Earlier this week, I saw Heaven is For Real. I didn’t really plan on seeing it – it was The Auteur and 1B’s suggestion- but I think I might have gotten even just as into the movie than either of them did.
The movie and the novel from which it was adapted are based on a true story. Here’s the story in a nutshell: Greg Kinnear plays Todd Burpo a minister whose son Colton claims to have visited Heaven after falling ill. Colton’s experience becomes the talk of the town forcing Burpo and eventually the town folk to examine their own faith. Like any good art, this movie got me thinking; not in the sense that it redefined or reaffirmed my spiritual faith, but it got me thinking about faith and spirituality again.
Let me be absolutely clear: I am not a terribly religious man, but I do consider myself spiritual at times. I am not a fan of organized religion. When you stop and think about the whole concept of organized religion, the entire church hierarchy was established because people were generally illiterate and needed The Bible interpreted for them.
I used to think that I don’t need anyone to explain The Bible to me. I’m educated, I’m a teacher. I can interpret The Bible for myself, I thought. While I was watching this movie, I realized how hypocritical that attitude is for me to have as a teacher. People defer to me to teach their children because of my training. People see me as something of an authority when it comes to education. The least I can do is have the same respect for clergymen and clergywomen.
I think what really got my goat about this movie – and I can’t speak for the book or the true story – was the attitude that the members of Burpo’s church have about young Colton’s experience. One would expect even the most religious person to have a healthy dose of skepticism upon hearing about a trip to Heaven. However most of the community had the attitude of “C’mon Todd, you don’t really believe in all this Heaven stuff do you?” The film does a good job of demonstrating logical, rational explanations for Colton’s experience; but the churchgoers seem to reject Colton’s experience outright. A question I think the director should have addressed is when it really comes down to it, how much do you believe in that which you claim to hold so dear?
This entry isn’t a pro-Christian piece, or even a pro religion piece of any sort. But the fact is humans established religion(s) to explain those things that we can’t really explain. Why are we here? What is purpose in this world? What happens when life ends? These are all questions that religions are established and the answers require – no pun intended – a leap of faith. There’s no scientific or rational evidence to back up an religious doctrine but that’s the point. You trust in something when you don’t have all the answers. That’s something the film makers should have preached to the audience.
On Saturday, The Auteur took me to the “Intuitive Interactive Holistic Fair” – or a psychic fair to the layperson in Saline, a small town just outside of Ann Arbor. The Auteur goes to see psychics from time to time and has more than a passing curiosity about the supernatural. Me? I’m not really sure what to believe, but I’ll get to that.
When we first arrived, all I could think of was the movie Ghostbusters II and the TV show “World of the Psychic” that was hosted by Peter Venkman as part of the back-story. (Hence the pic). Upon my first impression, the place was full of the stereotypical supernatural whack-a-doos. There were psychics, tarot card readers, mediums, energy healers and vendors selling various nick-knacks.
The Auteur talked to a psychic and was somewhat disappointed. all she got for her $20 was the same insight any armchair psychiatrist could have provided. I was scheduled to see another psychic at the same time, but another person jumped in front of me, so I just asked for a refund.
At that point, I was really bummed. I went to this fair with The Auteur hoping to get some answers, maybe even just clear my mind’ but I was really disillusioned with the whole thing. The Auteur went on to meet with an energy healer, who was also a friend of hers. That really seemed to relax her and help clear her mind. In fact, she used the word “enlightened” to describe how she felt the next day.
After the healer, we both met with a astrology chart reader. she told me a little bit about myself: about how short my temper was and my tendency to speak my mind. I asked the reader about my relationship with the Auteur. She said that we sometimes have a hard time understanding each other (which is especially true when we fight) and to be patient with each other. Most of all, she said to remember that love is a choice – despite what all these charts say.
The reader also said that next year and the following year would be “rough” for me. she said that something would happen that would cause a rift between my mother & I and between my siblings & I. The Auteur thinks it has to do with us – maybe us moving away or something. I immediately feared it had to to with my Dad. Ever since this conversation we had way back, I’ve thought more and more about his mortality. It’s nothing that keeps me up at night or anything; it just really got me thinking of him when she said it.
I guess my feelings about that which we commonly refer to as the supernatural can be summed up by that old expression from The X-Files: “I want to believe“. I want to believe that there is some higher power that put us here and that we will meet that same higher power when our time on this Earth is done. i refuse to believe that this experience was call life is simply all there is to us. Likewise, I refuse to believe that we are the only planet with life on it in this universe. But its hard. Some days, i’m not even sure i believe in God anymore. As a kid, I believed what I was told. By college, I had learned to second-guess everything. Now, I feel like Socrates and “know that i don’t know”.
Wow. That got really deep really fast.