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Roxane B. Salonen, Published April 11 2014

Living Faith: ‘Heaven’ movie offers a glimmer

Believe it or not, I’ve always been something of a skeptic.

The first evidence of this harkens back to a long-ago Christmas Eve when my father summoned my sister and me, about 5 and 4 respectively, to a large window in our grandparents’ living room.

“Look, do you see it? There’s Santa’s sleigh!” he’d said. “You can even see Rudolph’s nose blinking in front!”

“Oh yeah!” exclaimed Camille, transfixed.

But after searching a while, I surrendered.

“I don’t see it,” I said glumly.

Oh, how I wanted to, but I wasn’t going to claim seeing something I couldn’t.

Somehow faith has found me even so, but I’m still not one to accept everything that is handed to me. It’s got to be logical to some extent, and I have to have been touched personally by it in some way in order to proclaim honestly, “Yes, I see it now.”

I think that’s why I resisted reading the book “Heaven is for Real,” even though I’d heard from many what a great little read it is. I believe heaven exists, but I’m reluctant to be shown too much too early by someone else.

It’s a bit like when MTV first came out with music videos. As much as we teens were enthralled with these new visualizations of our favorite tunes, a part of me felt let down that someone else’s vision was now dictating how I would experience the song.

Suggestions are OK, but let me have my own head about something purportedly so magnificent that it’s beyond our earthly comprehension.

I was relieved, then, when my preview of the forthcoming movie, “Heaven is for Real,” took me on a journey that seemed to me less about heaven and more about our lives here and now, with just a glimmer of what’s next.

I’m not going to say much about the actual movie so as not to spoil anything – you can see it yourself starting Wednesday. But let me at least offer a brief synopsis for those who haven’t read the book – which, by the way, I’d highly recommend prior to viewing the film.

Four-year-old Colton from Imperial, Neb., survives a medical emergency that by all accounts should have ended his life, and over time shares with his family bits of what he experienced while under the knife.

He was taken to heaven, he says, where he met Jesus and other significant people – both spiritual and earthly relatives – and saw colors and sights beyond our world.

Because he tells of certain biblical facts he couldn’t have known otherwise and describes relatives he didn’t know about before, his parents begin to believe their little boy really glimpsed the afterlife.

The skeptic in me hesitates. Yet faith requires we humble ourselves enough to make room for the supernatural and what’s possible through it.

I enjoyed the movie and think most believers will feel affirmed by it, if not be plain touched by the adorable actor, Connor Corum, who plays little Colton.

But I’ll also say that if you’re a hard-nosed atheist, you’re not likely to be convinced through Colton’s story.

In her review of the best-selling book in The Washington Post, writer Susan Jacoby contends that its success indicates “vast numbers of Americans” lack the reasoning ability of an adult.

Perhaps, or maybe as the oft-quoted saying goes, “For those who believe, no proof is necessary; for those who do not believe, no proof is possible.”

Still, if you haven’t yet settled within yourself the age-old questions of why we’re here and whether heaven exists, I think you’ll find the movie an edifying way to spend an evening.

Perhaps for no other reason, go in order to formulate questions to personally ask Colton and his father, who will be visiting here July 31 at the Fargodome.

After reading more about the Burpos and their personal convictions online, I’ve come to believe they have good hearts and haven’t told this story just to make a buck.

I also think anyone, skeptic or not, can benefit from pondering one of the last lines of the film: “All that love requires is that we let others know they’re not alone.”

Can I get an amen?

Roxane B. Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her, email roxanebsalonen@gmail.com.