In the past year I have tried to get through two books, “Heaven is for Real” by Colton Burpo and “My Journey to Heaven” by Marvin J. Besteman. Both books, I got so annoyed I had to put them down.
For these Christians, everything in these heavenly sojourns that matches scripture, they take it as absolute proof that the complete Bible is literally true. Anything that doesn’t match is some new revelation.
I believe there is some kind of greater reality. I have no proof. There can be no proof. This is my one point of my faith.
Now, what that greater realm is, I don’t know. I hope this analogy isn’t too insulting, because it’s insulting to me too: Humans trying to understand the higher realm are like little children trying to get a grasp of adult life. One of my favorite quips is “People arguing about religion are like two little boys on the playground, fighting over whose dad can beat up whose dad. Only — the boys are brothers.”
The evidence (though of course not proof) that a higher realm exists is that people bring back from it information that would otherwise be hard to explain. Any denizens of the higher realm are overwhelmingly beneficent. If they were inimical, they would long since have destroyed us.
To this extent, I am in agreement with the Christians. So far so good.
But the Christians seem unable to think of spiritual beings in even the most rudimentary psychological terms. There are hints of presentation, such as “I was shown this”, or “God meant me to see that”. But these Faithful gloss over the huge point that the souls, saints and angels they meet know at least as much about us as we do about them.
Heavenly journeys entail a great deal of fulfillment of expectations. Marvin meets Saint Peter, who was always one of Marvin’s most meaningful spiritual figures. Now, how is it that Peter speaks to him in Marvin’s own language, accent, and idiom? When Christians from France go to heaven, surely Peter talks to them in perfect colloquial French. Think about how hard that is. If you were a spiritual being, and you’d mastered the voice, you could do anything. From there, any garments, body, or face would be child’s play.
When Colton went to heaven, the spiritual beings knew he was a little boy from Nebraska. If he’d gone back to his Christian family talking about a bevy of houris riding around on camels, or dear elephant-headed Ganesh, he’d not only be disbelieved, he’d have been exorcised! So the spiritual beings he met were Jesus and cetera.
Marvin sees babies in heaven. Lots of babies, from newborns on down to little nubbins of fetus. I just about put the book down at that point, permanently. His heaven would be my hell. I can see how, for the many parents who have lost an unborn child, this would be a numinous blessing. The idea that their little lost one were somehow held and loved, and its dear existence had gone on to fulfillment and grace. Me, though; that quarter of heaven was a miasmic vision of the Undead. All eternity, rubbing elbows with the likes of tadpoles — or slugs! This must be part of that new revelation. There’s no mention of “embryo” in the Bible.
But what finally got to me was the aridity of it all. The idea of a journey to the greater realm, an eyewitness account, holds such promise. And there are tantalizing hints, but buried in slag-heaps of wish fulfillment. I mean, this is eternity. You meet loved ones. What then? You hear heavenly choirs, see celestial colors. What next? After the first day, week, millennium; how could any of that be enjoyable, or even tolerable? Or do we become bliss-ninnies and don’t know how dead bored we are? If we’re “drugged” into happiness, what kind of heaven is that?
Can you ever feel productive in heaven? Can you develop new expertise? Do you ever get the fulfillment of feeling useful? Can you ever find new love?
It’s harrowing, the idea that all these good people, Christians, have a vision of paradise that goes no further than comfort. Call it what you will. Peace. Happiness. Bliss. However you slice it, they are revealed as hedonists, sybarites, only looking to their eternal pleasure. I hope I am wrong about this. It’s too awful. The churches full of only the basest souls.
The next time some of them come to my door clutching their bibles, I want to shake them by their lapels and demand, “Weren’t you ever born for anything?!?” Or is life to you so horrible you only want to get it over?