Unconflicted

It appears to be that time of year again.  Pretty much once per year I share some thoughts on being both someone who believes the Bible and a member of Alcoholics Anonymous.

This topic comes up from time to time.  Often as a result of having read or responded to criticism of either belief in the Bible or participation in AA.

Furthermore, having shared a morning recently with Dick B over a cup of coffee, the thoughts seem timely.  I enjoy my dialogues and time with Dick because for me, he adds some much-needed balance to the seemingly rudderless drifting of spiritual direction I experience in AA. 

Now I say this with the greatest respect to those whose belief systems are different than mine.  I have come to my conclusions that I believe the Bible and that Jesus was who he said he was.  I don’t know others’ journeys or why they believe as they do and it is not my intent here to argue or criticize.

Most will call me a Christian.  I prefer not to fly that flag at this time due to its numerous negative associations with this label.  Specifically, I have experienced far too many people who claim loudly and clearly to represent Jesus Christ yet their conduct bears little resemblance to what I read of him in the Bible. 

I do my best to say this without judgment.  I simply don’t see the connection between what I have come to understand of Jesus and the words, actions, and attitudes of many of his label-wearing ‘representatives’.  And I would rather not be thought of this way.  Furthermore, I do not feel my beliefs needs to be labeled for me to profess or practice them.

Roll with me on this one for a moment.  I would fully understand if my stance ruffles some feathers.  But consider this.  Jesus was so significant that his brief 33 year appearance on earth divided humanity’s calendar in half.  And over 2000 years after his death, he still continues to influence the world more than any other human being in existence before or after.

His birth, although controversial to an unwed teenage mother, was of such significance, that the king of his nation committed mass murder of babies in an effort to stop him.  Astronomers were somehow compelled to travel many miles to witness his birth in spite of the reigning monarch’s hunt for him.

The empire that condemned, tortured, and executed him, that had been one of the mightiest empires in all of history, has long since disappeared.  This empire, comprised of millions of people, had wealth, knowledge, technology, and military power unparalleled in its day. 

Yet that empire crumbled and faded, while this solitary man, accompanied by only a handful of close associates, who lived on earth for only a generation, lived a life so impacting that he is still known by at least a third of the world today.  And the book written of him is sought after passionately in places around the world where it is illegal.

If those of us who seek to represent and emulate this same Jesus had only a fraction of the impact he did, would we really have to profess as much as we do?  Or, as they did with Jesus, would they flock to us curious for how we lived, what we did, and how we treated others?  Is this not what they did with Jesus?

My friends, AA has not had anywhere near the impact on my life and this world that Jesus Christ has.  My membership in AA and practice of the 12 steps, which I experience and believe to be practical applications of Biblical principles, does not compete with my belief in Jesus Christ.  In my experience, AA is but a tool that people of my persuasion, alcoholics who could not stop drinking, can use to get and stay sober.  Not unlike someone with a mental illness taking their medicine so they can remain sane, the steps help me organize my thoughts and behaviours so I don’t drink.

AA and its founders of AA were far from perfect.  Even my friend Dick B commented on how it is widely believed that Bill W was known to have affairs, experiment with dangerous illegal drugs, and receive considerable money from AA.  And the jury is out on what Bill W’s spiritual beliefs really were.

Some practice AA as a religion.  I don’t.  Some wear all kinds of AA logoed clothing and jewelry.  I don’t.  Some say AA saved their life.  I don’t.   God saved my life.  He just used imperfect AA to do it.  Not unlike the imperfect emergency room doctor who on the side is having an affair and cheating on his taxes saving your life after a car accident.

My step 3 did not involve surrendering my will and my life to AA as I understood it.  It involved surrendering to God as I understood him.  And I understand him to be God of the Bible including Jesus Christ.

The AA preamble does not say that AA could and would relieve my alcoholism if it were sought.  It says God could and would if he were sought.

I’m Chaz, a bumbling yet unconflicted follower of Jesus Christ and a sober member of AA.

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About Chaz

Husband, father, brother, son, friend. Sober member of AA. Grateful for the life God gave me and for the happy struggle of recovery.
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30 Responses to Unconflicted

  1. Caddo Veil says:

    Chaz, I always look forward to your “talks”–I guess I’m one of your “fans”, and hope you’d consider me a friend via Blogville. Thanks for clarifying some points for me–and I’m so impressed with your non-judgmental attitude! Your words turned the spotlight on my tendency in that regard–and there’s my confession for the week! And I so love your humility–“bumbling”, aren’t we all?! God bless you abundantly, brother–can’t wait for the next “talk”!

