At the beginning of April, I was interviewed on a podcast called “Sunday with Mundy” hosted by Jon Mundy, a leading light in Course in Miracles (ACIM) circles.
Jon was interested in my own podcast site, “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Warriors.” He wondered about my thesis there that ACIM represents the channelled voice of Christ addressed to North Americans living in the belly of the United States Imperial Beast. In veiled terms, the Christ of ACIM, I contend, speaks against what my late colleague at Berea College, bell hooks, called the “white supremacist, imperialist, capitalist, patriarchy.”
In this episode of Jon’s show, Ted Kneupper, an emeritus ACIM scholar from Slippery Rock University is my dialog partner (along, of course with Dr. Mundy).
Has our study of ACIM’s Workbook for Students upset you yet? According to today’s lesson 12, it should have. You should be upset to learn that you’ve been tricked and fooled all your life. So have I.
We’ve been falsely taught, for instance, that the world is inherently frightening, sad, violent, and insane. However, it is none of these things. Instead, our so-called “leaders” carrying those statues before the fire in Plato’s Cave have created a fake world for us. And that world has filled us with an unnecessary, paralyzing fear since birth.
That’s upsetting to admit, don’t you agree? (It is for me especially at this age of 81. Why has it taken me so long to wake up?)
To be more specific, all our culture’s favorite convictions turn out to be untrue. For instance, we’ve been lied to:
About the importance of our personal histories where “my story” and “my” experience are supremely significant. (They are not!)
About individualism as somehow central to life in this world. (On the contrary, we’re all connected. There is no real distinction between any of us.)
About innate human competitiveness. (That’s a lie arbitrarily imposed by the reigning, time-bound capitalist economic system.)
About a God whose essence is to legislate, judge, condemn and punish
About an afterlife consisting in consignment an eternal lake of fire or of playing a harp on a cloud somewhere up in the sky
About the legitimacy of power claimed by politicians, generals, priests, and other manipulators who in the end are like the emperor without his clothes. (Their power is completely illusory.)
About laws of all kinds (They’re all creations of the wealthy and powerful statue-bearers – to keep wealth where it is. Apart from traffic regulations and the like, laws are generally instruments of oppression.)
About the goodness of the United States. (As Dr. King said, it’s the world’s “greatest purveyor of violence.” That’s not good!! The U.S. is as vile as any other empire.)
About the sacredness and inviolability of borders. [Capitalists ignore and cross them all the time (with devastating effect), while forbidding workers to do the same.]
About the importance of power, profit, pleasure, and prestige (None of them is lasting or real.)
Etc., etc., etc.
It can’t be repeated enough: Today’s lesson’s insistence that ALL these convictions are illusory or meaningless is very upsetting. But, let me say it again this way: None of the convictions I’ve listed and many, many more are anything more than human creations. Not one of them is part of Life’s inherent order.
Doesn’t that irritate you?
Nonetheless (as Lesson 12 points out) the realization of the world’s meaninglessness could also make us “indescribably happy.” The happiness would come from the realization that the world does not have to be crazy, insane, violent, sad, or under anything like its present “leadership.”
As we’ll discover in future lessons, the revelation of God’s order (once we’ve detached from the world’s meaningless disorder) will disclose glorious, undreamt of horizons of meaning.
In the meantime though, keep working on the task of dispelling the cultural illusions this first part of A Course in Miracles sets before us. Follow Lesson 12’s instructions:
Quite deliberately, three or four times during the day, for just a minute or so, “(W)ith eyes open. . . look around you, this time quite slowly. . . from one thing to another. . . ” saying to yourself, “I think I see a fearful world, a dangerous world, a hostile world, a sad world, a wicked world, a crazy world. . . But I am upset because I see a meaningless world.”
As usual, I’ll join you in performing this exercise.
So, till next time, this is Mike Rivage-Seul wishing you well and God’s blessings.
