A Unitarian Universalist doctrine of sin includes the personal brokenness of the human condition. It is also includes collective damage: war, poverty, environmental devastation, racial and gender oppression – it’s a long list. Unitarian Universalists name the process of becoming whole as salvation. Salvation, for most of us, is healing from the brokenness of the human condition. Salvation is how poet and UU minister Lynn Ungar describes it in her poem by the same name:
Do you believe me when I say
you are neither salvaged nor saved,
but salved, anointed by gentle hands
where you are most tender?
Haven’t you seen
the way snow curls down
like a fresh sheet, how it
covers everything, makes everything
beautiful, without exception?
Salvation is our mission statement: welcome radically, love boldly, grow spiritually, serve courageously. Eckhart Tolle states that “true salvation is a state of freedom – from fear, from suffering, from a perceived state of lack and insufficiency and therefore from all wanting, needing, grasping, and clinging. It is freedom from compulsive thinking, from negativity, and above all from past and future as a psychological need…. There is no only way to salvation, but there is only one point of access.”
That point of access is now. Salvation doesn’t come at the end of a life well-lived with acts of good works and / or by believing a certain way. Salvation comes in this life now. We make heaven here on earth and hell, if we choose that instead. And evangelist Rob Bell agrees. In fact, it’s in the Bible.
According to Bell (and a lot of other scholars), Jesus wasn’t telling people how to get to heaven. He was teaching people how to live now. In Matthew 19:16-22 the story is told of a rich young man who asks Jesus how to have eternal life. Jesus doesn’t answer with, “here is how you get to heaven.” He says, “If you wish to enter into life…” The story ends with the young, rich man leaving in disappointment. He refuses to sell all he has to enter into the “kingdom of heaven” or what Jesus has previously named as entering into life. “Heaven for Jesus wasn’t just ‘someday’,” Bell writes; “it was a present reality. Jesus blurs the lines, inviting the rich man, and us, into the merging of heaven and earth, the future and present, here and now.”
The rich young man isn’t able to enter fully into life because his possessions get in the way. For us it may be our clinging to the way things are, our refusal to write a new story, our compulsive thinking or our constant negativity that keep us from entering fully into life, that keep us from salvation, from becoming whole. Our UU definition of universal salvation has changed from a nineteenth century, mostly Christian, one. When we declare ourselves to be Unitarian Universalists we proclaim that all human beings are capable of redemption in this life now, of being saved right now, all are capable of becoming whole now. Every person. Even you. Yes you.