    • Chaz says:

      Hello Cado…. glad to post had value for you. Thanks for your kind words… and of course you are my Blogville friend…. my Auntie in fact!

      I do my best to avoid judgement in my posts and in life. This is one of the characteristics that many church cultures seem to pick up and tolerate. Yet Jesus was pretty clear on this. Judge not. And take the plank out of our own eye before pointing out the speck in our brother’s. Nothing ambiguous here.

      People flocked to Jesus. So many that in one instance, he had to climb the side of a hill to address them all. This was not a result of his PR department or multi-media setup. Nor was it based on his political power or status in the religious system. He lived as a common man yet people were drawn to him. His life has been recorded and emulated like no other person. Ever.

      This is pretty amazing. So I hope that in my dialogues and even my disagreements, I can do my best to behave as I believe Jesus did. I will likely bumble it in some way. But try I will.

      Thanks for your reply.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

      • Caddo Veil says:

        Oh I like this even better–being your Auntie!!! That blessing will take me through the entire week, Chaz! I couldn’t have prayed for a more beautiful, sensitive, spirit filled nephew–God bless you, hon, and have a wonderful week!

  2. Debbie says:

    Chaz – I have some thoughts on this one, but not being in AA, I think I’ll step to the side and let others comment first.
    Debbie

  3. Tommy Simpson says:

    Chaz I love your thoughts because you say it so eloquently and do not try to make yourself the perfect one. Do not worry about how others feel about your faith, your relation with the Lord is all that is important. The differences stem from when one person has an inspirational moment they believe it is absolutely right for everyone. When we interpret something we are putting a definition on what it is. For example in Matt. 5:5 it says, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” Now if you become meek you place a definition based upon your experienc and where you are at. If I should become weak I would do the same. Our definitions would be of the same thing but each one would be different. As you can easily see this is where a lot of the opposition to the AA method comes from. The people in the church who have never been addicted place one definition on it, while you being involved place another definition on it. When you remove all the trash what it all boils down to is faith and love. If you have faith and live in the love of God do not allow the others who think they are absolutely right destroy your faith.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Tommy…. thanks for your reply and encouragement.

      I agree that we all have different perspectives based on experience. How can’t we?

      Even AA’s notion of ‘God as I understand Him’ to me is an understandable and honest statement. One need only look at the numerous denominations of Christians to know that we all understand the same God slightly differently.

      You mention faith and love. Jesus is pretty clear in his teaching on these. Especially the importance of love. I immediately get lost when I sense an absence of love in a dialogue. I understand grace to be rooted in love. And if there were one distinguishing gift that Jesus gave that I have not known of any other God to offer it is grace.

      So when the arguments over doctrine are peppered with anger, judgement, and generally an absence of love, I find it pointless. It isn’t the way Jesus as I understand him behaved… so why would I engage such a thing?

      Thanks for adding to the dialogue.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  4. Pingback: A Sunday Song – Better Than a Hallelujah « Two Minutes of Grace

  5. Debbie says:

    Thank you for this! You have me thinking about if I would have to profess as much if I simply lived like He was my Lord. Really good, Chaz . . .and challenging. And challenging is good. 🙂
    God bless you!

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Debbie… thanks for popping in and commenting. I too was challenged by the things I posted about…. which of course is why I posted them 🙂

      I have been away from a lot of church culture in the recent past and slowly, I feel God is showing me some of the things that have been holding me back. One of which is that I have probably been judging the judgemental! Bizarre eh?

      Yet those who judged and murdered Jesus… how did he respond? “Forgive them father for they know not what they do”. Thats quite a standard to live up to isn’t it? But imagine growing in that way?

      In a small way, Dr. ML King did. It is said of him that he refused to hate those who hated him. And look what the outcome was.

      I think many church cultures have underestimated the power of love and grace. We often seem to add in some legalism and judgment in what feels like an effort to help God’s cause out. But Jesus didn’t. So how would being legalistic and judgemental make us “Christ-like”?

