Readings for the Second Sunday of Lent: Genesis 12: 1-4A; Psalms 33: 4-5, 18-22; 2nd Timothy 1: 8b-10; Matthew 17: 1-9
On this Second Sunday of Lent and in the context of the Ukraine conflict, I want to return to the topic I addressed in last week’s homily – Marianne Williamson’s apparent sell-out to western warmongers in her position paper called “The Tragic Conundrum of Ukraine.”
Since then, Ms. Williamson has become the first Democrat to declare her candidacy to unseat Joe Biden as President of the United States. Yes, it’s official; she’s running again for president.
My point in what follows is this: For Williamson to have even the least chance of achieving her goal, she must go for broke. She must reverse her position on the Ukraine war and declare herself in no uncertain terms THE PEACE CANDIDATE.
Doing so would not only separate Williamson from Biden and the others who will eventually enter the 2024 race. More importantly, it would align her more securely with the principles of her own spiritual guidebook, A Course in Miracles (ACIM). As well, it would embody the example of Yeshua (the voice ACIM claims to channel) as reflected in today’s Gospel reading. There following what we’ve come to see as his “transfiguration,” Yeshua too decides to go for broke in his opposition to imperialism.
My point here is that to garner any meaningful notice as a candidate, Williamson needs to spiritually transfigure as well.
To show what I mean, let me (1) address Williamson’s candidacy as it relates to the war in Ukraine on the one hand and to ACIM on the other, (2) recall Yeshua’s adoption of a “go for broke” strategy in opposing Roman imperialism, and (3) recommend a similar strategy for Williamson if she truly wants to be a player in 2024.
Williamson & ACIM
First, recall who Marianne Williamson is and how easily she will be dismissed if she continues endorsing business as usual by adopting “the official story” and conventional wisdom about Ukraine as expressed in her “Conundrum” statement: She’s the one:
- Dismissed by many as a “vanity candidate” intent only on selling books.
- Characterized as “new agey, soft, and unrealistic.”
- Portrayed by SNL’s Kate McKinnon as “woo-woo,”
- And as one who would address political problems by burning sage and manipulating crystals.
- Ridiculed for alleging that “a dark psychic force” has made us all victims of collectivized hatred advanced by Donald Trump.
This time around, the same accusations will inevitably surface again unless Williamson does something authentic to distinguish her from Biden and the neocons and their bellicosity on Ukraine.
Instead, however, her statement on the war aligns itself with the largely white “West” (13% of the world’s population) as if it rather than the world’s mostly non-white majority “knows better.” She says, for instance,
“I believe there is legitimate justification for military support for Ukraine from Western allies, including the United States.” And “. . . Vladimir Putin’s actions today are a threat to which the Western world must now respond.” (Emphasis added).
One wonders why this emphasis on the largely white west. Again, does it somehow know better than mostly non-white cultures (e.g., in China and India) that have developed insights, wisdom, and spiritualities based on experiences thousands of years older than our own?
Does this western centrism represent an unconscious hangover from the colonial past that has enriched “the west” and impoverished the rest?
But more especially, how explain Williamson’s apparent rejection of the most obvious teachings of A Course in Miracles, which she has championed for decades?
Here’s what I mean. According to A Course in Miracles:
- Its teachings are basically Christian mysticism that finds the root of all problems in a skewed relationship with God – or Source, the Ground of Being, the Great Spirit, the Tao, Brahmin, Allah, Life, Cosmic Consciousness, etc.
- That mysticism also reveals that “America” is not an exceptional nation. (Or as Ms. Williamson is fond of putting it “No one is special, and everyone is special.”)
- Instead, all of us are living in a pseudo-reality reminiscent of Plato’s Cave, where prisoners mistake shadows manipulated by their keepers for reality far removed from the real world.
- Consequently, what the dominant culture accepts as “reality” is actually 180 degrees opposite the Truth.
- Its upside-down “reality” is rooted in fear, greed, dishonesty, and violence.
- This means that while the prevailing culture would blame our problems on others (like Russia), the Truth is that we (the United States) are 100% responsible for our own “conundrums.”
- Facing and correcting our own behavior are necessary first steps in solving any dilemma or conflict.
- Such inventory and rectification reveal that no one is attacking us. Instead, we are the attackers.
- Recognizing all of this is the key to peace.
- It embodies the miraculous in the ACIM sense of “a radical transformation of consciousness.”
Now, imagine if Marianne Williamson’ presidential campaign emphasized those ten points. It certainly would get attention. It would separate Williamson from the homogenized gaggle of candidates. It would raise the essential questions that no one dares raise. It would mark Ms. Williamson as a true leader worth following.
What I’m saying here is that unless Williamson finds the courage to go for broke by embracing the principles that she has taught for so many years and by identifying as The Peace Candidate, she’ll be lost in the shuffle. She’ll be ridiculed and dismissed once again.
Yeshua Goes for Broke
Today’s Gospel reading presents Jesus as setting an example Marianne Williamson would do well to follow. By resolving to take a leading part in a Passover demonstration against Jewish cooperation with imperial Rome, Yeshua risks it all.
Think about it.
