Readings for the first Sunday of Lent: Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Psalm 51: 3-17; Romans 5: 12-19; Matthew 4: 1-11
This is the first Sunday of Lent. It’s that miraculous time of year when followers of Yeshua call into question their ways of life – the way they eat, drink, read, and think.
It’s also an intense time for questioning convention – the way the culture reasons, its values, its tales, and narratives. It’s a time for facing the fact that the world’s key perceptions stand 180 degrees opposite those of the Master.
That’s how Marianne Williamson describes miracles. Remember her? She’s the best-known exponent of the modern handbook on Christian mysticism called A Course in Miracles (ACIM). She ran for president in 2020 and hints that she’ll run again in 2024. She describes miracles as changes in perception that completely contradict the world’s “wisdom.”
I bring up Marianne Williamson, today not only for the Lenten and political reasons just mentioned, but because her recently articulated position on the Ukraine war contradicts the spirit of Lent just described. More to the point, it contradicts Marianne herself as well as A Course in Miracles.
As such, it reminds us of the seductive power of American culture based on arms manufacture, war, and deception. Ironically, what I’ll describe as Williamson’s fall from grace and from her own ideals represents a wake-up call not only for her, but for those who would take Lent seriously.
Accordingly, what follows will share Ms. Williamson’s recent thoughts about Ukraine as utterly conventional and (in her terms) completely un-miraculous. I’ll contrast them with the example of Yeshua found in today’s readings for the first Sunday of Lent. There, in the spirit of ACIM, he completely rejects as intrinsically evil any possibility of endorsing empire of the type embodied in the United States’ and NATO’s policy in Ukraine.
My hope is that in the name of the gospel and even ACIM, my words might lead readers to reject the conventionality of the world’s “wisdom” as found in the official narrative Williamson so shockingly endorses.
Let me begin by saying that I feel I know Marianne Williamson. I like her. I used to think of her as a lone prophetic voice in an American political context dominated by warmongers and short-term thinkers with no historical perspective. In fact:
- I’ve been a longtime student of A Course in Miracles and have started a podcast called “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Warriors.”
- I once had dinner with Marianne and a few colleagues when she came to speak at Berea College where I taught for 40 years.
- Afterwards, we spent two hours in personal conversation as my wife and I drove her and Marianne’s secretary to the Cincinnati airport.
- Subsequently, we even exchanged ideas entertaining the possibility of a shared writing project connecting the teachings of Jesus (my focus as a liberation theologian) and A Course in Miracles.
- I actively supported Marianne’s candidacy during her 2020 run for president,
- Attending rallies, campaign speeches, and a debate in her support,
- And publishing 9 articles on OpEdNews to that effect.
You can imagine, then, my disappointment when I read a piece she published last week called “The Tragic Conundrum of Ukraine.” My disappointment stemmed from the fact that the brief essay uncritically parroted the liberal, neocon, U.S. party line about Ukraine. – anything but the “miraculous” thinking she describes and advocates.
Marianne’s words reflected the ambition of a woman intent again on running for president in 2024 and therefore in need of assuring the public: Don’t worry, I won’t be reluctant to kill designated enemies like the Russians. Or as Williamson herself put it, “As president I would always seek to avoid the use of military force, yet I would not shy away from it if I felt it necessary.” (Emphasis added)
You can’t get more conventional than that.
More specifically, here’s what she said:
- Despite her support for the creation of a U.S. Department of Peace to counterbalance the egregious influence of America’s military industrial complex,
- And despite the U.S. track record in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere,
- The U.S. still retains moral authority to condemn Russia and conduct what she evidently judges as its “surgical” interventions in Ukraine.
- After all, countless U.S. interventions (often halfway across the world) were “misadventures” and “mistakes” (not crimes) while Russia’s special military operations on its own borders are cynically illegal and therefore subject to unequivocal condemnation — even by those living in glass houses.
- Russia must therefore be stopped by “the Western World” (i.e., the predominantly white 20% that includes the traditional colonial powers like the U.S., EU, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).
