Saturday, October 26, 2013
Alcoholic Christian Recovery - Comment by A.A. Author, Historian, Christian Dick B.
I was pleased with the temperate tone of both the article and the comments. After twenty-seven years of continuous sobriety as an active A.A., and twenty-four years of researching its reported roots as well as "the rest of the story," I would suggest that A.A. is not monolithic today. It is fair to say that it has had four "programs," and that its membership has expanded from three to two million in the meantime. If you don't start with history, you just start with conjecture and subjective viewpoints of one or more of the "four." And, before speculating on what A.A. is or isn't, a reader needs to learn and evaluate the historical research and discovery of the last thirty years. For example: (1) Before A.A. was founded in June of 1935, and before its first group was founded in Akron on July 4, 1935, the AAs had no program, no Big Book, no Steps, no Traditions, no war stories, and no meetings like those today. In turn, it started with how the first three got sober in this context. All three (Bill W., Dr. Bob, and Bill D.) believed in God, were Christians, and had lots of Bible in their backgrounds. Each turned to God for help. Each was cured permanently (two of them after a brief binge). And each devoted his life thereafter to helping other drunks by the same means. See "The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches Their Last Major Talks." (2) For the next two and a half years, the Akron AAs--under the leadership of Dr. Robert H. Smith--took their basic ideas from the Bible and felt that it contained the answer to their problems. They developed a program involving five required points, and two that were simply "recommended." It is described in DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, page 131. (3) Then Bill Wilson asked permission to write a book, and got that permission in Akron. And work on the book began in 1938. Wilson wrote the chapters for his "new version" of the program. And the pioneers wrote their personal stories telling how they had worked the Akron program--called a "Christian Fellowship." Bill's new version, he said, was drawn from three sources: (a) Dr. Silkworth's suggestions to Bill on the problem--including Silkworth's statement that the Great Physician Jesus Christ cculd cure Bill--this last point just left out of the story for years. (b) Professor William James who had explored "vital religious experiences" in rescue missions and the cures that had resulted therefrom. (c) Reverend Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. who taught Bill the remaining 10 Steps which came exclusively from the "practical program of action" or "life-changing" art of A First Century Christian Fellowship, later called the Oxford Group. (4) Just before Bill's book was sent to press consisting of his "new version" chapters and the "old school" stories of Christian Fellowship drunks, four people changed the program dramatically. They inserted a hand-written piece at the beginning of the typewritten draft. It erroneously said that Ebby Thacher had assured Bill that he could "choose your own conception of God." But that's not what Bill's text typewritten text said. Then the same four people altered the twelve steps--taking God out of the second step, and inserting "God as we understood Him" in Steps 3 and 11. So now there were four programs. And there still are. Unfortunately for the newcomer, the New Thought expression "higher power" crept into the language of AAs, writers, professionals, academics, clergy, and many lay people. And finally AAs were assured that they really didn't need to believe in anything at all--in the fourth program, that is. And this totality is not monolithic. It baffles Christians. It confuses newcomers. And it fashions for some a quasi-religious program that classes itself as "spiritual, but not religious." And now for a personal word. I am a Christian. I am a Bible student. I believe in God. I was very sick when I came into A.A. I was given immense comfort and friendship by the members. I loved helping others the way I was helped. I didn't discover A.A.'s biblical roots until I had been sober three years and started my research. See www.dickb.com/goodbook.shtml. I can't speak for the atheists, agnostics, people of various non-Christian religions, non-believers, and "not-god" believers. I only know that I never relied upon a door knob, a light bulb, a chair, or a table higher power to get well. I relied on God.