What You Should Know about Marianne Williamson before Thursday’s Debate

Next Thursday, the country at large will be introduced to Marianne Williamson as presidential candidate. For many however, she needs no introduction. Millions know her as their spiritual guide. She has written 14 books with four of them ending up as #1 best-sellers.

Nonetheless, that fame and popularity doesn’t appear in polls. And that’s not merely because her name is often excluded from such surveys. It’s also because her constituents are not regular Democrats who vote in every primary. As such, they’re typically not called by pollsters.

But anyone who has read her books or who watches her weekly lectures from New York City’s Marble Collegiate Church knows of the devotion and energy of Marianne’s followers. In fact, she has more of them on-line than nearly every one of her opponents. Those millions can be easily mobilized on her behalf.

So, who is this woman and how is she different from the other twenty Democratic candidates we’ll see in the debates?

Based on my study of her two specifically political books (Healing the Soul of America and A Politics of Love), along with attendance at her lectures and a three-day seminar, personal interviews, and especially considering her own guiding light, Helen Schucman’s A Course in Miracles, let me share with you what I think viewers should know about Marianne Williamson before next Thursday’s debate. For me, the following seems to encapsulate her basic vision and platform:  

  • We are living imprisoned in something very like Plato’s Cave. What’s happening in “the news” is nothing more than shadow-play. It’s all kabuki theater. It has no reality.
  • The truth is 180 degrees opposite of what the talking heads tell us there. Our attitude to the news and statements of our politicians should be like that of Russians to the official line articulated in Pravda (Truth!) before the collapse of the USSR: if they say “black,” think “white.” If they say “peace,” think “war.” If they say “good,” think “bad.”
  • Child welfare should be the center of any serious long-range economic planning. There should be a cabinet-level Secretary of Children and Youth whose purpose would be to transform childhood experience in the United States. All U.S. schools should be “palaces of learning and joy;” libraries should be “temples of arts and literacy.”
  • Reparations for enslavement of African Americans is another imperative. Williamson writes, “If you steal a lot of money from someone – and more than two hundred years of unpaid labor certainly amounts to a lot of it – then you owe them more than an apology. You owe them money.”
  • There is no new immigration crisis; immigrants are not the cause of our problems.
  • Borders are absolutely human-constructs; they are ever-changing and fluid.
  • In fact, the earth belongs to everyone. No one can really “own” any of it. We’re all just travelers passing through. We can’t – we won’t – take any of it with us.
  • Every human is our sister or brother regardless of where they live or are from.
  • What we do to others, we do to ourselves.
  • No one at this moment is aggressing against the United States in any way that is not linked to U.S. policy that aggressed against them first.
  • In fact, we have no real enemies. Neither Russians, Chinese, Iranians, Iraqis, Libyans, Ethiopians, Syrians, Palestinians, North Koreans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, or any other nation on the face of the earth is our enemy.
  • Yes, there are differences between the countries just mentioned and our own. But that’s entirely normal. Differences between people do not make them enemies. It makes them human and interesting.
  • Wars mostly issue from the vested interests of the military-industrial complex. The disappearance of global conflict would actually be bad news in terms of those interests for which war is highly profitable and welcome.
  • Similarly, the disappearance of hunger and poverty would also be bad news for multinational companies like General Foods and Ralston Purina. Their profits depend on the maintenance of such disasters.
  • War, hunger and poverty are symptoms of a fundamentally flawed economic system that creates and justifies excessive wealth on the one hand and extreme poverty, starvation, thirst and homelessness on the other.
  • No person or system has a right to deprive anyone else of food, water, shelter, clothing or life.
  • So, it’s not right for billionaires to exist in a world where millions are starving.
  • Especially, no one has a right to deny climate change whose processes will deprive the rest of us our grandchildren, and untold billions of creatures of life itself.
  • Those who do so have committed a grievous crime against humanity and should be put in jail or into re-education programs.

Such positions focused on children, historical injustices, the poor, peace, climate change and income redistribution clearly make Marianne Williamson a populist in the best sense of the word.

Recently, on “The View,” Meghan McCain took note of that and compared Marianne to Donald Trump. Williamson’s response made it clear that, like Bernie Sanders, she embraces populism, but in a way quite different from Mr. Trump. Both Trump and Sanders, she acknowledges, were right in pointing out Washington corruption and the need to address Main Street’s concerns. However, once in office, Trump did nothing about draining the swamp he correctly identified. Instead he cozied up to vested interested and filled his administration with officers from Goldman Sachs and other firms that as a campaigner he had railed against. Marianne’s 40-year consistency in maintaining positions like those just outlined show she’s not an inveterate liar like Mr. Trump. She will follow through on her promises.

