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 world”
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.