Just a few days after we returned from our St. Andrews Musical Residency, we had the opportunity to attend a prescreening of the film Heaven Is For Real. Today, I share the thoughts I wrote that afternoon...
Heaven Is For Real
This morning, I gathered with 100 bloggers, pastors, and journalists to watch a pre-screening of the movie Heaven Is For Real. It was about a year ago that I reluctantly read the book. I’m a person of faith, but I can be cynical of miracle stories, so I entered the book with some trepidation. My logic brain could write some of it off, but there were moments that I just could not wrap my head around. For that reason, this book became a story of faith for me.
If you haven’t read the book yet, here’s the crux of the story: Todd and Sonja Burpo are two young parents struggling to make ends meet, but otherwise living a pretty happy life. On a family trip, their 4-year-old son Colton becomes deathly ill. After surviving emergency surgery, Colton tells his family that he visited heaven.
The story is set in small town Nebraska (shot in Manitoba), and the landscape almost becomes a character in the film. The lush, sweeping shots of big skies and bright fields are a constant reminder that we’re dealing with issues that are larger than ourselves, and that perhaps we see glimpses of heaven every day.
The Burpos (at least as characters) are the kind of Christians we rarely see portrayed on film. They’re not pious snobs, nor are they God-hates-you-Sinner caricatures. This a normal, fun, loving family, who are also people of faith. The parishioners that we meet are level-headed, decent people - the kind of church folks we meet every week in our Infinitely More travels. Colton’s stories about heaven unfold with greater and more profound detail. He knows things that he shouldn’t know, such as recognizing a young photo of the grandfather he never met. For some, this is a sign of faith. For others, it’s the hallucinations of a sick boy. Through his parents and the church, we see the full range of human emotions enflamed by this phenomenon, and the genuine struggles of faith, doubt, and logic that should be explored by this topic.
I attended the screening with my family (my Dad has written the review for the Anglican Journal) and we spent the whole day talking about the film and our ideas of heaven. And that's why this film is important. For years, Hollywood avoided Christian story lines because they were seen as unprofitable. As a result, they were generally low budget, ugly, and completely unentertaining. In recent years, we’re seeing more stories of faith inspiring big budget films. Although there will always be groups who attack these stories on the perfection of their theology, I do think we need to celebrate and support this movement of film making. Stories of faith need to be told, and we need to discuss, debate, and think about the issues they share. So grab a few friends - people of faith or not - and go see Heaven Is For Real. Will it make you a believer? I don’t know. Is heaven for real? One of these days we’ll find out for sure, so let’s chat about it while we have the time.
This weekend, I wrote my 1000th blog post!
You can read it HERE.
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