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Marianne Williamson and the Power of Prayer

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So, let me get this straight. Marianne Williamson should be disqualified as a viable presidential candidate because she has too much faith in the power of prayer, of mind, of love, and of God.

The disqualification was sparked by a tweet she made as Hurricane Dorian was bearing down upon the southern coast of the United States. It read: "The Bahamas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas"may all be in our prayers now. Millions of us seeing Dorian turn away from land is not a wacky idea; it is a creative use of the power of the mind. Two minutes of prayer, visualization, meditation for those in the way of the storm,"

It was a call to faith addressed to a nation where the majority considers itself followers of the one who said, "If you have faith, even as a mustard seed, and say to this mountain 'move from here to there,' it will obey you" (MT 17:20).

[Yes, faith and its power to "move mountains" is an idea that appears multiple times in the Jesus tradition, indicating that the phrase probably originated with the Master himself. But, of course, Jesus' words presume that his listeners, like most of us, had no such minimal faith. Hence, he implied, our belief remains powerless.]

Jesus' faith aside though, consider the content of Ms. Williamson's tweet. It simply asked her followers:

  1. To face the power of our human minds and spirits as much greater and connected with natural forces than we generally believe.
  2. In view of that fact, to activate their collective force to avert disaster.
  3. And to do so by stilling that mind through meditation, by praying for those in the hurricanes path, and by visualizing their prayers answered.

Read it again: that's exactly what the tweet says! Nothing more; nothing less.

In other words, it was all quite harmless and potentially powerful. There was nothing in it of fear, hatred, climate-change denial or blame of victims all the responses we've come to expect from the outrageous tweets of more conventional politicians. Instead, there was only expression of solidarity, compassion, faith, stillness, and acceptance of what traditional spirituality tells us of the untapped power of the human spirit that consciously aligns itself with the divine.

As I've already indicated, the tweet also implied a connection between human consciousness and Mother Nature herself something underlined in the mystical traditions belonging to all the world's great faiths and to mainstream science as well. (As Francis of Assisi would remind us, we all are in some sense related to "Brother Hurricane" Dorian.)

But, horror of horrors (!) such expression of traditional faith and scientific insight was enough to disqualify Williamson from presidential candidacy. Whoopi Goldberg and panel members on "The View" ridiculed her. Others characterized her as no better than that of religious fundamentalists.

To my mind, however, it proves just the opposite.

Williamson's tweet demonstrates how truly different she is from her fellow candidates as well as from the fundamentalists who have hijacked the faith of Jesus. And how refreshing! Her viewpoint is what our times require, where expressions of faith are limited to "thoughts and prayers" after mass shootings or to divisive imposition of narrow beliefs about abortion and rejection of LGBTQQIAAPs.

In fact, Marianne Williamson is so different from what we expect from politicians and secular leftists that when she simply expresses solidarity with those in the Bahamas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas (whose prayers no doubt echoed Marianne's tweet) she reveals herself as absolutely mystifying, incomprehensible, and unacceptable.

Let's face that too: Williamson's tweet expressed extraordinary solidarity with those in Dorian's path. Without doubt, many of them were praying that the hurricane's force might be mitigated or diverted. In fact, if we found ourselves in their circumstances, the religious among us (and "foxhole Christians" as well) would be offering similar prayers: "Please, Lord, save me and my family from this hurricane. Change its path. Keep us safe."

And what would be wrong with that? It's an absolutely human response to impending disaster.

No, the hubbub over Ms. Williamson's tweet is but another demonstration of why her candidacy is indispensable. We need her to profoundly change our political conversation, to move that conversation from fear and denial to compassion, and to unveil the true nature of faith engaged with an overly-secularized world.

 

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Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Retired in 2014, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 40 years where he directed Berea's Peace and Social Justice Studies Program. His latest book is "The Magic (more...)
 

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