Peace Pilgrim and universalism

Peace Pilgrim, the woman who achieved some small measure of renown for traveling “25,000 miles on foot for peace,” was a pacifist deeply rooted in Western religious traditions. Not surprisingly, she held a universalist theology (note the small “u”; I’m speaking of her theology, not implying she was a member of the Universalist denomination). In the collection of her writings, I find this brief response to a correspondent who asked her, “Do you believe there is both a heaven and a hell?”

Heaven and hell are states of being. Heaven is being in harmony with God’s will; hell is being out of harmony with God’s will. You can be in either state on either side of life. There is no permanent hell. — Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words, 5th compact edition (Shelton, Conn.: Friends of Peace Pilgrim, 2003), p. 150.

In the first two sentences, Peace Pilgrim expresses sentiments that can be found in such classic Universalist writers as Hosea Ballou; really, this is a notion that extends back in Western thinking at least to Plato.

The third sentence is at odds with Ballou’s Universalism; for Ballou, God’s power is such that you get saved and put in heaven after death whether you want to be there or not, whether you’re worthy of it or not. By contrast, for Peace Pilgrim your freedom of will continues after death, and remains strong enough to go out of harmony with God’s will. In a sense, Peace Pilgrim is somewhat like the Restorationist Universalists who allow for a time of punishment after death; at least, insofar as moving oneself out of harmony with God can be considered a form of punishment.

The final sentence is a clear statement of universalist theology: “There is no permanent hell.” Whatever denomination they may belong to, universalists all affirm this truth.

War and peace

This is mostly for my dad, because he and I talk a lot about the war in Afghanistan. I happened to preach two Sundays in a row, once on war, and once on peace, and I’ve now put those sermons online:
On May 20, a sermon about a program we did with kids called “Peace Experiments.”
On May 27, a sermon about how we might memorialize the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I find the ongoing war in Afghanistan to be very difficult to talk about, and consider both these sermons to be inadequate. At the same time, it’s one of the top three moral problems facing us in the United States today; we have to talk about the war, we have to try to sort through the moral issues it raises.

Quaker Checkers

Back in 1985, the Unitarian Universalist Peace Network published a Sunday school curriculum called “Peace Experiments.” One of the things I liked best in this old curriculum was a board game called “Quaker Checkers.” It’s simple, fun, and challenging enough to be worth playing more than once. But I can find no reference to this game on the Web, except as a listing in a manuscript archive in the Swarthmore College library. Since the game explicitly states that it is not patented, and that’s it’s OK to copy and/or improve it, I decided to publish a PDF version here:

Click for a printable PDF.

Rosy-fingered dawn
appeared in the east
to find neither bird
nor beast yet awake.
Last night’s candle still
burned, small and steady,
in the window, there
to guide something home.
I yawned, listened
to the holiday
stillness, felt the cold,
put on the teapot.
I’m pessimistic:
I don’t believe that
peace on earth, good will,
or even much love
will ever come to
this generation,
nor to their children;
just wars and hatred.
But still it happens:
Rosy-fingered dawn
comes again, starts us
on another day.