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.