Friday’s New York Times reports on a new publishing phenomenon: a book about heaven written by a young boy who had a near-death experience, and co-written by his father, his mother, and contributor Lynn Vincent, who also helped Sarah Palin with Going Rogue. Heaven is for Real currently stands at #3 on the Amazon ranking, and has sold over 1.5 million copies.
Seven years ago Colton Burpo, nearly four years old, was hospitalized with a burst appendix (an unfortunate malady resulting from a huge design mistake by the omnibenevolent Creator). The rest of the story is familiar:
He had died and gone to heaven, where he met his great-grandfather; the biblical figure Samson; John the Baptist; and Jesus, who had eyes that “were just sort of a sea-blue and they seemed to sparkle,” Colton, now 11 years old, recalled. . .
. . . At first, [Colton’s father Todd] and his wife, Sonja, were not sure if they could believe their son’s story, which came out slowly, months and years after his sudden illness and operation in 2003. The details persuaded them, Mr. Burpo said. Colton told his parents that he had met his younger sister in heaven, describing her as a dark-haired girl who resembled his older sister, Cassie. When the Burpos questioned him, he asked his mother, “You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?” While his wife had suffered a miscarriage years before, Mr. Burpo said, they had not told Colton about it. “There’s just no way he could have known,” Mr. Burpo said.
And the Burpos said that Colton painstakingly described images that he said he saw in heaven — like the bloody wounds on Jesus’ palms — that he had not been shown before.
Nope, there’s simply no way that eleven year old Colton could ever have seen Jesus’s bloody wounds, or other images of heaven, even though his father Todd is an evangelical pastor in Nebraska. And of course it defies belief to think that Colton could simply make up that his miscarried sister, whom he had never seen, had hair similar in color to that of his older sister. Ergo Jesus! Colton could, of course, heard someone else mention the miscarriage, or it could simply have been a lucky guess. How many other things did Colton say that weren’t credible?
And—doubly amazing—there’s even more stuff that Colton could not have known about without a visit to heaven, like Armageddon, God’s throne (look out, liberal theologians: god really does sit in a chair!) and the HUGE horse that Jesus rides. From the Amazon description:
Colton said he met his miscarried sister, whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born, then shared impossible-to-know details about each. He describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how “reaaally big” God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit “shoots down power” from heaven to help us.
Told by the father, but often in Colton’s own words, the disarmingly simple message is heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and be ready, there is a coming last battle.
It bears mentioning that this was not a death experience, but a near-death experience. Colton did not actually go to heaven; he was merely anesthetized. And, as we know, the sleep of reason brings forth monsters—and apparently a lot of money. Add this to the gazillion near-death experiences that have failed to produce convincing evidence that there’s a life beyond death. But the credulous and fearful don’t need convincing. One of those, apparently, is Matt Baugher, vice-president of the company that published this book:
“We all are perhaps desperate to know what is on the other side of the veil after we die,” Mr. Baugher said, adding that his initial skepticism about the Burpo family’s story was short-lived. “This was a very down-to-earth, conservative, quote-unquote normal Midwestern family. We became fully convinced that this story was valid. And also that it was a great story that would just take off.”
Of course! Had the family been liberals from New York, the story would not be nearly so convincing.
If you can bear it, watch Colton and his dad describe the stuff that could only be known from a near-visit to heaven. Colton says he saw that Jesus was REALLY BIG: “He can actually fit the entire world into his hands. ” And Jesus had a “rough but kind face, sea-blue eyes, and a smile that lit up the heavens.” Colton also learned that there are no old people in heaven, either—it’s all “young adults.” That’s great news for those of us who feared being at God’s big chair with our walkers, artificial knees, and Depends diapers.