“The fate of the world is at stake, so… God is running for U.S. President. And She’s a Woman!” reads the back-cover teaser to the new soft-cover novel, God for President: Remember Love (iUniverse, 2004), written by Minneapolis native Lisa Venable, a speaker, psychotherapist and spiritual director of Agape Sanctuary. And indeed, in the guise of Mary Love, God not only announces Her candidacy for president, but proceeds to totally transform the entire process, from whistle-stop campaign to national debate.
What at first could be mistaken as a left-leaning response to the past two presidential elections, God for President shifts gears away from contesting and alleging and name-calling and glides into a love-based approach to politics that focuses on listening and acknowledging the feelings of one’s adversaries. The goal here is to come to a resolution that serves the needs of all people, not just those in the power-wielding majority. The result is a more harmonious process that, albeit seemingly far from the current state of affairs, is a dream worthy of our attention.
First-time novelist Venable sat down with Edge Life to discuss how politics could be reformed with love.
What inspired this idea? Lisa Venable:My whole life I have been a change agent, seeking to bring change and bring peace to the world. I spent 10 years as a public policy professional and I realized the dysfunctional ways of making laws is no way to solve problems and it’s no way to make change in the world.
I left that world and went into psychology and spirituality. I began studying endlessly human behavior and how things work, and I realized that if we’re going to solve problems it will not be through public policy, but through human change and opening ourselves to a deeper place within — and really learning to love ourselves.
So I took on this path of psychology, psychotherapy, ministry. I wanted nothing to do with politics ever again. Lo and behold about a year ago, I was talking with a very dear friend about the upcoming elections. The name of God was beginning to be invoked in the political arena, and I began to think, “What if God were president?” As we were talking at dinner, I wondered if God were president if He would be doing the things that our current president says he has a mandate from God to do, like go to war with Iraq. And I heard this voice from I don’t know where, the ethers, that said, “Why not run God for president?” And I thought that was very interesting.
After I went home, I started writing a platform for God. It was a little preachy, because it was somewhat my platform of what I thought God would be saying, different from what I felt the Religious Right would be saying about God. My God is the god of love and I feel their God is the god of fear.
I kept writing and then showed it to people who think like I do, and they thought it was awesome. Then I showed it to a male friend of mine, and he said, “I don’t know if people will get it. I think you should write it in a novel format, with God incarnating.” And he suggested as a woman. So I started getting a lot of suggestions from spirit about what to do. I had never written a novel and poo-pooed the idea at first, but I started feeling more energy about doing this. The table of contents came to me first, in about 10 minutes, and in the first hour I had written one of the later chapters and few beginning chapters.
It was different because you normally don’t have a list of chapters in a fiction book, but that’s what came to me first. So I would sit down and look at the name of a chapter and then the whole story just flowed out of me.
Then I realized I was blending spirituality and politics together. It was something I never imagined could be. It was just amazing what happened, and what I learned, as well. At first it was somewhat preachy and other parts were just beautiful. When my editor went over it, there were parts that she could see were more spiritually inspired versus where it was still some of Lisa’s judgment. I went back to the writing a month or so later after the editor looked at it, and that’s when Mary Love blew in and really took over the writing. And in that process, I felt as if I were here to learn from this spirit of Mary Love, about what she wanted the world to know from this book, not what Lisa thinks the world should know.
What was the timing of the book in terms of the November election?
Venable:Part of my goal was to change the outcome of the election, so I felt we needed to get it out before the election so we could defeat George Bush. The book came out just in time, about two to three weeks before the election. But I kept getting this idea that the book is about beyond the election.
One day I woke up and heard Mary (or God) say, “I want my own election when these guys are done.” This book is beyond George Bush and John Kerry. It’s a paradigm shift that bridges spirituality and politics and changes the way we look at Democracy. It is a timeless process. It has nothing to do with the recent election.
Of course, I still wanted to get the book out. I still had my own ego agenda about getting it out to help defeat George Bush. But what I’ve learned is that this is so much larger than that. Mary Love’s message is one of unity, of coming together and going to a place beyond Republican-Democrat, Red-Blue, Christian-Jewish-Islam. It’s beyond all of that, and that’s what love really is.
In my talks about the book, I’ve been sharing a Rumi quote: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” That field is love. It is a place beyond the judging mind, a place beyond the right-and-wrong duality of thinking where we can meet each other.
