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Article 3

Lemons

Elizabeth Lemons

Ohio State University

Christianity’s Collusion with Whiteness: Divine Embodiment in The Shack

Abstract

The Shack is a story about a Christian man, Mack, who encounters God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit one weekend after experiencing a family tragedy. Mack is surprised to find that each of the characters presents him or herself as a person of color. This seemingly progressive, anti-racist depiction of the trinity was wildly popular among evangelical readers, many of whom gushed that the story is life-changing and faith-renewing. Using feminist scholarship, critical whiteness theory, and a history of Evangelical race relations, this article gives an alternative reading of The Shack, making the argument that the story reifies racist stereotypes and reinstates the authority of the white, male liberal subject. Tracing the influence of Enlightenment discourse on Christian beliefs about bodily transcendence, this article makes the argument that the structures of whiteness are fundamental for American Evangelicalism’s culture and theology. Ultimately, The Shack is an exploratory story about racial reconciliation within the evangelical community; however, The Shack does not challenge the popular evangelical conception that racism is nothing more than conflict between individuals on the basis of racial stereotypes. The Shack continues to ignore the structural privileging of whiteness, colluding with racist systems by ultimately failing to undermine them.