A number of years ago, an interesting little scuffle occurred between the author (William Paul Young) of a new sensation called, “The Shack,” and the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: Al Moher:
Al [Moher , president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.] tried to get the book banned but was unsuccessful because the theologians of his denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention) ‘could find nothing unorthodox in The Shack that would warrant it being removed or banned,’” Young reported last Wednesday.
As the heat turned up on Moher, he started issuing a whole series of not-even-remotely-believable retractions first claiming that he had not given the order (Ya gotta watch out for those renegade book store clerks) and then claiming they had only been pulled for administrative review (Like, maybe by his outraged theology department?) but the damage was already done. He was hardly alone though.
What was interesting is not just that he tried (These guys are great fans of everything-banning) or that he failed (Young has a theology degree) but how much of their anger and cries of succumbing to false doctrine focused on the female characters — particularly the female character/embodiment of the Holy Spirit: Sarayu.
The spirit that Jesus has is a she! This Female Holy Spirit is also portrayed as an “it”, a force that indwells (not inspires) the inanimate objects. But the Holy Spirit is neither an it or a “she,” but “He” (John 16:13) throughout the Bible. And the bible goes to great lengths to present this consistently.
Too late. The “holy spirit” as an Asian woman is just weird, and of course, also a blasphemy. I suppose the author, who seems unable to waste a good stereotype, chose an Asian woman because of the “exoticness” “quietness” and “mysteriousness” that is so stereotypically attributed to Asian women. To his mind it must seem a perfect match.
She also likes to garden, i don’t know if this is anything to note or not, but Chinese and Japanese culture do have some place for gardens. Not ALL Chinese and Japanese, but in proper places. Japanese gardens are real, but this character is just “Asian” and is of course fond of gardening. I suppose i should be thankful she didn’t know and teach Mack kung fu, of course this book was already too “Matrix-y” for my taste anyways.
The Holy Spirit in the Bible is usually kind of non-corporeal in any sense, when a physical description was necessary, He was described as “LIKE a dove”. Or He came as tongues of fire. Or one can be filled by Him. How an Asian woman portrays any of these attributes is beyond me.
So it seems that Young’s Sarayu, is not the Holy Spirit as portrayed in the Bible, but rather a Hindu goddess! What does this tell us about Young’s theology, or lack thereof? It certainly explains the “all different faiths get to God” viewpoint Young espouses.
When you see this sort of irrational heat directed at something so innocuous, and surprisingly little directed towards other areas (such as how Christ is portrayed), there has to be something else causing the hostility. Something those with this anger are unwilling to admit to — strange it’s mostly directed at the two female leads…
Ironically, his portrayal of the Holy Spirit as a beautiful, complicated woman of questions, conversation, compassion, creativity, mystery, intangibility and empowerment who is always in motion and with whom one could spend a huge amount of time and have it pass in an instant is really quite brilliantly consistent with Scripture’s resolutely dual use of the term, “Helpmate,” for women and God the Holy Spirit.
Or, in other words, the multi level complexity of feminine-pleasure based desirability and captivation is the earthly expression of the part of the image of God known as the Holy Spirit and women, potentially, are the strongest human demonstration of the role of such.
She is defined by Papa on p. 110 as follows: “She is Creativity; she is Action; she is the Breathing of Life; she is much more. She is my Spirit.”
And again, on p. 204 when Sarayu speaks about herself, “I am… I am a verb. I am that I am. I will be who I will be. I am a verb! I am alive, dynamic, ever active, and moving. I am a being verb… my very essence is a verb.”
“As she stepped back, Mack found himself involuntarily squinting in her direction, as if doing so would allow his eyes to see her better. But strangely, he still had a difficult time focusing on her; she seemed almost to shimmer in the light and her hair blew in all directions even though there was hardly a breeze. It was almost easier to see her out of the corner of his eye than it was to look at her directly.” (The Shack, pg.84)
Everything about her is portrayed as captivating, relationally in motion and the intimate embodiment of fascination and fulfillment on every level. In so many ways it’s a brilliantly accurate portrayal of both the Feminine and the Spirit of God and it is no wonder the mystics of old repeatedly describe their engagement with the Spirit of God in terms of pleasure that cover every aspect of such — including sexual.
