Marley has a simple life in a town called Heaven, hanging out with friends and getting letters from her traveling Uncle Jack. Until she learns that her parents aren’t really her parents and she’s set adrift.
Heaven by Angela Johnson is really a simple, quiet story, despite the head-spinning topic. It’s slow building and has a subtle grace.
It’s not the typical urban black youth or witty teen story, and for that alone it’s refreshing.
It’s also the first in a trilogy, though they’re really more three inter-related books that follow connected characters. Each book is self contained and you don’t even need to read them in order. That’s also a refreshing change from the usual YA trilogies.
What would you say if you were to stand before God and he asked you why he should let you into heaven?
That question can be found in a lot of Christian witnessing literature. It’s one of the questions you’re supposed to ask to make sure someone understands salvation. And I hate that question.
I was first asked that question when I was in elementary school. I was talking with the pastor of my church about being baptized. He wanted to make sure I truly understood Christianity and asked me that question. I was left speechless. What would I say if God asked me why he should let me into heaven? In my elementary school mind, the answer was simple. If God didn’t want to let me in, he didn’t have to. Groveling or trying to explain my way around God wouldn’t accomplish anything. What a foolish question.
The answer, of course, is that I was supposed to explain the plan of salvation to God (as if he forgot) and if I really knew my stuff, then my explanation would be so air-tight that God would have no choice but to let me in. It’s a nice device to see if people really understand something, but it’s always struck me as deceptive. God knows all about his plan for salvation. He knows if I know it or not, so why would he ask? The only reason I can think of is because he doesn’t want to let me into heaven. And if God suddenly decides not to let me into heaven, what I am going to say? “That’s not fair!”? Yeah, I’d probably say that, and I’d be right, but what would it accomplish?
The whole scenario seems flawed to me because God would have to keep contradicting himself. At best he’s simply testing his subjects, which seems like the last thing God would do when you first step before him. It’s almost casting a legalistic image on God.