As a person of faith, I believe in the power of prayer, but not in its potential to control the weather. Marianne Williamson deleted this tweet after perhaps thinking twice about how it came across:
Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson on Wednesday deleted a tweet saying that the “power of the mind” resulted in “millions of us seeing Dorian turn away from land.”
“The Bahamas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas…may all be in our prayers now. Millions of us seeing Dorian turn away from land is not a wacky idea; it is a creative use of the power of the mind,” she said in the now-deleted tweet.
“Two minutes of prayer, visualization, meditation for those in the way of the storm,” she also said in the tweet.
The best-selling author replaced her tweet with one offering prayers to people in the Bahamas, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.
As a practicing (and imperfect) Catholic, I certainly believe in the power of prayer. Prayer is what connects us to God and forms us to more readily accept His will above our own desires. Intercessory prayer is also real, from the “thoughts and prayers” response to tragedy to more ongoing and specific prayers for peace and justice. We pray for the Lord’s intercession and assistance all the time. However, that also is always — always — subordinate to the will of God, rather than a dictate that produces a specific and desired response. When God answers prayer, it’s not because we obligated Him to do so because a certain number of people asked for it in a certain manner.
What Williamson described in her deleted tweet isn’t really prayer as much as it is mass telekinesis, or maybe incantations. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the impact Williamson credited to it anyway. Dorian didn’t miss the Bahamas, which qualifies as “land” too; in fact, it plowed right over those islands as a Category 5 hurricane. There are likely a large number of dead, not to mention billions of dollars’ worth of damage left in Dorian’s wake.
It’s not exactly missing the US East Coast, either, even if it’s not as bad as the storm track first indicated. States of emergency now exist from Florida to North Carolina, and the damage might still be substantial:
JUST IN: Hurricane Warning now in effect for entire South Carolina and North Carolina coast, NHC says, as Hurricane Dorian moves north; 5-8 feet of storm surge expected in areas of South Carolina.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 4, 2019
Don’t expect mind power to save you, North Carolina governor Roy Cooper warned:
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper urges residents in areas under evacuation order to "leave now."
— ABC News (@ABC) September 4, 2019
Williamson has been trying lately to escape her hippy-dippy reputation, Politico reports, which might explain why she belatedly thought twice about the tweet:
Williamson has begun to push back more on being written off because of her quirks, and has claimed in recent interviews that a string of news stories highlighting her past skepticism of vaccines and antidepressants were part of a smear campaign.
In a New York Times Magazine profile published this week, she expressed confusion about why people associated her with the practice of healing crystals, and suggested there was a double standard when it came to perceptions of her campaign.
“When David Brooks says it, it’s profound,” she said of the Times columnist. “When I say it, it’s woo-woo.”
Maybe, but her first tweet was pretty “woo-woo,” and I doubt David Brooks was saying it. More prosaic is the observation that the Internet is pretty much forever, so presidential hopefuls attempting to cast themselves as non-“woo-woo” might want to think first before suggesting that mind power can re-direct hurricanes.
For everyone else in Dorian’s path: We’re praying for you, but get out of the way if you can.
Later, Williamson argued that her critics were denigrating prayer:
I was born and raised in Texas so I’ve seen it. Millions of people today are praying that Dorian turn away from land, and treating those people with mockery or condescension because they believe it could help is part of how the overly secularized Left has lost lots of voters.
— Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) September 4, 2019
There’s plenty of denigration of prayer too, and it’s good to have at least one Democratic presidential candidate defending it. In this case, however, the criticism of Williamson’s tweet had less to do with prayer and more to do with her other claims of success from “the power of the mind.” The two are not the same thing, because the power of prayer does not originate in the human mind. It originates with, and is oriented to, God.