Come Sunday: A Universal Message – Movie Review

Come Sunday is a Netflix film about the spiritual awakening of Bishop Carlton Pearson. He is a religious celebrity for being an heir apparent of televangelist Oral Roberts.

The movie doesn’t get into doctrines – probably because to this day Carlton Pearson does not claim to adhere to Universalism – but is an engaging story of what happens when a pastor who had focused on personally saving everyone from hell realizes that God is too merciful for a hell.

His journey of faith parallels my own in some ways.  Like Bishop Carlton Person, I also saw the news of the Rwanda/Uganda genocide in the 1990’s and contemplated the spiritual dimension of such a tragedy. Would all of those killed, including 400,000 children, be burning in hell because they had never heard of Jesus Christ? The God my church taught me would not punish children in hell for anything. When I asked my own Episcopal Bishop about this and other doctrinal contradictions, he replied that I lacked faith. I agreed, and rejected confirmation and started my years-long wandering in the wilderness until I found Unitarian Universalism.

The consequences of the change of faith for Bishop Carlton Pearson were far more dramatic. As a minister, I was waiting for some doctrinal evidence in support of universalism, yet the movie centers on the emotional connection with the divine. Bishop Pearson tries to get people to understand the text of the bible that supports universal salvation, but even as he reads the passages aloud, people turn away. It is a roller coaster ride that superficially documents the rise and fall of an influential pastor because the movie falsely equates followership as a success. The real story is about the relationships that can change for the better when God is known to be an all-loving force for good, regardless of creed.

The movie gives one sentence about where Bishop Carlton Pearson and his congregation is now, so I’ll explain that more fully. All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma is the largest congregation in the Unitarian Universalist Association. His congregation of 300 people, mainly African American, ended up joining All Souls with Bishop Pearson as their minister. The congregation, primarily white, thus became integrated. They are planning to sell their current property and relocate downtown. It has hosted Mosiac Maker conferences so that Unitarian Universalists can learn how to worship in our tradition from a more multi-cultural perspective. Every Sunday All Souls has an atheist service at 9 am, a traditional service at 11 am, and a praise service at 5 pm. It is quite impressive to attend all three services and feel all the different ways our tradition is communicated. If you are interested in listening to Bishop Pearson, his sermons are available on the All Souls podcast.

Enjoy Come Sunday on Netflix, or let’s arrange a movie night together!