Reverend Carlton Pearson was a popular and traditional Evangelical leader; a mentee of Oral Roberts. And then one day, he realized that he no longer believed in hell. He now believed that God saves all, through universal reconciliation.
When my little girl, who'll be nine next month, was an infant, I was watching the evening news. The Hutus and Tutsis were returning from Rwanda to Uganda. And Peter Jennings was doing a piece on it. Now, Majesty was in my lap, my little girl. I'm eating the meal, and I'm watching these little kids with swollen bellies. And it looks like their skin is stretched across their little skeletal remains. Their hair is kind of red from malnutrition. The babies, they've got flies in the corners of their eyes and in their mouths. And they reach for their mother's breast. And the mother's breast looks like a little pencil hanging there. I mean the baby's reaching for the breast. There's no milk. And I, with my little fat-faced baby, and a plate of food, and a big screen television -- and I said, God, I don't know how you could call yourself a loving, sovereign God, and allow these people to suffer this way, and just suck them right into hell, which is what was my assumption. And I heard a voice say within me, so that's what you think we're doing? And I remember I didn't say yes or no. I said, that's what I've been taught. We're sucking them into hell? I said yes. And what would change that? Well, they need to get saved. And how would that happen? Well, somebody needs to preach the gospel to them and get them saved. So if you think that's the only way they're going to get saved is for somebody to preach the gospel to them and that we're sucking them into hell, why don't you put your little baby down, turn your big screen television off, push your plate away, get on the first thing smoking, and go get them saved? And I remember I broke into tears. I was very upset. I remember thinking, God, don't put that guilt on me. I've given you the best 40 years of my life. Besides, I can't save the whole world. I'm doing the best I can. I can't save this whole world. And that's where I remember -- and I believe it was God saying, precisely, you can't save this world. That's what we did.
This realization eventually sent his career into a death spiral.
This American Life covered this story in 2005, but re-ran it again recently in promotion of their upcoming Netflix series "Come Sunday."
I haven't watched the show yet, but the podcast was moving. I found myself rooting for and sympathizing with Pearson. He seems like a genuine and brave man that is following his heart despite the costs.