An academic's look at Universalism's reputation as second-rate Unitarianism

Ann Lee Bressler’s Universalist Movement in America, 1770-1880 is one of the finest works on the subjects I know. This thought, from page 42, is vital to our understanding of the movement — as a social movement — in conjunction with Unitarianism.

The rise of restorationism during the second quarter of the [nineteenth] century helped ensure the common characterization of Universalism would be Unitariarianism’s poor relation, a form of liberalism that shared Unitarianism’s view of benevolent divinity and perfectible humanity but lacked its intellectual base and social standing.

What would have been the alternative? Ultra-Universalists (infers Bressler) which disavowed a temporary period of punishment after death and thus avoided the moralism that gives most religions in America their particular flavor and ferver. Ultra-Universalism was more concerned with a common humanity, the consciousness of which — among other things — overcame fear and self-centeredness.

But  ultra-Universalism was too easily painted with the brush of lax morals and the early impulse that way was quenched, leading to the quotation above.

One Reply to “An academic's look at Universalism's reputation as second-rate Unitarianism”

  1. I can explain Universalism easily. I’ve had more orthodox Christians ask me to explain Unitarianism in the hope they’ll understand Trinitarianism more easily. That’s a tough slog of a talk. I think Universalism will last longer than Unitarianism.

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