How Marianne Williamson Won Thursday’s Debate (Sunday Homily)

Readings for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time: I KGS 19: 16 B, 19-21; PS 16: 1, 2, 5, 7-11; GAL 5: 1, 13-18; I SM 3:9; JN 6: 68C; LK9: 51-62

So, we all watched Thursday’s debate in which Marianne Williamson finally participated and showed the country who she is. And she was magnificent. She demonstrated what her spiritual guidebook, A Course in Miracles calls a refusal to be insane. She embodied that still small voice of conscience – the voice for God – that today’s liturgy of the word distinguishes from the world’s madness.

To begin with consider the madness we witnessed Thursday night. It was a perfect reflection of our insane country, of our insane world, of our insane electoral system. There they were: ten of our presumably best and brightest aspiring to occupy what we’re told is the most powerful office in the world. They shouted, talked over their opponents, self-promoted, bragged, and put their opponents down. They offered complicated “plans” that no one (including themselves) seemed to understand. They ignored the rules of the game, recited canned talking points, and generally made fools of themselves – and of viewers vainly seeking sincerity, genuine leadership and real answers. Except for that brief exchange about busing between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, it was mostly embarrassing.

And then there were the so-called moderators who allowed the circus to spin so completely out of control. They issued stern warnings about time limits, frequently set them strictly at “thirty seconds,” but then proceeded to allow speakers to go on for three minutes or more. The celebrity hosts were completely arbitrary in addressing their questions unevenly. They repeatedly questioned some of the candidates and ignored others.  

Meanwhile, there was Marianne Williamson off in the corner almost completely out of sight and generally ignored by the hosts. When they finally deigned to notice her polite attempts to contribute, no one seemed to know what to do with her comments. There was never any follow-up or request for clarification. Instead, what she said seemed completely drowned out by the evening’s “excitement,” noise, general chaos, and imperative to change topics. It was as if she were speaking a foreign language. I mean, how do you respond to that “still small voice of conscience” that says:

  • Immigration problems should be understood in historical context; their roots are found in U.S. policy in Central America especially during the 1980s. Such comment invites further discussion. None took place.
  • Removing children from their parents’ arms is kidnapping; putting preschoolers in concentration camps is child abuse. Such crimes should be treated accordingly. What retribution did Marianne have in mind? The question went unasked.
  • Health care “solutions” should address environmental questions about chemicals in our foods, water, and air that make Americans sick. The response: “My next question for Vice-President Biden is . . .”
  • Government programs should be expressions of love, not fear.

As expected, the pundits who afterwards declared “winners” and “losers,” generally put Marianne in the latter category. Their criteria for that judgment were just what you’d expect: Who was louder? Who was more aggressive, more interruptive? Who spoke for more minutes? Who more effectively transgressed the debate “rules” and thereby showed leadership and dominance?

None of this could be further from the spiritual principles Marianne Williamson has espoused for the last 40 years. That spirituality, like Elijah’s, Elisha’s, Paul’s, and Jesus’ in today’s liturgical readings holds that the problems that plague our world have simple answers that have nothing to do with bombast, filibusters, or spectacle. However, the world rejects out of hand the solutions of that still-small-voice of conscience as unrealistic and “out there” in the realm of the irrelevant and impractical. Such blind dismissal is what Paul in today’s reading calls “flesh;” it’s what Jesus elsewhere rejects as “worldly.”  

So, in an effort to put Thursday’s debate in perspective, let me begin by describing where Marianne is coming from; then I’ll get to the relevant readings.

A Course in Miracles

For more than forty years, the foundation of Marianne Williamson’s life and teachings has been A Course in Miracles (ACIM). It’s a three-volume work (a text, 365 daily exercises, and a manual for teachers) that was allegedly (and reluctantly) channeled by Helen Schucman, a Columbia University psychologist and atheist in the three or four years leading up to 1975, the year of the trilogy’s publication. It has since sold millions of copies. Williamson has described ACIM as “basic Christian mysticism.”

