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Activity 2: Speaking of Universal Salvation
Activity time: 10 minutes
Description of Activity
This activity will introduce the idea of the eternal salvation of human souls.
Give a brief talk to move youth beyond their consideration of saving animals' lives to an elementary understanding of saving human souls through universal salvation. Use words and ideas like these:
We have just been talking about saving lives. However, many religious people want to save more than lives. They want to save souls. They think of the soul as the deepest spiritual part of you, or your human spirit. The soul has no weight and visible form. Many people think the soul stays alive after the body dies. What happens then? Some people believe that it goes to heaven or hell. Some people believe hell is an awful place where the soul suffers and that heaven is beautiful and everybody is happy there. If the soul goes to hell, it is lost for eternity, for all time. If the soul goes to heaven, it is saved. We call that salvation. When Christians say, "I am saved" they mean that they believe their souls will go to heaven when they die.
For centuries, people have disagreed about salvation. Some people do not believe in heaven, hell, or the idea of souls at all. Others say that bad people go to hell when they die and good people go to heaven. Some Christians believe in predestination; they say that from the very beginning, God chooses some people but not others to be saved.
The Universalists had an idea different from this. They believed in "universal salvation." They said that God is a loving god and does not send anybody to hell forever; that God saves all souls and everybody goes to heaven. People should follow God's law and do the right things, they said, but doing the wrong things-sinning-would not land them in hell for all time. That is what Universalists argued for centuries.
Provide a more energetic moment by asking youth to stand and decide which appeals to them more-traditional Unitarian or traditional Universalist ideas? Invite them to move to one wall if Unitarianism is their choice and the opposite wall if Universalism is their choice. Explain further with words like these: "Imagine that you lived in a New England town many years ago. In that town were a Unitarian church and a Universalist church. Based on their ideas, which one would you choose to attend?" Remind the group of the differences with a quick summary statement: "The basic idea of Unitarianism is that there is one God, rather than a trinity. The basic idea of Universalism is universal salvation." After youth have voted and discussed their choices briefly, acknowledge that both religions are more complex than just these two basic tenets. They held many common beliefs, which is why they joined in 1961. Today, we get the best of both worlds. The idea of God as love remains important to Christian UUs today as well as to other UUs.
If you can, allow time for quick questions and a brief discussion before moving on. See Session 9 for more on souls.
Including All Participants
If you offer the energetic moment, describe it in ways that allow all youth to participate, perhaps by holding up differently colored cards or pieces of paper.