In the shadow of the movie’s release, I thought it apropos to regurgitate this (one of my first) posts…
This annoying little book is not going away. Upon hearing his 4-year-old claim that he had visited heaven and met Samson and a blue-eyed Jesus, Pastor Todd Burpo encountered the same challenge all parents of toddlers frequently face. When my boy claims that he is actually Superman I wrestle with an identical dilemma: Do I just smile and play along til he grows out of it, or do I write a book sharing the claim with the world? What to do, what to do?
Pastor Burpo didn’t chicken out and opt for the condescending smile-and-nod approach most of us lazy dads do. No, he employed a literary agent who successfully lured Thomas Nelson Publishers into eventually putting 1.5 million copies into print. (If anyone can get me that agent’s number, I’m very interested!) Dad
exploited assisted his boy to polish his story, and Nelson presented their newest father-and-son trophy as the very yellow “Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.” It shot to #1 Bestseller for non-fiction.
The NY Times ran an article facetiously titled “Celestial Sales for Boy’s Tale of Heaven.” In it there is a priceless explanation of why reputable literati types would stoop to promoting this project. Patricia Bostelman, the vice president for marketing at Barnes & Noble admitted: “When you buy the religion subject, you are presented with many stories about heaven, personal experiences about …the afterlife,… But what was unusual about this book was that it was the story of a little boy. It deactivated some of the cynicism that can go along with adults capitalizing on their experiences.” In other words, when you rub shoulders with the gullible folk who “buy the religion subject” you are bound to meet shameless kooks who try to profit from fanciful lies. But this one we could promote, because it will sell. And why will it sell? Because the picture of a little boy will “deactivate” some of the normal discernment that might hinder sales.