Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Is Marianne Williamson being sidelined as a serious candidate because of her spirituality?

Is Marianne Williamson being sidelined as a serious candidate because of her spirituality?

I know next to nothing about Marianne Williamson, in terms of basic facts, and most religion reporters I know are in the same boat. She’s hard to classify. Is she all about religion? Or spiritual but not religious? Guru of mysticism? Inner healing? It’s hard to tell. Although she once led a church of some kind or another, she never got ordained.

She dislikes being called a “spiritual leader;” rather she prefers being called an author. When I was a religion reporter, her books never ended up on my desk for review. I am guessing they got sent to someone on the lifestyle desk.

Sure she talks about prayer. But who or what is she praying to? Thus, I was interested in a recent profile on her by the New York Times Magazine on “The Gospel according to Marianne Williamson.”

However, I don’t think the article really goes into the facts and doctrines of Williamson’s gospel.

No surprise there. Feature writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner asks the same question that conservatives do: Why does the mere mention of religion or spirituality in the public square automatically make one suspect? The following quotes are long, but essential:

The first problem with Marianne Williamson is what do you call her. The other candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination lead with their impressive elected titles: “Governor,” “Senator,” “Mayor.” She’s a lot of fancy things herself: a faith leader, a spiritual guide on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” a New Age guru. But she knows that when people use terms like that outside the nearly $10 billion self-help industry, where a person like her is sought, they mean it to dismiss her. …

She has a patrician, mid-Atlantic accent that she has taped over her Texan accent — she was raised in Houston. She talks so fast, like a movie star from the ’40s, no hesitations, as if the thoughts came to her fully formed with built-in metaphors, or sometimes just as straight-up metaphors in which the actual is never fully explained. (“Am I pushing the river? Am I going with the flow? Am I trying to make something happen, or am I in some way being pushed from behind?”) She is prone to exasperated explosions of unassailable logic (“The best car mechanic doesn’t necessarily know the road to Milwaukee!”). A thing she loves to say is: “I’m not saying anything you don’t already know.” This is the self-help magic ne plus ultra, a spoken thing that rings inside your blood like the truth, a thing you knew all along, like ruby slippers you were wearing the whole time.

But is she really repeating everyone’s inner truth?

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GQ presents nuanced view of Hillsong, Justin Bieber and the cool cult of celebrity

GQ presents nuanced view of Hillsong, Justin Bieber and the cool cult of celebrity

Does Justin Bieber actually have a church?

Several readers dropped the GetReligion team notes that GQ just came out with a l-o-n-g feature on the Australian-based Hillsong Church and its Manhattan branches. As the prelude says:

“It’s where the cool kids spend Sunday morning after Saturday night at the club. For ye of little faith, it’s hard to make sense out of Hillsong. Is it legit? Is it a hipster cult? And why’s everyone wearing Saint Laurent? GQ’s Taffy Brodesser-Akner joins the flock to find out if Christianity can really be this cool and still be Christian.”

Who would not read this story after such an intro? Turns out that Brodesser-Akner is Jewish and visiting Hillsong, to her, is like covering life on Jupiter. But she does so nonetheless in a breathless, first person, words-piled-on-words style that somehow works in this quasi-novel of a piece. And atop it she asks the pertinent question: "What would cool Jesus do?"

We’re not sure how to answer that after finishing the piece, but we do know this:

About five years ago, Pastor Carl got a phone call. Carl is one of the lead pastors at Hillsong NYC, a mega-church so reputedly, mystifyingly cool that cable-news outlets cover its services like they’re Kardashian birthday bashes at 1 Oak. On the other end of the line was one of Carl’s best friends, Judah Smith, another mega-pastor who also happens to be the chaplain for the Seattle Seahawks. “I need you to help me with a young man,” Pastor Judah said, and Pastor Carl rushed to agree, because helping is Carl’s thing, and the young man was, yes, Justin Bieber …

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