It’s happening now. And it’s irreversible. It was promised to us in the 1960s as the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius” – a world where harmony, understanding, peace and trust would abound.
The Mayans reiterated the promise in 2012, when they predicted that the perfect alignment of the sun, the earth, and the center of the Milky Way (for the first time in 26,000 years) would inaugurate the “sixth era of the sun.” It would bring to humanity and the Earth itself a positive physical and spiritual transformation.
It’s happening now before our eyes.
And the agent of this profound change? Its polar opposite! A Trumpty Dumpty sitting on a “great and beautiful” wall symbolic of resistance to everything promised to us by Mayan wisdom.
Yet, Trumpty prepared us for the “great fall” of the entire world that his wall of separation symbolized – a white supremacist patriarchy that now lies in pieces impossible to reassemble despite the best efforts of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men.
Trumpty came, remember, specifically calling into question everything we were taught to revere. He said the news was fake; so was history, political polling, our voting system, Constitution, and even science. His very language patterns – repetitive, incoherent, and verbally challenged – called into question accepted standards of grammar and eloquence we had become accustomed to in smooth talking politicians and “respected” public figures. In Trumpty’s eyes, all of that was bunk and fake too.
And he was right.
However, the rude irony is that the accuracy of Trumpty’s demythologized iconoclasm has been underlined by the very people that the wall he’s been sitting on promised to exclude. It’s immigrants and especially the Black Lives Matter activists who are successfully joining him in questioning (but from the other side) his white supremacist understanding of the world as well as our history, laws, language, and implementation of democracy.
Think about it: before BLM, who would have thought Americans would even consider demolishing statues of Christopher Columbus and Confederate generals, let alone of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other revered “Founding Fathers?” Impossibly, Americans are seriously rethinking the “official story” of their nation and engaging in righteous iconoclasm.
But the movement goes much deeper than that. As Robin DiAngelo has pointed out in White Fragility, the world’s ruling Caucasian minority is now coming to realize that society itself is rigged at its intellectual core – and in the favor of the white supremacists Trumpty promised to restore to greatness.
According to DiAngelo, it’s all a mirage – white culture’s beliefs in
The supposed superiority of some forms of knowledge over others:
White Eurocentric knowledge over non-White, Indigenous and non-European ways of knowing
Written expression over oral
History over memory
Rationalism over wisdom
Acceptance of the supremacy of scientific linear thinking that recognizes as true only what can be quantified, and peer reviewed by scholars
The assumed neutrality of the white European Enlightenment
The Ideology of individualism
For DiAngelo and Black Lives Matter, such convictions and white values themselves are arbitrary. And that includes its reverence for the king’s English. So is its philosophy of “work before play,” “planning for the future,” adherence to rigid time schedules, and governance of life itself by Apple watches.
Before BLM and COVID-19, none of that was questionable for the cultural mainstream.
Now it is. American culture, if not the entire world, is questioning its basic world view and way of life.
The whole turn of events has opened for humanity what Indian scholar Arundhati Roy has called “a portal” – an opening from old discredited ways of thinking and acting to new more credible ones. A door has opened to the other world Mayan wisdom has told us is now possible.
In other words, humanity is ceasing its efforts to reassemble Mr. Trumpty’s shattered reality and to reject his wall and all it stands for. We’re telling each other that the time has come to finally walk through today’s open doorway into the promised Aquarian Age that (at least unconsciously) we’ve all been longing for.
Readings for 4th Sunday of Easter: ACTS 2:14A, 36-41; PSALM 23: 1-6; 1 PETER 2: 20B-25; JOHN 10: 1-10
This week’s readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter contain an important message for us in this time of Coronavirus. They call us to personal and community transformation – to persist in our recently imposed collective abandonment of the world’s values around profit, pleasure, power and prestige – the ones that are destroying our planet and that were rejected by the great prophet from Nazareth.
