Marianne Williamson and the Power of Prayer

So, let me get this straight. Marianne Williamson should be disqualified as a viable presidential candidate because she has too much faith in the power of prayer, of mind, of love, and of God.

The disqualification was sparked by a tweet she made as Hurricane Dorian was bearing down upon the southern coast of the United States. It read: “The Bahamas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas…may all be in our prayers now. Millions of us seeing Dorian turn away from land is not a wacky idea; it is a creative use of the power of the mind. Two minutes of prayer, visualization, meditation for those in the way of the storm,”

It was a call to faith addressed to a nation where the majority considers itself followers of the one who said, “If you have faith, even as a mustard seed, and say to this mountain ‘move from here to there,’ it will obey you” (MT 17:20).

[Yes, faith and its power to “move mountains” is an idea that appears multiple times in the Jesus tradition, indicating that the phrase probably originated with the Master himself. But, of course, Jesus’ words presume that his listeners, like most of us, had no such minimal faith. Hence, he implied, our belief remains powerless.] 

Jesus’ faith aside though, consider the content of Ms. Williamson’s tweet. It simply asked her followers:

  1. To face the power of our human minds and spirits as much greater and connected with natural forces than we generally believe.
  2. In view of that fact, to activate their collective force to avert disaster.
  3. And to do so by stilling that mind through meditation, by praying for those in the hurricanes path, and by visualizing their prayers answered.

Read it again: that’s exactly what the tweet says! Nothing more; nothing less.

In other words, it was all quite harmless and potentially powerful. There was nothing in it of fear, hatred, climate-change denial or blame of victims – all the responses we’ve come to expect from the outrageous tweets of more conventional politicians. Instead, there was only expression of solidarity, compassion, faith, stillness, and acceptance of what traditional spirituality tells us of the untapped power of the human spirit that consciously aligns itself with the divine.

As I’ve already indicated, the tweet also implied a connection between human consciousness and Mother Nature herself – something underlined in the mystical traditions belonging to all the world’s great faiths and to mainstream science as well. (As Francis of Assisi would remind us, all of us are in some sense a part of “Brother Hurricane” Dorian.) 

But, horror of horrors (!) such expression of traditional faith and scientific insight was enough to disqualify Williamson from presidential candidacy. Whoopi Goldberg and panel members on “The View” ridiculed her. Others characterized her as no better than that of religious fundamentalists.

To my mind, however, it proves just the opposite.

Williamson’s tweet demonstrates how truly different she is from her fellow candidates as well as from the fundamentalists who have hijacked the faith of Jesus. And how refreshing! Her viewpoint is what our times require, where expressions of faith are limited to “thoughts and prayers” after mass shootings — or to divisive imposition of narrow beliefs about abortion and rejection of LGBTQQIAAPs.

In fact, Marianne Williamson is so different from what we expect from politicians and secular leftists that when she simply expresses solidarity with those in the Bahamas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas (whose prayers no doubt echoed Marianne’s tweet) she reveals herself as absolutely mystifying, incomprehensible, and unacceptable.

Let’s face that too: Williamson’s tweet expressed extraordinary solidarity with those in Dorian’s path. Without doubt, many of them were praying that the hurricane’s force might be mitigated or diverted. In fact, if we found ourselves in their circumstances, the religious among us (and “foxhole Christians” as well) would be offering similar prayers: “Please, Lord, save me and my family from this hurricane. Change its path. Keep us safe.”

And what would be wrong with that? It’s an absolutely human response to impending disaster.

No, the hubbub over Ms. Williamson’s tweet is but another demonstration of why her candidacy is indispensable. We need her to profoundly change our political conversation, to move that conversation from fear and denial to compassion, and to unveil the true nature of faith engaged with an overly-secularized world.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

2 thoughts on “Marianne Williamson and the Power of Prayer”

  1. The Sea of Faith
    Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
    Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
    But now I only hear
    Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
    Retreating, to the breath
    Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
    And naked shingles of the world.

    Ah, love, let us be true
    To one another! for the world, which seems
    To lie before us like a land of dreams,
    So various, so beautiful, so new,
    Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
    Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
    And we are here as on a darkling plain
    Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
    Where ignorant armies clash by night.

    (from Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold)

    Nietzsche’s prophesy of the horrific results of the “death of God” are now playing out all around us.

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