On the same telecast, Whoopi Goldberg observed correctly that Marianne’s program with its concern for children, their education and the poor in general is not at all unique. “Think about Head Start under Lyndon Johnson,” she said.    

Of course, Goldberg was actually referring to FDR’s New Deal with its Social Security, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and vast government jobs programs. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiatives with programs like Head Start built on Roosevelt’s work. However, Williamson replied, the last 40 years have seen Republicans intentionally dismantle FDR’s programs in favor of socialism for the rich that has included huge tax breaks, government subsidies (e.g. $26 billion annually to fossil fuel companies), and massive bail-outs after the recipients had crashed the economy in 2008. Marianne is convinced that the gains of the New Deal and Great Society must be restored. That’s why she has pledged to fight for the Green New Deal and is fully supportive of TYT’s Progressive Pledge.

It should be noted that in holding the convictions and offering the policy proposals just summarized, Marianne Williamson is not an outlier. She is not at all unrealistic or naïve. She’s not some Bible-thumper or New Age fluff merchant.

Instead, her voice for justice joins with those of human civilization’s giants including the most acclaimed religious leaders everyone professes to admire.  Among them are the Buddha, the Jewish prophets, Jesus the Christ, Mohammed, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, the Dali Lama and Pope Francis.  In their ranks as well are Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Zinn, abolitionists like Sojourner Truth, and women suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton. These are the serious and absolutely profound traditions in which Marianne Williamson stands.

It’s no wonder, then, that she has all those millions of followers already mobilized on her behalf.

U.S. Concentration Camps Are Already Worse than Hitler’s

Recently Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) stirred controversy by characterizing U.S. immigration detention facilities as concentration camps. Critics said her comparison was over the top

It was an insult, some said, to families of Holocaust survivors. After all, none of the U.S. detention facilities is an extermination camp like Auschwitz or Buchenwald.

In response, AOC doubled down on her charge. Along with others, she was joined by historians, and even by the editors of The National Catholic Reporter in affirming her accusation. Concentration camps, they all said, are not synonymous with extermination camps. In essence, the former are locations where prisoners are held without charge. In that sense, the U.S. indeed maintains concentration camps, but nothing like German practice. The intention in making that distinction was evidently to distance U.S. camps from the horrors and death of Hitler’s infamous hell-holes.

The argument here takes issue with that distinction. It maintains instead that our burgeoning camps are every bit as brutal as Hitler’s. In fact, the number of deaths connected with the U.S. system dwarf the iconic number of six million incinerated, gassed, shot, or otherwise executed.

To begin with, we must first of all realize that U.S. concentration camps are not a new phenomenon begun with the presidency of Donald Trump. No, they have been with us at least since the end of the Second Inter-Capitalist War in 1945.

In fact, the argument can be credibly made that our country was explicitly founded on extermination, genocide and concentration camps. Using rationale supplied by John Locke, our Founding Fathers wiped out 90% of North America’s indigenous peoples, eventually confining survivors and their descendants in concentration camps (called “reservations”). They employed the same logic to enslave workers kidnapped from Africa imprisoning them in labor camps (called “plantations”).

For Locke, who inspired Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, the crucial and ironic pronouncement behind such operations was that “All men are created equal.” But note well that in his formulation, the statement had no liberating relevance for Native Americans, African slaves, women or propertyless whites. Instead, its expressed intention was to establish the right of imperialists like him and his cohorts to steal land and resources from the continent’s indigenous inhabitants and to exterminate resisters.

Locke’s point (as explained in my book, The Magic Glasses of Critical Thinking) was that just because the “Indians” were here first, they had no special claim on the lands they called home. That is, since (in Locke’s estimation) huge tracts were not being farmed as they would be in England, they were there for the taking by the Indians’ equals from Great Britain.

Locke said that a refusal by the Indians to recognize such equality amounted to a declaration of war against the British. So, the natives could be slaughtered with abandon – a task our country’s great Indian Fighters took on with enthusiasm and relish creating a holocaust that killed millions.