I say that there are four wildflowers growing in this field — and they are the essences of love: the essence of understanding; the essence of allowing and accepting what is; the essence of compassion; and the essence of oneness. We go to this place and begin to solve our problems from this place beyond. Just maybe, when I give up my side about things and the other person gives up his or hers, then we might find a possibility beyond what either of us ever imagined that is the best answer. Give up duality thinking, go to this place and the possibilities are better, because there is a larger spiritual possibility that the egoic mind cannot see.
Did Sarah Rose in your book come to a place of understanding and acceptance quicker than Lisa Venable, in terms of the election? Did you come to a place of understanding?
Venable:I have. I got there in process along with her. You have to understand that Sarah’s character is very much reflective of my whole life. A lot of people who have read the book say Sarah’s attitude touches very much upon their anger or their judgment and hopeless feelings.
What did it take for you to get to that place of understanding?
Venable:Writing this book. Listening to this voice of love that kept bringing me back to, “What is a greater possibility? What is a greater solution to our problems?” It was about feeling peace instead of anger. Peace is a state of the heart. Peace is present when we practice love.
We talk about peace and we want war to stop. A lot of us are peace-seekers, and yet we’re angry. I’ve felt anger a lot in my life about the way other people are acting and the way other people are doing things. And I found peace when I kept bringing it back to, “I need to change me.” I need to change how I respond to my president. I need to change how I respond to my father, who is a life-long dyed-in-the-wool Republican. And when I do that — at least with my father, who I can talk to regularly — he and I can go to that field where we are each willing to give up our labels and we can see that we both want the same things. There are solutions, if we would stop being so rigid in our way of seeing things and begin to understand each other.
Have you had dialogues with your father about this?
Venable:He read the book and really liked it. He said it is great stuff, but how do we really live it? He lives in Florida and is coming home for the holidays, and we are going to have a third person facilitate as we practice what I am talking about and see if we can go to that place.
Part of the goal with the book is to go out there and try to get people to talk with each other and build upon what other groups are also doing.
So your role is to embody this essence of love that the book is based upon.
Venable:Because I feel like I am embodying love, I am able to do that. It’s amazing that I’ve been able to do that.
I was very despondent for about a week after the election. I felt the anger and despair coming up again, but then something shifted and I realized that I could go to that place of unity.
After the election I was at a gathering where I was talking about my book, and I was talking with some people who were buying my book. A woman overheard us talking about the election and said, “Did you see how the energy of the room shifted when you guys started talking about the election and got angry?”
And I said, “Oh, you’re right. That’s not what this is about.” I knew from that moment that I had to shift my consciousness and really practice that. It is a conscious practice. I’m not always perfect at it, and I don’t know if we ever will be, but we all have the capacity to be in love, in a state of deeper understanding. It’s just choosing what attitude I want to take. Do I seek to understand you? Or do I need you to understand me? It’s that prayer of St. Francis, seek to understand as well as be understood.
When I do that, I find that nothing else really matters, because I’ve spread love. I’ve given my love to someone.
A couple weeks ago, one of the religious organizations that canvases the neighborhood, I don’t know which one it was, came to my door. I was just coming into this attitude that I want to seek to understand. In the past when they came to my door, I would try to convince them that there is another way of looking at religion, that I think their religion is fear-based and such and such.
This time, I let her speak and I wanted to understand. I let her tell me everything she needed to say, and you could see the tears in her eyes. I’m sure most people slam the door in her face. When we got down to it, we both wanted the same thing: peace in the world and more love.
She asked if she could come back, and I said, “Of course.” And I just felt like a different person, because I chose to just seek and listen and allow her to be who she is without needing to convince her to be something else. That’s fear-based action, and fear is not going to heal the world. That’s the darkness, the evil-doers; that’s all about fear.
We all have it within us. We see it on a larger scale in the current political administration, but it’s just a mirror for us to say, “OK, where am I not going to live in fear anymore in my own life and begin to practice this attitude of love.”
You talk in your book about what America represents to the world and comment that terrorists hate the dark side of American freedom. Do you believe they do?
