Not quite Heaven. Image by Me (April 1, 2013)
Be it far from me to be a killjoy, however I had to give my two cents on this story I noted on Facebook this evening. In 2004, 6-year old Alex Malarkey and his dad, Kevin were involved in a horrific car accident. As a result of being tossed out of the car, young Alex was in a coma for two months. It was during this time, Alex said he took a trip to Heaven; a trip later documented in his book, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life Beyond This World.
Now in reading the book, the uninitiated will goo-goo over a kid’s testimony about a boy’s checking out of this world and checking into the Land of Eternal Sun and Fun. However, a student of Scripture would pick up errors that don’t jibe; one of which was Alex’s mom, Beth who commented, “how biblically off the book is.” In fact, Alex-now a teenager-confessed that he made the whole thing up. You can read the article on the Religion Dispatches website here:
Why Was Suspicion Over “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” Ignored for Years?
As the title asks, any suspicion about Alex’s tale was ignored for years. Why did a book get published by a respected Christian publisher, Tyndale House. Why did many a Christian gobble this book up along with similar books, A Boy Back from Heaven, and the “classic,” Heaven is For Real-a franchise that became a movie last year. I’ll explain that in a moment. However, it’s a funny thing is that all three books were about a White boy’s visit to the next world; as if girls and children of color don’t count. Hmm…that’s another post altogether.
Please understand that I am very skeptical about these books-those above and similar titles out there in the market. You see, Heaven and Hell are really unknowns; despite my belief in an afterlife. We really don’t know where the next stop will be, or what it would be like. The Bible only gives scant information on the afterlife and it’s figuratively written. Plus, if you were to consult the early Christians-even those who sat at Jesus’s feet-they would tell you they believed in reincarnation, not some trip to Heaven.
I also find that such literature perpetuates the “lying for Jesus” game. Sadly, Church history has been rife with those who have “stretched the truth” for the Gospel’s sake: from some of the early Church fathers, up to the recent Harold Camping’s end-time “predictions.” Such lying gives the Gospel (and Christianity) a black eye that cannot be easily cured. This hinders those who witness for Jesus in their living. We create black holes in Scriptural doctrine that cannot be filled up and suck the life out of the Gospel. In the end, the Gospel-as well as Christianity-becomes disputable at best, a hoax at worst as people ask what else could be disputed as false.
However, literature like Alex’s and others are still bestsellers in the Christian camp. Why? Because we humans need to have some assurance of what happens when we transition out of here. The thought of one just dying, their body decomposing, and Earth continuing for billions of years don’t sit well with a lot of Christians (and others I may add). We need to have some assurance that after we check out, there’s some celestial place we can check in, and as the hymn says, “sit down and rest a little while.” Such literature also gives us the living comfort on what happened to our loved ones who left us, that one day we’ll meet them in some big “family reunion” on that distant golden shore.
As we continue on this road trip called the Christian Journey, it would behoove us to be discerning and prayerful about literature like that above. Alex Malarkey now has to eat crow and come clean. Even though Alex points to Scripture as the authority on the afterlife, the damage has been done How much more potential damage can this and other books like it will do?
In the words of Dr. Who, “Time will tell. It always does.”