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) has long been an inspiration to me. It is a New Age “channeled” production published by Helen Schucman in 1975. However, the book is often interpreted in ways that discourage social activism — for instance, by its foremost expositor, Ken Wapnick,
My approach is quite the opposite. It sees ACIM as written specifically for North Americans calling them precisely to leave aside any trace of quietism and to follow Jesus’ example of working for the liberation of the world’s poor and oppressed.
So, having finished the heavy lifting on the publication of my novel (The Pope’s Secret) I’m finally getting back to the podcast whose point is to explain lesson-by-lesson A Course in Miracles (ACIM) and its often-neglected implications for social justice warriors. However, before I get to those lessons, this 5th episode continues my introduction to ACIM. For the other four episodes, please see my separate podcast site.
FYI, here’s my second episode of the podcast I’m starting on A Course in Miracles for social justice activists. I’m still struggling with the technology of it all. But the podcast site looks like this: https://acimforactivists.com/ Please check it out and maybe become a follower there. It’s going to get better, I promise.
Scroll down on the site and you’ll see the first episode too. I’m currently working on installment 3.
A few days ago, I posted a trial balloon episode of my first podcast in a series called “A Course in Miracles for Activists: ACIM for social justice warriors.” It used one of those generic automatic “translations” from-text-to -voice. It featured a professional voice, but one that had predictable problems in phrasing and sometimes in pronunciation that often characterize disembodied automatic voice recordings.
My effort was a kind of place holder. I was looking for feedback. (I’ve since removed the posting.)
But with the responses I received in mind, I’m now posting “take two.” Its content is quite different from my first recording and its voice is my own. However, I’m still looking for feedback. (And please don’t pull any punches.)
I’m also looking for subscribers to my new podcast site which you’ll find here: https://acimforactivists.com/ Please use the “Follow” button towards the bottom of the page.
So, give a listen and sign up if you’re so inclined. I consider this project another step in my own spiritual pilgrimage. I’m learning as I go — both about podcasting and the meaning of life.
Readings for Third Sunday of Easter: ACTS 2:14, 22-32; PSALMS 16:1-11; 1PETER 1:17-21; LUKE 24:13-35
Today’s Gospel story is about dashed hopes redeemed by acceptance of Jesus’ Spirit of love encapsulated in the simple act of breaking bread with strangers. It’s about the replacement of discouragement and fear with hope and the prospect of entirely unforeseen, even miraculous possibilities.
Given our present context of pandemic, quarantine and presidential campaigns, I can’t read it without thinking of the dashed hopes of progressives. I can’t help thinking about the defeat of the self-styled revolutionary, Bernie Sanders and the presumed nomination of the de facto restorationist, Joe Biden.
For progressives, it all seems disastrous and beyond redemption. Where’s the hope? However, the example of former candidate, Marianne Williamson who synthesizes her Jewish tradition with that of Christians, offers reason for hope. It’s just too bad that we didn’t listen to her sooner.
Before I get to that though, think first about our context.
Our Lost Campaign
Begin by considering the irony of the present moment. Here we are stuck with, Joe Biden, the weakest entry in the original candidate field. Meanwhile, the strongest candidate – the one absolutely demanded by our extraordinary times – has slipped into political oblivion. I’m talking about Marianne Williamson.
Recall that at the beginning, more than 20 candidates announced themselves as contestants for the Democratic nomination. As far as the mainstream media (MSM) was concerned, Joe Biden was the odds-on favorite. Marianne Williamson, a spiritual teacher by vocation, was dismissed out of hand.
The irony is that now that the smoke has cleared, Joe Biden has indeed prevailed. And Marianne Williamson is looking better all the time.
Biden prevailed despite his pedestrian debate performances. All of them were entirely unnoteworthy except for his appearing generally confused, inarticulate, and (as ever) prone to embarrassing gaffes.