The book’s a tough read – certainly not for everyone, though Williamson insists that something like its daily spiritual discipline (a key term for her) is necessary for living a fully human life bent on serving God rather than self. Its guiding prayer is “Where would you have me go? What would you have me do? What would you have me say, and to whom?”

Even tougher than the cryptic text itself is putting into practice the spiritual exercises in Volume II whose entire point is “a complete reversal of thought.” According to ACIM’s constant reminders, we are all prisoners in a cell like Plato’s Cave, where everything the world tells us is exactly the opposite of God’s truth.

To counter such deception, A Course in Miracles has the rare disciple (possessing the discipline to persevere) systematically deconstruct her world. It begins by identifying normal objects like a lamp or desk and helping the student realize that what s/he takes for granted is entirely questionable. Or as Lesson One puts it: “Nothing I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] means anything.” The point is to liberate the ACIM practitioner from all preconceptions and from the illusory dreams the world foists upon us from birth. Those illusions, dreams and nightmares are guided by fear, which, the course teaches, is the opposite of love. In fact, ACIM teaches that fear and love are the only two energetic forces in the entire universe. “Miracles” for A Course in Miracles are changes in perception – a paradigm shift – from fear to love. For Marianne, Donald Trump’s worldview is based primarily on fear; her’s is based on love (which means action based on the recognition of creation’s unity).

According to Williamson’s guide, time, space, and separation of humans into separate entities are all entirely illusory. Such distinctions are dreams that cause all the world’s nightmares, including all the topics addressed in Thursday’s debate. For instance:

  • The illusion of time has us all living in past and future while ignoring the present – the only moment that actually exists, has ever existed, or where true happiness can be found. This means, for example, that inspirational figures like Jesus are literally alive NOW just as they were (according to time’s illusion) 2000 years ago. His Holy Spirit is a present reality.  
  • The dream of space has us taking too seriously human-made distinctions like borders between countries. Yes, they are useful for organizing commerce and travel. But the world as God created it belongs to everyone. It’s a complete aberration and childish to close off borders as inviolable and to proudly proclaim that “From now on, it’s only going to be America first, America first!”
  • Similarly, the dream of separation between humans has us convinced that “we” are here in North America, while refugees are down there at our southern border. According to ACIM however, “There is really only one of us here.” This means that I am female, male, white, black, brown, straight, gay, trans, old and young. And so are you. Others are not simply our sisters and brothers; they are us! What we do to them, we do to ourselves.

With such clarifications in mind, the solution to the world’s problems are readily available and far easier to understand than complicated health care systems or carbon trading. The solutions are forgiveness and atonement. But for ACIM, forgiveness does not mean overlooking another’s sins and generously choosing not to punish them. It means first of all realizing that sin itself is an illusion. It is an archery term for a human mistake – for missing the mark – something every one of us does.

Forgiveness, then, amounts to nothing more than realizing that truth and acting accordingly – as though the forgiven one were our Self (because s/he is!). In a world of complete deception, it means accepting the truth that the ones our culture blames – like immigrants, refugees, people of color, the poor, Muslims, and members of the LGBTQQIA community – are not only completely innocent. Accepting them as our very Self represents the source of our personal and political salvation.  

In this light then, prisons (for particularly dangerous people) become re-education centers for rehabilitation, not punishment. This means that even pathological criminals like Trump, Pence, Pompeo, and Bolton can helpfully be sequestered for a while and then returned to society as reformed, productive people. (I know that’s hard to believe; but it could happen!)

Yes, for Williamson, the goal of it all (of life itself!) is atonement – At-One-Ment – practical realization of a world with room for everyone with illusory distinctions either ignored, or played with, or celebrated in the spirit of party and game. Practically speaking, atonement looks like reparations not only to the descendants of African slaves, but to countries we have destroyed like those Marianne referenced in Central America – but also like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Cuba, and a host of others. Instead of dropping bombs on them or applying sanctions, we should, in effect, be showering them with schools, hospitals, infrastructure, technological assistance, and money. It’s all part of the reparations due.