Adolph Hitler himself took inspiration from the examples just cited. He liked the concept of concentration and work camps. He was expressly impressed by the efficiency of U.S. extermination of our continent’s First Peoples. It inspired him and evidently the minds behind contemporary concentration camps.

With all this in mind, it is no exaggeration to say that the camps are reincarnating today before our very eyes. Our government has set them up world-wide. They are so ubiquitous and normalized that they remain practically invisible. But consider their contemporary equivalents in:

  • The U.S. prison-industrial complex itself for blacks, browns and poor whites transforming “Americans” into the most imprisoned population on the planet
  • Guantanamo Bay for holding “terrorists” who after years of internment and torture have yet to be charged with crime and which Fuhrer Trump promises to fill to the brim
  • Black Sites (sic!) concealed throughout the world where kidnapped Muslims and others disappear without a trace and are tortured without mercy
  • Fort Bliss (sic!), a concentration camp for immigrant children
  • Baby Prisons for infants as young as four months
  • Detention centers for refugees from U.S. wars of aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere
  • Family prisons for immigrant workers from Mexico and Central America as they await trials which can be postponed indefinitely  
  • The Gaza Strip, the world’s largest open-air prison for Muslim Palestinians, “the Jews’ Jews” – unconditionally endorsed by U.S. politicians of all stripes

In such hell-holes the criminals (often the guards) commit murders, rapes and inflict torture with impunity. Nonetheless, after Hitler, it is no longer permissible for such polite company to crudely incinerate victims in ovens or to poison them in gas chambers. (That would be too “inhumane” and reminiscent of the unspeakable.) So, today’s executioners murder and incinerate Muslims (today’s “Jews”), and others on site. (It saves the trouble and expense of packing them into box cars.)

In other words, the executioners travel to the victims’ countries of origin in the Middle East and Africa and do the dirty work there – often from 10,000 feet in the air, where the screams of incinerated Muslim children cannot be heard. They cremate their victims more humanely in the  targets’ own homes with napalm and white phosphorous. Alternatively, “pilots” seated comfortably in their air-conditioned “theaters” send automated Gestapo (killer drones) to decapitate those suspected of evil thoughts. In the process, the system’s butchers have massacred millions far exceeding anything imagined by that little man with the toothbrush mustache:

  • Already by 1978, John Stockwell, the highly decorated ex-CIA Station Chief in Angola, estimated that his agency’s “Secret Wars” had killed more than six million in its dirty wars against the world’s poor. In Stockwell’s own words, every one of those wars was illegal and “bloody and gory and beyond comprehension almost.”
  • Add to that
    • The hundreds of thousands slaughtered during the 1980s in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras
    • More than a million victims in the completely illegal war in Iraq
    • Untold fatalities in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Ethiopia,
    • The 10,000 already killed in Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East – with the numbers increasing each day from cholera and intentionally-inflicted starvation

Again, the numbers are staggering – far beyond anything accomplished in Hitler’s death camps.

Meanwhile, at home, “Americans” are dissuaded from protest by a militarized skin-head police force of body-builders and thugs. “Dressed to kill” in their black or camouflaged flack suits, and anonymous under their helmets and behind polarized face-shields, they stand ready with batons, tasers, and AK47s – as well as employing surplus military tanks, and Humvees – to punish anyone who dares opposition.

So, congratulations to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. She’s right again – this time about concentration camps. However, she and others are wrong to downplay the comparative horror of the U.S. system. It is every bit as horrendous as Hitler’s. To see the misery all one has to do is connect the dots. They’re there and though scattered are just waiting to be linked (exactly as they were in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power).

In fact, their presence is becoming more evident each day as is the emergence of Hitler-like fascism. We have only to open our eyes to see both phenomena, even though the camps, holocausts, and the system itself have been effectively renamed and camouflaged.

Thanks to AOC and others, the veils are beginning to fall; the issue is now before us. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s message: It’s high time for the rest of us to take note before it’s too late!   

Bread and Wine for War and Peace (Readings for the Solemnity of Christ’s Body & Blood)

In preparation for next Sunday’s commemoration of the Solemnity of Christ’s Body and Blood, here is my “translation” of the day’s sacred texts including its special sequence, “Lauda Sion.” Please read the originals yourselves to see what they might suggest by way of practical application. To me, they say something about priesthood, its perversions, and rejection by Jesus. More universally, they call me to think revolutionary thoughts about throwing off ALL inherited structures responsible, as they are, for war and impending omnicide. As Marx taught, any criticism worth its salt begins with religion. 
GN 14: 18-20
 
Melchizedek fed Abram,
Bread and wine.
Assuring the patriarch
Of God’s favor
In his mid-east wars,
Provided the sheik
Gave the priest
A tenth of all he possessed.
 
