The Unique Importance of Marianne Williamson’s Campaign (Sunday Homily)

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, and hate.

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.

 WIS 9:13-18B
 
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.

Marianne Williamson: The Most Radical Candidate

Readings for Pentecost Sunday: ACTS 2: 1-11; PS 104: 1, 24, 29-30, 34; I COR 12: 3B-7, 12-13; ROM 8: 8-17; JN 20: 19-23

Today is Pentecost Sunday. Fifty days after Easter, it celebrates the day that followers of Jesus decided to overcome their fears and form a community to carry on Jesus work of introducing what he called the Kingdom of God as an alternative to Rome’s Kingdom of Caesar.

Whether the realization dawned on Easter day itself (as in today’s Gospel reading from John) or 50 days later (as described in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles), today’s celebration reminds us that Jesus’ Spirit stands 180 degrees opposed to that of empire – the spirit of the world. That’s because Jesus’ Spirit is embodied in the victims of empire’s torture and capital punishment. It recognizes the poor rather than the rich as the bearers of peace, joy, and prosperity. That’s what John means by recalling that before conferring his Spirit of Peace, Jesus “showed them his hands and his side.” That’s what today’s Sequence means when it identifies Jesus Spirit as the “Father of the poor.”  

During this election season, I cannot help connecting those Pentecostal insights to Marianne Williamson. That’s because alone among Democratic presidential candidates, she specifically recognizes the incompatibility between Jesus’ teaching that prioritizes love and forgiveness and the spirit that governs our world characterized by fear, greed, lies, and violence. For Williamson, such opposition remains a spiritual truism, whether we connect it with Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Krishna, the Buddha, or simply with LIFE or NATURE. Acknowledging that, Williamson’s candidacy is calling for a national change of consciousness from fear and greed to one driven by love and compassion.

Yes, she dares to do that with great specificity! And her wisdom and sincerity in doing so can hardly be questioned. In fact, we know more about Marianne Williamson, her philosophy, spirituality, and the workings of her mind than any other candidate. That’s because she’s spent, more than 30 years talking about nothing else. It’s all part of the public record. She’s used her spirituality (what today’s liturgy identifies with the Spirit of Jesus) to help individuals, couples, and congregations reach depths of critical thinking that even progressives might consider far too radical. For instance, she holds that:

  • We live imprisoned in a deceptive world much like Plato’s Cave.
  • There, what the world presents as truth is 180 degrees opposite of the truth of God (though no one need use that historically debased term).
  • The world’s truth is governed by fear and greed.
  • It identifies the “other” (e.g., poor people, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, non-whites, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, North Korea, ISIS) as the cause of our problems, while “we” are innocent.
  • The fact is none of those just listed is our enemy. All of us are more than brothers and sisters; in fact, there is really no meaningful distinction between us. What we do to them, we do to ourselves.
  • As a result, God’s ultimate truth is governed by love and compassion and by the realization that all humans are ultimately innocent.
  • That’s true even of Donald Trump, John Bolton, and Mike Pompeo. Though they are sociopaths who need to be removed from office and to face the consequences of their crimes, they too are performing the spiritual service of revealing as never before the corruption of the prevailing system that deceitfully serves the rich rather than the rest of us.

Insights like those have been among Marianne Williamson’s guiding convictions for more than 30 years.  And at least since 1998 and the publication of her Healing the Soul of America, she has scandalized many of her would-be followers by connecting her profound spirituality to deeply radical politics. In that book, she predicted the rise of a force like Donald Trump if the “higher consciousness community” and the rest of us failed to make similar connections. The title (and content!) of her latest book, The Politics of Love, doubles down on the radicalness of her analysis.

Imagine governing our country and the world according to the Spirit described in today’s readings. They are crystal-clear in their contradiction of what we’ve been led to accept as normal and unavoidable in the realm of politics. Review the readings for yourself. They tell us that Christ’s Spirit:

  • Is international; it loves equally people of all nations (Acts 2: 1-11)
  • Is abundantly creative and universal involving not just human beings, but all of creation (PS 104: 1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34)
  • Refuses to recognize religious distinctions, e.g. between Jews and “pagan” Greeks (ICOR 12: 3B-7, 12-13)
  • Embodies wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, and joy (Special Pentecostal Sequence)
  • Recognizes forgiveness as the key to peace (JN 20: 19-23)

Isn’t it true that most Americans, who describe themselves as somehow “Christian,” would find the convictions just listed as unrealistic or even suicidal if applied to politics?

But, of course, those ideals have never been tried. And, according to Williamson, that’s just the point. Failure to apply the spiritual insights advocated by Jesus and those other spiritual avatars have led us to our present impasse. That “realism,” she observes, is what’s really suicidal. It’s destroying our planet and threatening us with nuclear holocaust. For Williamson, making America great again means following a radically different path. It means following the example of Quaker-inspired abolitionists, of the similarly motivated suffragettes, of the Baptist preacher Martin Luther King, of war-resisters like the Catholic priests Phil and Daniel Berrigan, of Dorothy Day and Mohandas Gandhi. Those figures and the tradition they represent constitute the truly “great” part of the American tradition. 

To put it bluntly, Marianne Williamson, like the feast of Pentecost itself, is asking Americans to overcome their fears and form the beloved human community envisioned by Jesus, King and those others. But to do so, she says, we must completely reject everything empire values as true and worthy. Instead, Williamson invites us to recognize solidarity with those empire actually despises. Russians, Chinese, Iranians, Venezuelans, Syrians, North Koreans, Muslims, immigrants, the poor in general, even ISIS fighters, and especially the world’s children are beloved by God. Rather than rejection, wars, dronings and sanctions, they deserve respect and inclusion in any negotiations that affect them. At the same time, those actually in power are often thieves, sociopaths and criminals. They deserve compassion but must be treated accordingly. All of that encapsulates the radicalness of Marianne Williamson’s approach to politics. It also encapsulates the Spirit of Jesus – his ultimate gift celebrated this Pentecost Sunday. Is that too radical, even for Christians, even for progressives?  The alternative, Williamson reminds us, is just not working out.