Even though William Paul Young’s bestselling novel The Shack was adapted into film and will be released in theaters tomorrow, (Friday, March 3) he took some time out of his schedule to sit down and chat with us. Get out and see The Shack this weekend! And then continue the conversation with Paul this summer at the Goose.
Wild Goose Festival: What role has creativity had in forming your faith?
William Paul Young: Creativity requires mystery. Much of propositional theology, largely the work in which I grew up, does not. The former was and continues to be essential to my faith, while the latter has been an impediment to overcome. Please don’t misunderstand me, there is a vast creative resource in the works of theologians, but to the degree that they understood that relationship itself is a mystery. The entire cosmos is brimming with creativity, and if faith is not an expression of that, we have accepted something as a temporary covering for our broken hearts.
WGF: How does our image of God impact our relationships with the earth, each other, and ourselves?
Young: I think this works in both directions; we project an image of God that is an expression of our damage and shame. My father was an abusive disciplinarian. And surprise, so was my god for many years. So we can be a source for our image of God or we can allow the creation and revelation and beauty and music and art and children and joy and longing to speak to us rather than our interpretations of our experience.
This is why Jesus, and the Scriptures that speak of him, became central in my understanding of God. This witness is outside of myself and invites me to take the risk of trusting. If the declaration of Scripture and history is true, and we understand that Truth is a Person, then what does it shout to us in our pain, and whisper to us in our longing? We hear that God has a high view of humanity and creation. If that is true then our relationship with the earth, with each other and with ourselves becomes an essential and unavoidable canvas on which we paint our understanding of God.
WGF: Your fiction work, particularly The Shack and Cross Roads, prominently features people of color not only as protagonists, but as the very reflections of God. We’ll be seeing this on the Big Screen soon as God in your fiction is always Triune and always far, far kinder than we’re used to encountering in Divinity, whether in religion or pop culture. What inspires you – as a white man – to see God reflected in the faces and bodies of historically marginalized people?
Young: What a great question, and one that many are not courageous enough to ask. Thank you! Because I have come to believe that God is only Good, and therefore trustworthy, I want to see all of creation, especially the human creation, with the eyes of God. As I have come to understand that God has an inestimably high view of the human creation, I am also learning to see that way. And what I see, despite all of our broken expressions of our own self-loathing, is too beautiful for words. This is only one of the reasons that I love Jesus; he never treats the marginalized people as projects or missions, but as friends and insiders. He draws a circle big enough to even include the religious. In fact, I don’t think Jesus ever draws a circle; we do. And God is One who respects the circles we draw, but loves us too deeply to allow our circles to remain unchallenged.
WGF: You have a nonfiction book coming out soon, Lies We Believe About God. One of the guiding values of the Wild Goose Festival is setting a table wide enough to include everyone God welcomes. What are the lies that keep us from living and loving as we’re created to be?
Young: Wow, where do I begin. When some friends talked about the lies we believe, we easily came up with at least a hundred. To your question, here are a few from the new book:
God is a Christian
God blesses my politics
God doesn’t claim everyone as God’s children
God created my religion
God is more he than she
God is good, I am not
God is disappointed in me
WGF: What’s been your favorite part about having The Shack adapted into film?
Young: It feels similar to when the novel was published; I love being invited onto the holy ground of other people’s stories. I am convinced that I didn’t write the book by myself, but God didn’t write it without my participation. So it is human and flawed and not without error, but I have watched God climb inside the words of this book and now the images and creativity of the film, and find broken hearts over and over again.
God finds us in the places where we get stuck and are wounded and lost and begins singing us into the Relentless Affection that heals. I am grateful that the book and movie are the bones that will continue to help precious people flesh out language in a conversation about God that is not religious but relational. And I hope those conversations bring hope and comfort and sometimes confrontation. We need both, so that we don’t give up, and that the dark places of our hearts can be set free.
Ready to continue the conversation? Make sure you take advantage of our winter ticket special – $229 includes festival admission + tent camping.