Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Why I am a Universalist

The Rev. Naomi King organized today as "Speak Up for Universalism Day" and I have been tweeting a small portion of the Bible verses that support the idea of universalism.

But they are not why I am a Universalist.

I am deep into Universalism on a scholarly level. Much of last semester was spent rummaging all through the Reformation for information about what was happening with universalism during that time. (Seminarian tip: if you're writing a paper that you already know is going to be called "Hidden Heresy," it should probably occur to you that since it was often hidden, it is going to be quite a challenge to research. You are so warned.)

This semester, I am taking a class exclusively on Universalism, soaking up its history and controversies. And loving it.

But that is not why I am a Universalist.

I am, at heart, a Universalist, because it would be impossible for me to not be. I am a Universalist both because I have been profoundly loved, and because I profoundly love.

I have been demonstratably loved by family, friends, and even complete strangers. When LW completed chemo the last time, we prepared for her Wish Trip. I studied for that trip like I was being graded on it, and one way that I educated myself was through some "fan" boards online. There, I received an email from some women who wanted to know if I would allow them to sew clothes for our family to take on our trip.

When we left for Orlando, our suitcases were stuffed with dresses and outfits, custom-made for us, painstakingly sewn, the ingredients purchased by the sewers themselves. They wouldn't take a dime, not even for shipping. They did not know us. They did not know our religion, our politics, what kind of people we were. All they knew was that our family qualified for a Wish trip. And they wanted to make it even better.

You're going to tell me God has less generosity?

I love. I love family, friends, church members, blogging buddies ... and I love my kids. Wow, do I love my kids. It is scary, when you're holding your first baby, and you realize that you would die for that little handful. And as they get older, and often not quite as cute, you love them even more. To a certain extent, I am powerless under this love I have for them. No matter what, I will still love them. I can be disappointed in them, sad about them, so angry I want to pinch them right between the eyes ... but I still love them. I can't stop.

You're going to tell me God has less love?

In the video promoting Love Wins, Rob Bell talks about Gandhi and how it's inconceivable to him that Gandhi is in hell.

Well, to all of those who tweeted furiously that that proved Rob Bell is a universalist, I say Pshaw. Believing Gandhi isn't in hell doesn't make you a universalist, it makes you a reasonable person.

As much as I say that I couldn't not be a Universalist, it is damn hard work. Because not only do I not believe that Gandhi isn't in hell, I don't believe Saddam Hussein is in hell.

Whatever God is -- and nowadays, my understanding is more of God as a seductive process -- I believe that ultimately, Love does win. I believe that this process of God pulls us towards more compassion, more kindness, more generosity, more love. And eternal punishment just doesn't fit in to that.

Ultimately, God wins.


ms. kitty said...

WOW, LE, this is great stuff! (The comment word is "reprove"---I think you just did it. That is, you re-proved the notion of Universalism.

Carey said...

I'd like to thank you for sharing this. I've only recently heard of UU and universalism through my boyfriend, and I'm working on evaluating my feelings on the church and its concepts independently from the rose-colored blinders that come with new love. What you've said here mirrors things that I have believed for years and makes me a little more comfortable with the label. It's pretty clear now that I am a universalist... and I may even admit it someday.

Earthbound Spirit said...

All I can say is, Amen!

Steve Caldwell said...

Lizard Eater wrote:
In the video promoting Love Wins, Rob Bell talks about Gandhi and how it's inconceivable to him that Gandhi is in hell."

If that were the litmus test for universalism, then Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens would be universalists.

I'm pretty sure that these two atheist gentlemen and most atheist thinkers don't believe that Gandhi is in hell either.


Steve Palm-Houser said...

Great article, LE. As you point out, any God worthy of the name would have to be even more loving than us, not less.