Progressive theologian and visionary minister Bishop Carlton Pearson gave two lectures titled “What has Hell to do with It?” and “Emerging Spirituality” on March 22 in Morgan Auditorium.
Students, faculty, staff and community members attended the lectures at 11:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. respectively, as part of the Fasnacht Lecture series.
“Ask yourself whether you have ever seen yourself through the eyes of someone else,” Pearson said. “If you haven’t, you aren’t evolving.”
Pearson, senior pastor of the inclusive spiritual community New Dimensions Chicago, spoke in his first lecture about how much of his life remained stagnant, questioning whether or not his beliefs added resolution to the issues in his life.
He also read passages from his latest book, “God Is Not a Christian, Nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu…,” published in 2010.
“It’s what you believe that determines how you live and what your values are,” Pearson said. “But there is a big conflict in what we believe.”
Pearson discussed how belief systems often trap people for their entire lives when they are raised around them, and how closed mindedness can hinder the ability to embrace other religions. Pearson shared how there are many facets of believing in God, with each religion having its own interpretation.
“I can still love God the way I see him,” Pearson said.
Pearson then explained how the terms faith and fear were often used interchangeably when believing in God. People will go their entire lives trying to please others so that God does not send them to Hell.
“Since God is just, I believe there is a Hell,” Pearson said. “And since God is merciful, I believe there is nobody in it.”
People are tormented by the concept that God knows everything anyone thinks or does. Therefore the closest to God people can get is through self-actualization, Pearson said.
“I actually do believe in a Hell – I’ve seen literal hells on this planet,” Pearson said.
He then questioned the belief of whether God would truly place someone in Hell infinitely, challenging the line between punishment and hatred.
“You don’t really know anything, you just believe,” Pearson said.
The audience had an open mind about Pearson’s points.
“His often controversial take on religion has led to appearances on ‘Dateline,’ ‘Good Morning America,’ CBS’s ‘Evening News,’ ‘The Edge’ and even ‘Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher’,” Richard Rose, professor of religion and philosophy, said.
“He has a firm belief and desire for students to know the relationship between religion and society,” Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Jonathan Reed said. “It stimulates conversation.”
“I appreciated the progressive approach to Christianity. It’s similar to the spiritual community I was raised in,” sophomore psychology major Hannah Hilkey said. “It’s just a very different approach to God.”
To close his lecture, Pearson brought up the fact that there is a new growing spirituality in the culture we have now.
He called it a mythical age, one that deals with less religion and instead focuses on aspects of mythology and astrology.
“Religions as we know it will dissipate and maybe, in a way, disappear,” Pearson said. “We won’t know them as we know them now.”
Robert Penalber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.