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 . . .
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:
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
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
The Reality of God.
ROM 5: 1-4
It is that universally-shared faith
That gives human existence
Worth and value
Peace among nations
Giving us hope
But putting us at odds with “the
Which punishes us for our faith
(contradicting, as it does
The world’s fear-full “wisdom”).
But the world’s opposition
Our sensitivity to
The Holy Spirit of Jesus.
JN 16: 11-15
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.)
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.)
It was religion in flames. It was a reminder of the conflagration engulfing our very planet. It should have clarified the relevance of the resurrection story that Christians across the world defiantly celebrate this Easter Sunday. It made me think of female prophets like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and presidential candidate Marianne Williamson.
Notre Dame in Flames
Of course, I’m referring to the recent conflagration within
the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Everyone’s heart went out to the people of Paris
as they sang hymns to Mary while helplessly watching her beloved basilica burning
on the other side of the Seine. We’re told that even the fire-fighters sang to the
Grande Dame while dousing the inferno
and risking their lives to rescue relics of Jesus’ true cross and crown of
thorns. The spectacle brought the world to tears.
How like the rest of us, I thought, as we witness the Catholic church (and religion in general) hopelessly ablaze! Pedophilia, patriarchy, the antipathy of our children towards the faith that we elders once embraced so fervently have all contributed to the disaster. So has the successful counter-revolution waged by two reactionary popes (John Paul II and Benedict XVI) against the hopes enkindled by the ecumenical movement and Vatican II. Then there’s the heresy of know-nothing religious fundamentalists attempting to counter the creative ferment of liberation theology and of science itself . . . They’ve all done their parts to bring down the new church that John XXIII (and so many of us) once hoped for. Instead, the institution now lies in ruins, in putrid irrelevance. The strewn ashes embody our bleak despair. Only a miracle on the scale of Jesus’ resurrection can save us now.
A World Burning
But the combustion of Notre Dame presents only the palest reflection of our despondency before our very world in flames. That too was imaged forth in the cathedral’s conflagration. The climate chaos caused by our mad consumerism and worship of mammon, weapons, and war has set the planet ablaze. So, we stand there on the opposite shore of our own Seine, our mouths agape, the flames flickering against our mirrored eyes as we stand witness in hopeless impotence and despair. The stench of the ruins, the loss of our treasure, the cost of rebuilding . . . It’s all too much to think about. Mary help us!
And she does! She along with her sister prophetesses bring news of resurrection – just as they did for the male followers of Jesus’ who wallowed in the despondency following that first Good Friday. Yes, the women are here once again to save us with their news of resurrection and its impossible future!
What seems dead can return to life, they all insist. Another America is possible shouts the infant terrible, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Another world is possible Sweden’s teenaged Greta Thunberg repeats for all with ears to hear. Yet more: another God is possible proclaims Marianne Williamson with her invitation to a New Age characterized by the miracle of revisioning EVERYTHING. Naomi Klein, Maria Lopez Vigil, and (from their graves) Dorothy Day, Harriet Tubman, all those suffragettes, and Rosa Parks echo the message. In fact, an entire army of latter-day Jean D’Arcs broadcast the Good News that despite what the world tells us, resurrection – radically new life – is indeed possible. It’s the redivivus message of the goddess Miriam herself – of our Lady, of Notre Dame in flames.
If you want to actually see the hopeful vision of resurrection for America, watch again Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s video published just last week. Through the fascinating art of Molly Crabapple, AOC calls us to face head-on the sad facts of our planet’s Good Friday. Nearly 50 years ago those facts were researched, but cynically obscured and denied by Exxon and its supporting cast of male politicians. All that time they foresaw that without resurrection, disasters like Puerto Rico (devastated by a Hurricane named Maria!!) inevitably represents our common future.
AOC reminds us that devastation caused by an entire system requires systemic reform. That includes a new economy with decent salaries and the type of benefits the industrialized world once took for granted and aspired to – affordable schooling, healthcare for all, meaningful work, comfortable retirement – all in a context where polluters are assigned responsibility for the destruction caused by their decades-long denial allowing them to privatize profits while socializing costs. They owe us! Reparations are due!
Yes, the crisis of climate chaos changes EVERYTHING!
Moreover, it’s all been done before just as our young prophetess insists. In the face of the Great Depression’s and World War II’s lesser crises, FDR put together the original New Deal.
It changed the entire economy. It recognized that unions, full employment, environmental protection, decent jobs, recreation, art, music, dignified retirement, and strict regulation of greedy corporatists were all part of the clean slate the country and world needed to survive.
And it worked! Our
nation and the western economies prospered as never before, as countries across
the industrialized world implemented what came to be called the welfare state.
Religion Flaming Out
For her part, Marianne Williamson calls us to re-vision the God of resurrection who makes fundamental change possible. Like no other presidential candidate, she puts her finger exactly on the spiritual transformation required to change everything. We need another God, she says in effect. Not the imperial one foisted upon us since Constantine in the 4th century. That’s an idol. What we need is the God of Jesus: the champion of working people, widows, orphans, and immigrants. We need the God reflected in the teachings of the one who taught that whatever we do to the least of the brethren, we do to him.
Yes, that’s the God of the Bible – a divinity who remains foreign to most. It’s as if we have all been imprisoned in Plato’s Cave. Nothing that the world (and very little that the church) tells us is true, especially about God. Another God is possible, Williamson insists. That God’s vision is 180 degrees opposite that described by our desperate politicians through their media minions. It’s the direct opposite of most of the drivel we hear from the pulpit.
And it’s here that Williams joins Ocasio-Cortez. Insisting
that the resurrection we celebrate today is indeed real, Marianne calls us to
support something like the Green New Deal. It promises new life for us here and
now, including Medicare for all, gun control, higher minimum wages, the
overhaul of public education, criminal justice reform, raising taxes on the
rich, and repairing damage done by our history of racism.
“Impossible!!” the world shouts with one accord. “It’s too costly. Making changes like the GND proposed by our prophetesses would take decades. Such alterations could never be accomplished by 2030.”
And yet, when the world saw Notre Dame in flames, the money poured in. Already more than a billion dollars have been pledged. Artists and artisans from across the world have pledged their labor. And whereas initial estimates were that it would take 100 years to rebuild Notre Dame, France’s President Macron now assures us that the cathedral will be back to normal, even more beautiful than before in only five years!
That’s what happens when human beings commit themselves to
achieving the impossible. As Marianne continually repeats, “There is no order
of difficulty in miracles.” And she’s right. Miracles – fundamental changes in
perception – are indeed possible. Our times demand them.
Yes, resurrection can happen. Easter calls us to make it happen to save our planet – and our church.