March 30, 2008 by 19 Comments
Doesn’t American Christianity, (and that includes American Catholicism) already reassure everyone of the Divine Mercy–even to the exclusion of Divine Justice? What I’m talking about is the tendency towards universalism–that belief that everyone will one day get to heaven.
The problem with universalism is that it is simply too good to be true. To be more precise, it is too good to be true–especially for universalists. What I mean is that most people who think God is too nice to send anyone to hell really mean that he wouldn’t send them to hell. That is not only too good to be true, it is too comfortable to be true, and whenever I find a religious belief that is comfortable (rather than comforting) I suspect it as bogus.
Built into universalism is an incredible assumption of self righteousness. God would not surely send me to hell! At the very root of this belief is the overbearing conviction that I am okay as I am, and that assumption is surely the one sin, above all, that is unforgivable. It is unforgivable not because God cannot or will not forgive it, but because the guilty person cannot see that there is anything to forgive. He does not, and cannot know his need of God, and is therefore not only likely to be damned, but he is first in line.
The other dangerous thing about universalism is its tendency to reduce religious and moral judgements to questions of good manners and respectable behavior. The universalist finds it difficult to imagine God sending his bank manager to hell because the fellow is such a nice chap, a member of the country club, supports the Rotary and goes to church every Sunday. Judgements are made on outward appearances, and the shallow unitarian assumes that everyone, deep down, is just as nice and squeaky clean and wholesome as all those beautiful people in Coca Cola advert
Sharp moral judgements, a keen eyed sense of sin and a stern sentence–first of all against ourselves–is what is needed. I worry that Divine Mercy devotion may indulge all the wrong sentiments and that what our society needs most at this moment is a reminder that Jesus Christ is not only the Divine Mercy, but also the Righteous Judge at the End of Days.