Thursday, December 22, 2011

A.A., God, Religion, Bill W., 1950 Convention

Dick B.
Copyright, Anonymous. All rights reserved

How Bill Wilson Described a Turning Point at A.A.'s 1950 Cleveland Convention. The Traditions had just been approved. Bill was still talking about God. Many present were still talking about religion. And Bill, perhaps for the last time, brought "as we understood Him" back to God--the Creator, Maker, Heavenly Father, Father of Lights--all specifically mentioned in the 1939 Big Book

The following is a quote of Bill's remarks on these subjects (Decide for yourself as to meaning):

"On Sunday morning we listened to a panel of four A. A.'s who portrayed the spiritual side of Alcoholics Anonymous -- as they understood it. What with churchgoers and late-rising banqueteers, the Conference Committee had never guessed this would be a heavy duty session. But churchgoers had already returned from their devotions and hardly a soul stayed abed. Hotel Cleveland's ballroom was filled an hour before hand. People who have fear that A.A. is losing interest in things of the spirit should have been there.

"A hush fell upon the crowd as we paused for a moment of silence. Then came the speakers, earnest and carefully prepared, all of them. I cannot recall an A.A. gathering where the attention was more complete, or the devotion deeper.

"Yet some thought that those truly excellent speakers had, in their enthusiasm, unintentionally created a bit of a problem. It was felt the meeting had gone over far in the direction of religious comparison, philosophy and interpretation, when by firm long standing tradition we A.A.'s had always left such questions strictly to the chosen faith of each individual.

"One member [Fr. Ralph Pfau] rose with a word of caution. As I heard him, I thought, 'What a fortunate occurrence. How well we shall always remember that A.A. is never to be thought of as a religion. How firmly we shall insist that A.A. membership cannot depend upon any particular belief whatever; that our twelve steps contain no article of religious faith except faith in God -- as each of us understands Him. How carefully we shall henceforth avoid any situation which could possibly lead us to debate matters of personal religious belief. It was, we felt, a great Sunday morning."

Note: "our twelve steps contain no article of religious faith except faith in God--as each of us understands Him." Again, "no article of religious faith." Again, "except faith in God." Again, "Him!"

Alcoholics Anonymous History, as Bill sees it in the Cleveland convention hall in 1950: There is no mention of a "higher power." There is no mention of "Good Orderly Direction." There is no mention of "Group Of Drunks." There is no mention of a tree, a light bulb, a radiator, Santa Claus, or the Big Dipper. There is no mention of "not-god-ness."

There is mention of "religious faith." There is mention of "faith in God." There is strong indication of support for the Big Book's and Sam Shoemaker's "find Him now... by surrendering as much of yourself as you understand to as much of God as you understand." Bill mentions this idea in Bill's Story in the Big Book when he wrote of his surrender to God "as I then understood Him." Shoemaker spoke of it many times in his writngs. And Dr. Bob's wife Anne Smith mentioned it in classic Oxford Group language: "surrender as much of yourself as you know" to "as much of God as you know."

And how, from that turning point, did writers, historians, and those in favor of the "wisdom of the room" ever come to equate "Our Heavenly Father" with "spirituality," "not-god-ness," some "higher power," Gertrude, Ralph, a chair, a tree, a light bulb, a door knob, Something, Somebody, or--as A.A. literature more and more frequently puts it today--"nothing at all!

See Dick B., God and Alcoholism,

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