Reflections on Sunday's Service from LSUS Board Chair, Dani Petrie

This blog represents the opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the beliefs of anyone else at Lake Shore Unitarian Society or other Unitarian-Universalists ... of course. 

Glenn Suchich's most recent talk had quite an impact on me ... though it may not have been the impact he intended. 

For those of you who missed it, Glenn spoke about the history of "universalism" - the idea that salvation is for all. This idea is an important one in the history of our church ... we are, after all, "Unitarian-Universalists." UU began as the joining of two liberal religions, the first focused on the idea that God is one entity (rather than a trinity of the father, son, and holy ghost), and the other focused on the idea that Christ's salvation accrues to all humankind. Glenn focused on the second of these ideas. 

I love hearing Glenn speak. He is so unbelievably passionate about his topic that it's impossible not to get sucked into his enthusiasm. And it was interesting to hear the history he shared, its origination and evolution and surrounding politics. 

But I couldn't help but think: All this energy over the millennia, spent parsing whether Jesus died for just some or all? All these power struggles around the specifics of an afterlife imagined but never confirmed? It's been going on for thousands of years, and it's still happening today, in many forms. 

What if that energy were focused on our world here today, and making it a better place?

It seems to me that much of traditional religion originates in two kinds of fear: Fear of death, and fear of the other. Fear of death through the millennia has led to incalculable human energy and bloodshed spent on the idea of life after death - who gets it, who isn't entitled to it, why my group deserves it and yours does not. Which is related, of course, to the other fear: fear that your group will get more than mine. Fear that because you look different or believe differently, that you will hurt me or my family. Fear that my relative good fortune is just a matter of chance, and that in an instant, I or my family could be struggling, ill, starving, homeless. 

All this fear has led human beings to build enormous castles in the air to reassure themselves that, because their beliefs are the right ones, they deserve "the grace of God" both here and in the afterlife. Building and supporting these beliefs has required not only energy expended, but often wars and pogroms and genocide. 

Isn't there a better way? Unitarian-Universalism has evolved from its early roots to be the most liberal of liberal religions. Unitarianism: "All names for God point to the same mystery." Universalism: "All creation shares the same destiny." For me, that means: We may not know what's out there or what happens after we die, or we may think we know and not agree. Let's not waste time arguing about it. Let's face and embrace our lives together, here, today. 

What is the opposite of fear? Courage. Courage to face the fact that the only knowledge we share for sure is that we are here now, and for a limited time. Courage to educate our children to see that yes, those people are different, and they deserve our respect just as much as those who are the same as us ("the inherent worth and dignity of every person"). Courage to seek the truth (even though we know we will never have a perfect knowledge of it) and fight for justice (even though we know complete justice will never be achieved). 

As always, I am grateful for our UU community, which provides support and encouragement to one another in our efforts to live our best lives.

I thank Glenn for sharing his knowledge with us and inspiring these thoughts, and I'll end with my favorite closing hymn from our services: 

Soul of truth, eternal goodness 

Sojourn with us as we part

Fill our minds with high endeavor

Keep us just and pure in heart

Strengthen us for daily duty 

Guide us by the inward light

Hallowed be each coming morning

Calm and peaceful be each night. 


Peace and love, 


Dani Petrie is the Board Chair for Lake Shore Unitarian Society. For more information on the LSUS Board, click here.