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Oh God! Octavia Spencer’s Role as God in “The Shack” Causing Christian Backlash



by G. Brown

It’s the greatest story of all time…so of course Hollywood wants to tell it on screen as it has been doing since the beginning…of Tinsel Town not existence.

Hollywood’s latest silver screen attempt at putting God in a box comes in the movie “The Shack”  based on a fictional book by William P. Young.  The story revolves around Mackenzie Allen Philips and his spiritual journey following the abduction and murder of his young daughter.  He seeks to renew his faith in the aftermath of putting his shattered life back together. Hollywood decided to follow the novel’s depiction of God as “a curvy, Black woman.”

 Actress Ocatavia Spencer plays the role of God.  The actress first showed up on the radar for most audiences for her role in 2011’s “The Help” for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her credentials may be impressive to Hollywood, but not to  some Christians who are already screaming blasphemy. The Washington Post has the reaction of one California pastor  who criticizes,”Young’s pretentious caricature of God as a heavy set, cushy, nonjudgmental, African American woman called ‘Papa’ (who resembles the New Agey Oprah Winfrey far more than the one true God revealed through the Lord Jesus Christ — Hebrews 1:1-3), and his depiction of the Holy Spirit as a frail Asian woman with the Hindu name, Sarayu, lends itself to a dangerous and false image of God and idolatry,” That pastor, Joe Schimmel, also hosts a documentary titled “Hollywood’s War on God”.

Another pastor critical of the film calls it a “heresy” that will deceive viewers by straying from the God of the bible and pushing a “universal-ism” theological concept that religion is a universal human quality.  Instead of believing that Jesus is the only way to the Father God, universal-ism says all paths of religion lead to God.

There are  other critics who see the book and subsequently the movie as dangerous because it panders to feminist pressure presenting God as a woman.

In this new day of White power since the presidential election, there are certain to be those angered by God presented not just as a woman…but a Black woman! If people have argued that James Bond, Santa Claus and comic book superheroes like Torch from the “Fantastic 4” can’t be Black, then surely they are not going to stand for a Black female God.

Hollywood has given us a cigar smoking, wise-cracking God in the form of George Burn in 1977’s “Oh God”.  We’ve had a Black male God in the form of Morgan Freeman in 2003’s “Bruce Almighty” and we’ve even had female depictions of God played by singer Alanis Morissette in 1999’s “Dogma”. But a Black female God—well, that’s just going too far.

The fact is God can look the way the person believing in him imagines.  God is a spirit…(John 4:24, Luke 24:39, Romans 1:20, 1Timothy 1:17) and doesn’t have a body because he is infinite, not composed of matter, can’t be measured and doesn’t take up space in one location because he’s everywhere. We’re talking about God here per se and not Jesus. Or perhaps we should talk about the fact that God made it pretty clear in the second commandment that we shouldn’t try to recreate his image EVER! Maybe God knew we would argue about the particulars of Black/White, male/female, short/tall .  Or maybe he wanted us to focus instead  on the truth of the nature of God, which it seems “The Shack” is trying to do in showing how the main character meets God in the shack where his daughter died and helps him to find peace and healing.  The message of hope, love, redemption is getting lost for some who are caught up in genders and skin color.

“The Shack” opens in theaters nationwide March 2017.

What do you think…should Christians stand against Hollywood in depictions of God that may be insulting? Or is this movie simply about a message and not a motive to confuse people?

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