More specifically, doddering Uncle Joe showed himself to be a staunch upholder of a moribund status quo that the Coronavirus crisis has revealed to be crumbling all around. Clearly in cognitive decline, and even as the United States registers more COVID-19 deaths than any country in the world, the man can’t even acknowledge what’s apparent to most people everywhere. The U.S. healthcare system is a complete and utter disgrace. It must be replaced by a single payer arrangement like that afforded the citizens of all other industrialized nations. For more than 50 years, none of them has had trouble figuring out how to pay for public healthcare. Old Mr. Biden can’t seem to wrap his mind around that simple fact. Poor man.
Then there was Marianne Williamson. At the beginning, she was an object of media ridicule. She was portrayed as a fluffy woo-woo new ager. Her inspiration drawn from A Course in Miracles (ACIM) was laughed at by the pundits. “Miracles?” They didn’t understand that in ACIM vocabulary, the term refers to any change of perception from fear to love. And such change is exactly what’s demanded by our times – particularly, as it turns out, during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Yes, Marianne was dismissed out of hand. However, those of us who have been following her for years and who had read her Healing the Soul of America, knew better. For us, she was a much deeper Bernie Sanders. In fact, when candidates like Mayor Pete, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Corey Booker, Beto O’Rourke, and Tulsi Gabbard rushed to stop Sanders and endorse Biden, virtually alone among former candidates, Marianne stuck with Bernie.
She advocated all of his programs, but her rationale for doing so was much deeper. It was grounded in what she called a “politics of love.” It recognized clearly that our country’s fundamental malady is spiritual rather than economic. Hers was the very message Americans need to hear at this watershed moment. Fear is the world’s way; love is the Spirit of Life. A politics based on love is not only possible, we must realize, but required.
And over the years, Marianne has proven herself more eloquent in delivering that message than any of her candidate peers. She is far more articulate and inspiring than any of them – any of them! If she were in Silent Joe’s place, she’d be on TV every day encouraging all of us in this season of distress and explaining how to deal with it internally and externally. And she’d crush Lyin’ Donald Trump’s tedious pressers by contrast.
But even more valuable at this time of COVID-19, Ms. Williamson would lay out her inspiring policy rationale. It is first of all, that we can’t believe any of our politicians who mouth the neoliberal “Washington Consensus” with its trickle-down rationale and its idea of American exceptionalism. Even more generally, she’d insist that the wisdom of the world is 180 degrees opposite that of the underlying wisdom of Life Itself, whether we refer to it like that or call it Mother Earth, Nature with a capital ‘N,’ the Ground of Being, or for that matter, “God.”
Yes, she says, America has been great. And that greatness must be restored. However, it is found not in some top-down arrangement, where leadership comes from billionaires, bankers, hedge funders, giant corporations, or politicians. Instead, the greatness of the United States is found in its founding fathers and mothers, in abolitionists, women suffragists, labor unions, the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Green New Deal. Such understanding means that we must look for bottom-up leadership and policies rather than the stale top-down proposals emanating from D.C. and the likes of Biden and Trump.
In the current crisis, she’d say, American greatness is found in the immigrants (many of them undocumented) whom we’ve come to depend on to harvest our food, serve us in grocery stores, deliver our packages, and sweep floors and clean toilets in our hospitals. Ironically, the very ones vilified by President Trump are our economy’s real essential workers – more so than any of our politicians. Those workers are heroes and we all owe them a huge debt. They should be bailed out first. In fact, if bailouts are in question, the order of rescue should be (1) ordinary people, (2) mom and pop businesses, and (3) banks and corporations – not the reverse.
To get all of this in faith perspective, please read today’s liturgical selections for yourself here. See if you can discern the connection with what I’ve been saying. My own “translations” runs as follows:
ACTS 2:14, 22-32: The Earliest Christian FaithAddressed by Jews to Jews: Jesus was a wonderworker who fulfilled the “prophetic script” of being rejected and assassinated by his own people. But as with past prophets (as described by David) his soul has proven to be immortal. He lives! His Spirit cannot die.