Imagine what that kind of foreign policy would accomplish and how much cheaper it would be than the trillions we’re now wasting on weapons and war.

As her books, Healing the Soul of America and A Politics of Love show, Williamson stood ready to share such convictions last Thursday night. But she was never asked. And we’re all poorer as a result.

Today’s Readings   

So how is all of that related to this Sunday’s readings? They’re about the contrast between the world’s wisdom – its way of debating, judging, condemning, and praising – and God’s way of interacting with one another and with creation itself. Check out the readings for yourself here and see what you think. My “translations” follow to clarify their cumulative point:

I KGS 19:16B, 19-21
 
We are called
To be prophets
Like Elijah
And his disciple-successor
Elisha
A wealthy farmer
Who understood
That God’s call
Required renouncing
Everything the world
Holds dear:
Family, possessions,
And independence
In order to
Comfort the afflicted
Afflict the comfortable
And feed the hungry.
 
PS 16: 1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11
 
For what ultimately
Belongs to us
Is not
The world’s
Corruption and condemnation
But the God
We deeply are
Who is our very
Food and drink,
The ability to see
Even amidst
The world’s darkness,
The source of calm,
Gladness, and health
Who shows
The path to life,
Joy, and unending delight.
 
 
GAL 5: 1, 13-18
 
As Elisha realized:
World and Spirit
Are completely opposed.
Paul terms
Those worldly values
“Flesh.”
It demands
Slavery and consumption
Of one another!
What God values
Is Christ’s “Spirit.”
Demanding
Nothing more
Than love
Of the other
Who is
(Believe it or not)
Our very Self.
 
I SM 3:9, JN 6: 68C
 
Deep down
We know
All of this
Is true.
 
LK 9: 51-62
 
Jesus did too.
So, on the way
To ultimate destiny
He rejected
The world’s spirit
Of xenophobia, revenge,
Ethnocentrism –
And Hell-Fire missiles.
Instead, he identified with
The homeless,
With life, not death,
And with the Spirit
Of Elisha
Who also
Left plow and oxen
For the sake of
God’s reign.

Conclusion

Please think about those readings in the light of what we witnessed on the debate stage a few nights ago. The other candidates represented what Paul calls “flesh” – you know: the world’s wisdom and way of doing things involving corruption, condemnation, devouring one’s opponent, xenophobia, and addiction to those Hellfire missiles. Meanwhile Marianne seemed bemused by it all. Her few thoughtful remarks said far more than the ones filibustering, pointlessly arguing, self-promoting.

As she says herself, Ms. Williamson is not in this campaign to run against anyone. She’s there to run with her fellow Democrats and to help Americans decide which candidate is best.

I think that candidate is Marianne. She deserves better consideration and a closer hearing than she received on Thursday. Like Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and Paul, she is a voice for our Deepest Self. She was the winner.  

What You Should Know about Marianne Williamson before Thursday’s Debate

Next Thursday, the country at large will be introduced to Marianne Williamson as presidential candidate. For many however, she needs no introduction. Millions know her as their spiritual guide. She has written 14 books with four of them ending up as #1 best-sellers.

Nonetheless, that fame and popularity doesn’t appear in polls. And that’s not merely because her name is often excluded from such surveys. It’s also because her constituents are not regular Democrats who vote in every primary. As such, they’re typically not called by pollsters.

But anyone who has read her books or who watches her weekly lectures from New York City’s Marble Collegiate Church knows of the devotion and energy of Marianne’s followers. In fact, she has more of them on-line than nearly every one of her opponents. Those millions can be easily mobilized on her behalf.

So, who is this woman and how is she different from the other twenty Democratic candidates we’ll see in the debates?

