25 July 2010

Salvation -- July 2010 UU Salon Topic

The July 2010 UU Salon topic is "salvation." Here are the questions for all of us to consider:
  • What is it?
  • Who gets it?
  • How do you get it?
I'm going to start off with a short segment from my answer for the June question where I wrote about Universalism:
The UU religious educator and curriculum author Kate Erslev provided a descriptive summary of current-day Unitarian Universalist theology of salvation in her UU Identity curriculum for young adults:
Once again, in contrast to the predominant foundation of the theology of Calvinism, our roof was raised by the 19th century Universalists. Universalism gave us a roof that saved us all. They said that what saves us is the power of creative love made viable to us in the person of Jesus.

Do we need to be saved from Hell? The Universalists said that we create heaven and hell on earth. We need to be saved from the Hells that we create.
The portion of Kate's curriculum that talks about UU theology and how we view salvation was based on Rebecca Ann Parker's talk that she presented at the 2002 LREDA Fall Conference on theology of religious education. Rebecca talked about how our current-day implicit theology of savalation or soteriology comes from our Universalist heritage.

One short and pithy statement describing current-day UU theology of salvation that I heard at this conference from Rebecca Parker was that we offer salvation from those things that deny life or make it less whole.

As an Our Whole Lives educator and curriculum trainer, this simple statement about salvation explains why we offer sexuality education in our congregations. We provide sexuality education because it offers salvation in a very real sense.
This view of UU salvation may sound just too simple, but I'm OK with that.

So ... here are my answer to the questions about salvation.

What is "salvation"? -- it's anything that saves us in the here-and-now from those things that deny us life or make that life less whole.

Who gets salvation? -- In theory, it should be more available than it currently is. Many of the things that deny us salvation are human-created. But there are some things that we cannot change such as incurable disease and natural disasters. It's our job as Unitarian Universalists to help create a world where suffering is reduced even if we cannot eliminate all suffering in this world.

How do you get it? -- Ideally, we would all get salvation. Given the imperfect world we live in and the reality that there are some things we cannot change, we should work to ensure that as many people as possible should experience salvation. As we learn more about the world and each other, we may find out that what we've done in the past may have denied salvation for some.

For example, the UU Committee on Goals published results of its survey on beliefs and attitudes within the denomination on sexual orientation in 1967:
  • 7.7% of UUs believed that homosexuality should be discouraged by law
  • 80.2% that it should be discouraged by education, not law
  • 12% that it should not be discouraged by law or education
  • 0.1% that it should be encouraged
This shift in attitudes between 1967 and today means that more people are being saved from those things that make our lives less whole -- this is true for BGLT folks and their allies.