Spoiler Alert! The ‘True Story’ Of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven … Isn’t
After a serious car accident in 2004, six-year-old Alex Malarkey spent two months in a coma. When he finally awoke, he told a story about going to Heaven and chilling with Jesus and the angels during the time he was unconscious. Instead of chalking this up to a grievously-injured six-year-old being, well, a six-year-old, Malarkey’s father wrote the whole thing down and turned it into a popular Christian book, called The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven. The only problem? That boy is now 17, and is speaking out about his Sunday School version of Dante‘s Inferno. Specifically, he’s saying that it never happened.
As Gawker reports, Malarkey’s recanting of his childhood claim to fame was done in an open letter on the Christian website Pulpit and Pen:
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 post on Pulpit and Pen also mentioned his mother’s blog, which has led me even deeper down the rabbit hole of WTF-ery that is this story.Â Beth Malarkey writes about her life as the mother of a permanently wheelchair-bound son, as well as her views on scriptural inerrancy and the evils of no longer teacher cursive in schools. She also writes that her son isn’t receiving any money from the sales of ‘his’ story, and several of her posts mention the same disdain for “extra-Biblical revelations” that Alex referenced in his open letter. Malarkey writes in a massive wall of text (I guess there’s no Bible verse about how to use the ‘enter’ key):
When Alex first tried to tell a “pastor” how wrong the book was and how it needed stopped, ALex was told that the book was blessing people. Ok…first, ALex said that while he was struggling physically and trusting this person as someone who seemed to be concerned so the person was invalidating Alex’s feeling while justifying the wrong that Alex was trying to make that person aware of.
It sounds to me as if Alex has been caught in a tug-of-war between the brand of charismatic Christianity favored by his book-writing father and the scriptural-sufficiency variety his mom practices, and really, I just feel sorry for him. His accident has left him wheelchair-bound, he’s forever linked as co-author to a story he made up as a young child, and it sounds like he’s not even benefiting financially from the book (which has 511 five-star reviews on Amazon – although that might change as more people realize that it’s loving sub-title, “A True Story”, has the world’s biggest asterisk attached). This whole thing is such a hot mess that it would make Satan break a sweat.
While I feel a lot of scorn for how Alex has been used in all this, I reserve a heart amount of heading-shaking and side-eye for the people now leaving Amazon reviews to complain about how much near-death experience ‘research’ has been set back by these revelations from Alex. Don’t worry, hippies, Colton Burpo still hasn’t retracted Heaven Is For Real, so at least you can still cite that in your not-quite-peer-reviewed research on the subject.