This lesson is about the famous Unitarian Universalist Adin Ballou.
Unitarian Universalists believe that by working against oppression and toward peace, we move closer to respecting all people in our lives.
Our first Unitarian Universalist principle or our Red Promise is: Respect All People. Another way to say this is that we promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Each person is a gift and needs to be treated with respect. This principle asks that we work against oppression and racism and for the humane treatment of all people around the world.
In our Unitarian Universalist tradition, we have many heroes and heroines who lived their beliefs and influenced others with their lives. One of these was Adin Ballou who lived over 150 years ago in the New England area of the United States.
Adin Ballou’s utopian community lived the UU first principle beginning in 1841, when he and a group of his followers bought a farm in the western part of Milford, MA. They named the farm Hopedale. (A utopian community is a group of people who decide to live together and share all possessions and create their own ideal rules for living that they think are better than the society they live in.)
Hopedale practiced what Adin coined as Practical Christianity with Jesus at the center of their theology, but in the religion that Jesus outlined in the New Testament. Their covenant included both pacifist and moral ideas that prevented the residents of Hopedale from discriminating against another person nor from involvement in certain sinful behaviors such as gambling or drinking. Even though Hopedale only lasted for 15 years and disbanded in 1856, Ballou’s ideas carried forward.
Adin Ballou was both a Unitarian and Universalist at a time when the two were still separate churches. He was caught up in an argument with Universalists over universal salvation and whether a soul must do some amount of time in purgatory. Purgatory was the Christian idea that people had to suffer for their sins here on earth by going to a place where they could atone for minor sins such as lying or cheating before they could go to heaven. This was an ongoing debate with Adin’s conviction that a soul damned to hell should spend some time there. His opponents believed all souls would gain salvation and go to heaven. In the end, Adin joined the Unitarians, although he felt the Unitarians were a bit lukewarm on the subject of moral improvement.
Slavery and the selling of alcoholic beverages were some of the first social reform issues that Adin took up. Although some people disagreed with him and his ministry, Adin had many strong and developed supporters. He was a tireless reformer and sought to bring his Christian socialist visions into practice including prison reform, care of the mentally ill, peace, transcendentalism, abolition of war and the abolition of slavery. Most of these efforts took place in the 1830s and 1840s.
Adin Ballou believed in Christian non-resistance, which Jesus spoke of in the New Testament. Adin highlights The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:39 where Jesus states, “resist not evil.” This puts Adin in a different category than most religious pacifists of his time in that he felt it necessary for one to resist “human” evil. Adin published the following in his most acclaimed book Christian Non-Resistance: “A great transition of the human mind has commenced, and the reign of military and penal violence must ultimately give place to that of forbearance, tolerance, and mercy.” In other words, violence cannot gain peace, tolerance or mercy.
As a Practical Christian, Adin felt that self-preservation should be gained by non-resistant methods rather than by force or violence. Adin believed his pacifist ideas also included non-participation in governments, although he strongly felt this should be done without rebelling or resisting any ordinances by physical force.
“How many does it take to metamorphose wickedness into righteousness? One man must not kill. If he does, it is murder…. But a state or nation may kill as many as they please, and it is not murder. It is just, necessary, commendable, and right. Only get people enough to agree to it, and the butchery of myriads of human beings is perfectly innocent. But how many does it take?” wrote Adin Ballou in The Non-Resistant, published February 5, 1845.
I wonder if you have ever heard of Adin Ballou before?
I wonder which part of this story is the most important?
I wonder which part of this story you liked the best?
I wonder how easy it is to put your faith into action?
I wonder if you have ever put your Unitarian*Universalist faith into action?
I wonder if you have ever taken part in a protest?
I wonder if you ever see things that are wrong in your school and other places, like cheating or shoplifting?
I wonder what you can do about them?
I wonder what you would say to someone who you see doing something wrong?
I wonder what things happening in the world you feel are important enough to stand up for?
I wonder what practices you have developed that help you to follow our first principle?
I wonder how you can respect someone whom you disagree with?
I wonder what other principles or promises this story reminds you of?
Dessert Time! Microwave Banana Cake