PSALMS 16:1-11: Jesus’ Spirit Shows Us the Path to Life: We take refuge in that Spirit which his followers have inherited. When we’re disturbed it tells us what to do. It makes us happy, joyful, and confident even in the face of death.
1PETER 1:17-21: Follow That Path: Yes, they spilled Jesus’ blood like a lamb led to slaughter. But that wasn’t the end of him. His Holy Spirit remains (as it always has) to save us from a meaningless life devoted to the mere accumulation of gold and silver.
LUKE 24:13-35: The Miraculous Walk: That firstEaster morning two of Jesus’ disciples were walking to a town seven miles from Jerusalem. Sadly, they could talk of nothing other than the tragic events of the previous weekend. Jesus joined them unrecognized. With a jester’s smile, he asked about himself and his story. The two earnestly recounted the tale of their dashed hopes concerning a wonder worker from Nazareth assassinated by the religious establishment – and the women’s crazy account of a miraculously empty tomb, angels and new life. “There’s nothing odd about that,” Jesus explained still smiling. It’s the “prophetic script.” It’s what has always happened among our people. Still not recognizing Jesus, the two begged him to have supper and stay the night with them. During the meal, Jesus broke bread as he had at his Last Supper. And in that action, the two disciples recognized Jesus. Suddenly, he disappeared. The disciples practically ran back to Jerusalem to report what they saw as the result of breaking bread with a stranger who turned out to be the (risen) Christ. The world has never been the same since.
Yes, instead of Marianne Williamson, we’re stuck with sleepy Joe Biden. And, if you’re like me, you’re discouraged by this awful turn of events. Together we’re like those two disciples that first Easter Sunday walking down the road to Emmaus. And so far, this homily has been like the conversation of those two before Jesus joined them to put everything in perspective. It’s been about what might have been. All seems lost.
But the Christ-consciousness championed by Marianne (and Jesus himself) asks us to bring our darkness into the light of resurrection belief (however we understand it). That consciousness makes it clear that miracles are possible. In ACIM’s sense of fundamental changes in perception from fear to love, they happen all the time.
And at the moment, with the entire world shut down (who would have thought that possible?) we stand before what Arundhati Roy calls a “portal.” The doorway leads from our old world to a new one of the type described for us not only by Marianne Williamson, but by Jesus himself and all the great avatars of human history.
While Joe Biden calls us to turn back, Marianne Williamson joins Jesus in urging us forward into an awaiting new world. There the first are last and the last are first. It’s a planet with room for everyone.
We now know Marianne Williamson won’t be the one to lead us through the beckoning portal. It’s up to us all to rise to the occasion and resurrect everything to a new way of life. Yes, it’s up to us.
Readings for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time: WIS 9:13-18B; PS 90: 3-6, 12-14, 17; PHMN 9-10, 12-17; PS 119: 135; LK 14: 25-33
Marianne Williamson’s campaign is not dead. True, she will
not be appearing on the stage of the third Democratic debate. Although she has
the required number of donors, Williamson has not yet attained the necessary 2%
in four polls approved by the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Nonetheless,
her campaign continues its concentration on Iowa, where she’s been working for
the last several months. Her people confidently anticipate her participation in
Debate # 4.
Recently, the New York Times (NYT) ran a long very positive column on Marianne. It was called “The Gospel according to Marianne Williamson.” It reminded readers of Ms. Williamson’s identity, her growing and highly enthusiastic audiences, and the persuasive power of her remarkable eloquence.
The article assured readers that Williamson is far more than some New Age guru or the spiritual advisor of Oprah Winfrey. Jokes and criticisms aside, she has nothing to do with crystals or burning sage. Instead, she is a widely-hailed, best-selling author, spiritual teacher, counsellor, and generally wise person. For more than 40 years, she has been a student and teacher of A Course in Miracles (ACIM), a book published in 1974) which Williamson describes as “basic Christian mysticism.”