PS 110: 1-4
 
Subsequent clergy
In Melchizedek’s line
Have done the same
For kings who tithe
Promising them
Enemies become footstools
Forever and ever!
 
 
I COR 11: 23-26
 
Jesus
Like that gnarly pastor,
Served bread and wine too
But for God’s peace
Not Melchizedek’s war.
Those who shared
His simple meal
Were to re-member the Christ
And make his presence real
As Prince of Peace.
 
Sequence Lauda Sion
 
Yes, Melchizedek’s offering
Is turned upside-down
By the priesthood’s
Severest critic.
Who feeds both
Kings and shepherds.
Apostles and us
Uniting all
And replacing
Antique class-warfare
And our own
Damnable understandings
Of Eucharist
With a picnic of peace
So that wheat and grape
Might become
OUR flesh and blood,
To afterwards incarnate
Christ’s own body
To complete his work
On earth.
 
LK 9: 11B-17

So what's the point
Of this parable's tale
(Ironically chosen
By Melchizedek's sons)
If not to say
What Eucharist's for
To feed the hungry
Towards peace not war.
No Melchizedek
No miracle
No market
No priesthood
No transubstantiation's
Required here.
“Do it yourselves”
Jesus told his friends
(And us).
And that’s just
What the apostles
(And a little boy)
Did
To everyone’s satisfaction
With lots left-over!
Let those with ears to hear . . .

Candidate Marianne Williamson Reduces All Of Our Problems to One (Trinity Sunday Homily)

On this Trinity Sunday, Marianne Williamson’s basic approach to our national problems reminds me of traditional trinitarian doctrine. I mean, when I was a kid in catechism class, the mystery of the Holy Trinity seemed like one of those word-problems I found so difficult in arithmetic. I wondered, how can there be three divine persons in one God? Was it 3+ 1= 1? Or was it 3 ÷ 1 = 1? I was confused.

Williamson’s basic approach to politics presents a similar quandary. Her basic math problem is: How can we solve our myriad national problems? There seem to be so many. However, like what I heard in catechism class, her solution remains theological. But it goes like this 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1 = One.

What she means is that we really have only a single problem. It’s extremely personal, but at the same time very political and highly theological. It’s our relationship with God (though we might with good reason reject that particular word as culturally debased). Williamson observes that (whatever name we might prefer) until we get our God-problem straightened out, all those other difficulties will continue to plague us and threaten our very survival.

That simple but profound spiritual insight is what distinguishes Williamson from other Democratic candidates for president. It’s that ecumenical, all-inclusive spirituality that separates her from Republican Christianists. Specifically, it calls us to profoundly correct our perception of reality from that of the “world” based on fear and greed to a divine perception based on love and compassion.

Think, for instance, about our endless political troubles. Internationally, they’re based on the conviction that we are surrounded by enemies radically different from us. They are so threatening that we must spend billions each day — yes, nearly $2 billion every 24 hours — to protect ourselves against the likes of Russia, China, North Korea, Syria, Yemen(!), ISIS, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and against immigrants and refugees from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico.

Domestically, politicians want us to think that we’re threatened not only by all those foreigners, immigrants and refugees, but by what the Clintons once termed “super-predators” who tend to be black or brown, by LGBTQQIA individuals, and by poor people in general. That’s why we end up imprisoning a greater percentage of our population than any other country — and that doesn’t even include the immigrants and refugees in our border concentration camps and baby jails, or those in the black sites (sic!) we maintain across the globe.

No wonder we anesthetize ourselves to forget it all. So, we consume drugs like guns, alcohol, pot, amphetamines, other pharmaceuticals, tobacco, our iPhones, pornography, spectator sports, snacking, comfort food, and TV binges. That’s quite a list, don’t you think? Each item creates its own problem in the personal and familial spheres. It’s a never-ending cycle of threat-fear-denial and escape. And it’s all-encompassing.

However, according to Williamson, all of that — the guns, wars, fear of “the other,” and narcotization of all sorts — are simply means of side-stepping our only real problem: God.