Given our immediate context, the readings’ implied message is: Don’t simply pick up where you left off. Instead embrace the new life that Mother Nature has so recently imposed. When the smoke clears, don’t go back to normal.
That’s the highly political theme of today’s readings. They focus on the image of “Life Itself as our guiding Shepherd,” and Jesus as the gate to the sheepfold protecting those within from destructive “strangers.” In biblical symbolism, such references are loaded with political meaning. Since the time of King David, Judah’s kings had always been referred to as shepherds.
So, when today’s familiar responsorial says, “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” It’s laying out a list of imperatives for kings like David. As God’s administrators, they are to make sure people have food and drink, shelter, leisure, and a clean and verdant environment.
And when John the evangelist has Jesus refer to himself as the sheepfold’s gatekeeper, John is calling attention to Jesus’ Way as leading from one reality (the world’s) to another, the fold he called the Kingdom of God. There, everything will be reversed. The first will be last; the last, first. The rich will be humiliated and the poor have the earth for their possession.
Unbelievably, the coronavirus has shed a bright light both on the corruption of what we’ve come to consider “normal,” and on what Arundhati Roy calls the “portal” and Jesus calls “the gate” leading to a revolutionary reality with kingdom overtones.
The Old Normality
To begin with, consider the old normal, specifically here in the United States.
Like the USSR in 1989, the USA has collapsed before our eyes in a matter of weeks. Yes, it’s already a fait accompli. And no one knows what to do about it.
The country’s economy has drawn to an absolute standstill. And it’s not going to return to normal any time soon. Unemployment is projected to exceed Great Depression proportions. People already routinely line up for blocks-long breadlines.
Moreover, the predominantly capitalist nature of America’s mixed economy has switched overnight to a predominantly socialist one. Instead of being allowed to perish (as capitalist theory would demand) the country’s largest enterprises have proven to require repeated bailouts from the central government. It happened with the Dot Com Burst of 2000, with the Great Recession in 2008, and now with the COVID-19 Crash of 2020. The system is completely unstable, and its survival requires those periodic infusions totaling trillions of dollars each time. Meanwhile millions go hungry and are left unemployed and wondering where their next meal might come from.
That’s called “socialism.” And in a matter of weeks, it’s happened in what we brag about as “the richest in the world.”
At the same time, the central government pledged by its Constitution to protect its citizens claims no responsibility to do so. It has left that obligation to local governments and to mutual aid organizations.
The resulting chaos has lifted the curtain that previously had prevented our realizing the actual swath of the sudden systemic collapse. Besides the political breakdown just noted, the disarray has touched at the very least, the following key elements:
Healthcare: Like nothing else, the COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the insanity of the U.S. healthcare non-system. We spend twice as much as the rest of the world in this area and end up with a vastly inferior product. U.S. healthcare has proven completely unable to respond to an absolutely predictable viral crisis. Disgracefully, with a far smaller population than China’s, we currently lead the world in Coronavirus deaths. As a result, polls show that a strong majority from both parties want to switch to single payer healthcare. However, presidential candidates from both parties, revealing their ownership by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, steadfastly refuse to even consider that option.
U.S. Industry: America’s system of production has also proven far less able to respond to COVID-19 than China’s. Our industries cannot even produce enough cotton swabs, much less, simple products like virus test kits, hospital beds, or protective gear for its first responders. That too represents a failure of the underlying neoliberal capitalist system that has off-shored productive capacity for more than 40 years.
However, the systemic failure unfolding before our eyes goes much further. It touches:
A phantom democracy: Ours is a phony democracy. It is based on bribery masquerading as “campaign contributions.” Its voting machines are easily hackable. The reigning system of gerrymandering has politicians choosing voters rather than the reverse. Voter suppression is widespread and obvious. No wonder only about half of Americans bother to vote.
A decayed infrastructure: Roads are potholed. Bridges are increasingly dangerous.
