Tomorrow I am preaching the second sermon in a series of five sermons on big theological questions. "What must I do to be saved?" I ask.
"Salvation" is a red flag word for many Unitarian Universalists because they associate it only with the evangelical Christian use of the word, with proselytizing, with fear and shame, and with the kind of emotionality that UUs traditionally shun. They forget that many important, useful words, even to UUs, emerge from the same root: salve, salvage, save, for example. The root of the word is used to denote health, wholeness, safety and preservation.
Few UUs would protest the need for wholeness, for health, for safety, for preservation of resources. But the idea of salvation has been associated with being forgiven of sins so that one can go to heaven, and that's where UUs balk.
I believe we all have characteristics and behaviors that we know are not healthful or whole, that decrease our safety and diminish our resources. Our human task is to acknowledge them and consider how to deal with them.
Many have said to me, "I have nothing to be saved FROM, so I don't need salvation as a theological concept." When they think about the moments in their lives that have offered transformation, however, they often see that salvation (of a different sort than the stereotype) has indeed been part of their lives.
Perhaps we need to think of "salvation" as opportunity for transformation-----not so we'll go to heaven (Universalists believe in universal "going to heaven" anyhow) but so that our lives are more joyous and free, with less fear and shame and more love and respect.
Most world religions offer some interpretation of soteriology (the 50 cent word which means salvation) and most of those are framed in terms of how we treat each other and ourselves and what the rewards might be. Some offer heaven as a carrot; others offer increased meaning and joy in life.
We are all looking for increased meaning and joy in life. That's why we're here, hoping to find answers in our experiences that will lead us into deeper relationship with ourselves, each other, and the power beyond human power.
The sermon can be found on the UUCWI website at http://www.whidbey.com/uucwi/ministry.html