It’s that latter qualification – Williamson’s connection
with Christian mysticism – that makes her continued campaign extremely relevant
to this Sunday’s liturgy of the word. That’s because the theme of today’s
readings contrasts the wisdom of God with the wisdom of the world just as does
ACIM. Serious consideration of that contrast illustrates the unique importance
of Marianne Williamson’s candidacy at this particular juncture in the history
of our nation and world.
For ACIM, the world’s wisdom is based on fear; God’s wisdom
is based on love. In fact, according to A Course in Miracles, love and
fear are the only two motivational forces in the entire world. That’s true in
our personal relationships, but also in politics. Either we see others as
enemies poised to attack us at every opportunity, and act accordingly. Or we
recognize our very selves in those the world would teach us to fear, mistrust,
More specifically, the politics of fear sees Muslims, Russia, China, the Taliban, ISIS, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQQIAAPs, and poor people in general as our enemies. Meanwhile, a politics based on love recognizes that none of those the world teaches us to fear is basically hostile. Rather, when we take 100% responsibility for the problems designated enemies ostensibly represent, a path opens up to achieving peace with all concerned.
Does such conviction seem woo-woo or unrealistic to you? If
it does, please be reminded first of all, that such belief is basic not only to
Christian faith, but (as Williamson constantly reminds us) to all the world’s great
religious traditions, including Islam. It is basic also to many secular
traditions that consider themselves atheistic or agnostic.
Secondly, remember that according to Christian faith, “God”
is synonymous with “love,” so that Williamson’s “Politics of Love” means the
politics of God. That means (thirdly) that rejection of political love as
woo-woo trivializes Christian faith and Jesus himself.
With all of that in mind, please read for yourselves this Sunday’s liturgical readings. (You’ll find them here.) To repeat, they contrast the wisdom of the world with the Wisdom of God. In any case, and for what it’s worth, here are my “translations” of their content. Their thoughtful review will help you see what I’m getting at in saying that Marianne Williamson’s “Gospel” is far deeper than revealed in the NYT article just referenced.
The wisdom of God Unlike the world’s Is sure and decisive. For human thought processes Focused on the body And its shifting reality Are necessarily confused. Hence, we cannot judge wisely Without assistance From the Holy Spirit Who consistently reveals God’s Reality As filled with love.
PS 90: 3-6, 12-14, 17
This is because Time has no meaning For God. Everything but Love Passes in an instant. Consequently Our prayer must be: “Teach us Your changeless vision Filled with kindness Joy and gladness.” Only such Synonyms for love Give meaning To our lives.
PHMN 9-10, 12-17
For example, An elderly and imprisoned Paul Long ago Rejected the world’s wisdom About slavery. Seeing with the eyes of Christ He says Miraculously transformed Onesimus From slave and chattel Into a man A partner A son and brother. “Follow my example,” The shackled one implores.
PS 119: 135
We agree: Show us your face, O, Lord, In slaves And in those behind bars. Yes, teach us your ways.
LK 14: 25-33
But the Master warns: “If, like me, you live According to God’s Wisdom, The World Will surely crucify you As the subversive You must be To qualify As my disciple. But be sure to Subvert non-violently For otherwise, The militarized Powers of the world Will surely crush you. Sabotage instead By insistent example That refuses To value anything The world treasures.”
Those are radical thoughts. They are 180 degrees opposed to
the “wisdom of the world.” Yes, the very wisdom of God teaches that we have no
enemies other than those our thoughts and resulting actions have created. It’s
reconciliation with our designated enemies (recognizing them as embodiments of
our very selves) that holds the promise of our very salvation.
No Democratic candidate other than Marianne Williamson dares
call us to such radicality. It’s that change in attitude that ACIM defines as
“miraculous.” Only that sort of basic transformation in consciousness can save
us from the unprecedented catastrophes facing our world today.
