Sunday, March 16, 2014
A few years ago, I poked an appropriate amount of fun at a bestselling non-fiction book about a little boy's trip to Heaven and his subsequent return to Earth. The book was--and as far as I still know still is--titled Heaven Is For Real. I can't remember everything I said, but it probably had the potential to make people mad, people who knew me in my high school days when I was a regular church attendee and member of my church's youth choir, Breakaway. I don't mean that I was the kind of person who believed in a literal Heaven with golden throne rooms and angel butlers or thought that half-dead kids could pop in for a visit from time to time, but it's entirely possible that my contemporaries could have had that impression. Anyway, I made fun of this book.
Well, Hollywood made a movie out of Heaven Is For Real, starring TV's Rake and Lowell from Wings. And, what luck, it comes out around Easter. Honey, cancel the Easter egg hunt! This year we're going to see the Hollywood version of an already highly dubious "true" story about a precocious little boy with sixth sense powers or something.
I don't remember the theme my gentle ribbing of Todd Burpo's book embraced, but I can tell you what I probably didn't joke around about: the kid almost dying. As a father, I worry about my daughter's safety all the time. Like, right now, for instance, she's upstairs in her room taking a nap and I'm watching her on a monitor. There are no sounds of distress coming from the room, just her gentle breathing and the occasional ruffle of the blankets when she shifts. And, yet, I'm glued to this thing. What do I think is going to happen? Probably nothing, but, we do live near an airport and I have seen Donnie Darko several times and...I'm ridiculous. Kids in peril, though, is not a thing I find amusing.
I think what I thought was so funny (i.e. obviously dumb) about Heaven Is For Real was everything Colton, the boy who proved Heaven is a 100% real place and scientists can suck it, described about the afterlife was so hollow and cliche. Everybody looks like they did when they were in their 20's; your relatives find you in the crowd and catch you up on all the latest news; Jesus rides a horse (Is this the one with Horseback Jesus? I think it might be.). I haven't read the book, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is a part where somebody asks Colton what Jesus looks like and he describes every painting or movie-version of Jesus you've ever seen. What would be refreshing, and would, frankly, make me believe his story a little more, would be if Colton described Jesus as looking "like Swamp Thing, only with a flute for a nose that played a little tune whenever He laughed."
Here's my potential problem with the movie. I don't know this for sure, but I think it's safe to assume that in the Hollywood version of Heaven Is For Real, everybody gets to go to Heaven. And Heaven is up. That quick moment in the trailer when Rake is all, like, "He's been standing out there for hours," and we see Colton looking up into the sky: Why does everybody think Heaven is in the sky? Is it because they believe that Hell is underground? Who decided where these places are located?
Back to that everybody gets to go to Heaven idea. I like that. That's what I want to believe. If there's a Heaven, we all get to go. But that isn't what Christianity teaches, and don't argue with me because I grew up in it, man! I'm no expert, but the "who gets to go to Heaven when they die" issue is Christianity 101. In the movie, people are asking Colton if this person and that person is in Heaven and I bet they all are, because this is the movie-version of an afterlife that is, in reality, not open to you unless you follow a very specific set of steps.
But, hey, I'm probably just an asshole who hates feel-good stories with a Christian message, right? Isn't that what you thought when you saw that I had I posted a link to my review of the trailer for Heaven Is For Real, and then didn't click the link, so you aren't reading this? I love to feel good, but Heaven Is For Real doesn't make me feel good. Or bad. It doesn't make me feel anything, except that you should probably just go see The LEGO Movie again before wasting your money on this treacly garbage. But it'll probably make 100-million dollars, so, whatever. Enjoy your Heaven movie, America!