The Netflix movie, Come Sunday, is my kind of religious movie, one that explores the human journey of questioning accepted beliefs ahout God. It is a common enough conflict - an individual has a crisis of conscience and he or she must decide whether to follow through with a newfound truth that conflicts with traditional mores, or submit to the status quo. This is a journey we ALL should undertake in our lives. In an interview on NPR's All Things Considered, Pearson says: "I just want them (people) to ask themselves: What do I believe and why do I believe it?" So this is what I am doing in this post.
This questioning is dramatized in the story of Bishop Carlton Pearson, a Pentecostal minister mentored by Oral Roberts, whose controversial stance about the existence of hell, caused a major uproar in his fundamentalist community. I have always struggled with Pearson’s central struggle - the existence of hell, but especially Christians' use of this argument to "save" you.
Pearson’s crisis of conscience came in part as he tried to make sense of the genocide in Rwanda. Would these millions of "unsaved" people be condemned to hell? He asked God for guidance, and believed that God spoke to him saying something to this effect: Christ came and died for our sins, we are already saved, we don’t need to be saved from eternal damnation, none of us will go to hell. This is the awakening he came to, but it is one at odds with Pearson’s church, and with fundamental Christianity.
I have always disliked when my born-again friends and relatives made comments about being saved, especially at death beds, wakes, and funerals, believing that unless people had accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they would be damned to eternal hell. I remember at a funeral when the speaker, a minister, implored us to take the time now, to come to Jesus, so that you will be able to join your loved ones (who are saved) in heaven. The fundamentalists mean this in all sincerity and good intention I'm sure, but they aren't bothered with the implications, as Pearson was. How can a loving God condemn His children to hell?
If we are all already saved, unconditionally, if there is no hell, is there a role for religion? Yes, it is to share this good news, which is akin to sharing unconditional love. Sharing love is an absolutely good thing. What the world needs more of. This is the message of Christ. The moment you attach judgement to it, you will only go to heaven if you do this and don't do that, you are separating from this message. This is a way we check ourselves. No matter what your core beliefs, if you in your thoughts and deeds, condemn others to hell if they do whatever and don't do whichever, you are departing from the message.