Marianne Williamson, Reparations & Restorative Justice

Readings for 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time: WIS 11:22-12:2; PS 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14; 2 THES 1:11-2:2; JN 3:16; LK 1:1-10

Today’s readings for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time bring up questions of restorative justice and reparations for the harm we may have caused others as individuals and as Americans.

The day’s main focus is the familiar story of the tax collector Zacchaeus.  This very wealthy man was inspired by Jesus to give half of his possessions to the poor and to restore to those he had defrauded four times as much as he had embezzled.

Zacchaeus’ example makes me think of Marianne Williamson’s campaign for president which has made reparations a central plank in her platform.  

Of course, Marianne’s reparations focus is the African American community. But her rationale for it suggests something far beyond race relations within the United States.  It intimates as well reparations to victims of U.S. foreign policy and to Mother Nature herself.

Let me explain and then show how the explanation is related to this day’s readings.

To begin with, yes, I’m still supporting Marianne Williamson for president.  She is the only candidate who confronts us with the undeniable truth that Americans need a fundamental change in consciousness if we are to address the unprecedented problems currently facing humankind.

That’s what Marianne means by “miracles” — changes in fundamental perceptions. That was also central to Jesus’ proclamation about the Kingdom of God. We must think differently about the world and act accordingly.

So, it’s not a question of merely tweaking the reigning economic system or of reviving Roosevelt’s New Deal. What we need is an entirely new world vision that operates from the premise that everything we see is completely upside down. Reality stands 180 degrees away from what our culture tells us. All of it. If our culture says “black,” we should think “white.” If it says “good,” we should think “bad.” If it says “peace,” we should know they’re getting us ready for another war.

Instead, we are all one – women, men, children, immigrants, refugees, animals, plants, and the very air we breathe. That’s the basis of Marianne Williamson’s candidacy. There are no foreigners, no sacrosanct borders – no America First. In fact, the United States must take 100% responsibility for the world’s ills.  

My decision to continue my support of Marianne Williamson was reinforced by listening to a campaign speech she gave at Yale University last week.

There she made the following points that she has always centralized in her approach to politics and to simply living as an evolved human being in our troubled world. Notice how they echo today’s Gospel themes, reparations and restorative justice:

  1. We all know that until we identify and address the root of our problems in our personal, family, and community relationships, we’ll never truly solve those problems.
  2. However, what is true in our personal lives also applies to our nation, because nations are simply groups of individuals.
  3. As Americans, we have been unwilling to face up to the harm caused by slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation on the one hand and to the resulting wealth accumulation in the white community on the other.
  4. The same holds true for U.S. foreign policy which has been based on colonialism and neocolonialism which are simply euphemisms for forcefully transferring wealth from the Global South to the Global North.
  5. Such transfer-by-force has been destructive not only to people but to the natural environment destroyed by industrialized agriculture, rainforest destruction, overfishing, and massive waste disposal in what’s been called the Third World.
  6. We thus owe reparations to African Americans, to the Global South, and to Mother Nature.
  7. Marianne’s presidency would have us directly confront those problems as the sine qua non for solving our national dilemmas, world poverty, and impending climate catastrophe.

Now, those are truly radical positions (in the etymological sense of that term). No other candidate – not even Bernie or Elizabeth Warren – addresses them at the level of consciousness emphasized by Marianne Williamson.

So, think about that and Marianne’s position on reparations and restorative justice as you read the selections included in this Sunday’s liturgy of the word. You’ll find them here. They all invite us to radically transformed ideas of God, ourselves and of those we live with – particularly on the other side of the street, on the other side of the tracks and on the other side of the world.  (Note that the first reading is from the Book of Wisdom which imagines God’s Spirit as female.) What follows are my reading’s “translations.” Please check for yourself to see if I’ve got them right:

 WIS 11:22-12:2

The Real Master
Of the Universe
Is immense
And intense
In her presence
In everything
And everyone.
To her
Our “sins” and addictions
Are trivial.
They mean nothing
In her vast
Scheme of things
Where all people
Are loved and cherished
Just as they are –
As God created them.
“Repentance”
Means rejecting
False guilt
And “wickedness”
While repairing
The hurts
We’ve inevitably inflicted
On others.
 