      I have fewer answers than questions but these are the questions that bounce around my head lately.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  6. I just finished reading “Pass it on, Bill’s Story and the founding of A.A.” And I am amid A.A. Comes of Age. Bill had a lightning bolt spiritual experience with Fr. Dowling at his side a man of the Jesuit order who became one of the most influential spiritual men that early A.A had. Yes, A.A. was given certain monies by Rockefeller and others to get the movement started and to get the first edition printed and distributed. I believe that Bill was a cradle Christian. He attended services in New York and other places. But not in either text was it mentioned that Bill professed any organized religious affiliation beyond that of A.A. none of the books I have ever read spoke about Bill being a womanizer or having affairs, What AA literature would that be if it demeaned the good standings of Bill W.

    I have an old timer friend who knew Bill and visited with him often after the war. We go to my home group on Friday nights. And he has some of the most fascinating stories about Bill.

    I guess you could say that I am a back bencher Anglican. I go when I feel it necessary. I love the pomp and circumstance. I’ve been studying all the old time literature to better serve my communities and my sponsees. Jesus lived, walked the earth and made his mark on the world. That I cannot deny in my faith.

    I do what I cam for my communities. I write on the blog and share my experience and the experience of others who come to our meetings with others online. And in the fall I will go full time writing for a living. A.A. for me is a way of life. A way to live honestly and rightly. It saved my life, but I don’t go around wearing it on my sleeve. Not too many people here do that either.

    But the history of AA is wide and grand. I suggest you get a couple of the books and read them yourself. AA Comes of Age and Pass It On …

    God could and would if he were sought …

    J.

    • Chaz says:

      Thanks Jeremy… ‘Dr. Bob and the good oldtimers’ is on my reading list so will certainly take your suggestion to read some of the original material.

      In my experience, AA is how AA is practiced. And it is practiced a wide variety of ways spanning between barely and fantatically.

      All I can really say with certainty is what I feel a connection with and what I don’t. I won’t jump to conclusions too quickly about what is right or wrong. A person could do a lot worse than getting out of balance and hyperfocusing on AA. Such people were on the pathway toward death as we all were.

      For me, good is the enemy of best. Why settle? To me, having only AA would be settling. God as I understand him is infinite. By comparison, AA is puny.

      Would be fascinating to dialogue with someone who spent time with Bill W. Although I feel it would be dangerous to consider him, Dr. Bob, or any other founder to be anything more than just another alcoholic who got sober, naturally the fact that he founded the program draws some curiosity.

      Dick B has spent time with families of the founders, particularly Dr. Bob’s son. Am sure these types of interractions give quite different perspectives than printed literature.

      Am not sure if there is specific evidence of Bill W being a philanderer, but I hear it is widely believed and some seem convinced. Temptation this way appears to be fiarly consistent among men of notoriety and power.

      Thanks as always for popping by and adding to the dialogue Jer.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  7. Bill also was known to dabble in the paranormal. Having what they called “Spook sessions” in his living room at Stepping Stones and that is its own chapter in Pass it On. Bill was clearly a ghost man himself, as was attested in many stories. Bill also went through a very dark time of depression a few years into sobriety that almost killed him, but he rebounded. Bill spoke to many a religious man, because he had to get past the religious sensors when writing the book and the steps and traditions. So Bill was not alone on the faith front. He had one foot in AA and the other in a life of observances of faith and sober living.

    • Chaz says:

      It does not surprise me at all that a man with an underpinning of depression would continue to search broadly for reprieve from his pain. That nagging, dark vortex that seems to pull those of us who have been challenged by depression into a life-sucking abyss. Yet it often does not swallow us completely, it just drags and drags on us like walking around with heavy ankle-weights day in and day out.

      This is not an excuse, but maybe Bill, although sober, was not as healthy as he is generally believed to be.

      God as I understand him can stil use people, even if they have significant failings. I by no means consider any of the founders perfect or diefied by any means.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  8. Heid Fogle says:

    Chaz– I agree with you. I am unconcerned about Bill’s personal life. He was a tool for getting the Biblical principles into our hands. I was not saved by him, God used AA to save my life when I was suicidal, but I was already a Christian saved by grace through Jesus Christ. Could He have chosen a different method of rescue? Of course.

    I would guess He chose AA because I like structure and AA has enough structure to keep my focus for the rest of my life. I love methodology. AA suits me and I will continue to apply the program to my daily living because it keeps my spiritual life on track, unlike any ‘church’ curriculum ever did. For whatever reason, it works for me and I will continue to share my struggles and the AA principles out of necessity (to work my program) and gratitude.

    When I taught hs English, I asked for the strugglers, the back row kids who hated English in particular and school in general. I had a heart for them because I’m a struggler, too… a struggler of life.

