It had to happen. I mean you can’t establish dictators and despots throughout the world and not have it eventually come home. And it has in Donald Trump. His election has brought the spirits of U.S. darlings Pinochet, Somoza, Marcos, and Duvalier to our shores. We should all be terrified.
By the same token, you can’t inflict such despotism on people of faith without their eventually discovering in their traditions a God who stands on the side of the poor and oppressed rather than with their wealthy oppressors. That happened with the emergence of liberation theology over the last 50 years among Christians in Chile, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Haiti and elsewhere. In 1979 it happened in Iran with the first Islamic revolution that has since spread across the Middle East. (I’ve written about that here, here, here, and here.)
And now it’s happening in the United States. Of course, awareness of the connection between Christian faith and release from oppression dawned most prominently with the Civil Rights Movement and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Then during the ‘70s and ‘80s Catholics joined in as they observed (often first-hand as I did) U.S oppression throughout Latin America. During the ‘90s and the first decade of the current century, I could even see it emerging among the white U.S. Evangelical students I taught during their term abroad in Central America. As a result, I increasingly witnessed them reading and referencing non-fundamentalists and liberationists like Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, and others.
And now with the arrival of Trump, a highly political form of liberation theology has hit the “Higher Consciousness Community.” I’m referring to followers of Marianne Williamson, Neale Donald Walsch, Eckhart Tolle, Louise Hay, Abraham Hicks, and other teachers of the “spiritual, but not religious” seekers proliferating throughout the United States and the world.
Just last week, I personally witnessed unmistakable signs of the latter awakening in Washington, DC during the best three-day conference I’ve experienced in more than 40 years of attending such events. It was Marianne Williamson’s Sister Giant Conference. And judging by the standing ovations nearly all the speakers received from the 2000 attendees, they had similar experiences. (There were also 4000 live-streamers listening and watching.)
As you might judge from the conference title, Sister Giant attendees were mostly women.
Many of them, two weeks earlier, had attended the DC Women’s March. And it was evident that their enthusiasm from that event carried over.
Both the march and the conference empowered women, who at Sister Giant were urged to own their power by speakers like Bernie Sanders, Karenna Gore (Daughter of Al Gore), Jean Houston, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Dennis Kucinich, William J. Barbour, Opal Tometi (co-founder of Black Lives Matter), and Zephyr Teachout. Each of them recognized women as the de facto leaders of the anti-Trump Movement.
Many other speakers presented as well including stand-up comic, John Fugelsang who actually told liberation theology jokes. For instance, he pointed out that the Vatican is ahead of the White House on science. Referring to the Bible’s Adam’s Rib Story, he observed that “The very first woman transitioned to a woman from a man.”
Meanwhile conference-organizer, Marianne Williamson, supplied her own transitions and highlighted points made. Between speakers, she kept us all focused with her insightful reflections on relevant passages in A Course on Miracles, and spontaneous, unself-conscious prayers like those found in her book Illuminata. She was wonderful. (And unbelievably, she will be coming to speak here in Berea at the end of March.)
From all of this, randomly organized thoughts worth sharing here include:
- This country (the U.S.A.) was never meant to work for people like me.
- The U.S. government has lost all legitimacy.
- Our economic system (capitalism) contradicts Jesus’ teaching and universal religious values in general; it is based on greed, competition, inequality, racism, violence, and environmental destruction.
- Donald Trump has shown everyone that he is absolutely unqualified for office.
- In fact, most people in the Sister Giant audience were better qualified than D.T.
- The world was not born fair; we have to make it that way.
- Large groups of desperate people do desperate things.
- No serious religious path gives anyone a pass allowing them to ignore the suffering of other sentient beings.
- If Jesus finds injustice intolerable, so must his would-be followers.
- Native Americans (e.g. at Standing Rock) talk to God, not about God.
- Neutrality always serves the oppressor, never the victim.
- In view of Donald Trump’s election, it might be time to make America Great Britain again!
- The main axis of social change is vertical rather than horizontal.
- American Muslims are the canaries in our coal mine.
- You are either a feminist or a masochist.
- It’s time for a Pro-Democracy Movement in the United States.
- My calendar and my checkbook proclaim infallibly what my values are.
- America needs a new bottom line (not a measure of efficiency and power, but of how loving and generous we are as we stand responsibly before the grandeur of the universe.)
- We must begin planning for the day when we have to take to the streets — net neutrality and Social Security will be the issues.
Such liberationist thoughts only palely reflect the richness of thoughts shared at the Sister Giant conference. But I hope they give you some idea of what’s needed to exorcise the despotic spirits of Pinochet, Somoza, Marcos, Duvalier – and of Donald Trump.