Many people have asked me lately if I enjoyed the recently released Near Death Experience (NDE) movie Heaven is for Real. Because I have spent much of my life researching NDE’s and even wrote my doctoral dissertation on the topic, it is surprising to some that I have not seen the film, nor do I plan to. When the book that this movie is based on came out in 2010, I was anxious to read it. I never got past the first chapter.
The book details the 2003 NDE of then 3 year old Colton Burpo. His story contains many of the elements of a classic near death experience with one notable exception. His experience had a definitive slant toward Christian exclusivity. I am not anti-Christian by any means- but I am very anti-exclusivity. (It is worth noting that little Colton Burpo’s father is a conservative Protestant Pastor-which had to be a less than neutralizing factor.)
The abundance of scientific data on the NDE is impressive to say the least. Today in the United States alone, approximately 774 people will have an NDE (280,000 per year.) The current state of medical science has made returning from the brink pretty common place. These huge numbers of people give an impressive data sample- and the data paints a very non-exclusive picture of what awaits just beyond life’s edge. According to the multitudes who have taken a peek beyond the pearly gates, it’s true Jesus of Nazareth is often standing there, but so is Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Moses, and a holy host of other headliners. NDE’s have a decidedly universal nature and those who have them often return to their daily lives less religious and more spiritual.
I am not a movie critic- but I am dismayed that such a narrow version of the NDE is gaining so much attention. I would much rather see a well done broad range NDE documentary grace the silver screen- but broad range lacks the ‘hook’ that Hollywood requires.