Homelessness: Our streets are filled with people sleeping on grates, while homes and office spaces lie empty. The system can’t bring the two together.
Overflowing Prisons: The United States imprisons a greater proportion of its people than any other country in the world. Most of them are black and brown. This racist system has an imprisonment rate 5 times higher than most countries in the world. And conditions in the privatized prisons are generally abominable.
A propagandized mainstream media (MSM): Six giant corporations – Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany and Viacom — own most newspapers, TV and radio stations. They act more like government propagandists and stenographers for politicians rather than fulfilling their traditionally assigned Fifth Estate function. Like those living in the former USSR, most of us have learned to mistrust the MSM in favor of on-line sources – the new samizdat equivalents.
A corrupt military: The U.S. military fights perpetual wars no one understands: To put down rebellions against its imperial policies, it currently spends (officially) nearly $2 billion each day ($718 billion in total annually). During the Obama administration, Americans dropped more than 26,000 bombs on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. Its drones terrorized populations in those countries on a daily basis. In other words, the United States continues to be what Dr. Martin Luther King called “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”
A politicized “justice” system: The court system has been packed for the next generation to favor corporations and the rich rather than ordinary people. That’s true all the way up to the Supreme Court whose key decisions (like Citizens United) have neutered democracy and punished women and the poor. Its predominant right-wing members should be called “Injustices” rather than Justices.
With all of that in mind, consider today’s readings as they centralize the primacy of Jesus’ “Way” over destructive values like those that the United States has come to embody. What follows are my “translations;” you can find the originals here.
ACTS 2: 14A, 36-41: Jewish Peter continues last week’s first Christian sermon: Peter says, “The crucified Jesus whom you mistakenly executed achieved the full Christ-consciousness the world has been waiting for.” When the crowd heard this they asked, “What then must we do?” Peter answered: “In the Spirit of the Christ, reject the world’s values and join us in the reformation of life dictated by our own holy faith.” Thousands of good Jews said “yes” that very day.
PSALM 23: 1-6: His listeners’ “yes” was premised on a traditional Jewish understanding of God: The Divine One is an accompanying kind Good Shepherd – the traditional symbol of a king. The divine order leaves no one in want, but provides food and drink, housing, rest, comfort, refreshment, courage, protection for everyone without distinction.
1 PETER 2: 20B-25: In a later letter Peter elaborated: If the world hates and hurts you for trusting such a God, know that you must be doing something right. You’re actually following in the footsteps of Jesus. Remember how they insulted him and that he remained nonviolent even when it cost him his life. Such awareness will keep you whole and on the right path blazed for us by our beloved Good Shepherd.
John 10: 1-10: A even much later reflection on Jesus as Good Shepherd: Jesus often used strange imagery to confuse his enemies. For instance, he referred to himself as a shepherd and to foreign occupiers (“strangers”) as sheep rustlers. In today’s reading, he calls himself the “gate” of the sheepfold, but also the “gatekeeper.” In the spirit of Psalm 23 (above), he speaks of his friends as his “sheep” and the purpose of his shepherding as protection and fullness of life for them.
As already indicated, Arundhati Roy recently picked up Jesus’ gate theme. At the prospect of ending the current lockdown, she spoke of our standing before a “portal” leading to a new way of life. It opens onto the new world our Great Holy Mother Earth has displayed for us these last six weeks.
Whatever the immediate causes of the virus, it seems that the Goddess of All has used it to make us realize that the world’s catastrophic way of consumption, environmental destruction, hurry and stress is not inevitable. Rather, it is clearly possible for the entire world to leave all of that behind.
Our Mother has shown us unmistakably that we humans are the actual virus afflicting the world. With our infernal machines ground to a halt, the sky cleared, birds and animals returned to their natural habitat, and rivers ran clear again.
In fact, another world (previously considered impossible, unrealistic, and utopian) has been shown to be indeed possible. Its restoration constitutes the very meaning of the religious term “repentance.”
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.