Okay, so I read “Heaven is for Real” by Todd Burpo, a Protestant pastor whose son had an emergency appendectomy and apparently went to Heaven. This book was brought to my attention by my aunt who claimed it was so amazing and I had to read it and whatever. So I read it. Pretty quickly, too. It’s an easy, interesting read. Truly. But it gets me thinking…
**Spoiler alert – I will be divulging some specifics, so if you prefer to read it yourself, divert your attentions elsewhere. Also, I tend to rant… and it will come off like I don’t love God, even though I do, so if you are easily offended, please don’t read this. Thanks.**
So, this little boy, Colton Burpo, goes to Heaven while he’s in surgery. Apparently you can go to Heaven while you’re still alive (according to author Todd, John the Apostle went – while still alive – in the Book of Revelations. I’m not big on the Bible stats, so this guy being a preacher is basically like having Cliff’s Notes on a book in the actual book) to bring back prophecies or something. Later, Colton, tells his father that Jesus said He saved the boy as a direct answer to Todd’s prayers.
Hold the phone. Okay, so Todd says somewhere that God doesn’t listen to the prayers of the sick and the dying, He listens to those who pray for that person – the friends and family who practice their faith for that person. My initial reaction: bullshit (sorry!). There are people sick and dying every day, hence, there are people praying every day. There are people who believe, who practice their faith regularly, who beg and plead and bargain and pout to get what they want for others and how often do they get answered? Not too often. So my next thought was – is it because he’s a pastor? Because that sounds a wee bit like favoritism, and I was really looking forward to an eternity that doesn’t resemble 6th grade.
Moving on… there’s another part where Colton, before divulging to his parents that he’s been to Heaven, will be accompanying his family to a funeral at his dad’s church (initial reaction: who brings their kid to a stranger’s funeral? Religious types make me seriously wonder…). Upon learning what a funeral is (because what four-year-old doesn’t need to know that little bit of trivia?), Colton freaks out, wondering if this man had accepted Jesus into his heart, if he knew Jesus, etc. Not only does he freak out at home before the service, he goes apeshit at the church upon seeing the casket and learning that this strange man’s dead body is inside (once again, the reason for not leaving your kid at home was what?). “He can’t get into Heaven if he doesn’t have Jesus in his heart,” the little boy wailed as then his mother took him outside and directed his older sister to take him home.
I’ve heard that before, actually, from my Bible-beating, hypocritical, once was an agnostic asshole who could have cared less about anything involving his family, now’s a born-again who thinks Jesus is the answer and goes to prayer groups, father. I thought that all you had to do was absolve your sins, actually want to be forgiven, and you were in. Now I learn you have to have Jesus in your heart on Earth or no pass to Heaven? That seems a bit limiting, especially considering all the other religions out there who don’t worship Jesus. Where do they go? That doesn’t seem fair. Do they have their own Heaven? I guess, when you think about it topically, that if it is Jesus’ Heaven, He would be the one you’d be into in the first place. That would be like pining for Joe (Buddha, let’s say), devoting all your time, energy and passion into getting him to like you (worshiping on the regular), then when Matt (Jesus, the gates of Heaven) asks you out (you die), you say yes because he presented himself first (Heaven is the option, reincarnation doesn’t seem to be in this scenario). Does that make sense? Maybe whatever we believe in is what we get…
There is also the Catholic argument, that one needs to do good deeds to gain entry. Paying the piper, buying gifts for your kids to make up for the fact that you spend no time with them, beating your wife then buying her flowers… you get the picture. I don’t see anything wrong with doing good on Earth to save yourself a seat in eternity. What I don’t jive with is the thought that is some sadistic, child-raping, animal-abusing, wife-beating, anti-gay, pro-life mo fo getting into Heaven just because he happens to be a Bible-humping, outdated, (probably) Republican, short-sighted, shove-The-Word-down-your-throat, sit-outside-an-abortion -clinic-with-his-kids (on a school day) “Christian” who believes in Jesus Christ today.
And back to the book. There is also a part about angels. The little boy says that everyone in Heaven has wings, except Jesus, who goes “up and down like an elevator,” and have lights above their heads (halos). The dad, at this point, goes on and on about how his little boy has never seen angels portrayed that way and doesn’t even know the word “halo.” In the Bible angels are bright like lightening or the sun, with rainbows above their heads (never heard that one before). “Colton’s experience of angels in storybooks and Scripture did not include lights over angels’ heads… since our bedtime Bible stories and the Sunday school lessons at church are closely aligned with the Scripture.” I don’t know what these stories are you’re sharing with your kid, guy, but any angel I’ve ever seen, since childhood, has a halo.
My overwhelming question with this kid is that he was raised in the church, by a man who can quote the Bible (or at least allude to it and be relatively accurate), so he would know all this stuff, right? The dad keeps trying to say that there’s no way his little boy could be so matter-of-fact about Jesus’s crucifiction wounds (since Protestants only say He died on the cross, the crucifix is for Catholics), that he never saw angels with halos, that he knows nothing about sashes (Jesus’ is purple, everyone else wears yellow), that the doctor who performed his surgery (whom he associated with pain and suffering over the course of his recovery) “fixed” him…
I want to believe it. I really do. I know I sound harsh, and my thoughts are often slightly on the negative, but I just want to point out the questions that so many people unarguably have. It’s a wonderful story, and it did bring tears to my eyes, pulled on my heartstrings, made me reflect on my own life. But I, like so many others of my generation, living in the day and age of touchscreen everything, pet cloning and Jersey Shore, am jaded. We have so little to believe in, the world is falling apart around us, people actually kill each other in the name of religion (seriously, how fucked up is that?) and politics and money. Maybe this man is on the right track, maybe if more people believed like him, humans wouldn’t be the catalysts of their own extinction. But such is not the case, and we are ultimately all doomed.
I left out the part of Colton telling his dad about the impending Dooms Day of good versus evil – that God and His soldiers will choose those worthy to fight alongside them to defeat Satan (whom the boy also claimed to see) and send him back to Hell for good, and that Colton saw the dad as part of the fight. Meaning maybe the Mayans and Nostradamus were right and our end is nigh….
Jesus, if you’re listening, I’m on your side. Right…?