The Gospel of Inclusion: Reaching Beyond Religious Fundamentalism to the True Love of God and Self by Bishop Carlton Pearson.
I was in the middle of preparing to teach one of my favorite classes for the first time. The Sunday Morning Topics crowd wanted a study on the book of Revelation, and I did not want to disappoint them. I was standing in the hallway outside David’s office when Pastor Brendan strode out of his study, looked me in the eye, and said, “You need to read this book!”
‘Wow! Was that a twinkle in Pastor’s eye as he said that?’ I thought. ‘I’ve heard him recommend books before, but I don’t ever remember seeing that!’
He continued, “Before you lead the study on Revelation, you, personally, need to read this book. It will transform the way you look at Jesus’ teachings in the Bible.”
After searching around a bit and borrowing Edward Smith’s copy, I dove in to The Gospel of Inclusion: Reaching beyond Religious Fundamentalism to the True Love of God and Self by Bishop Carlton Pearson. It did just as Pastor Brendan promised.
In retrospect, I’m not sure that Carlton Pearson intended his book to be so transformative. His objective was to explain how he rid himself of the shackles of religious fundamentalism from his upbringing in Pentecostal conservatism. Like Bruce Bawer from a decade before, he indicted the motives of people who used religion as a tool to promote personal power and control over others. He carried Bower’s thinking one step further to reveal the way Pentecostal conservatives spin Jesus’ teaching into conforming to their Pharisaic views.
In doing so, Pearson showed what Jesus’ teachings really meant. And they made perfect sense to me. They explained why my personal life had taken such a terrible turn and why my professional ministry had been so misguided. Pearson showed me how God could love me in spite of all of that and that it had always been that way.
A compelling and sometimes tormenting read, I recommend The Gospel of Inclusion to every seeker of Christ’s way of life. For those who have been tortured by guilt and shame over past sin, you will find peace and forgiveness. For people who never experienced such injustice, you will understand why it matters in the spiritual journey of others. Regardless of your past, you WILL have serious questions and you WILL need the sympathetic help of others who are on the same journey. When you come upon a stumbling block in the book, ask someone. That is why the Body of Christ is here at St. John’s MCC.
Atria (Simon & Schuster), March 2009, Trade Paperback, 320 pages, ISBN-10: 1-4165-4793-2, ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-4793-8, $15.00, www.SimonAndSchuster.com