Based on my study of her two specifically political books (Healing the Soul of America and A Politics of Love), along with attendance at her lectures and a three-day seminar, personal interviews, and especially considering her own guiding light, Helen Schucman’s A Course in Miracles, let me share with you what I think viewers should know about Marianne Williamson before next Thursday’s debate. For me, the following seems to encapsulate her basic vision and platform:  

  • We are living imprisoned in something very like Plato’s Cave. What’s happening in “the news” is nothing more than shadow-play. It’s all kabuki theater. It has no reality.
  • The truth is 180 degrees opposite of what the talking heads tell us there. Our attitude to the news and statements of our politicians should be like that of Russians to the official line articulated in Pravda (Truth!) before the collapse of the USSR: if they say “black,” think “white.” If they say “peace,” think “war.” If they say “good,” think “bad.”
  • Child welfare should be the center of any serious long-range economic planning. There should be a cabinet-level Secretary of Children and Youth whose purpose would be to transform childhood experience in the United States. All U.S. schools should be “palaces of learning and joy;” libraries should be “temples of arts and literacy.”
  • Reparations for enslavement of African Americans is another imperative. Williamson writes, “If you steal a lot of money from someone – and more than two hundred years of unpaid labor certainly amounts to a lot of it – then you owe them more than an apology. You owe them money.”
  • There is no new immigration crisis; immigrants are not the cause of our problems.
  • Borders are absolutely human-constructs; they are ever-changing and fluid.
  • In fact, the earth belongs to everyone. No one can really “own” any of it. We’re all just travelers passing through. We can’t – we won’t – take any of it with us.
  • Every human is our sister or brother regardless of where they live or are from.
  • What we do to others, we do to ourselves.
  • No one at this moment is aggressing against the United States in any way that is not linked to U.S. policy that aggressed against them first.
  • In fact, we have no real enemies. Neither Russians, Chinese, Iranians, Iraqis, Libyans, Ethiopians, Syrians, Palestinians, North Koreans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, or any other nation on the face of the earth is our enemy.
  • Yes, there are differences between the countries just mentioned and our own. But that’s entirely normal. Differences between people do not make them enemies. It makes them human and interesting.
  • Wars mostly issue from the vested interests of the military-industrial complex. The disappearance of global conflict would actually be bad news in terms of those interests for which war is highly profitable and welcome.
  • Similarly, the disappearance of hunger and poverty would also be bad news for multinational companies like General Foods and Ralston Purina. Their profits depend on the maintenance of such disasters.
  • War, hunger and poverty are symptoms of a fundamentally flawed economic system that creates and justifies excessive wealth on the one hand and extreme poverty, starvation, thirst and homelessness on the other.
  • No person or system has a right to deprive anyone else of food, water, shelter, clothing or life.
  • So, it’s not right for billionaires to exist in a world where millions are starving.
  • Especially, no one has a right to deny climate change whose processes will deprive the rest of us our grandchildren, and untold billions of creatures of life itself.
  • Those who do so have committed a grievous crime against humanity and should be put in jail or into re-education programs.

Such positions focused on children, historical injustices, the poor, peace, climate change and income redistribution clearly make Marianne Williamson a populist in the best sense of the word.

Recently, on “The View,” Meghan McCain took note of that and compared Marianne to Donald Trump. Williamson’s response made it clear that, like Bernie Sanders, she embraces populism, but in a way quite different from Mr. Trump. Both Trump and Sanders, she acknowledges, were right in pointing out Washington corruption and the need to address Main Street’s concerns. However, once in office, Trump did nothing about draining the swamp he correctly identified. Instead he cozied up to vested interested and filled his administration with officers from Goldman Sachs and other firms that as a campaigner he had railed against. Marianne’s 40-year consistency in maintaining positions like those just outlined show she’s not an inveterate liar like Mr. Trump. She will follow through on her promises.

On the same telecast, Whoopi Goldberg observed correctly that Marianne’s program with its concern for children, their education and the poor in general is not at all unique. “Think about Head Start under Lyndon Johnson,” she said.    

