Friday, April 01, 2011

That book. No, not that one.

At the top of the New York Times nonfiction bestsellers list, having sold 1.5m copies, is “Heaven is Real” by Todd Burpo, with Lynn Vincent (Thomas Nelson, $16.99.) A boy’s encounter with Jesus and the angels.

Read that again: nonfiction.  Then look at the Amazon blurb:

A young boy emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his visit to heaven.

Heaven Is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn't know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear.

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.

Examples of this impossible-to-know information include his description of Jesus as having stigmata and various winged creatures marauding around heaven.  He couldn’t have known any of these details, his father – a pastor – insists.  Yes, it is quite inconceivable that the son of pastor could never have been exposed to pictures of Jesus or Angels.  Another impossible-to-know detail was that he saw his grandfather, who he’d never met.  Perhaps it’s just me, but I’m not convinced a child needs to meet a grandfather in order to deduce he must have existed.  The story that has really convinced everyone, of course, is that he met his miscarried sister, about whom he’d never been told.  But kids pick things up.  As an entirely trivial example, my 3 year old nephew got a sort of shaggy rubber ball for Christmas.  I remarked once to someone that it looked like a bacterium and a couple of hours later he was asking his grandma where his bacterium was.  Are we really to believe that a kid wouldn’t pick up on a important and traumatic period of its parents lives?

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