People Actually Believe this Crap?

When I saw a billboard advertising that the author of the book, Heaven is For Real, Todd Burpo, was coming to town, I knew I had to go. What luck! He preached today at the local party church, Daybreak, and it was every bit as absurd as I hoped it would be.

Sounds legit

I wanted to read the book first, but I’m on the library waiting list behind 42 other people. Welcome to West Michigan. There’s no way I’d pay for that crap. I was, however, able to get my hands on the kids’ version of this book from the site, booksneeze.com, which gives you a crappy selection of books you can have if you promise to blog about them. There will be a review of the kids’ book soon, but it may not be kid-safe.

Regardless, I’ve watched interviews and read excerpts and reviews about Heaven is For Real, so I’ve got a good understanding of the premise. It goes something like this.

Dubious.
Successful Troll is Successful

Todd Burpo is a fundamentalist Christian pastor with a high degree of credulity and a complete lack of critical thinking skills. His son becomes sick and they mistake a burst appendix for the flu. Before it’s too late, the boy has surgery to fix him up and clean out his insides. Surgery, it turns out, works much better than prayer. The boy, Colton Burpo, is nearly four years old at the time.

Over the next few months, Colton tells his dad that during the surgery, he visited a stylized cartoon version of heaven in which people had wings and God sat on a throne and showed his superiority by being physically large and wearing a crown. The boy’s parents believe this because Colton says he was hugged by his dead sister, which the parents immediately take as proof because of a previously undisclosed miscarriage.

Todd fiercely encourages his son’s delusions, then writes a book about the ordeal and parades the youth around the country, appearing on talk shows and in churches throughout the land. This brings us to Daybreak Church.

The book has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 62 weeks now, a fact mentioned several times during Todd’s sermon today. He’s also got a kids’ version of the book which is doing quite well, and he let slip that there is a movie in progress. He kept saying how his constant prayer is that God uses him; “Use me! Use me,” he says, completely oblivious to the fact that he is indeed being used by the publishers and the producers because they know shit like this sells.

It disturbs me that this book is doing so well. It disturbs me that it is topping out the nonfiction bestseller’s list. Why are people so accepting of it? Is it the cuteness factor?

Colton wasn’t in the service today, but his dad said that the times when he is there, they usually close out the sermon by singing Amazing Grace together on stage. I feel sorry for that kid, being paraded around like a circus freak, having all his delusions affirmed by his adoring fans. He’s going to have that follow him his whole life. He might make a great skeptic someday if he can break free of this curse his father has put on him. It only takes a rudimentary level of critical thinking skills to break the mirage of anything miraculous.

I don’t have kids, but I know a few basic facts about them that the Burpos have conveniently forgotten: Kids have wild and vivid imaginations, often misunderstanding where imagination ends and reality begins. As their brains mature, their minds are sponges that soak up every nuanced detail around them. Todd Burpo was a fundamentalist pastor. Colton was absorbed in religious imagery and sermons his whole existence. Todd was amazed when Colton described markers that were on Jesus’ hands because he, a pastor, didn’t understand how his son could have possibly known that Jesus had nail wounds. That makes him either a shitty preacher or incredibly dense. Maybe both.

Actually, yes. He is a shitty preacher, as evidenced by today’s sermon. To be fair, I tend to think this about most preachers. His talk today was empty fluff meant to raise the emotional pitch of the room. There was no substance whatsoever. It was a nauseating retelling of his son’s illness and recovery, complete with forced tears I’m sure he squeezes out at every performance. He’s amazed, as am I, at the great reception his book has gotten and concludes, unlike I, that it’s a miracle instead of correctly attributing it to our country’s appetite for mindless Christian drivel. For good measure, he also tossed in a few statements about the dismal state of the nation because of prayer being forced out of schools and evolution being taught as science, even though it’s just a theory.  This led to bragging because his book was recently approved to be included in public school libraries, or so he says. Great! It would be an excellent resource for a class in critical thinking.