Of course, Goldberg was actually referring to FDR’s New Deal with its Social Security, minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and vast government jobs programs. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiatives with programs like Head Start built on Roosevelt’s work. However, Williamson replied, the last 40 years have seen Republicans intentionally dismantle FDR’s programs in favor of socialism for the rich that has included huge tax breaks, government subsidies (e.g. $26 billion annually to fossil fuel companies), and massive bail-outs after the recipients had crashed the economy in 2008. Marianne is convinced that the gains of the New Deal and Great Society must be restored. That’s why she has pledged to fight for the Green New Deal and is fully supportive of TYT’s Progressive Pledge.

It should be noted that in holding the convictions and offering the policy proposals just summarized, Marianne Williamson is not an outlier. She is not at all unrealistic or naïve. She’s not some Bible-thumper or New Age fluff merchant.

Instead, her voice for justice joins with those of human civilization’s giants including the most acclaimed religious leaders everyone professes to admire.  Among them are the Buddha, the Jewish prophets, Jesus the Christ, Mohammed, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, the Dali Lama and Pope Francis.  In their ranks as well are Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Zinn, abolitionists like Sojourner Truth, and women suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton. These are the serious and absolutely profound traditions in which Marianne Williamson stands.

It’s no wonder, then, that she has all those millions of followers already mobilized on her behalf.

Jesus’ Calls Followers to Practice What Marianne Williamson Calls a “Politics of Love”

Readings for 5th Sunday of Easter: Acts 14: 21-27; PS 145: 8-13; REV 21: 1-5A; JN 13: 31-35

The readings for this fifth Sunday of Easter centralize Jesus’ New Commandment, to “Love one another as I have loved you.” He also identifies the criterion for distinguishing his true followers from those who are not. He says, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” – again, “as I have loved you.”

So, the question becomes how exactly did Jesus love those he interacted with? Was his love confined to the inter-personal sphere, or was it somehow political? And even if it was, is a politics of love practical? Or are we condemned to the political status quo based on fear and greed which our “Christian” culture has ironically convinced us is much more realistic than the love and compassion that Jesus seems to recommend?  

The answer to all of those questions was captured in our liturgical readings several weeks ago in Jesus’ first sermon as recorded by the evangelist called Luke. Jesus described his program in this way: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

That final phrase “the year of the Lord’s favor” is key to answering the questions I just posed. It’s a reference to the Jubilee Year enshrined in Israel’s ancient tradition. That tradition, if nothing else, was highly political. As economist Michael Hudson has reminded us recently in his And Forgive Them Their Debts, Jubilee referenced a political and economic practice common not only in Israel, but throughout the ancient Middle East. It had kings and emperors (usually on the occasion of their assuming power) periodically creating a clean slate for everyone, especially the poor. During Jubilee, debts were cancelled, land was redistributed, slaves were freed, and amnesty was extended to prisoners. Jubilee prioritized the needs of the poor, not the rich. Its unfolding in Jesus’ public life involved non-violent resistance to temple authorities who had aligned themselves with Roman imperialism.

In other words, the unmistakable conclusion here is that if Christians are to love one another precisely in the way that Jesus loved them, their love must be unapologetically political and anti-imperial. They must practice a politics of love that prioritizes the needs of the poor, sick, indebted, imprisoned, and of those victimized by oppressors of all kinds.

In our own day, don’t you think that at least gestures towards the spirit of the Green New Deal as opposed to continuation of the status quo? I do.

But, you might ask, is a politics of love practical?  Or given the fallenness of the human race, isn’t it more realistic to practice our familiar politics based on fear and greed – to run the country like a business instead of like a family.  Isn’t it more sensible to appeal to self-interest, money and the bottom line?

In response, Marianne Williamson would ask, “Well, how’s that working out for you?”