One of the key elements of the creation story is also the most ignored: Why woman was created. She wasn’t created because the garden had become messy and needed a maid. She wasn’t created to wash the socks Adam was not wearing. God never said, “I just can’t figure out any other way for this guy to reproduce.” No, it was about intimacy for Adam WAS ALONE even WITH the presence of God.
In other words, she was created for pleasure. She was created to embody the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and sexual ability to engage, draw, seduce, inspire and give and receive the full intensity of relational pleasure.
In stark contrast, our society has minimized the pleasure a woman can bring down to only her ability to be a set of holes to screw — then, to add insult to mortal injury, borderline normalized taking such by force to desecrate it (as a demonstration of power over it) while blaming the woman for the man’s action as though her desirability (for her ability to bring pleasure) is so dirty she becomes responsible for a man’s actions towards her. (And she better track down her hijab or dress to unimpress — or worse — whatever it takes to get back to her real job of hiding…)
“Frightening,” does not even begin to cover that horror.
Then our good Christian society, in some misguided attempt to counter such, teaches women that, “Sex is beautiful, wonderful, special and you should only do it with the one you love.” In effect, telling women that your sexual desirability is essentially something you barter to buy love — and marriage.
(Most of Evangelicalism would gasp in horror should anyone even just tell a little girl that sex is for pleasure and, if it’s not pleasurable (Eg, pressured, shameful, guilty, controlling, rage based, dirty, exploitive, barter based or insecure) then don’t do it — that might make her want to have sex and that could turn her into a, “Slut.” Forget about then calling to life her ability to seduce towards any other kind of relational pleasure on the rest of the levels…)
But, pleasure, relationally speaking, is a 100% two way street. Scripture consistently uses the term, “Knew,” as a descriptor for marital intimacy. (Knowing how to manipulate a person’s genitals is such a small achievement the term would have been silly if that is all it defined.) The knowing had to include the seduction towards physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and sexual exploration and those equal, though often opposite, roles and movements are inherently pleasurable for both. The invitation to encounter, explore and, “Know,” assumes that in, “Knowing and being Known,” is found the pleasure for both.
And, until a young girl comes to see her self as created to bring and experience physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and sexual pleasure in relationship and regards herself as being in possession of all of the power to give shape and form to the relational engagement so that it is defined by such, she will forever remain locked into Staci Eldredge’s definition of some strangely vapid, “Emotional Whore,” selling, what looks to her, as a meagre little pot of short lived sexuality while she still has it to try and buy some sort of a long term opportunity to suck a little relational life out of a guy. (Well, that and seeing herself as the cook/nanny/maid service…)
But, what if we as a community of believers actually set out to inspire in our little girls a sense of utter wonderment about their calling to bring to relationship the same physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and sexual pleasure, engagement, power, enticement, direction and healing the Spirit of God is constantly portrayed as active in?
It takes that inspired sense of awe and wonder about her own majestic value for a little girl to be able to stop and say to herself, “I am the gift in and of myself simply in being, “Known,” even if I do nothing to serve you.” If a woman sees herself as small, valueless and powerless, the default state will be for her to see herself as nothing more then a cheap sex toy and she will relate as such for that is the only thing she will be told is of value by our society.
Seduction and pleasure simply must cease being dirty words. Seduction is what a woman does when she, in full responsiveness, invites the exploration/knowing of the beauty, complexity, questions, conversations, compassion, creativity, mystery, intangibility and empowerment and perpetual motion of herself and receives the initiatory movement of her partner towards such. The power to seduce is founded upon the knowledge of value offered and the skill to bring forth relational life, pleasure and beauty from being engaged in such.
Yes, it’s incredibly powerful and utterly uncontrollable (though always good) in the hands of one with a transformed heart. And, yes, it IS profoundly dangerous — to those who desire to control women…