    When I found AA, I immediately felt that camaraderie of back row fiddlers. I urgently started breaking down the Steps so I could grasp the heart of the message and apply it. It reminded me of the many hours of homework on the top bunk bed in my shared bedroom of the little trailer I grew up in. Only now I had ‘friends’ that were in the struggle with me. I could share with them the insights and tips and they would share theirs with me. It was community based upon failures and fears and struggles. Again, nothing like my church-affiliated experience to date.

    One of the AA lessons I’ve tried to apply is that of loving with grace instead of insisting on ‘likeness’ of experience. Now I can learn from others whose faith may differ from mine. The judgmentalism and accompanying fear are no longer comfortable, and certainly not Christlike.

    As you say, “If those of us who seek to represent and emulate this same Jesus had only a fraction of the impact he did, would we really have to profess as much as we do? Or, as they did with Jesus, would they flock to us curious for how we lived, what we did, and how we treated others? Is this not what they did with Jesus?”

    Therefore I hope nothing I communicate ever sounds like I have the corner on truth or that I’m superior to others because I have it all ‘figured out’. I was schooled in systematic theology, memorized scriptures and used them against anyone who was not ‘as enlightened’ and therefore could not really be ‘spiritual’…so I am a recovering judge of others, as well as a recovering alcoholic. God forgive me…and He does.

    • Caddo Veil says:

      Heid, I love what you said about being a “struggler” and having a heart for them! And I SO relate to being a “recovering judge of others” (me, too)–wow, excellent, excellent. I’m so glad to meet a sister “struggler”–God bless you abundantly today, and always!!

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Heid! Alway glad to hear from you.

      While reading our reply, something came a little more clearly to mind. I hear over and over again how for us alcoholics, nothing seemed to help us get sober until we began getting help from other alcoholics. Even alcoholics with whom we do not share a basis of faith or philoshphy. Perhaps like Bill W.

      I wonder if this is strong evidence of the power of, shall we say, ‘alikeness’? Maybe there is far more power in being in contact with and the company of people who share a strong characteristic, such as alcoholism, than has been recognized.

      Think about it. You just said that you couldn’t care less about Bill W’s other characteristics, yet you feel you have learned something from him. Yet how many people have you, me, and virtually all of us had commonalities and similarities with, but they were not able to help us get sober.

      Speaking for myself, anyway, I am quite confident that my subconscious braces itself in anticipation of what it feels is the ignorance of others who simply do not understand. Meaning that the many and varied people who tried to help me get sober, as much as I wanted their help, perhaps my subconscious resisted them and invalidated their efforts because it didn’t see a basis of understanding based on them having “been there”. They hadn’t walked the path of alcoholism, and even though I was not putting up a conscious resistence to them, I somehow remained at a distance and was unable to gain from the help they so lovinginly and capably offered.

      Yet, I walk into a room full of strangers, with whom I may share few commonalities or similarities, and I am able to find help. Including the likes of Bill W, who obviously I have never met, but I recall feeling an understanding when I read his story. I remember seeing the similarities in the behaviours, attitudes, emotions, and lack of control. Maybe the AA nay-sayers are unaware of the power of this key similarity. And they feel threatened by the fact that many of us find help here against what their theological and doctrinaly expecations tell them?

      Wow. There may be another post theme emerging here.

      Thanks Heid!

      PS… have I mistakenly been adding an i to your name?

      • Heid Fogle says:

        Whenever I think of the help I’ve received in the rooms of AA that I could not find in a church, I think of Paul’s “…comfort others with the comfort wherewith we ourselves have been comforted of God.” You are right. It’s so true. Without the experience of the struggle, the feelings of failure and the requisite humbling and rescue from Him, no one was going to be able to reach me. I needed to see living proof that there was a solution. Words were not enough. I guess it boils down to truth versus the hand of a friend who’s been down my path.

        I do hope you take this concept to the post level!

        http://wp.me/p1lmv2-i2 is a post about how I found my name. I answer to Heid, Heidi or Heidi HO. There are a few ‘names” that I no longer respond to. Ha. You’re safe. It means a lot that you ask.

  9. Debby says:

    Chaz, fantastic post! On all counts. No I’m not in AA but I continue to learn about the steps and see first hand lives that are change when people apply those principles to their life. Just like I see first hand those whose lives have been changed by the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Funny things is, I see men do far better when the embrace both: the AA principles with God’s transforming love. I don’t understand those who don’t see (or want to see) God in the steps. I heard a speaker many years ago say, “God will use who he will use”. Yes, He will and does. I believe he’s used your blog, this post today, to spread that word to many.

