So a few months ago, while walking through the nearby Salvation Army thrift shop with my kids, I stumbled upon a used copy of Heaven is for Real, the wildly popular book that has sold more than 8 million copies and seems to have a permanent spot on the New York Times’ best-seller’s list.
This, some would say, was an act of God.
Why, otherwise, would an agnostic Jew pick up the book, ask the sales woman for the price, hear, “All books are $2, hun” and purchase it? How else can this possibly be explained? Heaven is for Real would be my own personal awakening. I would read the story of a young boy’s visit to heaven, and I’d be inspired to pursue Jesus.
Orrrrrrr … I was a dude in a store, religion fascinates me and the thing was a couple of dollars.
Either way, tonight while flying back from New Orleans, I finally had the chance to read Heaven is for Real. And, for the majority of the 162 pages, I was captivated. The 4-year-old kid, Colton Burpo, wakes from an emergency appendectomy and starts telling his dad—a pastor named Todd Burpo—about meeting God. And Jesus. And Mary. And dead relatives. And the unborn daughter his mom lost after two months. And Tupac.
Wait. Scratch that. Tupac does not appear.
It’s all a miracle, and little Colton keeps telling Pop more and more things he couldn’t have possibly known. What dead relatives looked like. What Jesus looked like. Why Jesus was sitting to the right of God, not the left. On and on and on with amazing, detailed observations.
But here’s the problem: To believe this book, you have to be a moron. Not merely a half moron. A full, all-in moron with an IQ below 30. Yes, that sounds mean. And it is mean. But if you buy into the message of Heaven is for Real, what you’re saying is that we’re all just contestants in a game show; that the meaning of life isn’t to help others, or to expand your horizons, or even to find love. No, it’s to reach the afterlife. And how do you reach the afterlife? By believing in Jesus with all your might. And how is this measured? By Jesus—who somehow floats around with a ubiquitous Belief Gauge and measures the internal belief system of every humanoid who has ever existed. Even, it turns out, aborted and lost fetuses. Who, I’m presuming, never attended Sunday School. Regardless, they can play, too.
Coincidentally, the pathway to eternal life is paved with all the exact beliefs held by the Burpo family. And, if you don’t share those feelings, well, you’re fucked. You will rot in hell with the devil. That means you, moderate Catholic. And you, Southern Baptist who attends for the free post-sermon buffet. You, Jew. You, Muslim. You Hindu. You, agnostic. You’re all destined to be repeatedly raped by thorn-cocked Gulbuth The Rampant and reminded, for eternity, how wrong you were.
But … Jesus and God love you. They do.
But you know who they love the most? Like, the mostest of the most? Todd Burpo. According to Colton, Jesus zaps Todd with prayer power. Let me say that again—because it’s in the book: Jesus zaps Todd with prayer power.
Not to be confused with book-selling power.
Which he also has.
Final thought: Colton Burpo is now 15. And—to be blunt—Heaven is for Real better be real, because it’s a pretty fucked-up thing to put on a kid. Yeah, all was cute and adorable when he was 4 and looking like a Lipnicki. But now the lad enters high school. He’s gonna start wanting to get laid. Maybe add a THUG LIFE tatt to his chest. He’s gonna be known as the crazy kid from the book. People will stare. And mock. And prod.