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Tuesday, 22 February, 2011

Review: Heaven Is For Real

On Sunday, Phil volunteered to buy a copy of Heaven is For Real if someone would read it and review it. It's a bestselling book about a 4-year old boy who goes to Heaven and returns. Wendy! volunteered for the assignment. She read it, and here's her review:

Heaven is for Real, a Real Review
By Wendy!

Heaven-is-for-Real1Shockingly, I agreed to review this book. There were too many parallels for me to ignore, and having a JWB Kindle is a cosmic (comic?) cherry on top. Jupiter must have aligned with Mars because I read an entire conservative Christian book, co-written by the author of Sarah Palin’s memoirs and I kept an open mind. That, in itself may very well qualify as a miracle.  Somebody call the Pope!

I had the profound experience of being near someone during an extended out-of-body/near death experience, as well as being there a year later when the ultimate transition happened.  The word “Death” is so inadequate.

A desire to validate my own experience and increase the awe by hearing similar stories is balanced by a history with organized religion and right wing conservatism that would still be a nightmare of memories if it weren’t for resiliency and ironically, the “spiritual” experience mentioned above. The word “spiritual” is so inadequate.

One of the most notable points of my experience is my unwillingness to share details with anyone but those closest to me. Write a book? Not possible.  It is too precious, personal and difficult to articulate.  So I am skeptical of someone who wants to shout their story.  But this is a second hand story and people are different.  I laughed on Location 158 when the author wrote “Now, as a pastor I’m not a believer in superstition.”

The problem I see is there are far too many details.  The attempts to prove and support the story are the fabrications.  The parents claim (and may believe) they did not expose the boy to any other basis for his stories, but they betray the fact that they do, right in the book itself!  Furthermore, to believe the child of a minister was unexposed to biblical details shows a considerable lack of respect for the sponge that is the mind of a four year old. 

Four may be without guile in what they can articulate, but they have more talent than a psychic for reading an adult’s reaction.  To think you can hide truth from a child is both arrogant and ignorant.  At most you might confuse them with repetitive mixed messages – words that don’t match the moments and emotions. In spite of the father's claims that he “hid” his reaction, the boy most certainly picked up on it. Children endlessly seek the approval of their parents, and parents endlessly encourage behaviors they value. Even when neither one has a clue.  Whether the parent is a junkie who values the next fix, a Mom who values only fashion or a minister who values the God of Revelations,children know, listen and absorb.

The young boy may very well have had a spiritual experience, and he is intelligent, but he has already forgotten the unvarnished truth of the moment.  Sadly, his intelligence is being swallowed up by dogmatism and a narrow world view.  His life will be colored not by the experience but by the stories about his experience. I do not doubt the the terror of the moment, or the actual spiritual experience as a result.  But the unvarnished truth is already buried, and this book piles great, huge mounds of distraction on whatever may have happened.

The real buried pearl in the book is the mention of Akiane Kramarik.  Do the author(s) realize the prodigy who painted Jesus at 9, and the Christian Poster Child who appeared on the Hour of Power in the Crystal Cathedral at 10 years old has blossomed into a mature and thoughtful young lady?  Her interview on Public TV’s “Conversations” at 15 was most impressive.  If the author(s) read all the recent entries in Akiane blog and still admire her, there is hope for the young boy in the book.  Discovering Akiane's story certainly made this book a worthwhile read.


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