. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Unitarian Universalism, Mud, and Heaven

My husband and I are taking a Wednesday night study class at our church about the roots of Unitarian Universalism in America. So far we've learned about the beginnings of Unitarianism in America (the Unity of God rather than the Trinity, stressing the humanity of Jesus) and have discussed prominent figures such as Jonathan Mayhew, Joseph Priestly, and John Adams from the late 1700s to early 1800s. We've also discussed Universalism and how Universalists believe that all souls will eventually (after a period of atonement) be saved to go to heaven. People such as John Murray, Hosea Ballou, and Thomas Jefferson helped to spread the Universalist movement (also during the late 1700s to early 1800s).

There is always the question posed, "Why be good if there is no heaven or hell?" Hosea Ballou offered a moralistic view of Jesus' sacrifice rather than the idea that he died as a substitute for mankind's sins. Ballou stressed reason and rejected miracles, the Trinity (there was nothing in the scriptures to support the Trinity), and the deity of Jesus. He argued that humans are not capable of offending an infinite God and that God is a being of eternal love who wants only happiness for His children (not having us fear Him). Ballou felt that once people realized this, they would take pleasure in living a moral lifestyle and in doing good works. People didn't need to fear God or the idea of hell in order to be good.

It's all pretty interesting to think about, for sure. There are so many different beliefs out there and I enjoy learning about them all. When our minister shared a story about Hosea Ballou as a child, it was clear to me that I'm still not finished thinking about the issues of heaven and hell and life after death. This thinking and reasoning, put together with the idea of religious tolerance, is why I attend the Unitarian Universalist church.

Here's the story:
Hosea Ballou grew up in a small town in New Hampshire with 9 older brothers and sisters. His mother died before he was two, leaving his older sisters to care for him. Just like other children, he liked to learn and do new things, play, and ask questions. In the spring, it was very rainy and Hosea liked to jump in the puddles and play in the mud. He often got very dirty and his sisters were frustrated with having to wash out his muddy clothes all the time so they asked their father to tell Hosea to stop playing in the mud. But no matter how hard he tried not to, Hosea kept on playing in the mud. His father had to keep on telling him to stay out of the mud and to keep clean. Hosea was worried that his father wouldn't love him anymore if he got muddy again, but his father reassured him that he would always love him no matter how dirty Hosea would get, even though he felt disappointed and angry with him.

As Hosea grew up, he stopped playing in the mud but he kept asking questions. He'd ask his father, "how can it be that our church believes that God will let only one in a thousand people go to heaven, even if those thousand people lead good lives?" Hosea looked to the Bible to try to find the answers and went to different churches. He eventually decided that he believed in universal salvation, that all people good and bad would eventually be admitted into heaven.

His father asked him how he could believe such a thing. Hosea replied, "Because, Father, I remember what you told me when I was small. I believe that even if God is disappointed with people, or a little angry with them, God will always love them and want them to be happy, no matter what they do, and no matter how muddy they are."


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