Boy’s visit to heaven is now pulped fiction
Hop across to this Australian Daily Mercury report of 2011 and read about Alex Malarkey, above, who – following a car crash in Ohio in 2004 when he was six – went to heaven, saw angels carry his father out of the car wreck, met and talked with Jesus, and ‘heard the most incredible music’.
A while after emerging from a two-month-long coma, the boy, with the help of his father, Kevin Malarkey, wrote an account of his sojourn in heaven – and The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven made it New York Times’ best seller list in 2010.
In it, Alex, who was left paralyzed by the accident, wrote:
When I arrived in heaven, I was inside the gate. The gate was really tall, and it was white. It was very shiny, and it looked like it had scales like a fish. I was in the inner heaven and everything was brighter and more intense on the inside of the gate. It was perfect. Perfect is my favourite word for describing heaven.
Do I hear you cry “bullshit?”
If so, you’re right. Earlier this week, Alex admitted lying about the afterlife. In an open letter to Christian bookstores posted on the Pulpit and Pen Web site, Alex states flatly:
I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.
Referring to the injuries that continue to make it difficult for him to express himself, Alex wrote:
Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short. … I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.
When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.
Immediately after, Tyndale House, a major Christian publisher, announced that it will stop selling The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven.
Todd Starowitz, Tyndale House’s PR Director, told The Washington Post:
Tyndale has decided to take the book and related ancillary products out of print.
A statement from the publisher read:
We are saddened to learn that Alex Malarkey, co-author of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, is now saying that he made up the story of dying and going to heaven. Given this information, we are taking the book out of print.
There is considerable disagreement about when Alex first recanted his testimony and objected to the book, which has reportedly sold more than 1 million copies.
Maggie Rowe, senior publicist of Tyndale, released an updated statement Friday evening, saying:
For the past couple of years we have known that Beth Malarkey, Kevin’s wife and Alex’s mother, was unhappy with the book and believed it contained inaccuracies. On more than one occasion we asked for a meeting with Kevin, Beth, Alex and their agent to discuss and correct any inaccuracies, but Beth would not agree to such a meeting.
Last April, Alex’s mother posted a statement on her blog objecting to the memoir and its promotion:
It is both puzzling and painful to watch the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven not only continue to sell, but to continue, for the most part, to not be questioned.
She goes on to say that the book is not “biblically sound” and that her son’s objections to it have been ignored and repressed.
She also noted that Alex:
Has not received monies from the book nor have a majority of his needs been funded by it.
Phil Johnson, above, is one of those people decrying the publisher’s and the bookstores’ slow response to complaints about Alex’s made-up memoir.
Johnson is the Executive director of Grace to You, the media ministry of John MacArthur, senior pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. He is prolific author and an internationally syndicated Christian broadcaster.
Several years ago, Johnson edited a manuscript by MacArthur that offered a scriptural critique of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven and other books like it.
When Johnson posted critical comments about book on his blog, Beth Malarkey contacted him. In Johnson’s words, she told him:
My son and I have been trying to get the word out that this book is an exaggeration and an embellishment and is not true.
She asked him to help them. Johnson wrote to Tyndale House himself and says he has seen “reams of correspondence between Beth and Tyndale,” but he never received a satisfying answer to his objections. He said:
The idea that Alex suddenly recanted is just not true. He’s been trying to make his voice heard as well as a teenage paraplegic boy can. There was proof everywhere that he did not stand behind the content of this book. But it was a bestselling book. Nobody in the industry wanted to kill it.
On his blog Johnson yesterday revealed that:
Even a pastor from whom Alex sought counsel said he thought the book was ‘blessing people. He advised Alex to be quiet and let it ride.
One of the top online reviews of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven says: ‘I can tend to be a little skeptical of otherworldly experiences, but when I hear it from the words of a child, I am much more open to the idea. A child is not going to be capable of making up these kinds of images and keeping his story straight for month after month after month’.
That, sadly, is what lots of readers think. What they don’t realize is that there is a massive industry behind books like these, heavily populated with decision makers who care more for filthy lucre than for truth.
Employed in that industry are some mercenaries who have no scruples whatsoever about making up tales like these, polishing and embellishing them, and buttressing them with details designed to enhance the illusion of believability. It’s the very worst kind of pragmatism gone to seed. What’s ‘good’ is defined by what sells. Scripture calls it ‘the teaching of Balaam’ (Revelation 2:14).
Hat tip: Trevor Blake