Thanks to my maternal grandmother, I’ve read some truly awful Christian literature. A Southern Baptist missionary and preacher’s wife, my grandma was in charge of my spiritual development until I refused to participate further at age 13 or so.
My mom was a Christian too, but not particularly dogmatic – she was more of a liberal “many paths” type of Christian. I think she threw her kids to the Southern Baptist wolves because she figured it hadn’t done HER any harm (debatable), and that way, she’d have Sundays to herself. Can’t say as I blame her for that.
Anyway, it didn’t end there. As an adult, I was placed on bed rest for a couple of months at the end of a high-risk pregnancy back in the late 90s, before tablets and smartphones were a thing. Books and daytime TV programming were all I had to while away the dreary hours. Some genius put my grandma in charge of bringing me library books (thanks Mom!), so I got to read the entire “Left Behind” series.
My grandma is very old now, but still pretty sharp. However, like most nonagenarians, she has bad days, which is what happens as your body starts misfiring and shutting down like a worn-out Model T engine that rolled off the assembly line back before women had the vote.
During one such episode several years back, I took the nightshift in grandma-watching and neglected to bring any reading material, a big mistake. I ended up picking up a book from Grandma’s collection: “Heaven Is for Real.” It’s an account of a child who awakes from a coma with stories of meeting dead relatives in heaven.
On another poorly planned grandma-watching shift, I read “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven,” a book based on the same premise as “Heaven Is for Real.” Only the boy in that story later admitted he’d make the whole thing up:
“I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. … People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough.”
His name is Alex Malarkey. For real. Anyway, Malarkey’s admission recently prompted a strange decision from a Christian bookstore chain:
The LifeWay Christian bookstore chain … will no longer sell any book about contemporary people returning from heaven after a near-death experience. Executives with the chain decided to pull from their shelves the entire category of so-called “experiential testimonies,” such as the popular “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven,” which was recently recalled by the publisher after the co-author recanted his story.
The bookstore has stopped ordering any similar titles from publishers and “the remaining heaven visitation items have been removed from our stores and website and will not be replenished,” according to company spokesman Marty King.
They’re still selling Bibles, presumably.