Writer E. B. White once said, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” (A variant quote puts it this way: “I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.”)
In saying this, E. B. White admits (without knowing it, perhaps) that’s he’s torn between Unitarian and Universalist ways of being in the world.
The old saw about the difference between the two spiritual paradigms: “Unitarians believe that humans are too good to be damned by God, and Universalists believe that God is too good to damn humans.” Mark W. Harris comments: “Either way we end up saved, but the process–indeed the reason for salvation–could not be more different. The Unitarian emphasis is self-referential. It asks what I can do about my own salvation. It is about my striving for success on the road to moral perfectionism. The Universalist perspective … emphasizes our common relationship to the whole of creation, to a loving God who redeems all.”
More from Mark W. Harris: “[Universalism] tells us that God is a mysterious fountain of love from whence we have sprung. This is a gripping relational power that allows us to turn to the creation and feel trust and comfort; to know that our fears are held by this love, which increases in power as each of us opens to it. There is a completely egalitarian concept of salvation at work in this Universalist gospel. It is not our individual acts that will save us, nor is it the class we belong to which unites the universe. […] This theology affirms that all of us are good and just as we are, and so there is a kind of divine acceptance or grace in each of our very beings. No matter what we do with our lives, no matter what befalls us, there is still a love which embraces us.”
In other words: The Unitarian feels like one’s salvation and the salvation of the world depends on one’s works; the Universalist knows that there is nothing one can do to earn salvation, and so he or she focuses on opening up to God’s loving presence in each moment, and living out of that. The Unitarian experiences scarcity, and, anxiously, plans on being busy to fill up the emptiness and remedy the lack; the Universalist experiences abundance, and, gratefully, plans on extending and magnifying it.
So, how does a Unitarian Universalist plan for the day?