As Ms. Williamson puts it: “It’s unreasonable to expect those who drove us into the ditch we’re in now to be the ones qualified to get us out.”
No: our present context necessitates an entirely new leadership and consciousness – a new wisdom based on love rather than fear. That’s the vision Marianne Williamson offers us this election season. And it’s not New Age woo-woo. In reality, the wisdom in question is not new at all. It’s reflected in the teachings of Jesus. It’s the wisdom of Paul. It’s the theme of today’s liturgical readings.
After the first Democratic Presidential Debate, Marianne Williamson generated a lot of interest.
On the one hand, her name ended up being the most searched on the internet. With language and demeanor vastly different from the other candidates, people wanted to know who she might be.
On the other hand, Williamson generated a good deal of ridicule. Seth Meyers joked that she clearly won’t be around this fall. Ha ha; who would be so foolish as to think otherwise! Kate McKinnon (pictured above) offered a woo-woo Williamson impression that had Marianne eliminating global problems by burning all the sage on the planet. TYT’s Brooke Thomas dismissed Marianne as a “vanity candidate” intent merely on selling her books.
All of that was itself laughable for those who
know Marianne Williamson. We know she’s not a woo-woo lightweight; she doesn’t
need to sell more books; and if people understand just who she is and grasp her
fundamental message, she’ll definitely be around this fall.
And that’s because her absolutely radical approach
to politics supplies the simple key we’ve all been looking for to solve the
endless problems on our national list, be it climate change, the threat of
nuclear war, terrorism, or immigration.
Let me repeat: her approach offers a key far more
radical and easily understood than anything Bernie or Elizabeth even imagines
or dares to say.
The key I’m referencing is basic to the teaching of A Course in Miracles (ACIM), which has been the guidebook for Marianne’s life and teaching for more than 40 years. Williamson herself describes the course as basic Christian mysticism. It’s not a religion; it’s not for everyone; it doesn’t even demand belief in God. However, it does respond to the universal human quest for ethical principle and spiritual meaning, whether the quest is understood as generated by God, Yahweh, Allah, Krishna, the Buddha, Ultimate Reality, the Ground of Being, Life Itself, or Nature with a capital “N.”
But what about that key I mentioned?
It’s simply this: take 100% responsibility for your
problems and deal with them accordingly.
That’s it. And, though difficult to actually
implement, that assumption of complete responsibility will go a long way
towards eliminating not only personal and inter-personal problems, but all our political
conundrums as well.
How radical is that?
It’s the opposite, of course, from the approach of
Mr. Trump – and even of Marianne’s colleagues on the debate stage. In contrast
to Marianne, every one of them adopts the standard cliched and stereotyped
approach so familiar to all of us in our personal lives: I’m not the problem;
she is; he is; they are.
In political terms it’s refugees, immigrants,
people of color, welfare cheats, unprovoked “terrorists,” the Russians,
Chinese, Iranians, Somalis, Libyans, Syrians, MS-13 gang members, and drug
dealers. The list goes on and on and on. All of those included must be
punished, subjected to sanctions, bombed, droned, or killed.
But we never find fault in ourselves. Never!
Pertinently and most recently, such unwillingness to accept responsibility was expressed by President Trump in his racist harangue against Congressional Representatives Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, Ayanna Presley, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC). According to Mr. Trump all four representatives outrageously blame the United States the problems of terrorism, Palestinian oppression, public misinformation, and immigration problems. Here’s what Trump and his audience ridiculed as patently ludicrous:
Ilhan Omar “attacked our country” saying that
terrorism is a reaction to our involvement in other people’s affairs. She even
blamed the United States for the crisis in Venezuela!
Rashida Talib said that members of congress who
support Israel have forgotten what country they represent.
Ayana Presley alleged that “ignorance is
pervasive in many parts of this country.”