Venable:No, what I meant by that comment is that the collective consciousness of America believes we are all free to do whatever we want to do. There’s always a dark side and light side to everything. Freedom is wonderful on one sense, but the dark side of it is that our policies have affected people in the rest of the world in ways that are not pleasant. In this country, we live in a bubble. We don’t really pay attention to what is happening. The terrorism and violence is a response to those who are not paying attention to what’s going on out in the world. Our freedom is wonderful in some respects, but we also have to be aware of how our greediness is affecting the rest of the world.
So you’re saying that America, the country, is mirroring the greedy American individually.
Venable:Yes. We need to learn to start living collectively and cooperatively.
And listen to the needs of other people.
Venable:Yes. I was so hopeful while watching the events on 9/11 that we would not respond in the same energy of fear and violence that this terror had bestowed upon us. As Einstein said, you cannot solve a problem in the same energy that created it.
We had that choice at the time.
Venable:We had that choice and we didn’t choose it. I don’t say “we” collectively, because I think it was a small fraction of our government that made that choice. A week or two after 9/11 there was a strong outpouring of compassion, love and community. And then a portion of our government decided to go into the revenge, punishment and fear-based mode to get back at these people, instead of asking the questions: “What needs to be understood? What needs to be discussed? What is their pain? And why do they hate us?”
Our government told us that they hate us because they hate freedom, but that was a simple answer to a very complex issue. We need to have dialogues with other countries that go far beyond the simple answers — and the citizens need to do it. Regardless of who is in power, Democrat or Republican, there is a military machine behind whoever is president that still runs a lot of this, and they have no control or power over that.
I think the citizens have to become more vigilant and begin to take our Democracy back — and practice spiritual principles of love and understanding and compassion, which work. Revenge and punishment do not work. It’s a short-term answer but it doesn’t uncreate what has been done. Only love can heal these wounds.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the word evil. Backwards, it spells “live.” You can’t stomp out evil. If you try to do that, it keeps popping back up in different ways. When we keep responding with that type of energy, evil just keeps perpetuating itself. When we begin responding by shining a light on the darkness, the pure light of love, then the transformation can happen.
I don’t think people really understand what love is and the power that it has. We think it’s some mushy, weak way of responding: “Well, I’ll just love you and you’ll be nice to me.” It’s really much beyond that. The message in the book is to remember love, remember what it really is, because it’s time to bring love back into the world.
It’s actually the power of God, and it’s very powerful.
Venable:Yes it is. It’s actually the most powerful force in the universe. It’s no coincidence in my book that God incarnated as a human with the last name of Love. She says that love is really the most accurate name for God. So if love is God, and that energy is the most powerful in the universe, why aren’t we using it?
When the government and media put out a fear-based message, why as citizens are we so willing to accept it?
Venable:I think it’s what we are used to. It’s a habit. I think fear comes when we allow the mind to take control. Have you ever had a gut feeling, intuition or feel something from the heart right away about something? I feel that collectively most people don’t really feel this war in Iraq was the best or highest thing to do. I think people know that in their heart, but we allow the fearful mind to take over. If only we could just listen to that first feeling in the heart and go with that — just go with our gut feeling and not allow the mind, which is full of limitation and fear, to take over.
It is a conscious practice to be aware of your heart and what your heart wants to do and to go with that no matter what, instead of letting the mind take over. Watch that take place, and then choose again, choose to go back to what’s really in your heart. I fully believe that in more hearts than not, people know that love, compassion and understanding is the answer, because that’s what we all seek ourselves.
You talked about that political, military machine that runs our government. How can “we, the people” begin to start taking back the government?
Venable:I think it starts in communities. There’s a love campaign emerging as a result of this book. It is about having people start to talk to each other. It may be in church communities, other faith-based communities or book study groups. Maybe it just starts with reading the book, talking about the principles it contains and discussing ways we can live them.
I think a key is to dialogue with people who have different ideas than we do. It’s important to get out of the labels of Democrat and Republican. Mary Love, the God incarnate in the book who is running for president, proposes a unity party. It’s about how we can come together. We like talking to people who are on our side, but that only affirms to us that we’re right and someone else is wrong. If we are ever going to get to that field that Rumi talks about, the field beyond right and wrong, this place of love, in community we have to look at how we complement each other.
Instead of focusing on how people differ on issues, I believe we have to look at how we complement each other and start changing our perspective about conflict. In discussing your ideas about war and my ideas about peace, where can we find a middle way in the midst of these extremes?
