I would love to see a Jewish woman run for president of the United States while espousing Jewish values on the debate stage. But friends, Marianne Williamson ain’t it.
Marianne Williamson has been considered a fringe candidate since she entered the race, considering she has no political experience and is a writer and motivational speaker. She would probably be more at home at a GOOP summit than on a presidential debate stage; after all, she derisively referred to policy discussions as “wonkiness” that weren’t going to beat Trump.
However, despite consistently being called “kooky,” Marianne Williamson has met the donor threshold for the first two debates and is getting more and more serious attention. Alyssa Milano tweeted that she was going to a Williamson fundraiser on July 16 because, apparently, “she’s the only candidate talking about the collective, soulful ache of the nation” (whatever that means) and she also interviewed Williamson on her podcast. And after Tuesday night’s second round debate, Williamson is getting attention from pundits for standing out from the crowd. And sure, while Williamson managed to give a good answer on reparations, that shouldn’t overshadow her dangerous views.
Honestly, I was surprised to learn that Marianne Williamson was raised in a Conservative Jewish household considering how often her self-help books veer into ideas of faith healing and reliance on angels. After dropping out of college, Williamson found A Course In Miracles by Helen Schucman and used it as the basis of a lecture series around the country. Published in 1976, Schucman claimed the book had been dictated to her directly from Jesus. The book really took off after Marianne Williamson promoted it on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1992.
That same year, Williamson’s first book, A Return To Love, built on A Course in Miracles. In a chapter on healing, Williamson wrote, “Sickness is an illusion that does not actually exist.” She doesn’t tell people not to take medication, but she does argue that the “healing doesn’t come from the pill. It comes from our belief.” Williamson goes so far as to claim that cancer studies show that traditional medical treatment and holistic treatment have the same rates of recovery.
Her statements in the book on AIDS treatments are particularly offensive, arguing that prayer will be the real cause of finally finding a cure. She compares AIDS to Darth Vader, in that Darth Vader was a “real man with a real heart” under his ugly mask. Williamson encouraged AIDS patients to visualize the disease as “Angels-In-Darth Vader-Suits” and that they should imagine unzipping Darth Vader’s suit “to allow the angel to emerge.”
According to a Los Angeles Times expose, Williamson told a group of HIV positive people that “the AIDS virus is not more powerful than God” and regularly told gay men they could cure themselves through visualization along with friend Louise Hay, who claimed to cure herself of vaginal cancer through positive thinking and prayer. This advice was offered for all kinds of illnesses including obesity.
One might hope that Williamson doesn’t believe in this type of healing anymore, but her focus on the “dark psychic forces” causing problems in America in the debate on Monday night suggests otherwise.
Williamson has a lot of dangerous medical beliefs and advice that aren’t from 25 years ago. While claiming she isn’t anti-vax, Williamson has repeatedly said she opposes mandatory vaccinations. While speaking at an event in New Hampshire in June of this year, she said, “To me, it’s no different than the abortion debate. The US government doesn’t tell any citizen, in my book, what they have to do with their body or their child” and specifically called vaccine mandates “draconian” and “Orwellian.” This is a common anti-vax dog whistle where people can claim they aren’t against vaccines, just the mandates. As a reminder, as of the end of May, the CDC reported 971 cases of measles in the United States, which surpasses the total cases per year for the past 25 years.
In 2016, in a now deleted Facebook post, Williamson blamed postpartum depression on women going back to work too early. Mental illness and seeking help for said problems are already heavily stigmatized, but women with PPD in particular need to be encouraged to seek help. Additionally, postpartum depression typically starts before a woman would have to go back to work and affects stay-at-home mothers as well.
Williamson’s 2010 book, A Course In Weight Loss, repeats a lot of her earlier advice to heal oneself through prayer, faith, and visualization. However, her victim blaming of those who face problems with obesity is particularly egregious. Williamson repeatedly treats fat people or those with a mental illness as lacking in spirituality. According to Williamson, “Fat cells will dissolve permanently when they are dissolved through the power of love,” and fat people have trouble with relationships because they don’t want to be sexy (do I even need to explain how wrong this is?). Fatphobia in the medical profession is a particular danger to women as it blinds doctors to underlying causes and often shames women into not seeing a doctor in the first place. Williamson’s rhetoric on obesity only adds to these issues.
I could go on and on explaining why Marianne Williamson is dangerous. but I highly recommend that people read what disability activists have to say about Williamson’s beliefs on healing. The candidate’s shaming around taking medication for mental illness hits particularly close to home for me. I have an anxiety disorder and resisted medications for years. It wasn’t until I went two weeks on a single hour of sleep a night that my doctor told me I had to take anti-anxiety meds or risk doing damage to my nervous system. And don’t just take it from me: Disability activists have also been talking about Williamson’s dangerous attitudes. If you’re on Twitter, I highly suggest you follow the #CripTheVote hashtag to learn more.
I get that people want to have fun with the election and laughing at the kooky crystal lady seems harmless. Unfortunately, giving this woman a platform is dangerous and we know from 2016 that a candidate who starts out as a joke can actually end up in the White House. We can promote Jewish values in our politics by standing up against the border camps, ensuring we protect bodily autonomy, and fighting white nationalism. Voting for Marianne Williamson won’t do that.
Image of Marianne Williamson in header by Sean Rayford/Getty Images