This morning The New York Times reported that Heaven Is For Real, a book based on the near-death experience of a 4 year-old boy in which he met various biblical figures including Jesus, has become a “publishing phenomenon, dominating best-seller lists and selling hundreds of thousands of copies.”
Reading the article left me feeling conflicted. On one hand, it’s clear by its sales that this book has brought hope and inspiration to many. With these in such short supply, I’m truly happy for anything that adds more of both to the collective conscious.
On the other hand, it was the boy’s father who decided to flesh out the story and publish the 163-page book. As I thought more about this I began to feel a little insulted…though that’s really too strong a word. Perhaps “excluded” is a better fit.
The book’s title feels like yet another declaration that the Christian path is the only path. It’s distressing that the book may serve as proof to some that what lies beyond the veil is indeed the Christian heaven, and only the Christian heaven. The renewed fervor it may lend to those who’ve memorized and constantly regurgitate the tired and worn “Jesus is the only way” argument also concerns me.
To be clear I actually admire Jesus immensely, and am open to different ideas about where our souls go when we leave the physical world. (I have my ideas, and so do you. Without verifiable facts, who’s to say which is right or wrong?) What I don’t like is the monopoly on tickets to the afterlife and “salvation” Christianity claims to have, which I’ve always viewed as an instrument of control more than anything.