“Whether you think my humbug is a blessing or a curse, you’re still gonna buy it. … Because every 60 seconds in this world a delightful phenomenon takes place which absolutely guarantees it.”
One big piece of “news” this week wasn’t news at all, just the confirmation of something everybody already knew: the best-selling book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life Beyond This World is pure fabrication and hokum.
“‘I did not die. I did not go to heaven,’ teen says in admitting his book was fiction,” Religion News Service reports:
A Christian publisher will stop selling The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven now that the young subject paralyzed in a car crash says the story of going to heaven is not true.
The publisher made the decision after Alex wrote an “open letter” to the retailer LifeWay which said, “I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.” It was posted on the Pulpit and Pen website.
The Malarkey book is one of a spate of best-sellers about and by those who say they have gone to heaven and returned. The best-known is Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo … which was turned into a movie.
… According to the publisher’s description of the book, “in 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his 6-year-old son, Alex, suffered an horrific car accident. The impact from the crash paralyzed Alex — and medically speaking, it was unlikely that he could survive. ‘I think Alex has gone to be with Jesus,’ a friend told the stricken dad. But two months later, Alex awoke from a coma with an incredible story to share. Of events at the accident scene and in the hospital while he was unconscious. Of the angels that took him through the gates of heaven itself.”
So, yeah, the book’s descriptions of Heaven and angels and the afterlife were all just made up. No kidding. Death remains “The undiscovered country, from whose bourn / No traveller returns,” and it puzzles the will that anyone believed — or published — a tall-tale claiming otherwise.
(And, yes, the name of the guy who typed up and hyped up this baloney is, actually, “Malarkey.” But let the easy ones go.)
Alex Malarkey was 6 years old when he “co-wrote” the book with his father, Kevin, but despite his name there on the cover, the boy’s mother says he hasn’t been receiving any royalties from the book’s sales (Beth and Kevin Malarkey are separated and she is Alex’s primary caregiver):
In April 2014, she wrote a blog posting saying that the book’s success had been “both puzzling and painful to watch” and that she believed Alex had been exploited.
“I could talk about how much it has hurt my son tremendously and even make financial statements public that would prove that he has not received moneys from the book nor have a majority of his needs been funded by it,” she wrote.
“What I have walked through with Alex over the past nine years has nearly broken me personally and spiritually. I have wept so deeply for what I have watched my children go through, been made aware of how ignorant I was of some things, how selfish I was, and how Biblically illiterate I was which allowed me to be deceived!”
I also believe that Alex has been exploited. Unfortunately, based on his recent statement that made news this week, I worry that Alex, who paralyzed by the accident that almost killed him, is still being exploited — just by a different set of adults with a competing agenda.
Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.
I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.
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.
It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of Heaven outside of what is written in the Bible…not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.
Most teenagers don’t use the kind of battle-for-the-Bible jargon that you’d expect to hear from someone applying to be a professor at Boyce College. This is an open letter confessing that the story he told at age 6 was concocted based on his willingness to recite and confirm the things he would be rewarded for saying. It’s kind of creepy that the letter contains so much language that makes it sound like he’s still doing that. It champions a slightly different form of the same otherworldly, Heaven-centric spirituality.
Warren Throckmorton writes that this debacle raises “Big Questions for Tyndale House.” That’s the Christian Industry publisher who promoted and profited from this book for four years — including for more than a year since Beth Malarkey began speaking out about the book’s fabrications.
Christianity Today’s Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra got a comment from the publisher, which has now stopped production of the book (and DVD and other related merchandise):
On Friday night, Tyndale senior publicist Maggie Wallem Rowe issued a statement saying that they have long known about Beth’s concerns. “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,” she said. “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.”
So while Tyndale and Kevin Malarkey have been profiting handily from the book, they’ve got the chutzpah to turn around and blame its “inaccuracies” on the intransigence of a paralyzed teenager and the women who cares for him and his three siblings. Beth Malarkey wouldn’t agree to fly herself to Carol Stream for a meeting, so Tyndale had no choice but to continue selling the book and Kevin Malarkey had no choice but to keep cashing those royalty checks.
I expected Tyndale to offer some attempt at damage control here, but their publicist’s ugly victim-blaming and denial of any responsibility just makes the publisher look even worse. I wouldn’t have guessed that a company that has spent the past decade living off of the profits from the Left Behind series could make itself look even worse, but there you go.
The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven was, after all, just another profitable example of Tyndale peddling the same themes they cashed in on with the Left Behind franchise. It catered to the same denial of death, the same escapist, otherworldly excuse for accommodating injustice, and the same desire to be told that You Are Right And Everybody Else Is Wrong, You’ll See.
Tyndale proves, yet again, that you’ll never go broke packaging and marketing those things to white American evangelicals.
You say it’s hogwash, well who cares? They’ll buy that hogwash long as there’s …