This goes way beyond double-standards!

I wasn’t going to comment on the story about the kid who is admitting now that he lied several years ago when he woke up from a coma and told an extremely elaborate and detailed story of going to heaven and playing with angels. I was a little disturbed to learn that there is an entire genre of such books about people who claim to have gone to heaven while unconscious (and related materials) being sold in “Christian” bookstores (the Washington Post calls the genre “heaven tourism”). Now that I think about it, I know exactly how that kind of snake oil would be gobbled up by a lot of people, and I shouldn’t be surprised that some people are willing to sell anything, as long as they make a profit.

Then an acquaintance posted one of the articles on Facebook, and another person commented that they were appalled that the publishers and the kid’s father have been exploiting this transparently false story for years, which prompted another person to become very outraged. “Are you going to tell some poor sick six-year-old who’s just awakened from a coma, ‘Proof, or shut the frak up?'”

And my very first thought was, “Why not? The crazy Christians do it to their gay kids all the time!” My slightly less angry second thought was, “One of the jobs of adults is to protect children from being exploited, so while I wouldn’t think that yelling at the kid he’s a liar is a good reaction, I know that immediately writing up your kid’s difficult-to-believe story and seeing which publisher will offer the most money is neither a responsible nor ethetical response.”

But, seriously, if the kid had awakened from the coma and said that he spent his time unconscious running around the afterlife in the company of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and they sent him back home to spread the good news that since it is better to give than receive, his parents should sell everything they own and give it to the poor, would the parents have believed him, or would they have tried to convince him that maybe he had just been dreaming?

Or if the kid had awakened to claim that he had been escorted around heaven by Harvey Milk, Freddie Mercury, and an angel that liked to dress in drag and called herself Dee-vine Dee-Light and they had sent him back to spread the message that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, et cetera was not only okay with god, but insured you a better place in heaven, would they have been so quick to say they believed him? We certainly know that someplace like Tynedale House Publishing wouldn’t have been offering a big advance for the book.

We know the parents wouldn’t believe the kid about the pro-gay message from the afterlife, because we already know what those kinds of religiously-inclined parents do when their children come out as queer. The kids are shipped off the ex-gay therapy camps, or they are kicked out of their homes and forced to live on the streets, or they are bullied to death by their own parents.

I know some people will object to my reaction because my first counter-example involves characters that the vast majority of adults don’t believe are real people. But here’s the tricky part: only 31.5 percent of the world population self-identifies as Christian, so I don’t think you want to try to make a majoritarian argument about whether or not to believe the six-year-old’s story about going to the Christian heaven, meeting Biblical angels, and so forth.

Others will object to my second one because they think a six-year-old is too young to know or understand about sexual orientation. Never mind that there are a growing number of kids coming out at that age. Never mind that people make comments about childhood crushes for kids younger than six without thinking—so long as it’s an opposite sex crush.

The only reason this kid (and any of the other children who have become best-selling stars in this “heaven tourism” genre) are given any credence is because their totally unprovable stories reinforce certain religious beliefs and ancillary superstitions held by a substantial fraction of the U.S. population. (Note: the Biblical picture of the afterlife is inconsistent in places, but generally does not support the notion of souls immediately going to their eternal reward upon death; the Book of Revelations is completely unambiguous in saying that none of that happens until Judgment Day—that’s why I refer to ancillary superstitions.) If the kid had made claims that didn’t dovetail with the parents’ beliefs, the parents would be insistent that their kid was dreaming or letting his imagination run away with him. And we all know that the very reason his story was consistent with his parents’ beliefs is because they sprung from his own imagination, well-populated with ideas from the subculture he grew up immersed within.

BettyBowers.Com

BettyBowers.Com (Click to embiggen)

It should have astonished no one that a kid raised by evangelical Christians would wake up from a coma and tell fanciful tales of being taken through heaven’s gates by angels and eventually meeting Jesus himself. Just as it ought not to have astonished me to find out that when the boy’s mother started telling people in recent years that the story isn’t true, a pastor and several people associated with the sale and distribution of the books told her that because the book is “a blessing to some” she should keep quiet about the truth.

After all, no one profiting from peddling superstition wants people to learn the truth.

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About fontfolly

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and nonfiction. I publish an anthropomorphic sci-fi/space opera literary fanzine. I attend and work on the staff for several anthropormorphics, anime, and science fiction conventions. I live in Seattle with my wonderful husband, still completely amazed that he puts up with me at all.

6 responses to “This goes way beyond double-standards!”

  1. Sheryl says :

    The Betty Bowers comic about “Heaven’ door policy” reminds me of one of the first times I started questioning the belief system I grew up with*. In Hamlet, Hamlet chooses not to take his first chance to avenge his father’s murder, because the murderer appears to be praying, and would thus be rewarded with Heaven if he died at that moment, so Hamlet believes. That scene emphasized to me a concept I had previously not appreciated much: the timing of one’s death matters far more than the way a person generally lives and treats others, day to day.

    I think that was the first time I realized how arbitrary and contradictory some of the rules are. 😐

    * More from cultural osmosis than from evangelical parents, and yes, I am aware of how extraordinarily lucky I am.

  2. jcckeith says :

    Brainwashing at its best

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