In case we’ve forgotten, (and please notice the dollar figures in what follows) by prioritizing the values of fear and greed, our “leaders” have :

  • Committed to a program of perpetual war that’s costing us about $2 billion per day
  • Spent $2 trillion in just one of those wars (Iraq) while slaughtering hundreds of thousands of civilians (and perhaps more than a million) and creating ISIS in the process
  • Prevented refugees created by our wars and economic system from finding refuge in our country where all but a hand-full (Native Americans) are descended precisely from immigrants, refugees, and slaves forced by the rich to work here against their wills
  • Created a society in which 3 men own as much as the bottom 50% of the country
  • Given $2 trillion in additional tax breaks mostly to those men and their colleagues in the richest 0.1%
  • Decided to commit mass suicide by hanging on to an economic system that is destroying our planet despite our claims to love our children and grandchildren
  • Asserted proudly that, all evidence to the contrary, our system of political-economy somehow “works”

And that’s just the short list of the craziness of our culture’s commitment to fear and greed rather than to a politics of love and compassion that prioritizes (as did Jesus) the needs of the poor, education, health care, debt forgiveness, and anti-imperialism.

Clearly, we can do better than that. Clearly, it’s time to try something else.

But where, our culture asks, would the money come from to eliminate poverty and save the planet? Practically speaking, where would we find the money for a Green New Deal, for universal health care, for higher wages, for forgiving student loans, to remedy the epidemic of homelessness?

“Don’t make me laugh” says Marianne Williamson in her Politics of Love. She writes:  

“How would we pay for all that education and culture, health and safety” ask those who have no problem whatsoever paying for ill-begotten wars and tax cuts for the extremely wealthy. Such a question should be met by laughter from those who were never consulted as to how we would pay for a $2 trillion war in Iraq (which, among other things created ISIS) or a $2 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest among us (which, among other things, is already adding tour wealth inequality).”

No doubt, the Jesus of Jubilee would join in Williamson’s ironic laughter. Where will we get the money?

Please go back to the dollar figures I asked you to note above. Then allow me to count the ways. They include moving quickly to an energy economy not based on fossil fuels, and then:

  • Saving trillions when the energy-switch enables us to stop fighting and threatening wars fought for oil (think Iraq, Iran, Venezuela). Stopping those energy wars would enable us to cut the Pentagon budget in half.
  • Revoking the recent tax gifts to the rich. That too would provide trillions
  • Revising the tax code’s highest bracket to 75% annually freeing up billions in the process
  • Cutting off all subsidies to oil companies. That as well would save millions each year
  • Imposing the death penalty on Exxon and seizing its assets as a penalty for concealing and lying about its climate research. That alone would go a long way towards paying for any Green New Deal
  • Returning to workers the wages stolen by their corporate employers who for the past 40 years have kept the fruits of skyrocketing labor productivity for themselves while practically stiffing their employees.
  • Recovering from corporations like McDonalds and Amazon the cost of food stamps and other federal aid programs accessed over the years by their underpaid workers.
  • Identifying the beneficiaries of 250 years of unpaid slave labor and assessing penalties on the families and corporations involved for the wages not paid for all that forced labor. The money could be used to build respectable housing and palatial schools in black communities.
  • And here I’m probably only scratching the surface.

According to my way of looking at things, implementation of the above policies would actually pay for the Green New Deal without raising taxes on any but the super-rich whose extravagant lifestyles will remain mostly unaffected.

In any case, the point is that the politics of love highlighted in today’s readings is the only realistic way of saving our planet. And Marianne Williamson is the only presidential candidate willing courageously to say so.

Again, as Marianne puts it, (just as in the past) love is the only answer to our current problems. “It was love that abolished slavery, it was love that gave women suffrage, it was love that established civil rights, and it is love that we need now.”

(P.S. Marianne Williamson recently achieved the 65,000 unique contributions required for her to appear on the debate stage with other Democratic presidential candidates. But now that more than 20 are running, it’s necessary for her to poll at 1% in national opinion polls. She’s close to achieving that goal too, but needs financial help to get her name and identity before the public. Please help her by donating here. She only has till June 12th to reach this goal.)