Posts Tagged ‘carlton pearson’

I was first exposed to Bishop Carlton Pearson on NBC’s Dateline “To Hell and Back”in the Fall of 2007, and did a little internet reading on his story. I saw him again as a panelist in March of this year on ABC’s Night Line Face Off “Does Satan Exist?”. A lot of what he had to say resonated with me and peaked my curiosity to learn more. I recently got his book The Gospel of Inclusion and finished reading it last night.

I enjoyed the book, but it left me unsatisfied. I have a lot of sympathy with what Carlton went through. Like him, my conclusions and de-converting did not begin with an epiphany but was rather the result of a process of wrestling with questions and answers and more questions. True to his disclaimer the book does represent the collective of his post-evangelical sermons and is heavy on Biblical references. I think I was hoping for a little more biographical narrative and less sermonizing, even though I appreciate the difference in tone and aim in the message. I think the book was written primarily as a message to evangelicals, starting where they are and taking them through his theological transition and reasoning making the case for the Gospel of Inclusion.

It’s funny to me that some of the things that many people consider “liberal” seem oddly conservative to me still. Perhaps that’s a measure of how far I’ve come or evidence that I don’t use a yard stick anymore.

I admittedly speed read through the first two-thirds of the book, because he was “preaching to the choir” where I’m concerned. I need no de-converting from evangelicalism. I appreciate the last portion of the book most, where he talked more about life on the otherside of his “coming out” of evangelicalism. I relate to that more. I’m still looking for a book that wrestles more with reading the Bible again for the first time or rethinking faith and practice on the other side of evangelicalism.

I really like Carlton Pearson as a person and have not seen or read anything that would lead me to doubt his motives. If he was out to make money, he surely wouldn’t have thrown away a profitable and high-profile ministry. I think this book is a good bridge for people who are questioning and wrestling with their evangelical background. This book and message won’t lead you away from Christian faith altogether. There’s no brain washing going on here. Just one man’s candid and very personal journal of his faith journey.

The promo for Thursday night’s Nightline on ABC caught my attention: “Does Satan Exist?” Face-Off. The debate line up featured Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Deepak Chopra, Bishop Carlton Pearson, and some girl who founded Hookers for Jesus (no, seriously). I’ve been an admirer of Carlton Pearson and have blogged about his departure from evangelicalismbefore. I’ve also made no secret my support of Deepak Chopra in many blog posts. It was sure to be a dust up, so I watched.

The problem is there were only teaser clips from the most heated parts of the debate and neither view was given any length of time to be properly explored. I thought Deepak came across as angry most of the time, but I guess that comes with the territory when you’re on defense in a church full of people who think you are the anti-Christ. The Hookers for Jesuschick really needs some therapy, in my opinion. I thought Carlton Pearson was graceful as always. Mark Driscoll came across as a guy trying to get PR for himself and his church, who happened to host the event and pass out fliers to the attendees as they were leaving.

I think the unedited full length debate is far more informative than the 30 minute commericial-filled show, but overall I think it was a desperate ratings ploy for the dying Late Night news variety show. Just put Jimmy Kimmel on at 11:30pm est already!!!

Oh, as to the question of whether “Does Satan Exist?”, my answer is emphatically, “No!” I gave up on that a few years ago, along with sin, hell, and neurotic religion-induced guilt. I’m free!  I suppose most people would want a little more substantive explanation, but I really don’t have the intellectual energy to spend on the subject at the moment. Here’s my short take on it:

  • “Satan” is a means of avoiding personal responsibility for your own issues
  • “Satan” is a strained attempt to come to grips with the problem of human suffering
  • “Satan” is another means of religion using fear to manipulate people

The oft used excuse was used in the show a couple times that “The best thing Satan could do is to convince people he doesn’t exist” or some equivalent thereof. That’s a fairly weak argument. Deepak said that a belief in Satan was “primitive,” which got a rouse out of Mark Driscoll who accused Chopra of belittling believers. The point is that believing in Satan is literally one of the most “primitive” beliefs in human history, and its equivalent can be found in the oldest of all religions in ancient history. It’s akin to animal sacrifice, superstitions, etc.

The other argument made in the show was that you cannot believe Satan does not exist and believe that God DOES exist, that you cannot have one without the other. Therein is a slippery slope upon which few will dare to tread. It is my belief that the fundamentalist dogmatic view of God is dead as well as Satan, but that’s a whole other blog post or two or three or a hundred.