Sunday, May 26, 2013

Heaven is for Real – Commentary

by M. J. Joachim

Heaven is for Real is one of those quick read, feel good books. I started reading it yesterday, after finishing The Light Between Oceans, and finished it this morning. As much as I’d like to add to the many accolades this book has received, I have to admit that the hype I’d heard about it was a bit over the top.

I’m not doubting little Colton met Jesus in Heaven while he was having major surgery or anything. I just feel like this story was written by a very proud papa who saw an opportunity, not only in his work as a Wesleyan pastor living and working in a small town in Nebraska, but also as a witness who could earn a decent salary selling books.

Heaven is for Real is a simple story, one that Todd Burpo, Colton’s father, continuously clarifies and defends throughout the book. Among the many things that stood out was Todd’s insistence that he never prodded or coached his son to share Jesus revelations about his experience visiting Heaven. Clearly this is a contradiction in the book; I read numerous passages where Todd wanted to know more and persisted in getting Colton to open up and tell more. The impression I get is that Todd was consumed by what had happened and he was all over it.

Another thing that was noteworthy is that, according to the story, Colton was only in Heaven for approximately three minutes. Yet the years of revelations (necessary to get the story written) indicate a much longer experience must have taken place. Granted, Colton was in surgery, and even though he didn’t die, he had an out of body adventure and sat on Jesus’ lap. It just seems odd that this little three year old boy had an out of body experience that lasted less than five minutes, only to end up talking about it for several years to come, in such a way that everyone was amazed by his wisdom and understanding of the Gospel, Heaven, Hell and what happens when we die.

Please don’t get me wrong. There are lots of neat ideas in this book. Clearly Todd’s pastoring and sermon writing come into play as he draws on Biblical references to affirm his conversations with his son. Perhaps that’s part of the problem. So much of the story seems staged, rehearsed and practiced. It could be the fault of the editors, I suppose, but the whole thing didn’t quite sit right with me and is a bit unbelievable – not the part where Colton goes to Heaven, mind you, but all the family time revolving around Colton’s revelations of visiting Jesus, John the Baptist and numerous other people – except Mary, who is after all Jesus’ mother. (I always feel bad for the kid singled out in a family, regardless of the reasons why. I can’t help but wonder about the toll it takes on the other siblings in the family, as well as the toll of living up to such a role has on the kid himself.)

I don’t know a whole lot about the Wesleyan religion, but I’d venture to guess this book follows very closely with their beliefs. Determining if this is true or not isn’t the purpose of this blog post, however, so I’ll simply refer you to a comparison chart of various Christian denominations and if you feel the need, you can research it further.

Taken with a grain of salt, this book is a nice, warm fuzzy faith story, revolving around Christian principles. It’s also a neat family story, for those who like to peer into the lives of others and get a glimpse of how other families live. Think reality t.v. show here – you only see what they really want to show you, and you only travel the path they purposely lead you on.

I’m not going to add this book to my recommended reading page or pass out links for this book. It’s okay and all, but nothing to write home about.

Thank you for visiting Writing Tips.

M. J.

Photo credit:  M. J. Joachim

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