Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Case of Carlton Pearson

The most recent This American Life podcast focuses on preacher Carlton Pearson, who had a religious epiphany of, apparently, the wrong sort:

Carlton Pearson's church, Higher Dimensions, was once one of the biggest in the city, drawing crowds of 5,000 people every Sunday. But several years ago, scandal engulfed the reverend. He didn't have an affair. He didn't embezzle lots of money. His sin was something that to a lot of people is far worse: He stopped believing in Hell.
Pearson gave up belief in both the reality and the justice of eternal torment for people who made the mistake of not considering Jesus the ultimate in the bee's knees. For Pearson, this change in judgment entailed giving up the vast majority of his church congregation, most of his professional associations, and nearly everything he had worked to achieve in his career. It made him a persona non grata in the circles in which he had traveled up to then.

That being so, it's worth noting that his change of mind came in a form that his fellow believers ought to recognize, if not revere: he says "the holy spirit" literally spoke to him and assured him there is no hell other than the hells people create for one another on earth. That can't be the real voice of god, his former co-believers seem to say, it's not cruel enough.

I wouldn't want to misstate the matter: I don't think Carlton Pearson was in communication with anything other than his own thoughts either before or after he changed his mind about hell, but as with all This American Life broadcasts, it's compelling listening beyond anything suggested in the introductory lede.

1 comment:

Snowbrush said...

That was one great broadcast.