My mother read this a couple of months ago and loves it so much that she begged me to read it. I had long ago sworn I never would. But then she said she’d read a Harry Potter book if I’d read William P’aul’ Young’s Ode To Selfish Spirituality. Actually it was my fault. I threw the Potter gauntlet down knowing she’d refuse. Clearly I’ve not played a good game of poker in awhile because here I am, having spent time in this dreadful universe in recompense.
This was the most singularly awful reading experience I’ve had in the last decade.
It reads like an extended raunchy joke (“A Mammy, a Rabbi and an Asian Gardener walk into a shack…”), but this time the laugh is on the reader.
Theoretically this book is to open your eyes at a new way to have a relationship with God. But all it does is replace the old stereotypes–a man in a white beard and long robe–with new ones. Magical Negro, anyone?!? Instead of truly examining actual mysticism it merely suggests you shuffle the deck to come up with a new hand to describe your personal God in human terms.
The first quarter of the book was passable and read with easy familiarity for anyone who has seen two or three Law & Order:SVU episodes. But when Mackenzie Phillips (I kid you not, that is the man’s name) goes to have a deep intercourse with his Papa (again, I kid you not) in the Shack it becomes this dreadfully mawkish combination of a minstrel show combined with a really long episode of Harold And The Purple Crayon. William P. Young, the author who considers himself to be now so enlightened that he goes by his middle name, Paul, has managed to cram all the usual bits of fantastical lore long familiar to readers of L’Engle, Dickens, Lewis as his New Century Vaudeville Trinity flies through the imagination in an attempt to gain spiritual understanding.
My mother is enthusiastic this book now that Eugene “The Message” Peterson claimed it was this generation’s Pilgrim’s Progress–vomit, I shall. She would have a heart attack if she knew how closely it resembles many New Age teachings and how much of a debt it owes to the LSD culture.
Of course, as a devout Christian mystic myself, I had many of my own issues with the book beyond its sloppy Godhead. True mysticism is the attempt to know the Divine through communication and study. In the journey of mysticism one learns that the truth is always more remarkable than our mind could have dreamed. Somehow William P’aul’ Young has found a lesser truth peopled with insulting jokes and parlayed that into a new and bastardised form of communion.
I found the book grotesque and disturbing, facile and mocking. I’m just so very sorry that so many people think this feeble thing is remarkable. Then again I suppose God is bigger than even one lousy book and if God can talk through Balaam’s ass then perhaps God can work through this piece of crap book.
Nevertheless I plan to beg everyone I meet to read something else instead.