Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

Come Sunday

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Film

Come Sunday

Article excerpt

Carlton Pearson was an extremely successful Pentecostal preacher at a large church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but some two decades ago he began to doubt what he was preaching. He could not reconcile God's love with the idea that countless people are sent to hell for being non-Christian. The film represents this change through two events that affected him: his unsaved uncle kills himself in prison, and he learns of countless non-Christians dying during the Rwandan genocide.

Faced with this challenge, he prays. He then believes that God has revealed to him that no one goes to hell, no one is finally rejected, because Christ died for all. Needless to say, most of his church rebels, as they find this insulting: why then have they been coming to church all these years? Does it really not matter whether they sin or not? Pearson says that sin is still wrong, but God's grace forgives all sins, and God will find a way to save all. His continuance in this doctrine eventually leads to a heresy trial and his excommunication from the church.

Pearson is not the first Christian minister to become a universalist: both the leading Protestant (Karl Barth) and the leading Roman Catholic (Karl Rahner) theologian of the 20th century essentially had this view, and their views have influenced many others. As recently as 2011, Evangelical Christian leader Rob Bell wrote Love Wins, which advances the thesis of universal salvation. Still, most churches have not embraced this view, as it seems to them to make faith and moral reform irrelevant. During his trial in the film, Pearson asks the bishop whether he wouldn't save his sinful father from hell, if he could; the bishop says no, demonstrating a condemning and judgmental attitude too often seen in Christianity. …

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