Today’s reading finds the young construction worker from Nazareth on his way to Jerusalem, where he knows something extremely risky is about to happen. Yet he’s determined to be part of it. The risky action has to do with the temple and opposing the collaboration of its leaders with the Roman Empire.
The temple has become worse than irrelevant to the situation of Yeshua’s people living under Roman oppression. What happens there not only ignores Jewish political reality. The temple leadership has become the most important Jewish ally of the oppressing power. And Jesus has decided to address that intolerable situation despite inevitable risks of failure.
Everyone knows that a big demonstration against the Romans is planned in Jerusalem for the weekend of Passover. There’ll be chanting mobs. The slogans are already set. “Hosanna, hosanna, in the highest” will be one chant. Another will be “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Hosanna” is the key word here. It means “save us!” (The Romans won’t notice that the real meaning is “Save us from the Romans.” “Restore an independent Israel – like David’s kingdom!”) It was all very political.
Yeshua has heard that one of the main organizers of the demonstration is the guerrilla Zealot called Barabbas. Barabbas doesn’t call what’s planned a “demonstration.” He prefers the term “The Uprising” or “the Insurrection” (Mk. 15:6-8).
Barabbas has a following as enthusiastic as that of Yeshua. After all, Barabbas is a “sicarius” – a guerrilla whose solemn mission is to assassinate Roman soldiers and their Jewish collaborators. His courage has made him a hero to the crowds. (Scripture scholar, John Dominic Crossan compares him to the Mel Gibson character in “The Patriot.”)
Yeshua’s assigned part in the demonstration will be to attack the Temple and symbolically destroy it. He plans to enter the building with his friends and disrupt business as usual. They’ll all loudly denounce the moneychangers whose business exploits the poor. They’ll turn over their tables.
As a proponent of nonviolence, Yeshua and his band are thinking not in Barabbas’ terms of “uprising,” but of forcing God’s hand to bring in the Lord’s “Kingdom” to replace Roman domination. Passover, the Jewish holiday of national independence could not be a more appropriate time for the planned demonstration. Yeshua is thinking in terms of “Exodus,” Israel’s founding act of rebellion.
And yet, this peasant from Galilee is troubled by it all. What if the plan doesn’t work and God’s Kingdom doesn’t dawn this Passover? What if the Romans succeed in doing what they’ve always done in response to uprisings and demonstrations? Pilate’s standing order to deal with lower class disturbances is simply to arrest everyone involved and crucify them all as terrorists. Why would it be different this time?
So before setting out for Jerusalem, Yeshua takes his three closest friends and ascends a mountain for a long night of prayer. He’s seeking reassurance before the single most important act of his life. As usual, Peter, James and John soon fall fast asleep. True to form they are uncomprehending and dull.
However, while the lazy fall into unconsciousness, the ever alert and thoughtful Yeshua has a vision. Moses appears to him, and so does Elijah. (Together they represent the entire Jewish scriptural testament – the law and the prophets.) This means that on this mountain of prayer, Yeshua considers his contemplated path in the light of his people’s entire tradition.
According to the Jews’ credal summary in Deuteronomy 26, their whole national story centered on the Exodus. Fittingly then, Yeshua, Moses, and Elijah “discuss” what is about to take place in Jerusalem. Or as Luke puts it, “And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” Yeshua’s Exodus!!
It is easy to imagine Moses’ part in the conversation. That would be to remind Yeshua of the chances Moses took when he led the original Exodus from Egypt. That might have failed too. Nevertheless . . .
Elijah’s part was likely to recall for Yeshua the “prophetic script” that all prophets must follow. That script has God’s spokespersons speaking truth to power and suffering the inevitable consequences.
Elijah reminds Yeshua: So what if Barabbas and those following the path of violence are defeated again? So what if Yeshua’s nonviolent direct action in the temple fails to bring in the Kingdom? So what if Yeshua is arrested and crucified? That’s just the cost of doing prophetic business. Despite appearances to the contrary, Yeshua’s faithful God will somehow triumph in the end.
Is there a message in today’s reading for Marianne Williamson, who is undoubtedly the best equipped public figure to take on the essentially spiritual role of Peace Candidate?
I think there is.
The readings call her to:
- Insist that we’ve indeed all be grasped by a “dark psychic force” that ignores shared humanity and sees war as a first option rather than as a last resort.
- Be transfigured into 2024’s Peace Candidate by heeding Moses, Elijah, and Yeshua, the champions of her native Jewish faith.
- Be transformed as well by listening to the world’s non-western, mostly non-white majority and their reluctance or downright refusal to endorse U.S. insistence on controlling the world far from its own shores.
- Recognize that in line with the teachings of A Course in Miracles, the U.S. and NATO are 100% responsible for the Ukraine crisis.
- Call for an immediate ceasefire and diplomatic negotiations to end the war.
- Go for broke by ignoring those who will characterize her opposition to the war as naïve and unrealistic – as if risking nuclear annihilation were more sophisticated and mature.
- Truly embrace the teachings of A Course in Miracles that identifies the source of peace in its refusal to be frightened by non-existent threats and attacks.
- Or as The Course puts it: “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the PEACE of God.” (Emphasis added)