James B. De Young is author of the WND Books title “Burning Down the Shack.”

It may come as a surprise to the many readers of The Shack to discover that their favorite novel and the gay-rights movement have a common attitude toward the institution of marriage.

The militant gay-rights subculture is seeking by various means to alter America’s understanding and definition of marriage. Their most recent attack on marriage is to gun down the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the armed forces.

The war over marriage has been going on for some time. In liberal Oregon, where I live, the gay subculture had forced various courts to define marriage to include two gay men or two gay women. But a few years back the people successfully used the initiative process to set within our state constitution a definition of marriage as consisting of one man and one woman. Yet the gay-rights group asserted that they would increase their efforts to force their aberrant meaning of marriage on the rest of us. Recently, a federal judge’s action in California voided the vote of the people there. And the court fight goes on.

So, how serious a matter is this? After all, should we not extend what is “politically correct” to the definition of marriage, and let people decide for themselves what marriage is? Should not diversity force soldiers to shower and sleep with gay people?

In his recent book, “The Future of Marriage,” David Blankenhorn recounts how marriage got started about 5,000 years ago in the Middle East and transformed civilization itself. Contrary to what many think, the idea of having rules for what constitutes marriage secures the preservation of marriage and culture. It secures freedom within certain bounds; it insures that coming generations will be able to enjoy the same freedoms. But if the gay community destroys the “institution” of marriage, all other institutions will cease to exist, and civilization becomes uncivilized.

So what do the new military policy and “The Shack” have in common? Just this. Clearly, there is a strong current of anti-institutionalism coursing through the novel. The author claims that all institutions (basically those of marriage, government and the church) are demonic (p. 122-124), that they are part of a “man-created trinity of terrors” (twice asserted) that “ravages the earth” and is responsible for the suffering of mankind (p. 179). The author, Paul Young, goes further to have Jesus say that he does not “create institutions” and “never will” (p. 179). He asserts this even though the Bible says that God created and approves all three of these basic institutions (see Genesis 2 for marriage; Romans 13:1-7 for government; and Matthew 16:18 and Ephesians 5 for the church).

Mack, the main character in the novel, directly confronts the issue of marriage, asking if marriage is to be preserved as an institution. Papa, speaking as God in the novel, retorts that marriage is not an institution but a relationship. The implication is that the institution of marriage is demonic and should go, but the relationship is divine and should be preserved. This view of marriage coincides with the novel’s entire emphasis on relationship – how the Triune God is in a “circle of relationship” with himself and with people who are his children. The circle has no hierarchy and no subordination – not even to God himself – since these destroy relationship!

Yet the Bible shows that marriage is both an institution and a relationship. Without the institution, there is anarchy and people redefine marriage as they see fit. This is suicidal, for then anyone can at whim enter or leave a relationship, an “arrangement,” with no commitments. Thus children will be abandoned at the whim of their parents, and those most vulnerable will be defenseless. And there is no reason why “marriage” should not be further enlarged to include several people living together (polygamy), or to cover people having sex with animals (bestiality) or sex with children (pederasty).

Divorce and adultery among heterosexuals only prove the point that marriage needs to be preserved as both a relationship and an institution. Violations of this understanding bear consequences.

I show in my book, “Burning Down the Shack,” that the gay subculture and “The Shack” form strange bedfellows by limiting marriage to relationship and by opposing the institution that took 5,000 years to form. But the “circle of relationship” in “The Shack” is a fiction: it ends up destroying relationships. The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” will do the same.


James B. De Young, a graduate-level professor of Greek and biblical studies for 30 years, is the author of “Burning Down the Shack.” He is a former colleague and neighbor of “The Shack” author Paul Young.

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