AOC compared U.S. border agents to Nazis running
concentration camps and claimed that inmates in the camps were forced to drink
water from toilets.
To such accusations, Trump’s followers bellowed loud dissent.
How could anyone possible accuse Americans of ignorance, of terrorism, of
supporting Global South coups, or of maintaining concentration camps or at our
border, or of facilitating them in Gaza? After all, (in Mr. Trump’s words) we
are the “greatest force for peace and justice in the world.”
But, Williamson and ACIM implicitly ask, what if every one of those accusations is true? What if terrorism is largely blowback? What if the United States has indeed routinely undermined governments in the former colonies, including Venezuela? What if members of Congress generally appear more loyal to Israel than to their constituents? What if many Americans are indeed ignorant, and if those cages on our border – those baby prisons and child detention facilities – are actually concentration camps?
If we seriously entertained those possibilities, dealing
with the problems in question would involve change – not principally on the
part of our designated enemies – but on our own part. (Imagine that!) It would
compel us to terminate uninvited involvement in the affairs of other nations.
It would have us cease and desist, for instance, from regime change strategies,
from support of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, and from abusing children
by separating infants from their mothers.
In theological terms as understood in ACIM, accepting 100%
responsibility for the world’s problems would involve:
Prioritizing the world as God created it, belonging
to everyone and perfect before humans appeared – without borders, which (though
useful for commerce and travel) are not part of the Love’s unchallengeable
Admitting that we are not an exceptional nation
– or as ACIM puts it: No one is special, while everyone is special
Forgiving those we habitually blame – meaning treating
them exactly as we would like to be treated
Realizing that no one is attacking us without
Yet being willing to treat genuine criminality (e.g.
as represented by those cages on the border or by the 9/11 attacks) with
humanely retributive imprisonment (and/or impeachment)
Put more practically (according to the points distinguishing
Williamson’s platform from that of others who also advocate the Green New Deal,
etc.), admitting our responsibility for the world’s problems entails:
Paying reparations especially to African
Americans, but also to indigenous tribes and to the countries our unprovoked
regime-change wars have destroyed.
Creating a cabinet-level Department of Children
and Youth intent on making our schools “palaces of learning” and our libraries
“temples of literature and art”
Funding a Department of Peace at the same level
as the so-called Defense Department
Imagine a world in which we took 100% responsibility for climate change, nuclear disarmament, immigration, and all the other problems represented by those we habitually blame. Imagine a president using her bully pulpit to set a constructive national tone (vs. the destructive tone set by Mr. Trump) and helping us all to accept 100% responsibility not only for the world’s problems but for our personal conflicts as well. What would happen to our marriages, to our families, to our local communities?
Answers to those musings constitute the reasons why Marianne Williamson, far from deserving ridicule, is the very candidate our country needs.
P.S. Watch how Marianne knocked it out of the park on Colbert last Monday night:
But what does that mean for activists who are
aspiring to follow in the footsteps of the great prophet, dissident, teacher of
unconventional wisdom, story-teller, mystic, and movement founder, Yeshua of
The question is obscured by long centuries of covering up those identities in favor of Jesus’ overwhelming identification as “Son of God.” Son of God swallows up all the rest and makes it difficult, if not impossible to engage in what Thomas a Kempis called “The Imitation of Christ.”
But for the moment, suppose we set aside
“Jesus the Christ,” and concentrate on that man his mother named Yeshua. He
lived in a time not unlike our own, in a province occupied by an empire similar
to ours. He found those conditions unbearable and devoted his public life to
replacing the “Pax Romana” with what he called the “Kingdom of God.” There the
world would be governed not by those wearing Roman jackboots, or by the law of
the strongest, but by compassion and gift – even towards those his culture saw
The latter was “Good News” for the poor and oppressed among whom he found himself and his friends – laborers, working girls, beggars, lepers infected with a disease not unlike AIDS, and those fortunate enough to have government work as toll gatherers. He ate with such people. He drank wine with them. Some said he got drunk with them (MT11:19). He defended such friends in public. And he harshly criticized their oppressors, beginning with his religion’s equivalents of popes, bishops, priests, ministers, and TV evangelists. “Woe to you rich!” he said. “White-washed tombs!” he called the religious “leaders” (LK 6:24, MT 23:27).