- While ignoring (she omits saying) the reluctance or downright refusal of 80% of the (colonized, mostly non-white) world to go along – including China, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia – virtually the entire Global South.
In Williamson’s pro-war position, there was no mention of historical context. Nothing about the facts that:
- By all accounts Ukraine’s government is one of the most corrupt in the world and prominently includes Nazis and Nazi sympathizers.
- The war in Ukraine did not begin on February 24th, 2022, but with a U.S. sponsored Ukrainian coup in 2014 that ended up with Kyiv killing more than 13,000 civilians in the country’s Russia-friendly Donbass region.
- The stated objectives of U.S. policy in Ukraine have long been regime change in Moscow and the weakening and even balkanization of Russia.
- In pursuit of those aims (according to the current German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Analena Baerbock) the war is NATO’s. In other words, NATO is using Ukrainians as proxies for the alliance’s war against Russia.
- According to former German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, NATO had no intention of observing the Minsk Peace Agreements that would have prevented the conflict.
- The U.S. ignored Russia’s diplomatic overtures in the runup to its special military operation.
- Similarly, (according to Israel’s former prime minister Naftali Bennett) a month into the war, Moscow and Kyiv had achieved progress towards a negotiated settlement to the conflict only to be overruled by NATO.
- U.S. history, its Monroe Doctrine, and constant violent interventions in its hemisphere show that America would act no differently from Russia in the case of similar circumstances in its “backyard.”
How disappointing is all of that coming from an advocate of miraculous, non-conventional, re-conceptualizations?
Moreover, Williamson’s reasoning (or its lack) amounts to a contradiction of Yeshua’s own example in today’s featured selection from the Gospel of Matthew. There, the Master rejects empire and its endemic wars out of hand as the invention of the world’s Evil Spirit.
Recall the scene. It’s the famous story of Yeshua’s temptations in the desert. With variations, it is contained in all four of the canonical gospels.
Jesus has just been baptized by John. In Luke’s version, a voice has told him that he is somehow the “Son of God.” He goes out to the desert to discover what that might mean. Yeshua is on a vision quest. He prays and fasts for 40 days.
Afterwards come the visions of devils, angels, and of his own life’s possibilities. Satan tests him. In Matthew’s account, the culminating enticement is unmistakably imperial. It occurs on a high mountain. Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth – an empire much vaster than Rome’s. The tempter says, “All of this can be yours, if only you bow down and worship me.” Jesus refuses. He says, “Be gone, Satan! It is written, the Lord God only shall you adore; him only shall you serve.”
In other words, Matthew endorses a tradition that has Yeshua rejecting empire in no uncertain terms. The story at the beginning of the accounts of Jesus words and deeds establishes him as fiercely anti-imperial. Empire belongs to Satan and has nothing to do with Life’s Source.
No hint of such thinking is found in Williamson’s piece about Ukraine. Instead, she supports “the west’s” right to determine the trajectory of world history even in the face of its rejection of diplomacy and the reluctance and/or refusal of 80% of the world to condemn what it evidently sees as none of its business.
And why does she abandon “miraculous thinking” when it’s needed more than ever? I must confess that I can’t answer that question for sure.
My guess is that it comes from realization on her part that miraculously contradicting conventional thinking would not serve her presidential ambitions. Empire on the one hand versus Christianity and miracles on the other prove simply incompatible.
Put otherwise, it seems that for Williamson, in the choice between presidential aspirations and A Course in Miracles practicality wins out. ACIM loses.
I still like Marianne Williamson. She is a nice lady and an effective spiritual teacher. Her explanations of A Course in Miracles have helped millions (including me) to improve our lives.
However, her essay shows that the world’s wisdom is a difficult beast to tame. Attempting to do so will likely get one cancelled. It will certainly eliminate you as a viable presidential candidate.
That means to get along in our culture and certainly to run for president, one must:
- Stop thinking contextually.
- Or historically.
- Or unconventionally.
- Or miraculously
I regret to say that I expected more from Marianne Williamson. Lent expects more from all of us.