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July 08 • Is Recovery Non-Sectarian?

Day 730

As a religious person, I think it is sadly funny how much critical attention is given to the 12 Step program's 'Higher Power' concept that acknowledges the differences in how the world acknowledges spirituality. This notion is not a philosophy created by, or even espoused by, the 12 Step recovery program, as much as it just recognizes the variables. Remarkably, it has successfully kept God — or your Higher Power as you find it — at the center of the program without getting into the never-ending debates about what God is wearing or the difference between free will and predestination.

More than opening a door of diversity for atheists and agnostics, this approach has closed the door to legalism and true-truther dogma. Imagine if the program had defined God according to any one of the three Abrahamic religions. It would have alienated followers of the other two, not to mention everyone else. Or even worse, within each religion are countless branches or denominations with litmus tests for the righteous; the program would have been dead in short order had it tried to define the Higher Power in a way that met any one of those standards.

The alternative, taken to its natural extremism, would be to create all programs, all politics, and even all sports into the adversarial relationships of dogma-first, and everyone else be damned. Can you say 'crusaders' or 'inquisitions'? That is not the world that I believe God has called me to serve.

Within my tribe, the conservative Christian community, there are several of what I call 12Step+ programs. They try to use the best of what has worked across the spectrum of faiths, and then add the scriptures and tenets that lead to eternal salvation. My hunch is they do these modified meetings so they can comfortably include the program into their statement of faith or 'use of facilities' policies for their buildings. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so.

I've traveled all over the world speaking in faith-based organizations. A common thread I've experienced is that the churches that exude the most inclusive and grace-filled natures are those that have incorporated the popular Celebrate Recovery model into their outreach. This 'franchise' is advertised as a "CHRIST-CENTERED 12 Step program." The emphasis is clear from the upper case focus, which is how it displayed on their website. I think that gives cover to the un-recovered righteous churchgoers, and provides a safe place to minister to their community's recovering addicts without having to feel guilty for not proselytizing at every opportunity.

I apologize to my friends in that model if that seems cynical or offensive. I'm actually a big fan, as far as it goes, and am as grateful for the impact on the churches as I am for the addicts.

I do not mean to infer that these programs based on specific faiths are wrong or inferior, but neither are they superior; different approaches meet different needs. I wish I had not spent so many years bashing Alcoholics Anonymous and 12-Step programs; who knows whom I may have left out of the room by requiring my particular religious membership card.

I do not leave God or Jesus in the car when I go into a 12 Step meeting, or when I talk to a fellow sex addict who identifies as an atheist but is struggling with the same issues I am. Neither do I tote around a portable baptistry to dunk any addict that wants to be completely cured of his sins and diseases. Right now, it is enough for me to learn to love people like me. My Higher Power will open any other doors that I need to explore in His timing.

I do believe that God (my version) is at the center of all healing, whether it's the broken heart of an addict or the broken body on the surgical table. God is the giver of life, whether He is acknowledged or not. It is a more perfect practice when we can worship and pray and observe the teachings of the Father in all our ways, but there are a lot of versions of each, and to say my way is the only way is pretty arrogant. I agree that God's way is the only way, and I'm still trying to figure that out the best I can.

God gives us doctors that perform His miracles while giving themselves credit, and He allows Christians to regularly miss the target of perfection and still be His children. I cannot explain this conundrum any more than the writers and commentators of scripture that have struggled with it for thousands of years.

I do not need to have my brand of my Higher Power inflicted on other addicts. I need to surrender to my God, be grateful for His serenity, and have the courage to change what He would have me change, even if that's just in my own heart and soul.

Today, that is enough.



Maybe you're not like me

Maybe we don't agree

Maybe that doesn't mean we gotta be enemies

Maybe we just get brave

Take a big leap of faith

Call a truce so me and you can find a better way

Let's take our time, open our eyes, look and listen

We're gonna find we're more alike than we are different

–Josh Wilson, “Revolutionary”



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