Readings for "Christ the King:" Dn.7:13-14; Ps. 93:1-5; Rv. 1:5-8; Jn. 18:33b-37 http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/112518.cfm
Last week, the great spiritual teacher, Marianne Williamson announced that she is considering throwing her hat into the ring as a Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency. Marianne, you remember, is probably the foremost teacher of A Course in Miracles (A CIM), which she describes as basic Christian mysticism.
I was heartened by Ms. Williamson's announcement, not only at the prospect of her running, but because of the way her candidacy promises to change political conversation within the Democratic Party and nationally, where "devout" Christians have transformed Jesus into a harmless national mascot.
Even more proximately, Marianne's announcement connects directly with the spirit of this Sunday's readings for the feast of "Christ the King," where Jesus distinguishes his kingdom from that of "the world." Marianne's candidacy will surely get us discussing that distinction.
So, let's consider Williamson's announcement and then its connection with today's readings.
Here is her formal declaration of exploratory candidacy:
Do you see what I mean about changing political tone? Williamson's words stand on its head the sad realities of Donald Trump's "Make America GreatAgain" campaign.
We are no longer a country "of the people, by the people and for the people," she says. Instead we've become a country of the few, by the few, and for the few.
In the face of that hard reality, we must return to our founding principles and to the spirit of the abolitionists, women suffragists, and of the civil rights movement. This will entail not only quantitative changes in our circumstances, but qualitative changes in our souls. It will mean becoming activists exercising the responsibility of engaged citizens committed to taking our country back to its original principles and truths which even the Founders of our nation did not dare implement.
It will be so interesting to see how all of that comes off in the debates between Democratic candidates. I'm betting that Marianne's unusual emphasis on the deeply spiritual will strike a sympathetic chord reflected in what she calls "true American exceptionalism" rooted in ethical principle --the perfect antidote to Mr. Trump's faux patriotism rooted in violence.
In fact, the differences between Marianne and the Donald represent mirror images of those between Jesus and Pontius Pilate depicted in today's gospel reading.
Consider the narrative.
There, John the Evangelist has Jesus declaring the non-violent nature of his kingdom during his interrogation before the Roman governor. Standard interpretations of the scene (such as in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ") present Pilate as a spiritually sensitive intellectual. He's a seeker looking for a way to set Jesus free. However, he's too weak to assert his authority in the face of powerful and hateful Jewish leaders.
Problem is: that picture is profoundly at odds with the historical record. There Pilate's character is described as consistently devious and cruel -- the way many of us would describe Donald Trump. Philo, Flavius Josephus, and Tacitus, all tell us that Pontius Pilate was an absolutely brutal man.