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Heretics - The story of Carlton Pearson - This American Life

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BridgeTheGap Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 08:15 AM
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Heretics - The story of Carlton Pearson - This American Life
If you missed this one, check it out. It's worth a listen (podcast available via link)! btg

The story of Reverend Carlton Pearson, a renowned evangelical pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who cast aside the idea of Hell, and with it everything he'd worked for over his entire life.

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. (2 minutes)

Act One. Rise.

Reporter Russell Cobb takes us through the remarkable and meteoric rise of Carlton Pearson from a young man to a Pentecostal Bishop: from the moment he first cast the devil out of his 17-year-old girlfriend, to the days when he had a close, personal relationship with Oral Roberts and had appearances on TV and at the White House. Just as Reverend Pearson's career peaked, with more than 5,000 members of his congregation coming every week, he started to think about Hell, wondering if a loving God would really condemn most of the human race to burn and writhe in the fire of Hell for eternity. (30 minutes)

Act Two. Fall.

Once he starts preaching his own revelation, Carlton Pearson's church falls apart. After all, when there's no Hell (as the logic goes), you don't really need to believe in Jesus to be saved from it. What follows are the swift departures of his pastors, and an exodus from his congregationwhich quickly dwindled to a few hundred people. Donations drop off too, but just as things start looking bleakest, new kinds of people, curious about his change in beliefs, start showing up on Sunday mornings. (23 minutes)

Postscript: Carlton Pearson renamed his church after the story was produced: It is now called New Dimensions.

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ayeshahaqqiqa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 08:30 AM
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1. Matthew Fox did something similar
He wrote a book called "Original Blessing", and was silenced by the Pope and later excommunicated. Fr. Fox is now an Episcopal priest, I believe.

Interesting that those whose concept of God as evolving Love are often called "heretics".
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groovedaddy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 01:24 PM
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4. We have a local "Creation Spirituality" group based on Fox's book.
We do all sorts of programs, rarely is any of it conventional in the religious sense. "Original Blessing" has turned many catholics around in their thinking. Interesing that you brought him up because I listened to this program yesterday on the "This American Life" and thought of Matthew Fox.
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UnrepentantUnitarian Donating Member (887 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 08:32 AM
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2. There's more to this, too'
Since his New Dimensions empire went bankrupt, Bishop Pearson finally gave up his ministry and joined a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Tulsa (All Souls Unitarian Church), and has invited his former congregation to do so as well. All Souls is a place that Pearson used to drive by regularly, asking God to save them from their he are one, I guess. It's an interesting story of an interesting pilgrimage. I have posted extensively about this at my little UU message board (link below). There is even a YouTube of a sermon he gave recently there at All Souls.

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TlalocW Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 08:37 AM
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3. Huh... I'm in Tulsa, and I completely missed this
I always wondered about the same thing. If Jesus is needed to get into Heaven, how did people before Jesus get in? What about all the different people who have just never heard of Christianity? Are they condemned because of basic ignorance? Etc.

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dmallind Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 02:30 PM
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5. And therein the refutation of an oft repeated apologia here
Edited on Mon Dec-08-08 02:31 PM by dmallind
The few DUers who will abandon the concept of hell claim that this is the real Christian doctrine and that fire and brimstone fundamentalism is a small subset.

But what happens when a popular preacher starts saying this? His congregation disappears, and his support and funds evaporate.

Now sure the fundies will leave him, but where were the (supposed majority) of kinder gentler Christians to take their place and welcome this new omnibenevolent preaching? Nowhere - to the extent that he ended up in a denomination that does not even claim to be Christian.

It's the same with any survey and any real world comparison of the appeal of various teachings, from TV viewers to donations to congregation headcounts. MOST (which cannot be refuted by "not me or my congregation" unless you can come up with 120million others) Christians in the US DO believe in hell and its place as the eternal punishment for non(and different)believers. They turn against and ignore any clergyman who dares to say otherwise.

So don't be so quick to castigate atheists for saying "Christians think this" with the predictable "only fundies". The truth is most Christians DO think like this, and therefore it can fairly be said that Christians, with no modifier, do. This is just as accurate as saying "Democrats are for freedom of choice" when SOME Democrats are pro-life. It doesn't mean the party as a whole is not pro-choice when some disagree, nor does it mean that the religion as a whole is not pro-torment in hell because some disagree.

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groovedaddy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 02:53 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. There are different degrees of "fundamentalism"
Clearly, the Hell thing must be very, very fundamental. Then there is the question of how one defines christianity. I know baptists who believe that catholics are going to hell, though both are "christian" faiths.

You do make a good point though.
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