Though the Duggar family is often seen on social media advertising products for faith-based ministries, Ben Seewald, Jim Bob Duggar’s son-in-law, is currently doing the opposite. Seewald has been actively campaigning against a movie centered on the importance of faith.
Of course, it’s not as simple as that — the movie Ben Seewald hopes Duggar fans won’t watch isn’t exactly a Ray Comfort special or a creationism documentary.
In fact, The Shack defies quite a few of the stereotypes that culture has perpetuated about God and religion — including the common (not universal, but common) perception of the Christian God as a white man.
Instead, The Shack, both in novel and film form, presents the character of God with a little more diversity, including as an African-American woman. In the film, this iteration of God is portrayed by Octavia Spencer. Tim McGraw plays the troubled sufferer of a crisis of faith.
In a recent social media post, Ben Seewald tells Duggar fans that people will “be walking out of that theater with a false idea of God” and adds the directive, “Don’t let it be you.”
While he never states exactly what it is about The Shack‘s unusual way of depicting God that he finds unacceptable, Ben Seewald describes the character as “a false god, a god of human imagination,” and says that the God in the movie “directly contradicts the God who reveals Himself….in His word.”
Ben Seewald isn’t the only person to complain — the creators of the movie say they’ve been accused of “…indoctrinating people into a black, Madonna, Hindu cult, whatever that is. You just have to make that stuff up.”
Seewald also directs viewers to an article on Leading The Way that describes six problems the author has with The Shack. These center around the portrayal of God, not in image, but in character.
In short, the opinion expressed in Seewald’s linked article is that God is shown as too casual, not sufficiently authoritarian, not sufficiently wrathful, and loving without judgment.
This the first time Ben Seewald has addressed Duggar fans about The Shack — two weeks before the movie was even released, Seewald was already tweeting warnings about the movie, linking then to a piece by Pastor Tim Challies about that pastor’s own problems with the movie.
In this case, however, Ben cites someone who does complain about the visual representation of God in the movie. Challies asserts that his problem is with any human playing the role of God, saying this diminishes a viewer’s understanding of that holy being.
Though Challies does not, in this piece, mention a problem specifically with the portrayal of God as female and African American (and later Asian), his review of the book expresses a stronger feeling about this. After describing the depiction of the Holy Trinity in the novel, he indicates this would be enough to ruin the narrative.
“By this point many people will choose to close the book and be done with it. But for the purposes of this review, let’s just assume you are able to get past seeing God and the Holy Spirit portrayed in this way and let’s press on.”
So, while the pastor Ben Seewald cites for reasons not to watch The Shack isn’t mentioning the gender and ethnicity of the God characters in his reason for not reviewing the movie, he has certainly suggested previously that this is a problem with the story.
There’s also the simple fact the The Shack is far from the first movie to use actors to stand in for theological figures, yet there’s no sign Ben Seewald has been in the habit of campaigning against the many other movies that cast God as a human actor.
What do Ben Seewald’s in-laws think? In fact, there is every indication that the Duggar family has no theological problem with Jesus, at least, being cast as a human — the Duggar Family Blog describes that a Duggar infant has played the part at times.
“Baby Jesus is usually a baby doll, but sometimes the part would go to a family member if we had any babies in the house at the time. It’s such a special time and we’ve made great memories.”
What does Ben Seewald mean when he tells Duggar fans to avoid The Shack because of how it depicts God? Only he knows, but the key difference between this and other movies with human actors depicting God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit is definitely causing speculation among viewers.
[Featured Image by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images]