I would be remiss if I didn’t spend a minute talking about the train wreck that is Daybreak Church. My visit was wildly entertaining. Everything is very polished and dramatic, and they’ve got an abundant number of graphic designers and media people who ensure that there is never a moment of silence. The service started out with a rock band singing Footloose – I still have no idea why – complete with sexy dancers and shoes hanging from the ceiling. At every stage change, of which there were many, there was a professionally crafted commercial on the big screen, even a ridiculous guy pretending to be an SNL super-fan talking about the Super Bowl – again, I have no idea why. Then a bunch of dancers came out on the stage, the men wearing football uniforms complete with shoulderpads, the women wearing sexy oversized jersies, and they all danced for a while and threw a few passes. It was all very confusing. They awarded Todd Burpo with the Daybreak Seeker’s Award; I guess, for his outstanding Quidditch performance.

The best part about it is the fact that I am now entered in their Win a Caribbean Cruise for Two drawing, which will occur next week. Nothing would make me happier than to have a cruise paid for by church tithings.

8 thoughts on “People Actually Believe this Crap?

  1. What I would like to know is that if your world centers around intelligence and critical thinking why do you even bother going to a church or listening to a Pastor/Author speak. Are you somehow threatened by what churches/pastor preach? What are you really trying to find? Being a Christ-follower is about faith and not ones own intelligence, and that faith shouldn’t hinge on what an author or pastor teach but on what God’s Word says. I can only believe that despite your attacks on Christianity you actually are seeking more to this life then what you are experiencing. Perhaps you are grasping for some sort of legacy to leave. I pray that God will continue to work on opening your eyes and perhaps you’ll have a life-changing experience like Paul had. Daybreak has a series starting mid-February all about Paul. I’d challenge you to start and complete and entire series and then give your thoughts on what you hear.

    • What I would like to know is that if your world centers around intelligence and critical thinking why do you even bother going to a church or listening to a Pastor/Author speak.

      I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you for such a concise and brutally honest summary. That’s the reason I put myself through it.

      The world of fundamentalist propaganda entertains me to no end. I review these things because it’s loads of fun for me and both educational and entertaining. Someone has to challenge rubbish like this. I mean, come on, a pastor’s son at four years old visits a cartoon heaven, and no one is the least bit skeptical? This kind of faith is not to be respected.

      In the upcoming series on Paul, will Daybreak still have the same sexy dancers on stage? That’s really the only thing that would make me listen to such appalling drivel multiple weekends in a row.

  2. Dude, I love your blog. I just got PRK from the Army and happened upon your site when I was trying to figure out when the F I would be able to see again, and I have to say that I was pleasantly distracted by all the other stuff on here. I look forward to reading more witty satire.

  3. Heaven is for Real?
    I pigged out on a Chinese buffet once; ate too much. Got sick. Was rushed to the hospital. Doctors said I nearly died, one said I Was technically dead for a short period… While “dead” I had a dream that I crapped a mile-long steaming load… I had to fight it to flush it down. It got into the septic system and “contacted” other fecal matter. My mind followed it down into its cousins’ smelly Domain below the ground.
    There I saw them planning, scheming…about takiing over… You see, my load was Evolving Intelligence and trying to reproduce itself! I told people this story and was laughed at. When I got home, mysteriously my septic system was blocked and I had to have a pipe replaced. The workers never saw anything like this before and it Confirmed that my dream was true! Holy Shit will attempt
    to take over our planet… I am here to spread the word!
    I’m gonna write a book about this AND a multi-million-dollar Movie will follow!

  4. Truth about life and death can come from any source. I have found there is great value in all belief systems, even atheism. Your level of angst is so high it makes me wonder what you are fighting against. We are all free in this country to think and believe as we please so what is your upset all about? No one can force you to believe their way. Your childish rant says more about you than you realize. A little self-exploration might be helpful, if you are able to be objective enough to take that journey. Good luck to you and hope you feel better soon.

  5. Why so angry Chad? Found your blog researching PRK. Really appreciated your upbeat attitude about realistic healing times and outcomes for the surgery
    A little surprised some of your non-PRK posts come off so negative.

  6. That dad and kid are full of shit. He better donate 99.99% of that money full of lies to charity.

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