By Bernetta Thorne-Williams (United States)
I personally believe that in a lot of cases, organized religion has done more to turn people away from God than anything else. In some cases the church has taken what some could consider being an extreme stand against the LGBT community, morality, and magnetization of certain ethnic groups. People tend to view the church as God and that could not be further from the truth. The church is made up of imperfect people, who in their imperfection tend to pass judgment on those not like them. So the question that I wrestled with as I went to see The Shack was whether movie goers might be ready for a different view of God.
As an avid reader as well as a writer, I’m saddened to admit that I did not read The Shack by William Paul Young. With the release of the movie, by the same title, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see what all the hype was about. I knew some of the narrative behind the story before purchasing my ticket. However, I was totally unprepared for the uplifting emotional roller coaster that I experienced.
The Shack is the story of one man’s journey to find God after a horrific family tragedy. The narrative is told by Willie (Tim McGraw) and stars Sam Worthington, who many may recognize from Avatar and Terminator Salvation. Worthington does an amazing job as a grieving, guilt -ridden dad. His portrayal of Mackenzie, a man wrestling with his own personal demons and religious paradigm is compelling. Young Mackenzie grows up in a bible-believing family, one in which his father is the elder of the church, a closet alcoholic and a wife and child abuser. To say that Mackenzie’s view of God as a loving father is skewed by his abusive relationship with his earthly father is an understatement.
The adult Mackenzie is blessed with a beautiful faith-filled wife, portrayed by Radha Mitchell, and three amazing children. As the story unfolds, the loss of one of his children leaves him spiraling out of control until he receives a letter from ‘Papa’. Papa is a nickname that his wife and youngest child have for God.
Mackenzie receives a mysterious invitation to visit The Shack, a place that holds a lot of painful memories. It’s during his visit to The Shack that he comes face to face with ‘Papa’ (Octavia Spencer), Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush), and Sumire Matsubara (the spirit), thus making up the trinity. The cast is as diverse as our individual beliefs about God. I applaud the director Stuart Hazeldine and the casting directors Deborah Acquila and Tricia Wood for not making this just another bland, vanilla movie.
As Mackenzie gets to know each entity that represents God, he learns more about himself, loss, hate, forgiveness, love and acceptance. The movie takes you on this amazing emotional journey with just a glimpse into our chaotic world, our judgments and preconceived notions of ‘Papa’ only to shake you up and make you realize the unrelenting love that ‘Papa’ shows to each of us. The movie challenges you to take a leap of faith and believe that we could all be better than we actually are and thus, that our world could better.
Whatever your spiritual journey, I highly recommend taking a trip to The Shack. It is one of those movies that not only entertains you but leaves you to ponder the questions, “What if God is real?” and “What if He does love me with this unrelenting kind of love despite my numerous mistakes?” If that is the case, then am I then challenged to show love and forgiveness to others?