Day 18 (El Burgo Ranero to Leon)
Distance: 23.81 miles (38.32KM)
Time: 7 hours, 15 minutes
Total Distance To-Date: 290.38 Miles (467.2 KM)
“Belief compelled through fear is not belief, it is blind and forced obedience.” — Carlton D. Pearson
A profound day on the Camino—maybe life altering. Granted, I don’t want to get too dramatic. Today, I heard a story unlike any other I have ever heard. It has deeply stirred my heart and mind. As I listened, I was moved to tears.
More in a second...
A little background: I decided to do two stages today, some 23+ miles because I wanted to get to Leon a day earlier. This decision will allow me to take a true day off tomorrow in Leon. No walking, except to be a tourist. This choice also meant that I had to walk my longest day on the Camino to-date.
Today was an isolated walk for nearly 23 miles. As the journey played out, I only saw about 20 pilgrims. I was in-between routes, so I was likely ahead of one group and behind another group all day. Being totally alone meant I had time to listen to my usual podcasts, some music, and a few chapters in “A Column of Fire.”
Then I heard the story that jolted my Camino; however, it was not told to me by a fellow pilgrim on the Camino. It was told to me by a fellow pilgrim in spirit.
Ten days ago, something in my head said that I should listen to “This American Life”—a public radio show that tells in depth stories. I’m not a regular listener, but, for some reason, I had this continuing “call” on the Camino to seek out this particular show. Granted, I don’t think it was God telling me to listen to the show—God has much more important business to attend to than to this pilgrim. Yet, maybe the Spirit was pushing me to listen.
On today’s walk, I finally gave in and pulled up in my Podcast app the program. The most recent episode was called “Heretics.” Ironically, it wasn’t a new episode per say—This American Life re-released and featured the episode last week. It originally aired in 2005.
“Heretics” tells the story of The Reverend Carlton Pearson, a third generation Pentecostal preacher who grew up in the San Diego ghetto and eventually became pastor of a mega church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rev. Carlton became a trusted pastor to both President Bush (father and son) and President Clinton. Oral Roberts referred to Rev. Carlton as his “Black Son.” Let that all sink in.
So, why would I, an Episcopal priest, who didn’t grow up in the Church, and who tends to be viewed as a “very liberal” theologian, be interested (never mind moved to tears) by the story of a Pentecostal, mega church pastor, who preaches hellfire and damnation?
Because one day, Rev. Carlton stopped believing “in Hell” as taught by his Pentecostal Church. He stopped believing in a God who was filled with rage and wrath—a God who was going to condemn to Hell over 6 billion people. Rev. Carlton heard a voice—God’s voice—who showed him a ‘Gospel of Inclusion.’
At the time of this experience, Rev. Carlton was a world renowned preacher. He was a Bishop in the Pentecostal Church. His church had 20,000 members. He was a regular on TV, both the Christian stations and mainstream channels like CNN and NBC. He was very successful and his ministry was flourishing.
Pentecostals don’t preach that “every one is saved, even those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ.” However, around 2001, Rev. Carlton began preaching that message. He preached a radical message of love and inclusivity. His fame began to be diminished, he was kicked off the Board of Trustees at Oral Roberts University, the Sunday attendance at his Church went from 5,000 to eventually 200, and his fellow Bishops and the Pentecostal Church branded him a HERETIC! Yes, a real-life, honest-to-God HERETIC!
He lost everything! He lost every thing he had, but he gained a profound insight into the radical love of God. A God of inclusion. He proclaimed that Jesus sacrificed “for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)
If you have one free hour in your life the next couple of weeks, I strongly encourage you to listen to This American Life’s story on Rev. Carlton. Here is the link:
Also, they just released a movie about Rev. Carlton called, “Come Sunday.” It has a great cast and Rev. Carlton consulted over 2000 hours on the project. The trailer is below.
Did I come to walk 500 miles to hear Rev. Carlton’s story? Is my Camino a journey to (re)claim my role in preaching a Gospel of inclusion? The Camino is not like the world we live in, it is much more like the world Rev. Carlton now preaches that God desires to see in humanity.
Lesson of the Day: Bold actions, bold stances, come with significant consequences.