PS 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14
 
Where God is recognized
As Love
Her name
Is constantly extolled.
She is lovely herself
And merciful
Never angry
But kind and compassionate
Always.
So, set aside
“Fear of the Lord”
And embrace your Queen
Who keeps her word,
Does nothing harmful
And favors her
Heavily burdened
And (necessarily) fallen
Children.
 
2 THES 1:11-2:2
 
Rabbi Paul’s
Constant prayer for us
Is that we might be
Like his teacher, Jesus
Who recognized
Everyone and everything
As lovable
And full of grace.
In fact,
Jesus is among us
Each day
Whenever we gather
Together
And not merely in some
Far distant future
As false teachers say.
 
JN 3:16
 
Yes, our wise Queen
Has given us Jesus
Who showed us Life
In its fullest form
That we might live
Happily ever after
 
LK 1:1-10
 
Zacchaeus,
The rich exploiter
Of his own people,
Was a tiny man
In more ways than one,
But as an example
Of repentance and reparation.
He rose above the crowd
To see Jesus differently.
Imagine his surprise
(And the anger
Of his victims)
When Jesus
Saw him differently
And invited himself for dinner.
The result?
Zacchaeus grew
Into a giant
On the spot
Giving half his possessions
To the poor
And paying
Four times
His extortions!
Four times!!
How’s that
For reparations?

I hope you can see the connection between those readings and Marianne Williamson’s emphasis on reparations for slavery and restorative justice for resources stolen in a system of unequal trades identified in the Global South as neocolonialism. The readings (and especially the example of Zacchaeus) show that such policies based on a clear moral sense of justice should represent the twin pillars of domestic and foreign policy.

No other candidate has identified those pillars with the clarity and conviction of Marianne Williamson. In the end, no other candidate — and very few spiritual leaders of any stripe — challenge us to rethink our entire understanding of life.

According to Williamson and Jesus, life, truth, and our health as a nation are to be found in exactly the opposite direction from that indicated by the reigning ideology.

Marianne Williamson and the “Dark Psychic Forces” of Capitalism (Sunday Homily)

Readings for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time: ECC 1:2; 2:21-23; PS 90: 3-6; 12-14; 17; COL 3: 1-5; 9-11; MT 5:3; LK 12: 13-21

Marianne Williamson shone brightly again during the first night of the second Democratic debate. This time, with only nine minutes of exposure, she had the whole country talking.

As with her first appearance, her name was the most Google-searched among her nine debate rivals. And afterwards, the Washington Post, for instance, noted her contributions with headlines like “Marianne Williamson Had A Big Night in the Democratic Debate,” “Marianne Williamson Made the Most of Her Limited Time . . .,” “Marianne Williamson Makes the Case for Reparations in her Breakout Debate Moment,” and “I’ve Worked for Marianne Williamson. She’s No Kook.”

Additionally, “Democracy Now,” the following day gave more time than ever to Marianne’s remarks about the Flint water crisis, and about reparations, though, in the process, Intercept columnist, Mehdi Hasan felt compelled to dismiss her (without explanation) as “a little bit kooky, let’s be honest.”

Meanwhile Cody Fenwick writing for AlterNet favorably included Marianne’s comments about reparations among his “Nine Best Moments” of the primary debate. However (significantly for our focus here) his article, “Here Are 9 of the Best Moments and 7 of the Worst from the 2020 Democratic Primary Debate,” created a special category for what her campaign considers her most significant remark. Fenwick classified the following as a “Moment that Defied Category.” He wrote, “In the course of a rousing speech about the shameful government-triggered water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the author’s speech took a bizarre turn: ‘If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.’” Without further comment, that statement concluded his article.

Thinking it somehow “bizarre,” Fenwick was evidently confused by the reference to a “dark psychic force,” even though Williamson immediately explained its meaning. She was referring to “the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country.” His confusion resulted, I think, from Williamson’s entry into unexplored debate terrain as she attempted to drive the conversation deeper than the clichés and normalized insanity that characterized many of Tuesday’s exchanges (like Steve Bullock’s disagreement with Elizabeth Warren about first use of nuclear weapons).

