Last Friday night (March 22), March Madness was in its televised glory. And Taylor Swift was singing and strumming at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Despite such competition, Christ Episcopal Church managed to draw 1,100 people.
The attraction: A doctor describing his time in heaven.
Not just any doctor. Sitting on stage, answering questions from the Rev. Chip Edens, the church’s rector, was Dr. Eben Alexander. He’s a Charlotte native who wrote “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.” His book is such a mega-seller that he has talked to Oprah – and Universal Pictures won a bidding war to turn it into a (probably 3-D) movie.
Christians believe life doesn’t end with physical death, that the soul lives on – hopefully with God. But that scenario has always been a matter of faith since those who die generally get a one-way ticket.
So there’s a natural fascination with – and a big market for – books by people who claim to have had a near-death experience, in which most report traveling down a dark tunnel, being welcomed by dead relatives, and running smack into a loving divine light. A few of these books are intriguing; many are cheesy attempts to proselytize.
Alexander’s “Proof of Heaven” is definitely in the intriguing category. Here was a man of science who had been skeptical of this idea of life after death.
After his own brain was attacked by a rare bacterial infection, he had a unique seven-day experience, in which he says some part of him entered a gateway to paradise, wordlessly communed with God – or the Core – and felt love and peace.
On Friday, Alexander was articulate, soft-spoken and yet passionate. He impressed this reporter. Decide for yourself: To watch a video of the interview, go to the church’s web site (www.christchurchcharlotte.org) and click on “Christ Church TV.”
Alexander is now a self-described Christian who attends an Episcopal church in Virginia. He told the crowd that his experience convinced him of the following: reincarnation makes sense, but hell doesn’t; scientists know less than they think they do, but there’s no contradiction between science and religion; and God loves all of his creatures – Christians, Jews, atheists, big-time sinners, etc.
Now that he’s back? “I’m nicer” and “I’m not afraid of death. I know it’s not an end.”
I got in one question: With Easter on the horizon, how does he view Christians’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection?
“I realize that Christ came to show us the eternity of all of our souls,” he said. “It’s all about understanding that gift of love. This talk about coming back to life someday in physical bodies doesn’t really make any sense. It’s all about souls being eternal. Easter is just a confirmation of the real miracle of Jesus coming back. But he was doing that as a gift and … showing us what we all have: eternal life.”
-- Tim Funk