What does it mean to follow such an activist
and champion of the poor this Ash Wednesday March 6th, 2019?
I would say it means first of all to ask that
question and to pray humbly for an answer.
Other questions for this Lent: Does following
Jesus mean taking a public stance against empire and “church” as he did? Does
it mean praying for the defeat of U.S. imperial forces wherever they wage their
wars of expansion and aggression? Does it mean discouraging our daughters and
sons from participating in a disgrace-full military? Does it mean leaving our
churches which have become the white-washed tombs of a God who through failed
church leadership has lost credibility and the vital capacity to effectively
summon us beyond our nationalism, militarism, and addiction to guns and
violence? Does it mean lobbying, making phone calls on behalf of and generally
supporting those our culture finds undeserving and “unclean?”
Does it mean for Catholics that we somehow make our voices heard all the way to Rome demanding that Pope Francis save the church from itself by healing the wounds of the pedophilia crisis, reversing the disaster of “Humanae Vitae’s” prohibition of contraception, allowing women to become priests, and eliminating mandatory celibacy as a prerequisite for ordination?
Yes, I think, it means all of those things.
But Lent also calls for self-purification from the spirit that arrogantly
locates all the world’s evils “out there” in “those people.” In its wisdom, the
grassroots church of Hildegard of Bingen, Francis of Assisi, of Daniel and Phil
Berrigan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, Ignacio Ellacuria,
Jean Donovan, and Matthew Fox calls us to deepen our interior lives for
purposes of sharpening our discernment about how to contribute towards
replacing empire with God’s Kingdom. All of those saints, remember, were
condemned by the hierarchy just the way Yeshua was in his own day.
Six weeks is a relatively long time for the
purification necessary to eliminate undesirable patterns in our lives and to
replace them with habits exemplified in the lives of the saints just mentioned.
It’s plenty of time for working on our addictions to the pursuit of pleasure,
profit, power, and prestige. Each of us knows what behaviors in our own lives
are associated with those categories. So, it’s time to get to work.
As for myself . . . besides using this period for training my senses, I intend to recommit myself with renewed fervor to my daily practice of meditation, my mantram (“Yeshua, Yeshua”), spiritual reading, slowing down, one-pointed attention, spiritual companionship, and putting the needs of others first – the eight-point program outlined by Eknath Easwaran in his book Passage Meditation. Over the past two years, I’ve been keeping a spiritual journal to make sure I stay focused.
For the past two years, I’ve also been taking A Course in Miracles (ACIM) as explained by now-presidential candidate, Marianne Williamson. I’m going through the manual’s 365 lessons for a second time and find it absolutely challenging. It’s helping me distance myself further from the world’s shadows projected in our Plato’s-Cave-world. It’s giving me, what I described in another context, a set of “magic glasses” that confer a world-vision 180 degrees opposite the one that reigns here in the United States.
During Lent, I’ll continue my ACIM work – including redoubled efforts on behalf of Marianne Williamson’s candidacy. Regardless of what one might think of her chances of success, her message needs to be taken seriously. In the end, it’s about replacing politics driven by fear with policy shaped by the compassion of Jesus and the most admirable people in history. (Marianne’s candidacy forces the question on believers: Do we really believe Jesus’ words? Do we?)
I hope anyone reading
this will feel free to offer other suggestions. I’m sure you agree that these
are extraordinary times. They call for extraordinary political and spiritual
commitment. In the spirit of Yeshua and all those saints I mentioned, we need
to pool our resources.