This Sunday, I’ll be preaching on P. T. Barnum, the great showman and circus empressario. Barnum was a Universalist, and later in his life he wrote a pamphlet titled “Why I Am a Universalist.” The pamphlet sold 30,000 copies in its first year, and over 100,000 copies within a few years of publication.
I wanted to use some of Barnum’s words in a responsive reading in this week’s worship service. But some of Barnum’s sentiments sound a little dated to this 21st C. Universalist — and he’s a Restorationsist whereas I’m a Ultra-Universalist (or “Death-and-Glory” Universalist). So I picked out some his best phrases (avoiding gender-specific language), assembled them and edited them slightly, and cast them into a responsive reading. And to whet your apetite for the worship service this Sunday, here the’s completed reading.
Why I Am a Universalist
I base my hopes for humanity on the Word of God speaking in the best heart and conscience of the race,
the Word heard in the best poems and songs, the best prayers and hopes of humanity.
It is rather absurd to suppose a heaven filled with saints and sinners shut up all together within four jeweled walls and playing on harps, whether they like it or not.
I have faint hopes that after another hundred years or so, it will begin to dawn on the minds of those to whom this idea is such a weight, that nobody with any sense holds this idea or ever did hold it.
To the Universalist, heaven in its essential nature is not a locality, but a moral and spiritual status, and salvation is not securing one place and avoiding another, but salvation is finding eternal life.
Eternal life has primarily no reference to time or place, but to a quality. Eternal life is right life, here, there, everywhere.
Conduct is three-fourths of life.
This present life is the great pressing concern.
— Phineas Taylor Barnum, recast by DH