We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Read it, considered lightweight and the whole thing dragged. Did not agree with some of the ideas. Would not recommend it to anyone and did not feel uplifted or enlightened by it....actually felt as though I had dipped my toe into a 60's commune.
Shortly after I heard about it through the church subculture, I was traveling and quite surprised to see a prominent display of it behind the till in an airport bookshop. I find it's success gratifying, although it does supply a good example of the "before" condition that a good editor can improve greatly.
In recreational thrift/charity shop trawls with my wife, we have a little in joke : "Oh look, here's a copy of "the Purpose Driven Life" -- should we get it?" One Christmas we were given three copies by three different relatives. Two were given away and the third sits on the shelf unread. We rarely enter a Goodwill shop that hasn't at least 4 copies in stock. I suspect that many of the purchases of "the Shack" follow the same model -- someone who has found it beneficial thinks that it is useful for everyone, and buys multiple unappreciated copies. Now we are finding the Shack but not yet in such large numbers. This time, however, we do purchase it, because having read it it seems to come up in discussion, and then someone wants to borrow it, and then they want to lend it to someone else, and then it's gone. We've so far just about managed to keep one copy on our bookshelf.
In looking up one of the important phrases in the book: "I'm especially fond of him" - I came across a response book: Finding God in the Shack, By Randal Rauser who is an academic theologian. He writes that the Shack author "recognizes that the best way to engage spiritual disinterest and theological skepticism is not through a lecture, but through a story". He also applauds the book for bringing difficult concepts of the Trinity to a mass audience.
In reading his intro, I've understood something about the people who wanted to borrow the book -- they are people who have a belief in God but have been turned off of organized Christianity by their bad experiences of church life. As one of my hip colleagues says, they really like Jesus, but his fan-club really turns them off.
I was not that impressed, but had to teach on it for adult Sunday School discussion class. It can spark good discussions, but I think there are other books that do the same thing better. I agree with the storyteller's approach, though that will of necessity make for theology that is vaguer and contradictory. Note to Jim on that: Jesus's stories, the parables, could also give you a snaky view of scripture if you didn't know how to approach them. Remember the gnats and camels when you call something unscriptural.
Assistant Village Idiot