And that’s what’s centralized in today’s Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The day’s readings call us to face the nature of God straight-on. And it has nothing to do with catechism math. Neither, according to today’s biblical selections, is God what we’ve been taught. God is not a judge, punisher, and torturer. Instead, the passages selected for this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity invite us to appreciate divine goodness and love for all of humankind, and to use those insights to reduce our countless problems to merely one.

Consider today’s readings. (Please read them for yourself here.) They describe for us the three-fold nature of the One we find so problematic. As depicted in the graphic above, she is Mother (Wisdom), Father (Creator), and Child (as revealed in Jesus the Christ). Here’s my “translation” of this Trinity Sunday’s readings specifically about the nature of God:

PRV 8:22-31

God as Wisdom Itself 
Is embodied in all the world.
As feminine and Mother
She is like a skilled craftswoman
Who set the very foundations of the earth
And shores of the seas
All in a spirit of playfulness
Finding special delight in the human race.

PS 8: 4-9

Which is amazingly loved 
By the Creator-Father
For whom
All human beings are like angels
Glorious and honorable
Caretakers and rulers of
Wild and domesticated animals
Birds and sea creatures
And whose traditions across the earth 
Have always recognized
And loved 
The Reality of God. 

ROM 5: 1-4

It is that universally-shared faith 
That gives human existence
Worth and value
Making possible 
Peace among nations
Giving us hope
But putting us at odds with “the world”
Which punishes us for our faith
(contradicting, as it does 
The world’s fear-full “wisdom”).
But the world’s opposition
Only strengthens
Our sensitivity to
The Holy Spirit of Jesus.

JN 16: 11-15

Who offers
A guiding vision of the future
Expressed in teachings
About humankind’s fundamental 
Unity with God
And each other.

Do you see how owning and interiorizing that single trinitarian vision of Mother, Father, and Child holds potential for dissolving our countless problems? The earth belongs to all of us who constitute a single family. Each angelic member is loved by God who as our Female-Male Parent has filled all with the very Spirit of Jesus. His fundamental teaching is to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as our self. That means we need to recognize that those whom we fear as enemies and foreigners are our very Self. Or, as Marianne Williamson puts it, “There is really only one of us here.”

According to Williamson, interiorizing that insight and expressing it in our personal, familial, social, spiritual and political lives would absolutely eliminate every single problem I listed earlier.

So how do we get from here to such problem-free existence? That’s where Williamson descends from the sublime to the nitty-gritty. Unlike some others who’ve qualified for the first presidential debate, she’s signed Cenk Uygur’s TYT Progressive Pledge. (You can sign it here.) Watch how she responds to Uygur’s questions:

Yes, I know, that sounds very similar to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. However, Marianne’s distinguishing edge is her insistence on calling for the change in spiritual consciousness that is necessary to effect redirection of U.S. policies. In that sense, she’s far more progressive than anyone else in the field.

Opponents and the media, of course, will smile and condescendingly pat her on the head and say, “Oh, that’s very sweet, Marianne, but quite naive. Your approach will never work in the dog-eat-dog world we live in.”

However, along with Jesus and countless others whom we profess to admire, Williamson reminds us that it is precisely the “world’s” patronizing approach that is not working. That “realism” has brought us to the brink of atomic, biological, climatic, demographic, and economic annihilation (and as Crossan says, that’s only up to “e” in the alphabet!).

What remains unimplemented on a broad scale is the explicitly spiritual approach of Jesus, Gandhi, of Quakers in the Abolitionist and Women’s Suffragist Movements, of the Baptist preacher Martin Luther King, of Catholic priests like the Berrigan brothers, and of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers .

Along with today’s readings, all those spiritually inspired and deeply politicized figures agree with Marianne Williamson: We have only one problem; it’s about family; it’s about correcting our relationship with our Mother and Father in the Holy Trinity of which all humans are an integral part. Williamson is right: we have only one problem; there is really only one of us here. We are infinitely closer than brothers and sisters. Her presidency will move us towards a practical realization of that vision.

Marianne Williamson: The Most Radical Candidate

Readings for Pentecost Sunday: ACTS 2: 1-11; PS 104: 1, 24, 29-30, 34; I COR 12: 3B-7, 12-13; ROM 8: 8-17; JN 20: 19-23

Today is Pentecost Sunday. Fifty days after Easter, it celebrates the day that followers of Jesus decided to overcome their fears and form a community to carry on Jesus work of introducing what he called the Kingdom of God as an alternative to Rome’s Kingdom of Caesar.

