Marianne Williamson, Reparations & Restorative Justice

Readings for 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time: WIS 11:22-12:2; PS 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14; 2 THES 1:11-2:2; JN 3:16; LK 1:1-10

Today’s readings for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time bring up questions of restorative justice and reparations for the harm we may have caused others as individuals and as Americans.

The day’s main focus is the familiar story of the tax collector Zacchaeus.  This very wealthy man was inspired by Jesus to give half of his possessions to the poor and to restore to those he had defrauded four times as much as he had embezzled.

Zacchaeus’ example makes me think of Marianne Williamson’s campaign for president which has made reparations a central plank in her platform.  

Of course, Marianne’s reparations focus is the African American community. But her rationale for it suggests something far beyond race relations within the United States.  It intimates as well reparations to victims of U.S. foreign policy and to Mother Nature herself.

Let me explain and then show how the explanation is related to this day’s readings.

To begin with, yes, I’m still supporting Marianne Williamson for president.  She is the only candidate who confronts us with the undeniable truth that Americans need a fundamental change in consciousness if we are to address the unprecedented problems currently facing humankind.

That’s what Marianne means by “miracles” — changes in fundamental perceptions. That was also central to Jesus’ proclamation about the Kingdom of God. We must think differently about the world and act accordingly.

So, it’s not a question of merely tweaking the reigning economic system or of reviving Roosevelt’s New Deal. What we need is an entirely new world vision that operates from the premise that everything we see is completely upside down. Reality stands 180 degrees away from what our culture tells us. All of it. If our culture says “black,” we should think “white.” If it says “good,” we should think “bad.” If it says “peace,” we should know they’re getting us ready for another war.

Instead, we are all one – women, men, children, immigrants, refugees, animals, plants, and the very air we breathe. That’s the basis of Marianne Williamson’s candidacy. There are no foreigners, no sacrosanct borders – no America First. In fact, the United States must take 100% responsibility for the world’s ills.  

My decision to continue my support of Marianne Williamson was reinforced by listening to a campaign speech she gave at Yale University last week.

There she made the following points that she has always centralized in her approach to politics and to simply living as an evolved human being in our troubled world. Notice how they echo today’s Gospel themes, reparations and restorative justice:

  1. We all know that until we identify and address the root of our problems in our personal, family, and community relationships, we’ll never truly solve those problems.
  2. However, what is true in our personal lives also applies to our nation, because nations are simply groups of individuals.
  3. As Americans, we have been unwilling to face up to the harm caused by slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation on the one hand and to the resulting wealth accumulation in the white community on the other.
  4. The same holds true for U.S. foreign policy which has been based on colonialism and neocolonialism which are simply euphemisms for forcefully transferring wealth from the Global South to the Global North.
  5. Such transfer-by-force has been destructive not only to people but to the natural environment destroyed by industrialized agriculture, rainforest destruction, overfishing, and massive waste disposal in what’s been called the Third World.
  6. We thus owe reparations to African Americans, to the Global South, and to Mother Nature.
  7. Marianne’s presidency would have us directly confront those problems as the sine qua non for solving our national dilemmas, world poverty, and impending climate catastrophe.

Now, those are truly radical positions (in the etymological sense of that term). No other candidate – not even Bernie or Elizabeth Warren – addresses them at the level of consciousness emphasized by Marianne Williamson.

So, think about that and Marianne’s position on reparations and restorative justice as you read the selections included in this Sunday’s liturgy of the word. You’ll find them here. They all invite us to radically transformed ideas of God, ourselves and of those we live with – particularly on the other side of the street, on the other side of the tracks and on the other side of the world.  (Note that the first reading is from the Book of Wisdom which imagines God’s Spirit as female.) What follows are my reading’s “translations.” Please check for yourself to see if I’ve got them right:

 WIS 11:22-12:2

The Real Master
Of the Universe
Is immense
And intense
In her presence
In everything
And everyone.
To her
Our “sins” and addictions
Are trivial.
They mean nothing
In her vast
Scheme of things
Where all people
Are loved and cherished
Just as they are –
As God created them.
“Repentance”
Means rejecting
False guilt
And “wickedness”
While repairing
The hurts
We’ve inevitably inflicted
On others.
 
PS 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14
 
Where God is recognized
As Love
Her name
Is constantly extolled.
She is lovely herself
And merciful
Never angry
But kind and compassionate
Always.
So, set aside
“Fear of the Lord”
And embrace your Queen
Who keeps her word,
Does nothing harmful
And favors her
Heavily burdened
And (necessarily) fallen
Children.
 
2 THES 1:11-2:2
 
Rabbi Paul’s
Constant prayer for us
Is that we might be
Like his teacher, Jesus
Who recognized
Everyone and everything
As lovable
And full of grace.
In fact,
Jesus is among us
Each day
Whenever we gather
Together
And not merely in some
Far distant future
As false teachers say.
 
JN 3:16
 
Yes, our wise Queen
Has given us Jesus
Who showed us Life
In its fullest form
That we might live
Happily ever after
 
LK 1:1-10
 
Zacchaeus,
The rich exploiter
Of his own people,
Was a tiny man
In more ways than one,
But as an example
Of repentance and reparation.
He rose above the crowd
To see Jesus differently.
Imagine his surprise
(And the anger
Of his victims)
When Jesus
Saw him differently
And invited himself for dinner.
The result?
Zacchaeus grew
Into a giant
On the spot
Giving half his possessions
To the poor
And paying
Four times
His extortions!
Four times!!
How’s that
For reparations?

I hope you can see the connection between those readings and Marianne Williamson’s emphasis on reparations for slavery and restorative justice for resources stolen in a system of unequal trades identified in the Global South as neocolonialism. The readings (and especially the example of Zacchaeus) show that such policies based on a clear moral sense of justice should represent the twin pillars of domestic and foreign policy.

No other candidate has identified those pillars with the clarity and conviction of Marianne Williamson. In the end, no other candidate — and very few spiritual leaders of any stripe — challenge us to rethink our entire understanding of life.

According to Williamson and Jesus, life, truth, and our health as a nation are to be found in exactly the opposite direction from that indicated by the reigning ideology.