Philocrites touches on a matter bothers me very much: the false appropriation of Universalism as a moniker for “Unitarianism lite.” Not that the Universalists didn’t originally collude in this arrangement; even in the nineteenth century liberal forces among the Universalists were cozying up along side the Unitarians. But they knew who they were.
Today, “neo-Universalists” pretend the tradition is made up of bumpkins who frequented revivals (quite the opposite) and who were soft-hearted saps. (Again, quite the opposite; if anything, old Universalists were rather fierce, but I wouldn’t want to re-institute their debate mentality.)
If anything, “neo-Universalists” are guilty of applying insulting and anachronistic sex roles to the respective traditions, and make Universalism the fawning, none-too bright wife of Unitarianism, who nonetheless is teeming with mother-love and good feeling for all. Mrs. Unitarian looses her name, identity, home, and income. (The fable paints “her” as poor, but the history is plain about how the Universalists bailed out the Unitarians after consolidation.) If there is a different between the Unitarian ways and the Universalist ways, we know who always loses. (Except for the Central Fellowship Committee qua Ministerial Fellowship Committee, which covers half of the old Universalist role. In the day, Universalist churches were subject to fellowship rules like ministers were. But instead of seeing today’s MFC as an imperfect Universalist inheritance, it is often derided as “creeping Presbyterianism” or worse.)
I used to get mad about this inequity. Now I just keep hammering away about what Universalism is, and what it is not.