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Activity 2: Drawing Pure Virtue and Sin (15 minutes), Session 3: Being Good, Being Bad

In "Amazing Grace," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Drawing paper, two sheets for each youth
  • Oil pastels
  • Cleanup supplies
  • Music player and recordings of background music
  • Optional: Tacks, painter's tape, or other supplies needed to display completed paintings

Preparation for Activity

  • Gather supplies and place them where youth can reach them quickly and easily.
  • Decide whether and how to display the completed drawings.

Description of Activity

In this activity, youth imagine heaven and hell to inspire them in making abstract drawings that reflect pure virtue and pure sin.

Set the philosophical stage for the drawings with a brief introductory discussion. Begin with a few questions. Could you really experience a day in which everybody you met sinned all the time and never did anything virtuous? Can you imagine what pure virtue looks like? What about pure sin? If you lived in a world where everybody was virtuous, or good, all the time, would that be like living in heaven? If you lived in a world where everybody was sinful, or evil, all the time, would that be like living in hell?

Make these points as time allows during or after the group's discussion:

  • People in some religions, especially Christianity, talk a lot about heaven and hell. They say that heaven is where good people go after they die, and hell is where bad people go. In other words, hell is the consequence of living a sinful life, as heaven is the consequence for living a virtuous life. Defining consequences is just one way religions respond to the fact that there is both virtue and sin in the world. Not all religions believe in heaven and hell. Most UUs do not believe in a literal heaven and hell as places where you go after you die. Yet, all religions, even Unitarian Universalism, believe there are consequences brought about by how we live our lives. We will talk more about this in a later session.
  • A second way religions respond to virtue and sin is to say how people should act to avoid sin and be virtuous. That is what the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues attempt to do.
  • A third way religions respond to virtue and sin is to help individuals survive and be happy in a world where bad things happen.
  • A fourth way religions respond to virtue and sin is by working to improve things in a world where bad things happen.

Say that most Unitarian Universalists have their own feelings about virtue and sin, and about heaven and hell. Sometimes you can state your feelings in words, but other times it is easier to show them with art. Ask the youth now to make abstract drawings that show their feelings about what pure virtue (or heaven) is like or what pure sin (or hell) is like. Explain "abstract drawings," if necessary, as drawings with no specific, identifiable forms or as the opposite of representational art in which you draw objects as they really appear. Youth can draw a series of swirls, if they want, or lines that seem to connect in any way. (If you wish to devote more time to this activity, ask participants to draw both virtue and sin.)

Play some gentle background music to help participants focus while working. Show the youth where to get paper and oil pastels and where they should draw. Start the background music, and let the drawing begin. As time grows short, give a five-minute warning. When time runs out, ask the youth to put their supplies away and clean up their workstations.

Give the youth time to share their drawings. If displaying the drawings for some time is appropriate for your space, say you will put them up later. If that is not appropriate, let the youth take them at the end of the session.

When the group has settled, ask if the youth find that drawing abstractly is a good way to express their feelings. Ask also for any additional comments about pure virtue and pure sin, heaven and hell.

Including All Participants

If you have participants with limited mobility, be sure that workspaces and supplies are accessible to them. Help them as necessary to begin their drawings.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.

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