What “dark psychic forces” did Williamson have in mind? Judging from her books Healing the Soul of America, and The Politics of Love, they are habits of mind and spirit inculcated by a culture that tolerates, if not celebrates:

  • The collectivized hatred she specifically referenced
  • The mind-set that actually considers first (or any!) use of nuclear weapons as acceptable
  • White supremacy and white nationalism
  • American exceptionalism
  • Imperialism and neo-colonialism
  • Child abuse at our borders
  • Regime change wars
  • An all-encompassing gun culture reflected not only in law, but in our films, novels, newspapers, and magazines – and especially in military policy

That’s just the short list of the dark forces in question. But for Williamson, all of them can be synopsized in the single term “fear.” Systemically, they can be summarized in the term “capitalism” and the terror-filled interlocking systems of individualism, competition, and greed that system inspires.

And that brings us to the theme of the liturgy of the word for today’s 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. On my reading, all of them present a light-hearted critique and rejection of the underlying spirit of capitalism. But see if they speak to you in that way. Take a look at them here.

In any case, what follows are my “translations”:

ECC 1:2; 2:21-23 (A Book of Hebrew Wisdom)
 
Accumulating property
And money
Working hard to get it
Worrying about it
Losing sleep over it . . .
Is all foolishness.
And in the end,
You can’t take it with you.
How silly to fret
About possessions!
 
PS 90: 3-6; 12-14; 17
 
So, soften your heart.
Life is short
It passes
Like the seasons
Like grass.
You might even die
In your sleep tonight.
Instead, enjoy life NOW.
Be happy and kind
And careful
In whatever you do.
That’s true prosperity.
 
 
COL 3: 1-5; 9-11
 
As St. Paul says,
Use your Christ consciousness
To look beyond
The material
To discover
True wealth –
Your invisible life
Within.
After all,
Happiness
Has nothing to do
With idolizing money
Or pleasure, or deceit.
It’s all about
Living with
The consciousness of Jesus
That all humans
(wherever they come from)
Are sisters and brothers.
 
 
MT 5:3 (Blessed are the poor in spirit)
 
In fact,
Christ’s values
Are the exact opposite
Of the world’s.
 
 
LK 12: 13-21 (Parable of the wealth-obsessed rich man who dies in his sleep)
 
So, don’t be foolish
Worrying about
Inheritance and money
You didn’t even work for.
After all,
Life’s not about
How much you have.
Instead,
Laugh with Jesus
At fools who spend
Entire lives
Focused on mammon
Only to die
Before they’ve had time
To enjoy the rich Life
God has given
To everyone
Equally.
Notice how the readings lament and make fun of lives based on greed and focus on material accumulation. Such goals produce anxiety, sleeplessness, jealousy, and frustration. They end with a completely wasted life and early death. 

As opposed to the Prosperity Gospel, this is what Jewish Wisdom Literature, the prophets, Jesus of Nazareth, and leaders like Marianne Williamson have to say about excessive material wealth. It's not the point of life. Instead, love, justice, and the inner peace and community they produce is what fullness of life is about. 

Readings like today's remind us of the gloomy and literally unspeakable (i.e. off-limits for discussion) forces that drive our culture. They are encapsulated in our economic system that emphasizes individualism, competition, violence and fear. The system is capitalism-as-we-know-it.

By bringing that up and in terms of "dark psychic forces," Williamson places herself beyond normal political discourse. To mainstream commentators, that makes her puzzling, bizarre, weird, and "kooky," even kookier than those advocating the omnicide of nuclear war.

However, to those of us seeking escape from business as usual, it made her the best candidate on last Tuesday's stage.
 
The favorable reaction to Williamson's statements there shows that increasing numbers are recognizing her truth.

	

Marianne Williamson: The U.S. Is 100% Responsible for the World’s Problems!

After the first Democratic Presidential Debate, Marianne Williamson generated a lot of interest.

On the one hand, her name ended up being the most searched on the internet. With language and demeanor vastly different from the other candidates, people wanted to know who she might be.