    Your testimony of faith couldn’t be any clearer and your humility always comes through. God uses you because He uses who He will. Many thanks for your annual thoughts on the bible and AA 😀

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Debby! Thanks for your reply and kind words.

      Blogging (both posts, replies, and dialogues) really help me to process thoughts and experiences. They help me drill down and learn more about the ideas and observations that come to me. When I say thanks to you and others for adding to the dialouges, I really mean it. Every addition to the dialogue brings new and greater clarity. Thank you for being a part of it.

      I am glad that these clarities can be shared and give help and hope to others.

      Fascinating what you say about the results you see with those who embrace the gospel as well as working the steps. In re-reading my last sentence, I suppose I can also see the fear that some may have that working the steps in addition to having a relationship with Jesus might be a man-made supplement and/or modification of the gospel.

      But would we say the same of the schizophrenic who takes his meds and is then able to attend church and live as a christian? Probably not. I think most would understand this more than the alcoholic whose thinking patterns can be improved by working the steps such that he can function in this world.

      It is an interesting phenomenon. More will be revealed in time I am sure.

      Ciao.

      Chaz

  10. Pingback: I Love Genuine Bloggers! « Step On A Crack…Or Break Your Mother's Back

  11. Hello there!

    I happily nominate you for the Genuine Blogger Award!

    http://step-on-a-crack.com/2012/03/04/i-love-genuine-bloggers/

    Yes I do!

    Peace, Jen

  12. Heidi says:

    Reblogged this on FORK IN THE ROAD and commented:

    Chaz– I agree with you. I am unconcerned about Bill’s personal life. He was a tool for getting the Biblical principles into our hands. I was not saved by him, God used AA to save my life when I was suicidal, but I was already a Christian saved by grace through Jesus Christ. Could He have chosen a different method of rescue? Of course.

    I would guess He chose AA because I like structure and AA has enough structure to keep my focus for the rest of my life. I love methodology. AA suits me and I will continue to apply the program to my daily living because it keeps my spiritual life on track, unlike any ‘church’ curriculum ever did. For whatever reason, it works for me and I will continue to share my struggles and the AA principles out of necessity (to work my program) and gratitude.

    When I taught hs English, I asked for the strugglers, the back row kids who hated English in particular and school in general. I had a heart for them because I’m a struggler, too… a struggler of life.

    When I found AA, I immediately felt that camaraderie of back row fiddlers. I urgently started breaking down the Steps so I could grasp the heart of the message and apply it. It reminded me of the many hours of homework on the top bunk bed in my shared bedroom of the little trailer I grew up in. Only now I had ‘friends’ that were in the struggle with me. I could share with them the insights and tips and they would share theirs with me. It was community based upon failures and fears and struggles. Again, nothing like my church-affiliated experience to date.

    One of the AA lessons I’ve tried to apply is that of loving with grace instead of insisting on ‘likeness’ of experience. Now I can learn from others whose faith may differ from mine. The judgmentalism and accompanying fear are no longer comfortable, and certainly not Christlike.

    As you say, “If those of us who seek to represent and emulate this same Jesus had only a fraction of the impact he did, would we really have to profess as much as we do? Or, as they did with Jesus, would they flock to us curious for how we lived, what we did, and how we treated others? Is this not what they did with Jesus?”

    Therefore I hope nothing I communicate ever sounds like I have the corner on truth or that I’m superior to others because I have it all ‘figured out’. I was schooled in systematic theology, memorized scriptures and used them against anyone who was not ‘as enlightened’ and therefore could not really be ‘spiritual’…so I am a recovering judge of others, as well as a recovering alcoholic. God forgive me…and He does.

  13. Pingback: Unconflicted and Better Than a Hallelujah « Good Life

  14. Heid Fogle says:

    I don’t understand why my first reblogging attempt from here went to The Fork In The Road. I have taken it down and reposted it on Good LIfe, where I wanted it. My apologies for the inconvenience to anyone.

    • Chaz says:

      Lol… reminds me of a time I thought I was replying to one Facebook friend’s status but actually replied on another. This kind of stuff just hapens to us 🙂

  15. czechgurl4u says:

    Really relate to much, if not all of what you say. Timely as well. Thank You.

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