[This is the first in a series on Marianne Williamson and her candidacy for President of the United States. The series will explore parallels between her platform (as articulated in her 20th anniversary edition of "Healing the Soul of America") on the one hand and "A Course in Miracles" (ACIM) on the other. Postings to follow will also connect ACIM and Williamson's policies with liberation theology the most important theological development of the last 1500 years, and the inspiration for the Global South's most effective social movement since the middle of the 19th century. The thesis here will be that Marianne Williamson is actually a U.S. liberation theologian, but in the tradition of 19th century abolitionists, as well as that of women suffragists, Martin Luther King, and Mohandas Gandhi. As such, her candidacy promises our country the revolutionary impetus that liberation theology provided for the profound socio-political changes Latin America has experienced over the last six decades. Apart from more formal explanations of this thesis, the latter's point will be made in the form of weekly Sunday homilies reflecting on the narratives of Jesus' words and deeds as presented in each week's liturgical readings.]
On Monday, January 28th, Marianne Williamson declared herself a candidate for President of the United States. In making her declaration, this great spiritual leader, who has a larger social media following than any Democratic candidate declared so far, implicitly proposed addressing in 21st century, non-religious ways the spiritual hunger that Williamson and others in the "higher consciousness community" consider endemic to the human condition, whether that hunger is recognized or not.
However, the difference between Williamson and others in that community is that she consistently applies her spiritual insights to the public sphere. And as we shall see shortly, she does so in a manner that completely respects the convictions of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and atheists, along with those who describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious."
Because of its inclusive approach, Ms. Williamson's candidacy promises to build on the accomplishments of 19th century abolitionists, and on those of 20th century women suffragists, and participants in the American civil rights movement. The abolitionists and many suffragists were highly committed Quakers. And, of course, King was a Baptist minister. Following in their footsteps, Williamson promises to at last offer progressives (and the country at large) entry into a sphere that conservatives Christian fundamentalists to be exact have controlled at least since the 1980s. It's the essential realm of faith and spirituality.
Failure to enter that sphere has hamstrung the left whose "enlightened" tendency has been to reject and ridicule rather than embrace what many consider the deepest dimension of being human. That tendency has not simply cost progressives votes on election day. Even more fundamentally, it has incapacitated them by its implied blindness to the spiritual hunger shared by humans in general. Put otherwise, Williamson is confronting the right on its own turf.
In daring to do so, she is boldly following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King who demonstrated the ability of faith to awaken critical thinking capacities belonging to ordinary people. King as well as Malcolm X, and the abolitionists that preceded them all tapped into the undeniable power that religious language, symbols and metaphors possess to actually motivate ordinary people to work for social justice and profound political change. The same, of course, is true of Mahatma Gandhi and the liberation theologians of the Global South. In fact, I'll argue in future postings that Marianne Williamson could easily be classified as a liberation theologian.
Before I get to that however, please recognize that during her campaign Williamson does not plan to wear her identity as spiritual teacher on her sleeve. And that's her strength too. Instead, she'll employ her spiritual consciousness and conviction fostered by years of spiritual discipline to guide her campaign in the right direction which will inevitably call for deep psychological not to say spiritual transformation for all of us.
Recently, she described that transformational direction in an extended interview with CNN's John Berman. Williamson said her most prominent issues would be:
· Medicare for All
· A permanent tax cut for the middle class
· Free education for all children (including tuition for public colleges)
· Government support for children's services
· A Green New Deal