Saturday, August 05, 2006

In spite of weaknesses

As annegb and others have commented, a twelve-step program isn't going to help you with grief, though it may teach you something about talking to God and hearing God. They also don't help people quit smoking and they don't seem to have any effect on sexual orientation.

Twelve steps also do not seem to do anyone much good who just needs a multi-vitamin, a hair cut or help with compulsive depression (For depression, see cognitive therapy f9r adults and the similar related book for kids. There is also a handbook). But, if you are in bondage to drugs or alcohol (which is a type of drug) or in a relationship with someone who is, twelve-step programs seem to be the best hope.

They also provide an interesting perspective on "reality" and the variations of history and belief. To start with, Bill W, who founded AA is often reviled as a Nazi sympathizer who created a religious cult in pursuit of his infamous 13th step. The perspective that creates is completely false, and the reasons it is false teach a great deal.

Yes, AA had its roots in the Christian Oxford Groups. But, Bill W. parted ways with them long before they mistakenly embraced Hitler (one of the most famous, or infamous, neo-pagans of history), and it was their embrace of Hitler that completed the rift between the two groups. Interestingly enough, Bill W. started as an atheist, and while acknowledging God, always sought for a naturalistic explanation that left him embracing spiritual principals without religion.

He had weaknesses, including womanizing (known as the "13th step" by his critics) that emerged after his wife decided to cease having sex when he turned forty, but he recognized that as a weakness.

In my opinion, God worked through him -- and others -- in spite of weaknesses. A.A. works to heal alcoholics when nothing else does, and all it requires is honesty from them. The saddest thing is to meet people who have lost sobriety and returned to alcohol as the result of "learning" things (often untrue) that have caused them to abandon a program that worked for them.

I've never been an alcoholic, though I have known many. It passes sensibility that someone who escaped alcoholism would return because they felt a need to abandon AA because one of the founders had personal weaknesses -- and even worse, when the particular alleged offense isn't real (as noted above, Bill W. never endorsed or sympathized with the nazis and the OGs embrace created a rift in spite of the great amount of gratitude he felt toward them). To plunge back into a living hell because of a misreading of history is a tragedy.

As the Bible states "no one is perfect, not one." Peter's faith failed, he denied even knowing Christ and he was publicly rebuked by Paul for hypocrisy. Yet, he gave his life for the gospel and Christ received him home. Abraham had a crisis or two of his own, with truth and with his family, yet God forgave him and called him blessed in the end. Paul had a terrible history, yet his weaknesses did not make his testimony of Christ a lie, and did not make his calling false.

All of us are human, all are weak, all are flawed and in need of redemption. That does not mean that God can not work with us and that the light can not proceed from us to help others in a miraculous fashion. Instead the miracle is that God can and does work with us to let us help others, to share love and care and to walk in the light.


annegb said...

nice post, Stephen. The hardest thing for me is letting go and letting God. I always want to fix everything myself.

Usually I turn it over when I'm beaten bloody and battered and exhausted.

Anonymous said...

The imperfection of these people that you mentioned, serves to give me hope. I am glad they were imperfect. And I am glad that we have a record of their imperfections.

Stephen said...

That is part of the strength of the Old Testament in particular. Over and over again all the players in the story are show to be human. They make mistakes, they stumble and fall and they work their way through.

It gives us hope, for they were human as we are human, and God loved them as he loves us.