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"Heaven is for Real" and the Gospel of Life ^ | May 18, 2014 | Paul Kengor

Posted on 05/18/2014 9:03:55 AM PDT by Kaslin

Editor's note: A version of this article first appeared at

I recently bought the book “Heaven is for Real” and saw the movie. That was unusual for me. I don’t typically do the books and movies everyone else is doing, especially the touchy-feely spiritual ones. Maybe it’s the snob in me, or, really, I just don’t like to do what the culture is doing. But this time, I made an exception.

The story is about the near-death experience of a four-year-old named Colton Burpo, a pastor’s son from Nebraska. I’ll say up front that I didn’t care much for the movie, unlike the book. The screenwriter took too many shortcuts and liberties and redirections with new characters. Most annoying was the sexualizing of the little boy’s mother, Sonja Burpo. Don’t get me wrong, she’s no Miley Cyrus or Madonna, but she’s repeatedly represented in an alluring, suggestive, sensual manner. I was almost expecting a nude scene.

The writer/director, Randall Wallace, explained Sonja’s portrayal this way: “So many people believe that Christians, and particularly the wives of ministers, would be these sexless, sweet, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-their-mouths kind of people, and that was the opposite of what I thought Sonja was or should be. And Kelly [Reilly, the actress who plays Sonja] just had this sense of romance and charisma—you couldn’t take your eyes off of her.”

Really? Who are these “many people” who think of Christian women this way? Must we cater to narrow-minded secularists who imagine that the vast sea of American churches they never visit have no attractive women inside? If some 20-something “progressive” New Yorker is that insular and prejudice, too bad. Let’s not tailor to his ignorance by sexualizing the church-mom in a story about a little boy’s visit to heaven. I wonder how the real life Sonja Burpo feels about this portrayal of her.

But on the positive side, there was much about young Colton’s story that was compelling and convincing.

Generally, both the movie and book detail things that this child, even as a minister’s son, couldn’t have known ahead of time. I don’t have the space to detail all of those here. You’ll need to see for yourself. Actually, read the book first, because it details these things far better and more believably than the movie. But I will share just one especially poignant example that really touched me when I viewed the movie trailer; in fact, it prompted me to buy the book first.

Well after he has come home from the hospital and recovered, Colton one day out-of-the-blue tells his mother that he has two sisters. Sonja casually corrects him, “No, Colton you have your [one] sister.”

“No,” Colton responds. “I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?”

“Who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?” a stunned Sonja responds to her four-year-old.

She did, Mommy. She said she died in your tummy.”

Sonja is speechless. She had a miscarriage a few years before Colton’s birth, but no one ever told little Colton. How did he know? He knew because he said he met the deceased sister in heaven.

A shocked Sonja, long grieved by that miscarriage, asks Colton the girl’s name. He tells her that she doesn’t have one, because mommy and daddy never gave her one. The crushed Sonja responds that they indeed didn’t name her, because they never knew she was a she. It’s okay, Colton tells his mother, she’s fine, she has hair just like yours, and God has adopted her: “she just can’t wait for you and Daddy to get to heaven.”

This scene really hit me. My wife and I have a bunch of kids, but between the second and third there were miscarriages. I’ve often thought about those unborn lives. Should I pray for them? Are they indeed children waiting for us? This innocent, hopeful account by this little boy really struck me. A cynic might say that this is a purely emotional response, that this book/film pushed my buttons. But I’m not like that. I think there’s more to it. Consider: My faith teaches that life begins at conception. I know it. I believe it. I write about it. I teach it.

So, if that’s the case, then why wouldn’t I believe that those miscarriages, which were lives that began at conception, are waiting in heaven, just as the lives that make it out of the womb go to the other side?

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Did it take little Colton Burpo’s feel-good story about how heaven is for real, to help me—this chastened writer and academic—understand that those unborn lives are also for real, in heaven?

Call me a sentimentalist, but something about this particular account of heaven struck me as really real.

TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: christianfilms; heaven; heavenisforreal; movie; prolife

1 posted on 05/18/2014 9:03:55 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: StarCMC; Kathy in Alaska; Bethbg79; EsmeraldaA; MoJo2001; Brad's Gramma; laurenmarlowe; ...

This is a worthy thread to read, so PING!

2 posted on 05/18/2014 9:11:58 AM PDT by SandRat (Duty - Honor - Country! What else needs said?)
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To: Kaslin

It is a book worth reading and will get you to think about heaven,wheather you believe to be real or not real.

3 posted on 05/18/2014 9:20:11 AM PDT by Vinylly (?%)
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To: Kaslin

Something similar happened to the neurosurgeon who died and came back. While in heaven he met someone about whom he said “it was like I always knew her but I didn’t know who she was”. When he came back to this life he started investigating and found out that he had been adopted and he had a sister who had died.

Another story was a woman in Texas who died, saw her uncle who lived in Arizona on the other side, and came back here and told her family that her uncle had died. There was no way she could have known this since he died about the same time she did.

I don’t know what it is - beyond my ability to understand. Maybe our bodies are an embryo and we move to another dimension.

4 posted on 05/18/2014 9:39:52 AM PDT by Aria ( 2008 & 2012 weren't elections - they were coup d'etats.)
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To: Kaslin

Wow. Our daughter lost three babies, very early in the pregnancies. I think I’ll email this to my daughter. She and I need to name them.

5 posted on 05/18/2014 11:03:06 AM PDT by Mercat
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To: SandRat

Have you seen the movie? I haven’t......yet.

6 posted on 05/18/2014 12:10:48 PM PDT by LUV W (All my heroes wear camos! Thank you David, Michael, Chris Txradioguy, JJ, CMS, & ALL Vets, too!l)
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To: Kaslin

I loved the book. I didn’t love the movie.

I was distracted by the wife, because she’s in a show on ABC, she plays a bi-polar neurologist, but seemed to overall be the same breathless, somewhat goofy character.

Even though TD Jakes is one of the producers, I thought they totally missed out on the point, Jesus lives. They tried to be too all inclusive. I didn’t feel as I read the book that the pastor was struggling with his faith, I thought it made his faith stronger while wondering why his son saw what he did.

The book is so very much better than the movie. (Although my 10 year old loved the movie)

7 posted on 05/18/2014 12:16:27 PM PDT by porter_knorr
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No, but my eyes are still all fogged after just reding the thread.

8 posted on 05/18/2014 3:04:25 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty - Honor - Country! What else needs said?)
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To: Mercat

I had 4 miscarriages, all at about 7-8 weeks, and I named them each after I lost them. I prayed about it beforehand, and then the first name that popped into my head was the one I went with. It gave me some small comfort. Even though they only lived inside me for a short time, they were my beloved babies and they are not forgotten.

9 posted on 05/18/2014 5:11:16 PM PDT by Prince of Space (Be Breitbart, baby. LIFB.)
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