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The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven– Or Didn’t

2016-02-12

In 2004, in Huntsville, Ohio, six-year-old Alex Malarkey was involved in a “motor vehicle accident” (car crash) and was left quadriplegic due to neck injuries.  He has been on a ventilator since the accident.  He was listed as co-author of a book with his father in 2010 which described a visit to Heaven immediately after the crash.  The book sold more than a million copies and was also made into a TV movie, but in 2012, Alex was quoted as saying that the book was “the most deceptive ever.”  In 2015, he wrote an open letter to Christian bookstores that “forcefully disavowed” (Wikipedia) the book and referred readers to the Bible for accurate information.  As a result, the publisher withdrew the book from sale in a first-ever near-death-event retraction.

The account that the boy gave of his near-death experience conformed closely to the Christian concept of Heaven, with the appropriate angels and details that could have been copied from a movie about Heaven.  The open letter that the boy wrote, apparently in a final attempt to disavow the text, shows that the boy is still a devout Christian and believes in the sanctity of the text of the Bible.  He states that the Bible was divinely inspired, which is still a Christian concept, although it shares that belief with other religions that revere holy texts.

It turns out that Alex is unable to receive any of the profits from the book and that his father controls the money.   The boy’s parents have become estranged and the mother has said that the account in the book is “embellished” and inaccurate, distorted to make money.  Books about near-death experiences and visits to Heaven in particular are apparently a “lucrative genre” (Wikipedia) of “nonfiction” or more accurately, religious literature.  They seem to comfort readers with stories of Heaven that agree with popular religious beliefs.

Wikipedia lists several popular, million-selling books including “Ninety Minutes in Heaven” and “Heaven is for Real” but also lists the maligned “Twenty-three Minutes in Hell.”  Some Christian writers have expressed concern about the items recounted in these books, stating that they are extra-Biblical, that is, not canonical, and may cause confusion among the faithful about what is and what is not an article of faith.

I am impelled to remind readers that neither the account of the near-death experience nor the retraction of it has anything to do with Christian beliefs per se.  One can be a Christian without believing in near-death experiences.  There is, at most, a doctrinal dispute between the boy and Christians who believed in the original account.  That is, there is a variety of belief that accepts the validity of near-death experiences that include meetings with G-d and so forth, and there is another variety which accepts the validity of G-d but not of such experiences.  I am impelled to document this fact, but not required to comment further on it.

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