Whether the realization dawned on Easter day itself (as in today’s Gospel reading from John) or 50 days later (as described in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles), today’s celebration reminds us that Jesus’ Spirit stands 180 degrees opposed to that of empire – the spirit of the world. That’s because Jesus’ Spirit is embodied in the victims of empire’s torture and capital punishment. It recognizes the poor rather than the rich as the bearers of peace, joy, and prosperity. That’s what John means by recalling that before conferring his Spirit of Peace, Jesus “showed them his hands and his side.” That’s what today’s Sequence means when it identifies Jesus Spirit as the “Father of the poor.”  

During this election season, I cannot help connecting those Pentecostal insights to Marianne Williamson. That’s because alone among Democratic presidential candidates, she specifically recognizes the incompatibility between Jesus’ teaching that prioritizes love and forgiveness and the spirit that governs our world characterized by fear, greed, lies, and violence. For Williamson, such opposition remains a spiritual truism, whether we connect it with Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Krishna, the Buddha, or simply with LIFE or NATURE. Acknowledging that, Williamson’s candidacy is calling for a national change of consciousness from fear and greed to one driven by love and compassion.

Yes, she dares to do that with great specificity! And her wisdom and sincerity in doing so can hardly be questioned. In fact, we know more about Marianne Williamson, her philosophy, spirituality, and the workings of her mind than any other candidate. That’s because she’s spent, more than 30 years talking about nothing else. It’s all part of the public record. She’s used her spirituality (what today’s liturgy identifies with the Spirit of Jesus) to help individuals, couples, and congregations reach depths of critical thinking that even progressives might consider far too radical. For instance, she holds that:

  • We live imprisoned in a deceptive world much like Plato’s Cave.
  • There, what the world presents as truth is 180 degrees opposite of the truth of God (though no one need use that historically debased term).
  • The world’s truth is governed by fear and greed.
  • It identifies the “other” (e.g., poor people, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, non-whites, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, North Korea, ISIS) as the cause of our problems, while “we” are innocent.
  • The fact is none of those just listed is our enemy. All of us are more than brothers and sisters; in fact, there is really no meaningful distinction between us. What we do to them, we do to ourselves.
  • As a result, God’s ultimate truth is governed by love and compassion and by the realization that all humans are ultimately innocent.
  • That’s true even of Donald Trump, John Bolton, and Mike Pompeo. Though they are sociopaths who need to be removed from office and to face the consequences of their crimes, they too are performing the spiritual service of revealing as never before the corruption of the prevailing system that deceitfully serves the rich rather than the rest of us.

Insights like those have been among Marianne Williamson’s guiding convictions for more than 30 years.  And at least since 1998 and the publication of her Healing the Soul of America, she has scandalized many of her would-be followers by connecting her profound spirituality to deeply radical politics. In that book, she predicted the rise of a force like Donald Trump if the “higher consciousness community” and the rest of us failed to make similar connections. The title (and content!) of her latest book, The Politics of Love, doubles down on the radicalness of her analysis.

Imagine governing our country and the world according to the Spirit described in today’s readings. They are crystal-clear in their contradiction of what we’ve been led to accept as normal and unavoidable in the realm of politics. Review the readings for yourself. They tell us that Christ’s Spirit:

  • Is international; it loves equally people of all nations (Acts 2: 1-11)
  • Is abundantly creative and universal involving not just human beings, but all of creation (PS 104: 1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34)
  • Refuses to recognize religious distinctions, e.g. between Jews and “pagan” Greeks (ICOR 12: 3B-7, 12-13)
  • Embodies wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, and joy (Special Pentecostal Sequence)
  • Recognizes forgiveness as the key to peace (JN 20: 19-23)

Isn’t it true that most Americans, who describe themselves as somehow “Christian,” would find the convictions just listed as unrealistic or even suicidal if applied to politics?

But, of course, those ideals have never been tried. And, according to Williamson, that’s just the point. Failure to apply the spiritual insights advocated by Jesus and those other spiritual avatars have led us to our present impasse. That “realism,” she observes, is what’s really suicidal. It’s destroying our planet and threatening us with nuclear holocaust. For Williamson, making America great again means following a radically different path. It means following the example of Quaker-inspired abolitionists, of the similarly motivated suffragettes, of the Baptist preacher Martin Luther King, of war-resisters like the Catholic priests Phil and Daniel Berrigan, of Dorothy Day and Mohandas Gandhi. Those figures and the tradition they represent constitute the truly “great” part of the American tradition. 

