Saturday, 2 May 2015

An unpleasant sort of fundamentalism

There is an unpleasant sort of fundamentalism in certain parts of AA.

Under the fundamentalist doctrine, which seems to have bloomed over the last decade in particular, the words of the Big Book are given biblical authority, and the suggestions by the writers of the Big Book itself that we use logic (in addition to faith), that we think and use our minds (in addition to prayer and meditation), that we tell our own stories (in addition to relaying the bare bones of the programme), that there is room for spiritual development beyond the AA programme (i.e. the answers do not all lie in the first one hundred and sixty-four pages but must be sought also from men of religion, other who are equipped to help, and from books), and that more will be revealed are dismissed. Bullying little slogans are used, intended to silence anyone who does anything but quote from 'the holy text' or who does not toe the party line.

Said bullying slogans include:

'Keep it simple, stupid'
'Don't over-think this.'
'Stop rewriting the Big Book'.
'You're killing newcomers'.
'Keep your opinions to yourself'.
You're watering down the programme.'

I went through this particular phase of self-righteous anger, myself, and it was not only deeply unattractive, profoundly unpleasant for others, and a temporary block in my spiritual growth; it was also deeply ineffective in terms of helping others.

I had separated myself from others, and in doing so had separated myself from God.

I picked the bits of the Big Book that supported my theory that if only everyone did precisely what I said, they would be OK, and disregarded anything that suggested AA offers a broad, expansive, and varied approach to recovery.

The reason I am writing this is not to challenge anyone going through this phase, because that doesn't work, which I know from experience, on both sides of the fence.

What I would like to do, however, is send a message to anyone in AA or investigating AA who is put off by the loud voices of the pharisees, effectively: do not be discouraged. There is plenty of love and tolerance within AA, there is room for everyone, and if you want to recover, you have a right to be here, and to be heard, and to be led by truth tempered with kindness, not steel.

Listen out for the quieter voices of calm assurance and humble trust in God.

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