February 03, 2005

God is in AA

I was always fascinated with the study of scientific principles. I was emotionally and physically distant from people while I pursued Absolute Knowledge. God and spirituality were meaningless academic exercises. I was a modern man of science, knowledge was my Higher Power. Given the right set of equations, life was merely another problem to solve. Yet my inner self was dying from my outer man's solution to life's problems and the solution was alcohol. In spite of my intelligence, alcohol became my Higher Power. It was through the unconditional love which emanated from A.A. people and meetings that I was able to discard alcohol as my Higher Power. The great void was filled. I was no longer lonely and apart from life. I had found a true power greater than myself, I had found God's love. There is only one equation which really matters to me now: God is in A.A.

©Copyright 1990 ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS WORLD SERVICES, INC.©

1 comment:

Ken said...

Alcoholics Anonymous History
Christians in A.A.?

By Dick B.
(August 2008)
Christians in A.A.?
I don’t have any statistics! I don’t know of any statistics. And I’m not sure I care about any statistics that might exist. But I think it would be valuable if we knew for sure that, among the two-million members worldwide, the A.A. fellowship contains a Christian or two.

As a matter of fact, it doesn’t require a statistical survey to establish that it does. How many Christian members are there? I don’t know. And it’s not the function of A.A. to find out.

But those of us who know the history of A.A., who ignore the chatter of uninformed critics, and who have attended thousands of meetings can attest to certain facts you can observe for yourself. But only if you choose to.

Some Facts You Can Observe:

(1) Early A.A. had two distinctly different origins. (2) The first was with the United Christian
Endeavor Movement and Dr. Bob’s active membership in that society and in the North Congregational Church in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. (3) Dr. Bob was then, and remained, a Christian for the rest of his life. (4) The Akron fellowship he led was called a Christian Fellowship by him and its members. (5) That fellowship required the acceptance of Christ as well as the study of the Bible by all who sought membership in it. (6) When the Cleveland Roman Catholics split off from the Akron fellowship, it was largely because their priest deemed Akron’s group to be Protestant Christian. (7) Then began a large influx of Roman Catholics to A.A. with a resultant plurality of these Christians among the membership then, and even today. (8) One need only travel to A.A. meetings in several parts of the United States to hear the confessions in meetings by speakers who consider themselves born-again Christians, and by speakers who say they were raised Catholic and have returned to their church. (9) The critics who claim that A.A. never was Christian in nature simply ignore the facts above and repudiate as well the Christianity of A.A.’s New York mentors in the Oxford Group—led by Lutheran Minister Frank Buchman, Episcopalian priest Sam Shoemaker, and a host of other Christian clergy from the Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregational, Dutch Reformed, Anglican, and other denominations. (10) Only a rabid, prejudiced outsider would claim there are no Christians in A.A. You can see and hear Roman Catholic priests and nuns speaking in and participating as members in A.A. around the world. There is a fellowship of “recovering” Episcopalian priests who espouse A.A. And there are frequently people who speak in meetings and identify themselves as Roman Catholics, or as followers of Jesus Christ, or as members of various Christian churches.

What’s the Point?

First, let’s review some pertinent facts about Alcoholics Anonymous today: (1) A.A. is not a Christian Fellowship. (2) A.A. includes members of many denominations—Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, and humanist. (3) A.A. was once, in Akron, a Protestant Christian Fellowship. (4) A.A. in Akron was, at an early point, much influenced by Sister Ignatia, a Roman Catholic nun. (5) A.A. was once, in the New York area, strongly influenced by Jesuit Roman Catholic priests; by a number of “mainline” Protestant clergy from Calvary Episcopal Church; by Rev. Norman Vincent Peale; by Christian Science writings; and by the writings of several “New Thought” speakers and writers who considered themselves Christians. (6) Today’s A.A. has no membership as such, nor any membership requirements, nor any bars to admission. But its society consists of people from all the foregoing Christian groups as well as people who are atheists, humanists, agnostics, spiritualists, Buddhists, and unbelievers. (7) Members are not required to believe in Yahweh, Jesus Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the doctrines of any sect or creed, or in anything at all. (8) There are countless utterances among A.A. members that they have a “higher power” which can be a tree, a radiator, a Coke bottle, a rock, the Big Dipper, Santa Claus, Gertrude, Him or Her or It, a light bulb, a door knob, the Great Pumpkin, and other absurd names for a supposed deity or power.(9) There is no rule or Tradition or group or hierarchy in A.A. that can exclude any of the above, that can expel them from any meetings, or that can demand adherence by members to the beliefs of the majority in such meetings. (10) Many judges, scholars, and observers have legitimately observed and in fact ruled that A.A. is still quite clearly a religion, just not a Christian religion. (11) Others dispute this point with some arguing A.A. is “spiritual” but not “religious,” failing to define what the difference might be, and ignoring the fact that both words have synonymous origins.. (12) Still others (a substantial number of Protestant Christian clergy) have a great concern that today’s A.A.--with its emphasis on the secular, on universalism, and on “any god” or “not-god”--does an immense disservice to people in A.A. who are already Christians and to those who might otherwise become Christians. The concern is based on the hostility and intimidation within the meetings directed toward those who express Christian or religious views and also on the emphasis among professionals, treatment people, and even some AAs on a pseudo-religion of “higher power spirituality.” A theology or philosophy that exudes far more New Age idolatry than can possibly be helpful to a person who believes in the Creator, Jesus Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the Bible.