On the other hand, Williamson generated a good deal of ridicule. Seth Meyers joked that she clearly won’t be around this fall. Ha ha; who would be so foolish as to think otherwise! Kate McKinnon (pictured above) offered a woo-woo Williamson impression that had Marianne eliminating global problems by burning all the sage on the planet. TYT’s Brooke Thomas dismissed Marianne as a “vanity candidate” intent merely on selling her books.

All of that was itself laughable for those who know Marianne Williamson. We know she’s not a woo-woo lightweight; she doesn’t need to sell more books; and if people understand just who she is and grasp her fundamental message, she’ll definitely be around this fall.

And that’s because her absolutely radical approach to politics supplies the simple key we’ve all been looking for to solve the endless problems on our national list, be it climate change, the threat of nuclear war, terrorism, or immigration.

Let me repeat: her approach offers a key far more radical and easily understood than anything Bernie or Elizabeth even imagines or dares to say.

The key I’m referencing is basic to the teaching of A Course in Miracles (ACIM), which has been the guidebook for Marianne’s life and teaching for more than 40 years. Williamson herself describes the course as basic Christian mysticism. It’s not a religion; it’s not for everyone; it doesn’t even demand belief in God. However, it does respond to the universal human quest for ethical principle and spiritual meaning, whether the quest is understood as generated by God, Yahweh, Allah, Krishna, the Buddha, Ultimate Reality, the Ground of Being, Life Itself, or Nature with a capital “N.”

But what about that key I mentioned?

It’s simply this: take 100% responsibility for your problems and deal with them accordingly.

That’s it. And, though difficult to actually implement, that assumption of complete responsibility will go a long way towards eliminating not only personal and inter-personal problems, but all our political conundrums as well.

How radical is that?

It’s the opposite, of course, from the approach of Mr. Trump – and even of Marianne’s colleagues on the debate stage. In contrast to Marianne, every one of them adopts the standard cliched and stereotyped approach so familiar to all of us in our personal lives: I’m not the problem; she is; he is; they are.

In political terms it’s refugees, immigrants, people of color, welfare cheats, unprovoked “terrorists,” the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, Somalis, Libyans, Syrians, MS-13 gang members, and drug dealers. The list goes on and on and on. All of those included must be punished, subjected to sanctions, bombed, droned, or killed.

But we never find fault in ourselves. Never!

Pertinently and most recently, such unwillingness to accept responsibility was expressed by President Trump in his racist harangue against Congressional Representatives Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, Ayanna Presley, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC).  According to Mr. Trump all four representatives outrageously blame the United States the problems of terrorism, Palestinian oppression, public misinformation, and immigration problems. Here’s what Trump and his audience ridiculed as patently ludicrous:

  • Ilhan Omar “attacked our country” saying that terrorism is a reaction to our involvement in other people’s affairs. She even blamed the United States for the crisis in Venezuela!
  • Rashida Talib said that members of congress who support Israel have forgotten what country they represent.
  • Ayana Presley alleged that “ignorance is pervasive in many parts of this country.”
  • AOC compared U.S. border agents to Nazis running concentration camps and claimed that inmates in the camps were forced to drink water from toilets.

To such accusations, Trump’s followers bellowed loud dissent. How could anyone possible accuse Americans of ignorance, of terrorism, of supporting Global South coups, or of maintaining concentration camps or at our border, or of facilitating them in Gaza? After all, (in Mr. Trump’s words) we are the “greatest force for peace and justice in the world.”

But, Williamson and ACIM implicitly ask, what if every one of those accusations is true? What if terrorism is largely blowback? What if the United States has indeed routinely undermined governments in the former colonies, including Venezuela? What if members of Congress generally appear more loyal to Israel than to their constituents? What if many Americans are indeed ignorant, and if those cages on our border – those baby prisons and child detention facilities – are actually concentration camps?

If we seriously entertained those possibilities, dealing with the problems in question would involve change – not principally on the part of our designated enemies – but on our own part. (Imagine that!) It would compel us to terminate uninvited involvement in the affairs of other nations. It would have us cease and desist, for instance, from regime change strategies, from support of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, and from abusing children by separating infants from their mothers.