To put it bluntly, Marianne Williamson, like the feast of Pentecost itself, is asking Americans to overcome their fears and form the beloved human community envisioned by Jesus, King and those others. But to do so, she says, we must completely reject everything empire values as true and worthy. Instead, Williamson invites us to recognize solidarity with those empire actually despises. Russians, Chinese, Iranians, Venezuelans, Syrians, North Koreans, Muslims, immigrants, the poor in general, even ISIS fighters, and especially the world’s children are beloved by God. Rather than rejection, wars, dronings and sanctions, they deserve respect and inclusion in any negotiations that affect them. At the same time, those actually in power are often thieves, sociopaths and criminals. They deserve compassion but must be treated accordingly. All of that encapsulates the radicalness of Marianne Williamson’s approach to politics. It also encapsulates the Spirit of Jesus – his ultimate gift celebrated this Pentecost Sunday. Is that too radical, even for Christians, even for progressives?  The alternative, Williamson reminds us, is just not working out.

What Stephen Saw (Yet We Do Not) — Homily for 7th Sunday of Easter

Readings for Seventh Sunday of Easter

ACTS 7:55-60

Stephen
Executed before Paul
Falls asleep
Envisioning God’s Kingdom
While forgiving the ignorant
Who cover their ears
Against hearing
The Human One
Who substitutes God’s Reign
Of compassion and love
For religion’s insatiable
Blood thirst. 

PS 97: 1-2, 6,7,9

Yes, Jesus’ Kingdom rests
Not on executioners’ haste
To throw the first stone
But on justice
Joy and gladness
For everyone
It confers judgment
Revealing
The emptiness of
Everything
Killers venerate.

REV 22:12-14, 16-17, 20

May God’s Kingdom come!
Even amid roadside missiles and martyrs’ gore.
Hear the urgency!
“Come, come, come, come, come, come”
Six times over:
Come Alpha and Omega
First and Last
Beginning and End
Root and branch
Starlight and Bride
Water and Life.

JN 17: 20-16

It’s about Unity
The Master assures
Five times he says:
One, one, one, one, one
We are
Close like Jesus and Abba.
Foundationally coherent
With them, Stephen, Paul
And those myopic men
Throwing rocks
Powerful enough
To awaken
Prophet’s rage
To know, know, know, know, know, know
(Count them!)
That God and
We are One
Rendering stones and blood
Impotent
To destroy
Shared unity
At divine core.






	

Marianne Williamson and War (Memorial Day Sunday Homily)

Readings for 6th Sunday of Easter: ACTS 15: 1-2, 22-29; PS 67: 2-3, 5-6, 8; REV 21: 10-14, 22-23; JN 14: 23-29

It’s Memorial weekend already – the unofficial beginning of summer, 2019. As usual, it’s a day when our country celebrates war and its heroes. That’s simply the American way of commemorating every patriotic occasion.

Appropriately however, this weekend’s liturgy of the word introduces a note of dissent. It centralizes peace as the content of Jesus last will and testament. In so doing, it implicitly contrasts Jesus’ concept of peace with that of Rome or any empire for that matter. The Roman Tacitus described his country’s understanding with the famous aphorism: “They create a desert and call it peace.” For me, Tacitus’ description applies just as well to the United States.

With that in mind, it also seems appropriate to connect Memorial Day, the peace Jesus advocated and the presidential candidacy of Marianne Williamson. I say “appropriate” this time because Williamson is the only candidate in the crowded Democratic field who thematically centralizes the need for change of specifically spiritual consciousness about all things political – including matters of war and peace. Her attitude on those issues corresponds closely with that of Jesus as expressed in today’s Gospel reading.

Marianne Williamson and Peace

To begin with, Williamson is a harsh critic of the Pentagon and the policy of perpetual war into which our country has increasingly fallen since the Second Inter-Capitalist War (1939-’45) and especially since 9/11/01. 

In fewer than 100 years, she points out, the real driving force behind United States military posture has become the interests of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing and other defense contractors. That has Americans, for instance, buying one hundred B-21 stealth bombers each costing $550 million and each capable of carrying thermonuclear weapons. That’s $55 billion in total.