The Still Open Door and Tabernacle

A.A. today is open to all comers. The question for real concern is whether it really still opens the door to, and makes room within, the fellowship for free belief, free expression, and free activities that are necessary for Christians who want to be healed. That’s a real problem. Newcomers come in befogged, fearful, bewildered, feeling guilty and ashamed, feeling abandoned and different, and despairing. Many Christians believe it worsens their condition, befuddles their recovery, and drives them away from religious help when they hear Christian convictions, Christian history, and Christian story telling ostracized by ridicule and outspoken hostility. Some clam up in fear. Some retreat elsewhere. Some suffer in guilt and shame. And some actually walk away from their beliefs.

Are there Christians in A.A. today? You bet! Is A.A. Christian today? Not on your life! Is this a problem? Yes, and a big one. Many of us came into A.A. as Christians. We hadn’t recognized our excessive drinking for what it was—whether a disease, a sin, a behavioral disorder, a genetic predisposition, or a nutritional imbalance. We felt uneasy, condemned, and wary. Yet the Christian message held and holds out far more deliverance and wholeness and cure than any meeting or sponsor or A.A. literature. We were blinded by the idolatry, idle “spirituality” talk, secularism, and false Tradition claims that discouraged the very message that ultimately could make us free, could give us the abundant life, and could assure our eternal life. At the very same time, we were usually enveloped by love and caring, by friendship and support, by disciplined direction, by tangible objectives, and by well-meaning recovered AAs, including those hostile to God, the Bible, church, and religion..

What’s the balance? For me, it wasn’t and isn’t in leaving A.A. For me, it wasn’t and isn’t about shouting my religious convictions from the rooftops. For me, it wasn’t about Christianizing A.A. or condemning those of differing beliefs. For me, it wasn’t about driving the Roman Catholics, Jews, Presbyterians, atheists, humanists, Buddhists, and Hottentots out of A.A. in into some cloistered tabernacle. It was feeling comfortable with, and being able freely to share with others, my own strong beliefs in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, the healing power of the Creator, the truth of God’s Word, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. To do so is not dangerous to me, to others, or to A.A. It’s what Christians are expected to do. I’ve done it with newcomers. I’ve done it with men I’ve sponsored. I’ve done it with other Christians and Christian groups and meetings. I’ve never looked for a scrap or debate with someone who has different ideas. And I’m not about to be prohibited from doing it in A.A.

The balance is simple: (1) Learn what early A.A. was—a Christian Fellowship that accepted Christ, relied on the Creator, attained growth through Bible study and prayer and God’s guidance, and worked with other alcoholics to assure their fellowship and cure. See The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials (ISBN 1885803990) (2) Learn that a host of early AAs were cured in that Christian Fellowship. See When Early AAs Were Cured and Why (ISBN 188580394X). (3) Learn that there have always been two A.A.’s—the early Christian A.A. in Akron, and the eclectic non-Christian A.A. of Bill Wilson’s Big Book and Twelve Steps published four years after A.A.’s founding. See Real Twelve Step Fellowship History (ISBN 1885803877). 4) Learn that A.A. long ago opened the doors to people of all beliefs and no beliefs and deliberately omitted mention of its Christian origins, Biblical ideas, and convictions about Yahweh as Creator. See God and Alcoholism (ISBN 1885803346). (5) Learn that there are those who erroneously think that the open-door policy somehow proved that the Christian principles did not work, were abandoned, and should be resisted today. (6) Recognize that they are wrong, that there are no facts to support their statements, and that A.A. is harmed by their statements. (7) Learn that the A.A. Traditions and history make no such claims as theirs. (8) Learn that the codes of “love and service,” “love and tolerance,” and “live and let live” all have their roots in the idea of brotherhood, not contention. (9) Learn to keep our mouths shut about what A.A. is or was or did or didn’t until our minds have actually “returned,” until we’ve studied the facts, and until we’ve really seen that there truly is, and—in today’s A.A.—must be, room for all. See A New Way Out (ISBN 1885803893). All mentioned titles can be found on Amazon.com and seen described at http://www.dickb.com/titles.shtml.

Gloria Deo


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Dick B., PO Box 837, Kihei, HI 96753-0837; dickb@dickb.com; 808 874 4876; http://www.dickb.com/index.shtml.