As much as people really don’t want to be involved in politics, I really believe a lot of us who are spiritually progressive need to hold this energy of spirituality, politics and community coming together and become the leaders for love and cooperative community. Then, we begin to say to our representatives at the state and federal level that we want to help them make laws. This system is not working.
This current division in the country and the political leadership that many people are angry with has taken people out of their comfort zone and it has inspired them to start to take back their Democracy by getting involved. It has to go beyond fighting against what you don’t like and seeing where we can find that unified approach.
My goal is to find any way to facilitate that through this book. The book is a wonderful way to plant the seed through story and entertainment, but at the same time it’s calling us to be American angels. Spiritual people need to step up to that.
What role does the divine feminine play in the American society? Will a woman be elected president?
Venable:Yes, a woman will be elected president. I think a lot of men and women think it’s time for that to happen. I hope the book opens up even more possibility for that. Having a woman run for president plants the seed and gives more credence to the need for feminine leadership and the need for balance between the masculine and feminine energies.
Our world has been dominated by masculine energy for more than 2,000 years and it is out of balance. The Da Vinci Code was a wonderful novel that activated people to bring back the divine feminine. These principles of compassion, understanding and love are so needed in our world. These ways of being empower people rather than place a power over us. We become the power.
I think the world is ready, and books like The Da Vinci Code, this book that I wrote and others that are coming are paving the way for the first female president of the United States.
Hopefully God for President presents an example that women can be powerful, but also loving and compassionate and they can be embraced. If a woman is elected president, as citizens we need to embrace that she is a woman and represents the feminine energy, rather than just being a female in a suit.
Ultimately, it is about all of us being empowered to accept that. It’s not about waiting for a magical woman to be elected and take care of things. We have to hold that for her and support her.
What if we took away the aisle from Congress and had one body working together for the good of all?
Venable:I’ve been reading The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World that Works for All, by Tom Atlee. There are citizen groups out there who do this. I think because America is so beholden to its competitive nature, we dismiss this idea. The fear-based group will say, “Oh, that’s communism. It doesn’t breed success.”
I think it’s time to challenge the idea that capitalism is the best idea since sliced bread. There’s a place beyond socialism, communism, capitalism. I think it’s called something like cooperativism, community and circle. It’s based on finding that place where we can come together.
As long as we live in an ego attitude where we’re attached to right and wrong and that’s what helps us feel better, to be right and to be good, then we’ll never get there. When you live from your spirit and from your heart and from a more open space that’s not controlled by your ego, then you begin to live that.
This isn’t going to happen overnight. It is a continual practice to try to live from your spirit and in a deeper place.
The flawed part of capitalism has become so strong in this country. The love of money and power has taken away the true citizen-based Democracy that our forefathers wanted to create. It’s time to face what we’ve done and stop shoving it under the rug like it’s not there.
We need to inspire each other and then inspire our political leadership to create something different. The way to do that is not confrontation. That’s what further separates people from each other. You can see that in personal relationships, when you confront someone about what they’re doing. They tend to get defensive.
What the character Sarah notices about Mary Love’s approach in the story is that she relates to people and asks them questions to understand how they think and feel, and she doesn’t judge. And she doesn’t confront. She talks to people in a way that inspires them to think deeper, instead of telling them that they’re wrong. What Mary Love does in God for President is honor other people’s consciousness. And that’s what I think we need to start doing with each other.
Does it come down to, as you write in your book, the question of “What would love do?”
Venable:Yes. The book is really not about God coming down and becoming our president. It’s told in a metaphor of politics, but it’s really a message for our own personal lives. A lot of people who are reading it are telling me that it is changing the way they resolve conflict in their lives, the way they relate to people and the way they treat the earth. It’s not just a book you should read to learn how to change our political landscape. It’s really about changing your life by living in the energy of love.
God for President: Remember Love, by Lisa Venable is available in Minneapolis at Fairy Godmother, 3801, Grand Ave. S., Stonehenge, 2520 Hennepin Ave. S., and Orr Books, 3043 Hennepin Ave. S., or online at www.lisavenable.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com. If you are interested in creating unity and consciousness in American politics or desire to uplift your spiritual love practice, you are invited join the “Love Campaign” e-mail list and receive weekly inspirations/ideas. See www.godforpresident.us for more information. If you have a book club or group that would like to read God for President Lisa offers discounts and personal readings. For more information, e-mail [email protected]