You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Polished Edge: ‘Heaven is for Real’ and the Gospel of Life
By Dr. Paul Kengor
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 prejudiced, 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.
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
South Texas Living Archives
Benefit for animal shelter is Aug. 1 (July 29, 2015)
Cestohowa Altar Society ladies celebrate 60 years of service (July 29, 2015)
Church youth to hold car wash (July 29, 2015)
Don’t miss Kosciusko Picnic this Sunday (July 29, 2015)
Free movie Friday in Poth (July 29, 2015)
Historical marker denotes former school site (July 29, 2015)
Legion Auxiliary garage sale Aug. 1 (July 29, 2015)
Life in the Camp Ranch community (July 29, 2015)
Luciano Pacheco – the sole Tejano survivor of the Alamo (July 29, 2015)
Opry helps fund historical markers (July 29, 2015)
Popeye beach pail (July 29, 2015)
See a free flick in Elmendorf (July 29, 2015)
Stuff the bus in Stockdale (July 29, 2015)
Summer program ends at Falls City library (July 29, 2015)
WCRSP delivers children’s books to schools (July 29, 2015)
Balance classes start July 27 (July 22, 2015)
Be a high roller in Floresville (July 22, 2015)
Bobble-head Bozo (July 22, 2015)
Cool down with free snow cones (July 22, 2015)
Copper-pot craftsmanship — CINCO Vodka (July 22, 2015)
Marion Sausage Supper is Aug. 1 (July 22, 2015)
Mu Chi members attend state convention (July 22, 2015)
Opry lineup is sure to satisfy (July 22, 2015)
Save the date for Kody Fest Aug. 8 (July 22, 2015)
Shop ‘Trinkets and Treasures’ (July 22, 2015)
SSCA seeks donations for rummage sale (July 22, 2015)
Start two-stepping at FUMC (July 22, 2015)
Texas sales-tax holiday (July 22, 2015)
The Landing offers help for teens (July 22, 2015)
What a difference an ‘A’ makes! (July 22, 2015)
Browse, learn, shop at Home and Garden Show (July 15, 2015)
Celebrate Czech Day in Jourdanton (July 15, 2015)
Daughters of the Republic installs officers (July 15, 2015)
Enjoy St. Anthony church fest (July 15, 2015)
Experience ‘The Hobbit’ under the stars (July 15, 2015)
Free Movies at the Park in Poth (July 15, 2015)
Learn to compost with worms (July 15, 2015)
Legion Auxiliary plans garage sale (July 15, 2015)
Library happenings (July 15, 2015)
Mystery blanket sparks search (July 15, 2015)
Night In Old Fredericksburg is July 18 (July 15, 2015)
Plan now for Beaver Roundup (July 15, 2015)
Teddy bears, pottery (July 15, 2015)
The bridges of Wilson County (July 15, 2015)
‘Atomic tourists’ converge on Trinity Site ahead of 70th anniversary (July 15, 2015)
Behind the lens: Cover photo (July 8, 2015)
Bobby Flores Birthday Bash is July 11 (July 8, 2015)
Early settlers of Wilson County (July 8, 2015)
Enjoy ‘Big Hero 6’ at Movie Day (July 8, 2015)
Enjoy ‘Cool Tunes’ in Brenham (July 8, 2015)
Family violence shelter seeks volunteers (July 8, 2015)
Family weekend fun in Adkins (July 8, 2015)
FHS Reunion is July 25 (July 8, 2015)
Fishing lures (July 8, 2015)
Give blood at Sacred Heart Church (July 8, 2015)
Hamilton earns rank of captain (July 8, 2015)
Memorial hog hunt a hit! (July 8, 2015)
Save the date for Home and Garden Show (July 8, 2015)
See comedians in China Grove (July 8, 2015)
‘Alabama’ to invade K-Town (July 8, 2015)
‘Dying’ brings broadcaster back to life (July 8, 2015)
Bible study in Verdi (July 1, 2015)
Buses, pickup trucks, automobiles, and walking (July 1, 2015)
Davy Crockett, Depression glass (July 1, 2015)
Dog shows start July 8 (July 1, 2015)
Enjoy Fourth of July parade, concert in Seguin (July 1, 2015)
Enjoy Sunday Dances all month (July 1, 2015)
Free July 4 concerts in SA (July 1, 2015)
Free music, fireworks in Brenham (July 1, 2015)
Ice cream makers, tasters needed (July 1, 2015)
Jack's Cafe adds Sports Room and patio (July 1, 2015)
July is for grape stomping (July 1, 2015)
Look who's flying solo! (July 1, 2015)
Memories fly following balloon stories (July 1, 2015)
Register for state-wide Chili Cook-off (July 1, 2015)
Remembering my first haircut (July 1, 2015)
Savor: Summer drinks with calories and exercise equivalents (July 1, 2015)
South Texas Gardener reveals 'mystery plants' (July 1, 2015)
The Gathering Music Show (July 1, 2015)