Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Gift of Change by Marianne Williamson

The Gift of Change: Spiritual Guidance for a Radically New Life by Marianne Williamson is perhaps the closest she’s ever come to writing a follow up to her seminal A Return to Love. The problem with writing a brilliant first book is that rarely can the author ever achieve the same level of surprise and relevance. M Scott-Peck suffered the same consequence when his book The Road Less Traveled exploded onto the best-seller list. In this book, Williamson explores many of the themes she has touched upon in her other books but has never sunk deeply into them. Drawing on the principles of A Course in Miracles, she looks at how we can change our world not by force but through love. Ultimately she promotes an idea of changing our perceptions and ourselves to do what we think needs to be done suggesting that it is not until we first change that our perceptions can change and when our perceptions are changed sometimes we no longer see a need to change the world. Ahhhh . . . the irony! While I respect and even appreciate her drawing upon the teachings of A Course in Miracles, I would have preferred for her to give specifics. It is said that people can make the Bible say anything when they take quotations out of context. This is why it is necessary to look up the references when quoted to ensure that the author is not misapplying or misinterpreting the text. My frustration with The Gift of Change merely grew with every quotation from A Course in Miracles that was not contextualized with a clear reference for me to look up. Of course, most readers will not bother nor care. But when I read Williamson saying that God had to tell the Israelites to stop celebrating after God closed the Red Sea over the pursuing Egyptians, my skepticism rises. (See Exodus 15 for the praise song that Moses and Miriam both sing and you will see no reference to God telling them to stop.) What I do appreciate most about Williamson’s teachings, and what I found the most threatening when I first read A Return to Love ages ago, is her ability to take the stories from the Bible and make them metaphorically meaningful. At the time I read her first book, I resisted this. I was new to Christianity and took the teachings more literally than I do now. As I matured in my faith, I found myself wondering why interpretation of the text had to be so literal. Now I feel more comfortable with Williamson’s ability to take these stories from the Old and New Testaments and give them meaning for our twenty-first century lives. I just wish she weren’t careless about the details. Hopefully someday she will write a book in which she references A Course in Miracles and actually give a chapter and verse for her quotations. Or maybe someday the publisher will come out with an annotated/footnoted version that will include these things. In the meantime, for those who wanted a sequel to A Return to Love, this may be the closest thing one can find.

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