Please Don’t Banish Jesus From Alcoholics Anonymous
A couple years ago I noticed a trend in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. The meeting was no longer ending with the Lord’s Prayer.
For more than 30 years every meeting I attended ended the same way — with the “Our Father,” then the Serenity Prayer, then the chant of “Keep Coming Back, It Works if You Work It!”
Suddenly, meetings were going straight to the Serenity Prayer and then the final pep chant. The “Our Father” was gone. This seems to be part of a larger trend. As reported in the Daily Mail, one group was censured for saying the prayer:
An Alcoholics Anonymous group is under threat after being censured for reciting the Lord’s Prayer at the start of meetings.
The group in Somerset was told by leaders it had become too Christian-focused and has been removed from the organization’s online directory.
But John Palmer, treasurer of the group in Yeovil, pointed out that the AA was started in the 1930s by Christians and that it adopted and popularized the Serenity Prayer, which is recited at the end of meetings across the world. ‘It’s a ridiculous decision,’ said Mr. Palmer. ‘They’ve removed us from the “Find a meeting” section of the AA website which will prevent new members from finding us. In other words, we’re being shut down.’
A Thirst for Union With God
It has taken me a while to admit this, mostly because I am so reluctant to criticize a fellowship that saved my life when I stopped drinking over three decades ago. But the elimination of the “Our Father” does in fact bother me. Not only because I believe Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, but because Christianity played a crucial role in the formation of AA. Had Judaism or Islam played such a foundational role in the Twelve Steps I would also want that tradition honored. The truth is, however, that Alcoholics Anonymous was founded, and was effective, because of Christians.
AA has its origins in the evangelical Christian Oxford Group. In fact, AA co-founder Bill Wilson credits the Oxford Group for the methodology of AA: “their large emphasis upon the principles of self-survey, confession, restitution, and the giving of oneself in service to others.” Even before the Oxford Group was the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. Wilson wrote to Jung in 1961 to express his “great appreciation” for his efforts. “A certain conversation you once had with one of your patients, a Mr. Rowland H. back in the early 1930’s,” Wilson wrote, “did play a critical role in the founding of our Fellowship.”
Rowland Hazard, an investment banker and former state senator from Rhode Island came to Jung desperate to stop drinking, He kept failing. Finally Jung, in an incredible act of humility and wisdom, told Hazard that only a religious conversion could save him. “His craving for alcohol was the equivalent,” Jung wrote to Wilson, “on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God.” As Wilson puts it in a letter to Jung: “[Y]ou frankly told him of his hopelessness, so far as any further medical or psychiatric treatment might be concerned. This candid and humble statement of yours was beyond doubt the first foundation stone upon which our Society has since been built.”
Jung also told Hazard that he should “place himself in a religious atmosphere and hope for the best.” Hazard discovered the Oxford Group. “How could one formulate such an insight that is not misunderstood in our days?” Jung asks. “The only right and legitimate way to such an experience is that it happens to you in reality and it can only happen to you when you walk on a path which leads you to a higher understanding.” Sobriety could be achieved through “a higher education of the mind beyond the confines of mere rationalism” — through a conversion experience.
Wilson once saw a mystical “white light” that he said was: “the God of the preachers.” He read William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience. The book “gave me the realization,” he wrote to Jung, “that most conversion experiences, whatever their variety, do have a common denominator of ego collapse at depth.”
Calling Addiction What It Is: Archetypical Evil
In the new book The War of the Gods in Addiction: C. G. Jung, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Archetypal Evil, David Schoen calls addiction what too few still call it: evil. The book focuses on Schoen, an addiction counselor, and argues that while genetics and biochemistry play a role in addiction, there is another more powerful element present: archetypical evil.
Addiction is not just a malady or habit or disease, like diabetes; it is a life destroyer, a devouring, malicious force that explodes homes, friendships, love itself. Schoen: “Ultimately addiction swallows up and destroys creativity…the addiction ultimately wants everything burned and sacrificed on its altar alone.”
He goes on:
In addiction, there is a permanent hijacking of the entire psychic system; the normal ego complex and all of its functions are as if put under a powerful diabolical spell that suspends and paralyzes them — the whole kingdom and everything in it. He hammers it home: I cannot state strongly enough that to describe this core of addiction as a killer is not a dramatic overstatement to get your attention or an alarmist exaggeration; it is the stone-cold truth and reality of addiction.
The Evil Principle Prevailing in the World
Mystical chants and New Age crystals can’t compete with this kind of menace. Carl Jung once wrote:
I am strongly convinced that the evil principle prevailing in this world leads the unrecognized spiritual need into perdition if it is not counteracted either by real religious insight or by the protective wall of human community. An ordinary man, not protected by an action from above and isolated in society, cannot resist the power of evil, which is called very aptly the Devil.
In conclusion, Jung observed that “[the word] ‘alcohol’ in Latin is spiritus, and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: spiritus contra spiritum.”
There is no more powerful spiritual weapon against the evil of addiction than prayer, and no greater prayer than the one the Lord himself taught us.
Mark Judge is a writer and filmmaker in Washington, D.C. His new book is The Devil’s Triangle: Mark Judge vs the New American Stasi.