I was asked by an online friend yesterday why I do not just call myself a “universalist.” It’s a good question. I am often asked by friend and foe alike why I call myself “Presbyterian.” I am so non-traditional, why don’t I become a Unitarian?
I have great respect for the Unitarians, but I think of myself as a Presbyterian Universalist.
“Presbyterian,” for me, represents the particular parts of faith I share with those in my community. We have a particular view of Jesus. We have particular hymns that we love. We have a particular vocabulary of meaning. If I were just a universalist, I would lack the particular vocabulary and rituals to share life intimately in community.
By the same token, if I were just Presbyterian, I would have a bracket around my thinking and my ethics. I could not share this world as fully with non-Christians to whom I owe justice and compassion, too. Love demands that I be bigger than my own sect.
So I want to be both Presbyterian and universalist. I want to live intimately in community, but to consecrate that community to the common good.
But just because I am a pluralist does not make me a relativist. There are very specific virtues required to live for the common good. So there are forms of religion I reject. When someone says there isn’t room for me in their version of Christianity, I think to myself. “And that’s why I don’t want your version of Christianity. In your version, I would have to become like you to be welcome. In my version, there is room for you to be you and for me to be me. Doesn’t that make the larger version twice as good?”