In theological terms as understood in ACIM, accepting 100% responsibility for the world’s problems would involve:

  • Prioritizing the world as God created it, belonging to everyone and perfect before humans appeared – without borders, which (though useful for commerce and travel) are not part of the Love’s unchallengeable order
  • Admitting that we are not an exceptional nation – or as ACIM puts it: No one is special, while everyone is special
  • Forgiving those we habitually blame – meaning treating them exactly as we would like to be treated
  • Realizing that no one is attacking us without provocation
  • Yet being willing to treat genuine criminality (e.g. as represented by those cages on the border or by the 9/11 attacks) with humanely retributive imprisonment (and/or impeachment)

Put more practically (according to the points distinguishing Williamson’s platform from that of others who also advocate the Green New Deal, etc.), admitting our responsibility for the world’s problems entails:

  • Paying reparations especially to African Americans, but also to indigenous tribes and to the countries our unprovoked regime-change wars have destroyed.
  • Creating a cabinet-level Department of Children and Youth intent on making our schools “palaces of learning” and our libraries “temples of literature and art”
  • Funding a Department of Peace at the same level as the so-called Defense Department

Imagine a world in which we took 100% responsibility for climate change, nuclear disarmament, immigration, and all the other problems represented by those we habitually blame. Imagine a president using her bully pulpit to set a constructive national tone (vs. the destructive tone set by Mr. Trump) and helping us all to accept 100% responsibility not only for the world’s problems but for our personal conflicts as well. What would happen to our marriages, to our families, to our local communities?

Answers to those musings constitute the reasons why Marianne Williamson, far from deserving ridicule, is the very candidate our country needs.  

P.S. Watch how Marianne knocked it out of the park on Colbert last Monday night:

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.

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.

Jesus’ Calls Followers to Practice What Marianne Williamson Calls a “Politics of Love”

Readings for 5th Sunday of Easter: Acts 14: 21-27; PS 145: 8-13; REV 21: 1-5A; JN 13: 31-35

The readings for this fifth Sunday of Easter centralize Jesus’ New Commandment, to “Love one another as I have loved you.” He also identifies the criterion for distinguishing his true followers from those who are not. He says, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” – again, “as I have loved you.”

So, the question becomes how exactly did Jesus love those he interacted with? Was his love confined to the inter-personal sphere, or was it somehow political? And even if it was, is a politics of love practical? Or are we condemned to the political status quo based on fear and greed which our “Christian” culture has ironically convinced us is much more realistic than the love and compassion that Jesus seems to recommend?  

The answer to all of those questions was captured in our liturgical readings several weeks ago in Jesus’ first sermon as recorded by the evangelist called Luke. Jesus described his program in this way: “The Spirit of the Lord is 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 and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

That final phrase “the year of the Lord’s favor” is key to answering the questions I just posed. It’s a reference to the Jubilee Year enshrined in Israel’s ancient tradition. That tradition, if nothing else, was highly political. As economist Michael Hudson has reminded us recently in his And Forgive Them Their Debts, Jubilee referenced a political and economic practice common not only in Israel, but throughout the ancient Middle East. It had kings and emperors (usually on the occasion of their assuming power) periodically creating a clean slate for everyone, especially the poor. During Jubilee, debts were cancelled, land was redistributed, slaves were freed, and amnesty was extended to prisoners. Jubilee prioritized the needs of the poor, not the rich. Its unfolding in Jesus’ public life involved non-violent resistance to temple authorities who had aligned themselves with Roman imperialism.

In other words, the unmistakable conclusion here is that if Christians are to love one another precisely in the way that Jesus loved them, their love must be unapologetically political and anti-imperial. They must practice a politics of love that prioritizes the needs of the poor, sick, indebted, imprisoned, and of those victimized by oppressors of all kinds.

In our own day, don’t you think that at least gestures towards the spirit of the Green New Deal as opposed to continuation of the status quo? I do.

But, you might ask, is a politics of love practical?  Or given the fallenness of the human race, isn’t it more realistic to practice our familiar politics based on fear and greed – to run the country like a business instead of like a family.  Isn’t it more sensible to appeal to self-interest, money and the bottom line?

In response, Marianne Williamson would ask, “Well, how’s that working out for you?”

