Learn about Summer Seminary, a program of the UUA Office of Youth and Young Adult MinistriesRead the transcript of Issac's homily:
ISAAC PRIER: There is salvation in this life. This is one of the five jagged rocks of Unitarian Universalism, a statement of faith created by Nancy Bowen. There is salvation in this life. But if there is salvation, is there not also damnation?
For a long time, I struggled with this jagged rock and saw many others struggle with it because of the implication of damnation. It makes things feel absolute, as though everything hangs in the balance, and a single choice can make anything turn, as though a single mistake could leave us damned, even if only in this life. And it's not a just, either-- not just this life. Because regardless of what-- if anything-- we believe happens when we die, this life is what we know now. How could we possibly accept damnation?
In asking myself these questions, I came across a song called "No Hell" by Cloud Cult. And it said something powerful. It said, (SINGING) someone tell the devil we don't need no hell. We're all pretty good at beating up ourselves.
I've been asking myself what hell is for a while, not some fiery place that might happen after we die-- hell here, now. And that seemed like one of the best definitions I'd heard. We're all pretty good at beating up ourselves.
So I started thinking about it, about all the ways I'd beaten up myself about things. And it was hard. And I looked at everything happening around me and everything happening in my life, and I realized that I had seen hell, and that those around me had seen hell. And I wanted to grab the world by its shoulders and scream at it and yell that it was unfair, and just make it right, because (SINGING) we grew up believing good wins over bad, but so you gave away your heart but the wolves attacked. But then a bigger heart grew back.
And I wasn't sure I wanted it, that bigger heart. It felt like I needed that control, even if it meant I stayed in hell, and everything be damned! (SINGING) But you're never really gonna have control of it all. So you best get cool with where your chips are gonna fall. We are the sun and mother's milk and cuss words and poetry and--
And I realized that I was allowed to be wrong. I was allowed to make mistakes. I was allowed to mess up. I was allowed to be wrong.
And in that moment, I realized that I hadn't been letting myself be wrong, and that in that space, I hadn't given myself any room to be right. (SINGING) As kids we believed that the angels talked. Everything is magic till you think it's not.
(SINGING) It's easy to be thankful for the things you've got. It takes guts to give thanks for the things you've lost.
And I realized that it was me. It was me. I realized that there is no hell here but that which we create for ourselves, that it's not the pain that created my hell, but what I chose to do with it. But there is no peace, no wonder, no glory greater than that which we allow ourselves to know, and that our forgiveness can stretch as far as we are willing to accept. So someone tell the devil we don't need no hell. We're all pretty good at beating up ourselves.