The Joshua Marston-directed Netflix film sends the message that religion does not have to condone sin.
"Come Sunday" is a movie with an important message. It challenges our core beliefs and forces us to reevaluate perceptions of others.
Based on actual events, in 1998 charismatic Bishop Carlton Pearson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) had a revelation. After the suicide of his incarcerated uncle, Pearson can no longer believe in the existence of hell. When he preaches to his congregation that God has spoken to him and indicated souls need not be saved to avoid eternal damnation, he's labeled a heretic.
Pearson's mentor, Oral Roberts (Martin Sheen), implies it was the devil who spoke to him and not God. And after 25 years of preaching the Gospel, the beloved Bishop is ostracized by his own church. But Pearson remains steadfast in his belief, losing everything to which he devoted his life. His crisis of faith leads to despair but, eventually, his conviction becomes life affirming and sets him upon a more righteous path.
Director Joshua Marston ("Maria Full of Grace") makes a compelling and compassionate case for Bishop Pearson's reinterpretation of scripture. He portrays the Bishop as a loving man who has come to realize that "there's hope or there's nothing." When Marston employs archival news footage of thousands being slaughtered in Rwanda seen by Pearson, the message is vivid. And when his dear friend (Lakeith Stanfield) dies from AIDS (which he's been hiding), Pearson begins to feel what it's like to be an outcast.
"Come Sunday" is not all gloom and doom. There's plenty of toe-tappin' gospel singing, some impressive cinematography and great performances. Jason Segel is particularly impressive as Pearson's right hand man, torn between the love for his preacher and the teachings of the Bible. And Condola Rashad, who plays his wife, cannot stand the gaudy hats she's forced to wear in church. They're pretty bad.
But it's Chiwetel's performance as the enlightened soldier of God who falls from grace, that will leave you reeling. It's simply riveting.
"Come Sunday" is about loving others, unconditionally. And also, just because there's no hell, religion does not have to condone sin. Bottom line: You never know what you don't know until you open your mind. Give it a go.
Note: Bishop Carlton Pearson continues to this day preaching his message of inclusion.
Available on Netflix.