A thorough and wide-ranging presentation of information regarding how to get to heaven is on your TV screen tonight. It’s not led by Billy Graham or Rick Warren or the pope’s representatives. Nope, it’s Barbara Walters. That’s right, the newswoman and interviewer of the stars has become the High Priestess of the Question of Eternity, at least according to the build-up to tonight’s “Heaven” on ABC.
In my look at an advance copy, she seems to be fair, constrained by her journalistic neutrality. She says little of her own Jewishness, except to acknowledge that her family didn’t practice it much. Because of that fact, this may be one of the most neutral presentations of the different views about heaven that you’ll see. If you’d like information without evangelization, this is the show for you.
The show includes traditional religious views and their explanations as well as the near-death experiences described by individuals whose stories transcend religious description. Or you can have both, as in the case of a respected Baptist pastor who claims to have talked with his grandmother from beyond the grave. The Dalai Lama describes reincarnation (an alternative view that doesn’t involve heaven) while Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, D.C., articulates the Catholic Church’s position. You can also learn about Protestants and Muslims, who believe there’ll be sex in heaven.
Walters also interviews celebrities, such as Richard Gere, who are associated with this or that faith. Maria Shriver discusses how we ought to talk to our kids about heaven, and it’s interesting to hear her talk of a family that has certainly known death but not talked often about where their loved ones went after that.
There’s also talk of “the other side,” including a failed suicide bomber who believes Barbara (and all of us!) will go to hell for not believing as he does. You may also be surprised at the realistic presentation of an evangelical worldview, which may be more realistic and easy to subscribe to than you’d think.
Barbara Walters told Beliefnet in an interview that her interest in heaven has increased because of doing this show. Even a media-saavy cynic must admit there may be some truth to that statement. For each of us, it stands to reason that if heaven–or anything–exists after we’re done here in this world, it’s pretty much in our best interest to learn what we can about that and what, if anything, we can do to prepare.