Reading Up on Dying


Suddenly dying is big news. Maybe it’s because of the Baby Boomers who have switched out Time magazine for the AARP Bulletin, Could be it’s the inevitable aftermath of a decade of dystopian YA literature that gave us the final death of Lord Voldemort, the immortality of Bella Swan, and the survivor of murder games, Katniss Everdeen.

Whatever the reason, the phenominal sales of Heaven is for Real written by a reluctant mid-west teenager with the help of collaborative superstar Lynn Vincent, have kicked off an entire genre of books that have taken hold of the American psyche and is known as What Happens When You Die. The target market is, well, eternal.

And the platform is unqestionable – writers who have died and returned. Whether it is told from a child’s innocent point of view, like the above-mentioned best-seller, or a clinical point of view like orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Mary Neal’s Heaven and Back, or a hyper-scientific examination of the reality as in neurosurgeon Eban Alexander’s Proof of Heaven, the tipping point for disregarding evidence of life after death has been reached. We want to know what happens next. The surge of books on real afterlife experiences continues as the fiction continues to drive it. John Green’s, The Fault is in the Stars was just named Time’s #1 fiction title of 2012, the story of two cancer-wracked teenagers scraping for a bit of meaning in the here and now, let alone beyond.

So suddenly a couple hundred thousand documented accounts of NDEs (Near Death Experiences) are seen in a whole new light. Not as wacko hallucinations or wishful-thinking-produced-dreams. But as real.  As Dr. Alexander puts it – “consciousness outside the neo-cortex of the brain” or, in other words, life after death.

Of course, many of these accounts confirm aspects of eternal life that are part of the beliefs of millions — light, music, recognition and the sensation of love. Often there are guides, an expanded understanding of the meaning of life, the meaning of the person’s life, the reason for the person’s death, and more and more often, the reason that the person is sent back to life on earth.

If anything, these would seem to be a confirmation of Biblical faith. God is love. We are all related. We are not in charge. There is a plan for our lives, including a plan for our death.

A plan for our death?  No accidents? God isn’t surprised?

That’s where it might get uncomfortable for some and the Christian Bookseller’s Association, in typical blunt overkill, has produced The Christian Response to..some of these books. Instead of embracing this genre as glimpses through a clouded glass, the responses pick apart the experience because it doesn’t jibe with what they think and want the Bible to mean when it talks about death. The reality is, instead, pressed through the filter of what these people want it to be, rather than the filter being enlarged to accommodate the reality. So ridiulous. Isn’t that what got Christianity in the denominational mess that it has become. Isn’t that the original temptation? “You will be like God.” We should listen to what someone wants heaven to be like rather than how it is described by someone who has been there?

Heaven (clap) is (clap) a wonderful place,

filled (clap) with (clap) glory and grace (clap).

I want to see my savior’s face (clap),

‘cuz heaven is a wonderful place (clap) (clap).

I’ve been singing that song since I was three. And the more people that see the savior’s face and come back to say that it is wonderful, the better. That’s all I need to know.

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