What is hell like if universalism is true? The nineteenth century novelist and universalist George MacDonald has a great description of what it might be like in his novel Lilith. But since I don’t have the novel in front of me, I’ll offer my own proposal: a native healing circle.
So what is a “healing circle” exactly? Here’s one definition: “The healing circle is a talking circle with the intention of specifically addressing or healing an individual or individuals. Often lead [sic] by an elder or spiritual leader, the healing circle is more formal than the talking circle.” (http://aboriginalhealth.vch.ca/terms.htm) In a healing circle victims are brought together with victimizers for conversation as the latter are forced to confront the nature of their own crimes and the impact on the victims. The end result is restoration between the two parties. (In this respect a healing circle shares parallels with an intervention.)
Could it be that the restorative view of hell consists of a process by which victimizers are led to confront the full implications of their victimization of and injustice toward others (other human persons, creation, God) and themselves so that they are brought to a point of repentance, restoration and transformation?
Among the appealing dimensions of this view of universal restoration is the way it handily recognizes the intuition that it should take a lot longer for a Hitler to be restored than the average bloke who cut off a couple grannies in traffic and cheated on his taxes once. On a punitive read of that intuition you do a bigger crime and you do longer time. On a restorative view it takes commensurately longer to be restored the more egregious the nature of one’s crime. Consequently, while the guy who cut off the two grannies and cheated on his taxes might take three days to come to terms with the nature of his crimes it might take Hitler the equivalent of hundreds or thousands of years. Just imagine it: a healing circle that consists of millions of human beings to say nothing of the testimony of scorched earth throughout Europe and an infinite divine majesty offended. Indeed, that could take awhile.