After church on Easter Sunday, we put the ham in the oven and had a few hours to blow, so we jumped in the truck and followed up our main course sermon with a side order of the movie, “Heaven is for Real.” I enjoyed the based on a true story film, but came out of the theater a little confused by the message.
Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) spends his time installing garage doors, working as a volunteer fireman, and pastoring for the Crossroads Wesleyan Church of Imperial, Nebraska. His wife Sonja (Kelly Reilly), daughter Cassie (Lane Styles), and son Colton (Connor Corum), seem to be typecast from a Norman Rockwall portrait of “Midwestern Utopia,” but things are about to change quickly.
Todd is trying to make ends meet, like many struggling Americans, but his faith is about to be tested. He breaks his leg playing softball and then turns the double play with an acutely painful kidney stone exchange. These minor setbacks are nothing for what is to come: Young Conner comes down with an infection and fever which lands him in the ER, and threatens to take his life. Todd is shown in the hospital chapel having a heated exchange with God, but Colton makes a miraculous recovery and is eventually sent back home. All seems well, but when Colton begins to tell his father that he had gone to heaven, a new crisis is set in motion.
Colton begins to make off the cuff remarks about his heavenly visit to his father about things that he could not possibly have knowledge of, such as his grandfather’s physical appearance (who he never met), and his mother’s miscarriage (which he did not know about).Todd is now sent into a tailspin when he begins to question his faith and begins to bring the remnants of his spiritual crises into his sermons on Sundays. Todd’s “Doubting Thomas” reflections are frowned upon the church’s elders and his tenure as pastor is at stake.
In the end it’s a very nice story, and very uplifting; but it doesn’t make sense. If you’re a man of God I would think that your faith in what you preach would be very strong, so why would your faith be breached when your son comes to you and tells you things which cannot be explained. Isn’t that what faith is? ─ believing in what cannot be physically explained ─ isn’t religion a metaphysical experience? I would think that if this happened to me, my faith would be bolstered and I would use that to comfort my flock. Anyway, this is a true story, and this is the way it was recalled by Todd Burpo in the book “Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.” I recommend the movie and the book.
My Rating: 3 of 5 Trips to Heaven (and back).