Sunday, July 24, 2011

AA, Evangelical Christianity and Spiritism

An Evangelical Christian told me that a Christian colleague refused to attend AA because Bill Wilson had practiced spiritism.
My first thought was to defend AA.  I gave up on that when I worked with the Obese.  They were addicted to food but refused to go to Over eater's Anonymous.  They had a myriad of reasons and an endless number of "yes-but" criticisms of the 'solution'.  Motivation to change is such a problem in the addicted that there is an actual scale developed to assess motivation to change. Resource allocation is now directly associated with the degree of "action' that alcoholics or addicts are willing to put forth themselves.  As the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says  alcoholics tend to me immature but infinitely adept at being critics.  So the answer to any criticism by the alcoholic or addict is 'what do you propose instead'.  Invariably it's very easy then to challenge the alcoholic or addict with their 'denial' and 'level of criticism'.  In this 'dialectic' discussion, I'm commonly saying, "we already tried that and it didn't work'.
The World Health Organaization says 'abstinence' is the treatment of choice for addiction and alcoholism.  AA today is still the most effective long term solution to the problem of alcoholism.  There is no further talk of 'controlled drinking'.  It hasn't worked.  All alternative programs to 'Abstinence" based programs are called "Harm Reduction".
That said, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob, the co founders of AA were both Christians.  The early AA movement began in the Christian  Oxford Movement begun by the Lutheran Rev. Buckman.  The principles of the 12 step program are Christian based.  Repeatedly "God" is referred to and the early AA members understood this to mean 'god of the Bible."  The original AA was almost called the "James Club" because the 'Book of James" from the New Testament was a central study source. Dick B. an early member of AA has documented the roots of AA in Christianity.  His research and information are extensive.  Sam Shoemaker, the Anglican minister was a spiritual mentor of Bill Wilson as was the catholic priest, Father Dowling.  Dick B's books, to my mind served history in contrast to the trend of modern AA to 'secularize' the 'spirituality' of AA denying the Christian basis of AA in it's most successive and formative times.  Sister Ignasia, the catholic nun, who worked with Dr. Bob and Dr. Bob's wife were steeped in Christian service.  Dr. Bob encouraged all alcoholics to read the Bible.
There is no doubt that Bill Wilson was insane. He was an alcoholic. He was a world war veteran. He was a womanizer. He was a liar and a cheat. He's a self admitted 'sinner' by any standard.  Dr. Bob was also an alcoholic.  He was filled with self loathing.  Together they found sobriety and developed a methodology of alcoholics helping alcoholics stay sober with a 12 step program of honesty, willingness, and service.  The sole purpose of AA was to help the Alcoholic.  The Big Book of AA recommends return to church for members.  A board of non alcoholic members was established to curb some of the strange ideas Bill Wilson had early.  All the works of AA were put through review and only much later was the board of 'non alcoholic' members disbanded.
Yes, Bill Wilson practice spriitism. It was a 'fad' of the day.  A critic has quoted 'Deuteronomy' which is clearly against any form of Spiritism.  What the critic fails to mention is that no Christian today that I know of hasn't broken some if not many of the recommendations of 'Deuteronomy'.  Jesus was specifically against the 'pharisee's of the church'. The 'pharisees'. were those who were steeped in 'legalism' without the wisdom of Solomon.  Bill Wilson dropped acid too.  Neither spiritism or LSD are recommended by AA.
Dr. Bob was a member of the Masons but freemasonry is not 'recommended' by the Big Book of AA or the 12 steps and 12 traditions.  Bill Wilson played the violin.  AA does not recommend violin playing as a means to recovery.  It specifically doesn't speak about sexuality.  Indeed there is a lot that AA doesn't not speak too.  In fact, it recommends that  outside of it's focus on helping alcoholics abstain from alcohol one should turn to 'experts' for 'outside help."
CELEBRATE is an alternative recovery program for alcoholics. I have often heard Christians say that AA is not for them. They have however refused to attend the alternative Jesus based programs. Similiarly SMART is a purely secular psychological program which is an alternative to AA. I have often heard people say that because they're aetheists they can't attend AA. They are equally likely not to attend AA.  I learned this when I encouraged to the obese to go to the gym. That's when I realized that if AA served alcohol and people ate natchos while they worked out , both would be much more 'popular' .  Neither solution would be very effective 'treating' addiction. It's the same as alcoholics who are happy to see counsellors, psychologists, or psychiatrists.  Individual therapy was found to be 'ineffective' in the treatment of this 'social disease'. Group participation in a sober group is a cornerstone of long term success. Similiarly aversion to the substance of abuse is a cornerstone of long term recovery. Further research has not shown specifically which religious association is most beneficial but a 'spriitual' approach has been found most beneficial. In the book. "not god", a biograph of AA by Kurtz, it was clear that the alcoholic treated his thinking as 'divine' so the demand in AA for a person to have a 'higher power' is specifically insisting that they no longer consider themselves their own higher power.


Anonymous said...

Dispel the myths about A.A.

Californians will have an opportunity on September 17 at The Crossing Church, Saturday morning, Costa Mesa, and Golden Hills Community Church on September 24 at Brentwood all day Saturday to hear for themselves what recovered Christians with long term sobriety in A.A. have learned and studied about the Christian origins, early Christian Fellowship of A.A. in Akron, and the successes of the first three Christian AAs when they, as long-term Bible students, turned to God for help.

Dick B. said...

The article about A.A.'s Christian roots is correct. It simply fails to mention the many early Christian roots of A.A.--the great evangelists like Moody, Sankey, Meyer, Folger, and others. Also the lay brethren of the Young Men's Christian Association. Also the Gospel Rescue Missions. Also the Salvation Army. And the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor. It also fails to cover the extensive Christian upbringing of both Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob: Parents who were Christians and attended Congregational Churches. Churches with Christian confessions and creeds. Churches and Sunday schools that did likewise in sermons and teachings. Bible studies,prayer meetings, quiet hour observances,YMCA activities, daily chapel and required church attendance at their Academies. And then Dr. Bob's activity in Christian Endeavor. Bill Wilson's presidency of the Burr and Burton YMCA. Bill Wilson's four year Bible study course. And Bill Wilson's prayers at the altar of Calvary Rescue Mission where Bill Wilson made his decision for Jesus Christ and then twice wrote: "For sure I was born again." The clincher is the fact that all early AAs were required to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

haykind said...

I am honoured and feel tremendous gratitude to hear from Dick B whose books I've read with great appreciation. As the big book of AA was written essentially 'after' the original miracle of Akron and AA I was, as a researcher, curious to learn what the original members of AA were reading. It was through Dick B that I discovered many of the original readings and learning that underlay the development of the Big Book. The tree, indeed forests of AA, were readily apparent for anyone to see in the millions involved in 12 step recovery today but some of the best description of the seeds and watering were for me to be found in the writings of Dick B. Thank you Dick B for your amazing scholarship.