I've been meaning to post a link to this for some time—it's the This American Life episode featuring Reverend Carlton Pearson, an Oral Roberts protege, mega-church preacher, and one-time Pentecostal rising star, who was ultimately cast out by his colleagues, congregation, and church as a heretic, after he rejected the notion of Hell:
I was watching the evening news. The Hutus and Tutus were returning from Rwanda to Uganda, and Peter Jennings was doing a piece on it. Now, Majeste was in my lap, my little girl. I'm eating the meal, and I'm watching these little kids with swollen bellies. And it looks like their skin is stretched across their little skeletal remains. Their hair is kind of red from malnutrition. The babies, they've got flies in the corners of their eyes and of their mouths. And they reach for their mother's breast, and the mother's breast looks like a little pencil hanging there. I mean, the baby's reaching for the breast, there's no milk:
And I, with my little fat-faced baby, and a plate of food and a big-screen television. And I said God, I don't know how you can call yourself a loving, sovereign God and allow these people to suffer this way and just suck them right into Hell, which is what was my assumption. And I heard a voice say within me, "So that's what you think we're doing?" And I remember I didn't say yes or no. I said, "That's what I've been taught." "We're sucking them into Hell?" I said, "Yes." "And what would change that?" "Well, they need to get saved." "And how would that happen?" "Well, somebody needs to preach the Gospel to them and get them saved." "So if you think that's the only way they're going to get saved is for somebody to preach the Gospel to them and that we're sucking them into Hell, why don't you put your little baby down, turn your big-screen television off, push your plate away, get on the first thing smoking, and go get them saved?"
And I remember I broke into tears. I was very upset. I remember thinking, God, don't put that guilt on me. You know I've given you the best 40 years of my life. Besides, I can't save the whole world. I'm doing the best I can. I can't save this whole world. And that's where I remember, and I believe it was God saying, "Precisely. You can't save this world. That's what we did. Do you think we're sucking them into Hell? Can't you see they're already there? That's Hell. You keep creating and inventing that for yourselves. I'm taking them into My presence."
And I thought, well, I'll be. That's weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. That's where the pain comes from. We do that to each other, and we do it to ourselves. Then I saw emergency rooms. I saw divorce court. I saw jails and prisons. I saw how we create Hell on this planet for each other. And for the first time in my life, I did not see God as the inventor of Hell.
What happened next—how this simple, compassionate epiphany ended up unraveling both Christian orthodoxy and Reverend Carlton's career—is a fascinating and touching story. Well worth a listen.