up and make us stronger.
So if you are a Christian thinking about seeing the film – do it!
Take your tissues and accept that this is a story. But go with open eyes on how it can bring you closer to God and help you have a day to day living relationship with Him.
If you are a non-Christian being asked to go or thinking about going – do it!
This is not a Christian film that forces a certain view on those who watch it. This is a film that just gently opens up other possibilities and asks whether what our world believes makes sense. And that is all.
Overall, it is a great story with great emotion. So if you take all the God stuff out it will be an enjoyable 2 hours at the cinema!