THE SHACK will reach 23 different translations in the next couple of months, expanding the audience for that little book. Most of the publishers overseas are secular publishers, many of them doing books about other philosophies and religions. When many of our overseas friends find that out, they write us concerned that a company that doesn’t believe in the message will alter the translation to fit their own objectives. I’ve answered this so many times for people that I thought I’d address it publicly here.
I can appreciate the concern, but it seems to fall into a bit of the Christian paranoia that the world is always out to get us and to intentionally distort our message. In the early translations of THE SHACK, we have not found that to be the case. Believers we know in those countries, who were concerned as well that the translations wouldn’t stay true to the book, have since written to tell us that the books are remarkably accurate to the spirit and content of the story.
And why wouldn’t they? Publishers have a vested interest in getting the story right. If they unfaithfully translate books, they will get caught by the many readers who can and will read both translations. If they change a book’s content their credibility and future sales will suffer in irreparable ways.
Why didn’t we stick with Christian publishers? We wanted this book to get into places Christian books don’t normally go. And we’ve had wonderful results from early translations that have been done by secular companies. Even those that had fears a nonChristian publishing company would water down the book or change its meaning, admitted later that the translation was far better than they expected. But no one agrees on every detail. Translation is more an art than a science, since many phrases and words do not have exact counterparts in other languages. Some interpretation is essential to the process, but we have been pleased to hear that translators have been faithful to keep as close to the original as possible.
It has been said that just because people are paranoid doesn’t mean there aren’t others out to get them. Maybe it’s also true that just because people disagree with us, doesn’t mean they are going to distort our words to further their agenda, especially when it is in their financial interest not to do so. I find many believers by and large live with far too many suspicions of other people. They’d prefer to live inside of those fears, then let circumstances play out and see if there is in fact a problem.
I think Jesus said it best. Be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. Keep your eyes open, but don’t live to speculation when reality will always unfold on its own. That we can be kind and gracious to all, but not be played as a fool by those who are truly malicious.