NOTE: At the end of this posting there will be a link to the presentation discussed
It was a real honor to be asked to present a Continuing Education Lecture at this year’s Alabama Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association (AADAA) Fall Retreat. Being asked by my peers and superiors to present in order to help others seeking to better themselves in our field meant two things. First it meant that someone must find me competent enough to share my feeble knowledge base with others, a very unexpected and appreciated compliment. Secondly though, and more frightening, it meant that someone other than myself would be selecting the topic on which I should present. Time would eventually tell that the topic I was to present on was the Biblical foundation in which the original 12 steps (Alcoholics Anonymous) was founded and how to present this to clients as therapists. YIKES!!!!
As I researched this topic and prepared my presentation the one thought that kept nagging me was that there would be, as in any secular field, both atheists and agnostics present during my presentation. Would they attack me despite facts? Will the evidence I present be sufficient to silence or convince them? Will I throw up on them? Where is my passport so I can just blow this off and leave the country?
As I researched and thought though, something became quite obvious to me. Were the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (more specifically, the Oxford Group from which A.A. became what it did) Christian and raised with a Christian upbringing – YES! Was the Alcoholics Anonymous big book that was originally published and sparked 60+ years of successful recovery from alcoholism a Christian publication or even rooted in Christian teachings – NO!!! While it is undeniable that Bill W., the foremost leader of the A.A. movement, was raised a Christian and that his explanation of clarity revolved around a Christian moment, the truth is that the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are a work based program, the complete opposite of Biblical Christianity. I suddenly felt a little jipped as I have always kinda believed it was and had read things such as the Recovery Bible and sat through sermons in church that claim such. There are parallels that can be drawn but to state that the Alcoholics Anonymous book is a Christian publication is a farce. I will stop short of pointing out how this is the major issue in the American Christian church today but will say that there is an epidemic of people taking certain ideas, usually their own, and drawing false parallels by taking scripture out of context.
The focus of my presentation then became to get across the point that the founders and authors of the original A.A. program were mostly Christian but that also meant they have Old Testament training as well. As treatment providers in a secular world with secular bosses and ethical standards we must adhere to, there is a way to use Biblical analogies and stories and yet not unethically impose Christian beliefs on our clients. This should be important not only to us as employees of a company, but also due to Biblical instruction to Christians on how to properly honor our employers. Therefore, my mission became to equip those in my audience with Old Testament stories from which 12-step parallels could be drawn and with which one could safely say that it was possible that Bill W. and the 12-step founders knew the stories as many were raised in Christian homes and went to Sunday school in which so many learn such stories. For some reason though, they chose to leave their Christian beliefs out of the original A.A. publication and we have no right to change it.
The importance of being culturally diverse as a treatment provider is often understated but as I aimed to point out, the world’s two largest religions, Christian and Muslim, as well as Jews and some historically minded atheists can all agree that the stories of the Old Testament are accurate historical accounts. Just as the story of Solomon is important to a Christian, so it is to a Jew. Just as the story of King David is meaningful to a Christian, so it is to a Muslim. Furthermore, due to historical evidence, atheists cannot deny the fact that these biblical characters, Moses, Abraham, David, or Solomon were real and that their writings are indeed what they are held to be, historical documents. A majority of the separation occurs where the Old Testament ends and the New Testament begins. Therefore, as the treatment provider when you begin discussing the New Testament you alienate all other religions and leave yourself open to accusation of imposing your religion. Now, living in the southeast of the United States, a majority of one’s clients will have been raised as Christian and will report in psychosocial evaluations that they adhere to Christian beliefs. However, as professionals we need to have as many tools at our disposal to handle any situation and to not neglect the spiritual side of our clients, regardless of their religion. By understanding the Old Testament parallels, we therefore can relate how these Old Testament characters belief and interaction(s) with God helped them through struggles similar to those faced by the addict today.
Sounds simple enough right? The long and the short of it is that the very atheists and agnostics that I was so concerned about were not problematic at all during my presentation. In fact, not a negative word or comment came from any of them. To both my surprise and disappointment, the majority of opposition I faced in my presentation came from people, two in particular, with Christian beliefs. If you view the presentation (available at the bottom of this posting), you will see that I point out that at step three of the original A.A. 12-steps that all similarity between Christianity and the 12-steps stop due to the fact that from this point forward, the success of the program all becomes about what you, the human, does. This is not Christianity. Christianity is about what has already been done and how the recognition and belief that this prior act will be enough to save you. The 12-step program, while stressing a need for the assistance of A God, not THE God, also is work based and your success as a person in recovery hinges greatly on your acts. That is not Christianity and one could talk for hours about how the separation occurs at the Christian belief that there is one true God.
I will spare the details of their arguments but in the end they simply missed the point. Their arguments were based around the fact that they had witnessed people who work the 12-steps be led straight to the foot of the cross. When faced with how to relate that to the Jew who the cross means nothing to though, there was no response and when shown how offensive such spiritual guidance would be to the Jew or Muslim their response was anger and disdain. Further, when discussing faith based operations that have taken the original 12-step program and manipulated it to have a Christian message it is important to point out that by doing so they are ignoring the request of the original authors to not change or manipulate the message within the original text. I guess though when people have no problem ignoring not adding to the scripture they have no probl
em doing that with other, less sanctified books as well. Just as we see more of man’s philosophy creeping into Christianity today, so we see the same in A.A. Could this explain the declining success rates in both?
In conclusion, at the beginning of my presentation I requested that each person attending the lecture give a 15-30 second synopsis of why they chose to take this course. 72% of the respondents stated that they chose to take it because they really did not know much about A.A. and it’s workings. My response after all had finished was to point out that the number one after care program that we as therapists refer our clients to is A.A. or N.A. Yet, in a room full of our peers we will publicly admit that we really know hardly anything about what we are referring these individuals to. This should be troubling to us to say the least and speaks to a level of irresponsibility. Just as I, the Christian, have no authority to speak about something I do not know about or cannot say for certain, it is unethical as a treatment provider to refer someone to care that we really know nothing about. This seems to be a growing trend in both areas and the results are obvious in both areas.
To view the presentation discussed follow the links below. It is divided into two separate parts due to file size constraints in Google docs. Please take the time to review this and leave comments that you may think would improve this presentation.