There was a rerun of a Dateline NBC program, To Hell and Back, today, highlighting the life of Rev. Carlton Pearson, a black preacher who was ousted from his denomination and labeled a heretic. Pearson, ordained bishop, is a fourth generation classical Pentecostal preacher. Why did he get the boot? Hell. He has come to the realization that there isn’t an ‘eternal’ one and that, perhaps, hell is experienced on earth.
Rev. Pearson, who reminds me of the actor LeVar Burton from Alex Haley’s Roots, stated publicly that he doubted the existence of Hell as a place of eternal torment. He said that the concept came to him as an epiphany after witnessing TV scenes of the horrid deaths during the Rwanda genocide. Christian theology teaches that they, as non-Christians, would be condemned to Hell for eternity but, he figured, they already had endured enough ‘hell’ during their abbreviated lifetime.
As a heretic, the membership in his church dwindled and he was forced to close the doors of his church. Odd stuff, but then, religion is tops in that category.
On the topic of the Rwandan people Rev. Pearson asked, “God, I don’t know how you’re gonna call yourself a loving God and allow those people to suffer so much and then just suck them into hell.” And I believe it was the Spirit of God in me saying, “Is that what you think we’re doing?” After that Rev. Pearson started preaching what he called “The Gospel of Inclusion.”
Dangerous! Inclusion is dangerous. The Christian church has never been about inclusion- always exclusion, as in ‘we’re saved’ but you’re going to Hell. That didn’t sit too well with the ‘faithful’ because they wondered why they were doing all the praying and sacrificing and leading moral lives but, according to the reverend, anyone would see God at the end of their lives. And, they left.
His exile was short-lived, however. He received an invitation to be guest speaker at a small church in San Francisco at a place full of “outcasts” – lesbian pastor, a Church of gays, AIDS patients and abused women. He was warmly welcomed by the congregation and immediately understood that his Gospel of Inclusion had just become more broad . Today he is senior minister at Christ Universal Temple, Chicago.
At one point in the TV program, Rev. Pearson said that Jesus would not be happy with the way his church has turned out because Jesus was an all-inclusive, loving man. I agree fully. That simple message, ‘Love one another’ has become beaten down and fairly well lost by tons of righteousness, dogma and Old Testament judgments found in most [c]hristian churches today. Jesus weeps at how his simple message of love for the other has become distorted and exclusive and entangled in a web of legalese nonsense.
Clearly, that load of crap along with the numerous examples of [c]hristian hypocrisy, have driven me to the state of agnosticism wherein I question most of everything ‘religious’ these days. I do not, however, question or doubt the spiritual state, but I am very weary and tired of man-made religions. I am with great company over there on the sidelines of life and I wonder if more people will give up their childlike attachments to ‘church’ and become whole once again.