Universalism. It’s a philosophy of religious pluralism. “All religious traditions honour the same divine Spirit. We just approach God differently.”
Normally, I’m not a fan of universalism. It can gloss over differences. And sometimes, universalists insist their God is the one everyone worships.
But, last week, I saw universalism’s good side.
The Book of Lamentations tells a Jewish story. Devastation and then renewal. Grief and also resilience.
But this year, Lamentations spoke to me of other nations’ histories, too.
The narrator says: Jerusalem’s infants went into captivity because of the enemy (1.5).
Then Jerusalem herself sobs: My teens went into captivity (1:18).
Of course, I thought of the Indigenous children buried at residential school. Children taken from their homes. Forced to learn the ways of the colonial power. And then tossed aside.
Just like the children in Lamentations. Their story continues in the Book of Daniel. Daniel and his friends are separated from their parents. They grow up in an imperial boarding school. The boys take new, foreign names. But sometimes they continue in their old traditions. Then the imperial officers toss them into a furnace.
Miraculously, Daniel and his friends live. That’s not a realistic plot point. Instead, it’s symbolic. Daniel and his friends are resilient.
Maybe I’m wrong to see these parallels. Because it’s not my place to tell another nation’s story. But, last week, Indigenous friends encouraged me to look for what is similar. As a starting point, anyway.
Indigenous leader Gloria Snow (Stoney Nakoda) explained it. “Universalism is the most respectful philosophy. It puts us all on an equal footing. So we can share what’s common, and then find our relationship.” Then, we can correct, critique, and move forward together.
Thank you, Gloria. It’s a good way to start.