Over the past two weeks I’ve been attending a discussion group on William P. Young’s novel The Shack. This engaging, thought-provoking book plunges the reader head first into the problem of evil (Why do bad things happen to good people?). It’s a real page-turner, but I have some reservations about the theology behind the book. I also don’t like the way the author keeps the reader guessing, Is it true? Did it really happen? It’s gimmicky, at best. But that’s not what I want to talk about.
The discussion group has been a joy. It’s made up of young and old, Baptists and non-Baptists, ministers and lay people. Most are white Americans, but there are also minorities, including some foreigners. Some participants are theologically conservative, others progressive. Yet we’re all there for the common purpose of discussing the book, which means we’re talking about, and debating at times, what it means to believe in God.
In the book of Revelation, there’s an image of heaven in which those around God’s throne sing a new song:
Thou art worthy to take the book,
And to open the seals thereof:
For thou wast slain,
And hast redeemed us to God
By the blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests
And we shall reign upon the earth.I’m drawn to the fact that heaven is made up of a diverse group of people. In contrast, the churches I’ve attended for most of my life have been quite homogeneous, often intentionally so. Most Sunday mornings I worship in a sea of white, middle class, Republicans. Our common faith in Jesus Christ should unite us, not demographics. I want to find a church that looks a little more like heaven, or at least more like my discussion group.