In case we’ve forgotten, (and please notice the dollar figures in what follows) by prioritizing the values of fear and greed, our “leaders” have :

  • Committed to a program of perpetual war that’s costing us about $2 billion per day
  • Spent $2 trillion in just one of those wars (Iraq) while slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians (and perhaps more than a million) and creating ISIS in the process
  • Prevented refugees created by our wars and economic system from finding refuge in our country where all but a hand-full (Native Americans) are descended precisely from immigrants, refugees, and slaves forced by the rich to work here against their wills
  • Created a society in which 3 men own as much as the bottom 50% of the country
  • Given $2 trillion in additional tax breaks mostly to those men and their colleagues in the richest 0.1%
  • Decided to commit mass suicide by hanging on to an economic system that is destroying our planet despite our claims to love our children and grandchildren
  • Asserted proudly that, all evidence to the contrary, our system of political-economy somehow “works”

And that’s just the short list of the craziness of our culture’s commitment to fear and greed rather than to a politics of love and compassion that prioritizes (as did Jesus) the needs of the poor, education, health care, debt forgiveness, and anti-imperialism.

Clearly, we can do better than that. Clearly, it’s time to try something else.

But where, our culture asks, would the money come from to eliminate poverty and save the planet? Practically speaking, where would we find the money for a Green New Deal, for universal health care, for higher wages, for forgiving student loans, to remedy the epidemic of homelessness?

“Don’t make me laugh” says Marianne Williamson in her Politics of Love. She writes:  

“How would we pay for all that education and culture, health and safety” ask those who have no problem whatsoever paying for ill-begotten wars and tax cuts for the extremely wealthy. Such a question should be met by laughter from those who were never consulted as to how we would pay for a $2 trillion war in Iraq (which, among other things created ISIS) or a $2 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest among us (which, among other things, is already adding tour wealth inequality).”

No doubt, the Jesus of Jubilee would join in Williamson’s ironic laughter. Where will we get the money?

Please go back to the dollar figures I asked you to note above. Then allow me to count the ways. They include moving quickly to an energy economy not based on fossil fuels, and then:

  • Saving trillions when the energy-switch enables us to stop fighting and threatening wars fought for oil (think Iraq, Iran, Venezuela). Stopping those energy wars would enable us to cut the Pentagon budget in half.
  • Revoking the recent tax gifts to the rich. That too would provide trillions
  • Revising the tax code’s highest bracket to 75% annually freeing up billions in the process
  • Cutting off all subsidies to oil companies. That as well would save millions each year
  • Imposing the death penalty on Exxon and seizing its assets as a penalty for concealing and lying about its climate research. That alone would go a long way towards paying for any Green New Deal
  • Returning to workers the wages stolen by their corporate employers who for the past 40 years have kept the fruits of skyrocketing labor productivity for themselves while practically stiffing their employees.
  • Recovering from corporations like McDonalds and Amazon the cost of food stamps and other federal aid programs accessed over the years by their underpaid workers.
  • Identifying the beneficiaries of 250 years of unpaid slave labor and assessing penalties on the families and corporations involved for the wages not paid for all that forced labor. The money could be used to build respectable housing and palatial schools in black communities.
  • And here I’m probably only scratching the surface.

According to my way of looking at things, implementation of the above policies would actually pay for the Green New Deal without raising taxes on any but the super-rich whose extravagant lifestyles will remain mostly unaffected.

In any case, the point is that the politics of love highlighted in today’s readings is the only realistic way of saving our planet. And Marianne Williamson is the only presidential candidate willing courageously to say so.

Again, as Marianne puts it, (just as in the past) love is the only answer to our current problems. “It was love that abolished slavery, it was love that gave women suffrage, it was love that established civil rights, and it is love that we need now.”

(P.S. Marianne Williamson recently achieved the 65,000 unique contributions required for her to appear on the debate stage with other Democratic presidential candidates. But now that more than 20 are running, it’s necessary for her to poll at 1% in national opinion polls. She’s close to achieving that goal too, but needs financial help to get her name and identity before the public. Please help her by donating here. She only has till June 12th to reach this goal.)