The Crossroad and the Switch Blade
© 2014 Anonymous. All rights reserved
Several vivid memories passed my way in the last day or so. And I’d like to share them with you.
The first involved my hearing a passionate talk by David Wilkerson at an Association of Gospel Rescue Missions Conference in Missouri. Wilkerson was the author of The Cross and the Switch Blade. He told of his famed work with tough druggies in the middle of New York City. Then he told how, after a year of their cooperative behavior, these men departed and went back to drugs. Why do I continue to do this work, he said? And his answer was that he was serving his Lord Jesus Christ.
The second memory was that of reading a somewhat dated commentary on A.A, by Andrew and Thomas Delbanco who were claiming in 1995 that A.A. was at the Crossroads. At that time, I was almost ten years sober and still hunting down A.A. history. I thought A.A. was just grand. But there were rumbles in the rafters. There were treatment programs injecting scads of therapeutic ideas into prospective members. There were prisons and jails where A.A. participation was possibly more “for the record” than for the recovery. There were courts and probation officers who asked little more than that alkies go to meetings and bring back signed “court” cards. There was little of the old practice where a drunk called an A.A. office, had two AAs appear at the alkie’s door, and had these people take him under their wing. Very possibly A.A. was at or approaching the crossroads in 1995. But I was too busy with the men I sponsored, with conferences and A.A. outings, with Big Book Seminars, with our Bible fellowship, and with traveling and writing to see the changing tide.
The third event occurred when I received today an email about Gert Behana—the tough alcoholic woman who got sober before she came to A.A. According to one A.A. old-timer, she distinguished herself often by being the only person in the A.A. meetings she attended who talked boldly about Jesus Christ. And Bill Wilson’s friend and spiritual mentor Reverend Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr. was Gert’s champion. I had heard tapes of her victory and loved them.
Why, then, in the face of the frequent recidivism among alcoholics and addicts? Why, in the face of waning confidence in the treatment programs, the drug court efforts, and the time-honored Twelfth Stepping of old? And why the growing vociferous objections to talk in meetings about the mention of God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible. This when all three had played a role that provided the heart of a simple, effective program of some five required principles. These simply embodied abstinence; surrender to God; elimination of sinful conduct; spiritual growth with the Bible, prayer, quiet time, and Christian literature; and virtually compulsory helping of others get well by the same means?
Why, some twenty years after the Delbano Crossroads article, was the recidivism increasing to a rate many estimated at 75%? Why was government money being poured into drug wars, drug courts, drug czars, and billions for government grants and research? With little to show for the ventures. And why, with Traditions which condemned public controversy and emphasized unity, were so many AAs openly rebuking those who mentioned Jesus Christ or the Bible? And why had some dedicated Christians aimed their arrows at Christians and would-be Christians who dared to fellowship with and render help and service to those AAs who had diverse religious, humanist, and outright atheist viewpoints?
Slowly I began to be asked to speak around the United States and to answer endless phone calls from mothers, wives, aunts who were despairing of their relatives’ repetitious DUI’s, imprisonments, auto accidents, and family split-ups. And it became appropriate for me to wonder if A.A., atheists, and biased Christians had not only passed the crossroads, but had picked up the switchblades and gone on the attack against A.A. and AAs. Today there are dozens of “Why I left A.A.” articles published.
Why continue to search the biblical roots of A.A.? To report on the Christian upbringing of its founders? To report on the principles and practices of the early Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship? And yet to watch the crumbling of some very early, very strong, and very widely recognized A.A. program techniques which can still be applied today?
I believe, I have (as David Wilkerson did) a duty, to search for, truthfully report, widely disseminate, and firmly continue to serve and glorify my Heavenly Father and His Son by showing the role they played and could play in a long and hefty trail of successful organizations and people, including early A.A. itself, who had turned to God for help, picked up the tools that worked with the facts, and then boldly reached out to those who still suffered. I firmly believe the early techniques relying on God’s help can play that role today among those who believe in God and want His help.
I say this. But not to win arguments. Not to cave in to specious factual or warped accounts. Not to let the suffering newcomer wallow in a fellowship that has changed but need not ignore or cast away an increasingly researched and published history of defeating the “cunning, baffling, powerful” temptations, confusion, and failures of the alcoholic swiftly encountered by the newcomer who yearns for a way out. Still!