Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I've Always Been One

I don't have anything really profound to say on this day of standing up for Universalism -- certainly nothing so profound as what I've read elsewhere today. I'm not studying for the ministry, I am not a pastor or theologian, I cannot point to a moving, transcendent experience that affirmed the beliefs I hold.

I'm just a layperson mumbling in the corner, thinking out loud, sorting out what I believe and how that might inform the way I live my life.

As I've noted before, I didn't grow up UU, but rather in the Mainline Christian church. I heard at an early age about the concept of Hell, and when I learned the Nicene creed, saw that it was embedded therein ("he descended into Hell..."). Yet the notion that Jesus's death and resurrection were specifically aimed at atoning for Original Sin and saving people from eternal Hell, and that belief in that atonement was mandatory to avoid that punishment, were always alien to me.

At one point I recall asking my mother something about Hell -- I was probably at least 10 and could have been as old as 14 -- and her definition was "separation from God."

But when I heard about the violent doctrines of eternal torture from Fundamentalists I knew, I was simply flabbergasted. God and Jesus were about love, I knew. Those other doctrines simply didn't compute. I rejected them out of hand.

So I've never felt wounded by the church of my upbringing -- although I've certainly been angry on behalf of others for the doctrines of fear they've been taught and have believed.

I will probably take a look at Rob Bell's book when I'm next in a bookstore or library and can find it. I am intellectually interested in what he has to say, whether he is or isn't a strict Universalist. But what I am especially interested in is, Then what? What does he say about what one does with the insight that God's love is far, far bigger than the pinched and wrathful deity of the Fundamentalists?

Because what I believe I need most deeply in the spiritual realm has nothing to do with what happens after I die. What I know I need most is to learn how to live, with myself and with others, in this world.

We do need salvation from Hell. But it's the Hell on Earth we need to save ourselves, and each other, from.

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