Such investment, Williamson says, is completely over-the-top. Why 100 planes of that type? At the very least, it all seems completely out-of-proportion to the danger posed by our perceived terrorist enemy. Terrorists belong to no particular state. Very often they are home-grown. In any case, their hit-and-run attacks cannot be effectively answered with wholesale bombing, much less with nuclear weapons. Williamson writes:

“America today is like the British Red Coats during the Revolutionary War – standing abreast in a straight line waiting for someone to yell ‘Fire!’ while American colonists were hiding behind trees like the early guerrilla fighters that they were. Our entire notion of national security is like something out of another century.”  

Instead of such waste and without neglecting legitimate defense concerns, Williamson calls for effective recognition of the soul force of peace building. She wants established a US Department of Peace that would make peace-creation a central goal of national policy, both foreign and domestic.  It would use resources like those now wasted on those B-21s to support diplomatic efforts with those currently villainized in order to justify purchase of overpriced weapons systems.

Peace building would reconstruct the cities that US policy has destroyed. It would support educational opportunities for children, expand economic prospects for women, and in general alleviate human suffering across the planet. “That would be the moral thing to do,” Williamson says. “That would be the loving thing to do. And that would be the smart thing to do.” In summary she says, “The best way to create a more peaceful world is to treat people with greater compassion.”

Jesus and Peace

Williamson’s approach to peace-building is in sync with Jesus last will and testament expressed in today’s liturgy of the word. There he says: My peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. Not as the world (meaning Rome) gives, do I give.”

Jesus words and ultimate fate remind us that Rome’s policies created terrorists no less predictably than our own country’s way of creating “peace.” It led the empire to identify Jesus as a terrorist and execute him accordingly.

Jesus, I’m sure, must have hated Rome. Like all his Jewish contemporaries, he must have despised Rome’s imperial presence in Palestine – especially since it was headed by a man who considered himself God, Savior, Lord, and Prince of Peace. Scholars remind us that empire was the most significant factor shaping Jesus’ life. We know for a fact that he opposed it vigorously – especially its local collaborators personified in the Jewish high priesthood of his day, along with the scribes, Pharisees and Jewish high court. However, his resistance was non-violent.

Yes, Jesus’ peace is not what the world calls peace. It’s not Roman peace which was imposed by means of war. Rome’s, like the Pentagon’s, was peace through victory – always supported by Roman religion. In fact, as scripture scholar John Dominic Crossan, puts it in God and Empire: Jesus against Rome then and now, the exact sequence was religion – war – victory – peace. Sound familiar?

By contrast, the peace Jesus bequeathed had nothing to do with Rome or empire in general. His peace is brought not by victory, but by justice – especially for the poor. His was not peace through victory, but peace through justice. As I noted last week, that point was made in the programmatic sermon the Master gave in Nazareth at the beginning of his public life. These are the words with which he described his very purpose: “The Spirit of the Lord in on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (LK 4: 17-19).

Jesus was about serving the poor, releasing the imprisoned, caring for the disabled, liberating the enslaved, and ending debt servitude. His peace had nothing to do with victory as the world understands it – as Rome understood it or as the United States does. The sequence of Jesus’ gift to the world was religion – nonviolence – justice – peace.

Conclusion

And that’s what Marianne Williamson’s national defense program is about as well. It entails a spiritual conversion that takes its cue as well from Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. It also takes heed of Republican Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about the dangers of the military-industrial complex. Williamson’s program would:

  • Have our country live within its means
  • Emphasize peace building rather than war-making
  • Rather than bombs and drones, it would rain down rebuilt homes, schools, hospitals, factories, temples, mosques and churches on the enemies created by our imperial philosophy of peace through victory   

And to those who say that all of that won’t work or that it’s totally unrealistic, Williamson is fond of responding, “And how’s that realism working out for you?” In fact, it’s creating more terrorists and mayhem while simultaneously destroying the planet.

We’ve got to try something different. And that means national spiritual conversion. It’s in that call for repentance, transformation and restorative justice that the campaigns of Jesus and Marianne Williamson coincide. And that coincidence has nothing to do with memorializing, much less glorifying our country’s ceaseless imperial wars.

(By the way, Marianne has not only achieved the 65,000 unique donors required for her to appear in the debates with other presidential candidates. As well, she has surpassed the minimum 1% support in 3 separate national polls. Nate Silver has identified her as a major candidate.)