Sugar Shack

The song by the same title was performed by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs way back in 1963.  The lyricist simply told a tale about a coffee shop.  Not so for the “controversial” movie The Shack, based on a novel by the same name by author, William Paul Young.  I try viewing as many faith-based films as I can.  Sometimes I just can’t find a theater nearby.  I had no problem as The Shack is playing everywhere, most likely because Octavia Spencer and Tim McGraw are starring in the film.

The film opens with a troubled young boy, named Mack, who lives with his mother and abusive father.  Not many people in his small town acknowledge the abuse, except for one black neighbor, played by Octavia Spencer, who comforts him with her home cooking. When home life becomes unbearable, young Mack, who feels deserted by God, makes a horrible decision.  We quickly fast forward to the present.  Mack is now a man, living with his deeply religious wife and their three children. On a camping trip his youngest daughter is kidnapped and murdered.  The film does not dwell on this so don’t be put off thinking it will be bloody because it’s not.

Mack blames himself for his daughter’s death and cannot shake his depression.  He receives a letter from “Papa”, his wife’s name for God, inviting Mack to meet at the very shack where his daughter was killed. Mack decides to go and is shocked to find “Papa” is the same black woman who consoled him in his youth. Papa explains that Mack couldn’t accept a father figure at this time.  He meets Jesus, a Jewish carpenter, and the Holy Spirit, a beautiful Asian woman.  Towards the end of the film Papa decides Mack needs a father to take him through the rest of his journey of forgiveness and Papa becomes a mature, Native American man.  Again, the viewer knows exactly why God chose this form.

It’s this portrayal of the Holy Trinity that has several Christians upset.  I accepted God’s explanation of why He appeared in these forms.  Mack despised his father and couldn’t forgive himself for not being there for his daughter. He did not have a father figure he could rely on.  The Holy Spirit is portrayed as an attractive, soft-spoken, attentive Asian gardener.  Many Christians associate the Holy Spirit as a dove, ray of sunlight, a spiritual counselor and consoler.  Anyone who gardens knows how devoted you must be to your plants and flowers.  You protect them from predators and the elements as well as nourish them.  The same as the Holy Spirit is in her garden of souls.  All three display the wounds of crucifixion…something I’ve never seen before but makes perfect sense.

More importantly, The Shack is a story of forgiveness and how God loves ALL his children—the good and the bad.  It also emphasizes our free will to make our own choices.  Mack thought God had deserted him when he was a boy, but he comes to learn God was with him every step of the way, even when he made the wrong choice.  God never forgot about him and never stopped loving him.

I would definitely recommend this film not only for its message of forgiveness but also for showcasing the relationship individuals have with God.

 

Advertisements

The Holy Spirit—The Parachute

Not a song title, and yes I know it’s the Paraclete.  I remember one of my daughters coming home from school one day, telling me she learned about the Holy Spirit in religion class.  I asked her who is the Holy Spirit and what does He do?  She answered immediately and enthusiastically. “He’s a parachute!”  Each Sunday when our priest recites The Divine Praises before Mass, I chuckle to myself when he says and I repeat, blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.  I think of my daughter’s parachute.  I don’t remember if I corrected her or not but maybe in her youthful innocence she was right.

The world was amazed and awed by former President George H.W. Bush’s parachute jump last year in honor of his 90th birthday.  I must admit, for a man who can no longer walk because of Parkinson’s disease, it was inspiring.  However, he was tethered to a member of the All Veteran Parachute Team.  I’m not taking anything away from our former president because tether or no tether, it’s scary.

I didn’t think much of it until today.  Today is the Feast of the Ascension and that means Pentecost is just around the corner.   With that realization, the Holy Spirit decided to pay me a visit and that small still voice whispered in my ear, “being a Christian is like jumping out of an airplane”.

So I thought about it and as usual the Spirit is right.  Nowadays, when we step out of our comfort zone and dare express our opinions, isn’t it a lot like jumping out of a plane?  Especially if, ONE: you talk about your faith, and TWO: you actually live it.  Free speech and freedom of religion are not what they used to be.  The Founders had a reason for placing those two protections in the first amendment.  They were the very bedrock of our country’s founding and the Constitution.  It’s sad and dangerous that Americans do not know their own history and those in power prefer to keep it that way.

A couple of weeks ago, while commenting on an acquaintance’s Facebook post, ironically about past presidents, the topic came up about presidents who were born poor.   I commented that the poorest presidents in my lifetime were either Nixon or Bill Clinton.  However, two other people disagreed.  Within seconds I was labeled a racist, homophobic and a member of a hate group.  I don’t know these people so I asked them how they could come to such a hateful conclusion of me.  They both responded because of the pictures I posted and some of my likes.  The argument between these two strangers and others on the page became more heated so I exited the conversation.

Later, I went back and looked at what strangers could see of me on Facebook.  Practically all of my posts and pictures can be viewed by friends only, but there are a few that I don’t mind sharing with the public.  So what classified me to be included in those detestable camps?  I found a few pictures of Jesus, my church, and two “likes” for a pro-life group and the Catholic Church.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been attacked on Facebook.  It happens all too frequently by faceless cowards, shrouded with the cloak of anonymity.  However, I was once threatened by someone I knew, someone who I classified as a friend.  Why?  She was on Facebook spewing hate against Jews, Christians who are not Catholic, and a well-known pastor from another Christian denomination who I personally admire.  I told her I did not agree with anything she said and I had friends from those Christian denominations who live their faith.  She then emailed me.  She was furious with me, threatening me with personal harm and calling me every name under the sun.  And to make matters worse, she is a Catholic!  I stood by what I believed and I told her I’d pray for her.  To those of you who are Facebook savvy, she then promptly “unfriended” me.

Yes, being a Christian is exactly like jumping out of a plane.  I mentioned President Bush was tethered to a veteran jumper.  Like Bush, we too are tethered to a veteran, except ours is even more reliable.  Our parachute is the Holy Spirit.  Remember that when navigating the not too friendly skies of living Christian in today’s society.  And if your child comes home from school or from their religious education class and tells you all about The Holy Spirit, the Parachute, don’t correct him or her.