Activity 1: Introducing Hosea Ballou

Activity 1: Introducing Hosea Ballou
Activity 1: Introducing Hosea Ballou

Activity time: 5 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy Handout 1 for all participants.
  • Prepare to project Leader Resource 1 or make copies.

Description of Activity

Explain that in this workshop participants will explore theological insights from the life and work of Hosea Ballou and use these to guide their own exploration of human happiness as an emotional foundation for liberal faith.

Project or distribute copies of Leader Resource 1. Introduce Hosea Ballou, one of the founders of American Universalism, using these or similar words:

Hosea Ballou preached his liberal faith to everyday people, men and women of the laboring classes. He was a self-educated man from rural New Hampshire and Massachusetts who was spurned by the Boston Unitarian elite. Thanks in no small part to Ballou, by the end of the 19th-century one out of every eight Americans called themselves Universalists.

He was an author, a public lecturer, an itinerant preacher, editor of various Universalist journals, and minister of the Second Universalist Society of Boston for a quarter of a century until his death in 1852, at age 81. His most important theological work was A Treatise on Atonement.

Ballou insisted that human beings are created to be fulfilled and happy. He rejected the belief that human nature is fallen (the doctrine of original sin) and subject to eternal damnation. He believed a loving God would not condemn humanity to eternal damnation.

Ballou believed human emotions prompt us to moral or immoral actions, so we are invited to strengthen the emotions that reap happiness for self and others. He believed we have a God-given right to be happy. God is love, Ballou insisted, and when we feel this love we are happy.

Distribute Handout 1, which contains more detail about Ballou. Invite participants to read it at home.

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