For all our country’s accomplishments in science and technology, I can think of only three real contributions that America has made to organized spirituality, as almost all were reconditioned imports from the Old World.
The first contributor was Mary Baker Eddy who created the Church of Christ, Scientists, about which I unfortunately know nothing. The second was Joseph Smith who created what became the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the “Mormons”. I’m not an expert in their beliefs, but from my experience I can say that if religion is supposed to be transformational, impacting not only what one believes but also practices, the LDS church has figured something out. The third contributor is Bill Wilson who formed and developed the teachings of Alcoholics Anonymous which in its “Big Book” teaches that we are powerless over our addictive behavior and our only hope is a reliance on a “higher power”. I do know something about AA and about addictive/compulsive behavior.
Maybe alcohol is an acquired taste, and I acquired the taste for Dr. Pepper; but the teachings of AA are for EVERYONE and are shared by many recovery groups that use the twelve steps developed by Bill Wilson. The group I’m most familiar with is Celebrate Recovery which is a Christian based program for ANYONE who struggles with life’s hurts, habits and hang-ups. I’ve often said that my involvement in CR is the best thing that ever happened to me at church. Look them up online.
Richard Rohr writes that most addictions and compulsions are not substance (alcohol, sex, drugs) related, but process (thinking, reacting) related. I agree and believe that the substances are merely the symptoms of a faulty process that hypothetically can be fixed without help but almost never is. The symptoms are seen as a fix, which becomes one of the big lies we tell ourselves.
I certainly have my share of process related struggles. I’ve written before about being a Recovering Baptist. I am exactly that. While I acknowledge that organized spirituality is necessary, I feel like a square peg in a round hole, so this will be an issue when I’m released from prison. I also struggle with an odd combination of pride and guilt and an all too eagerness to please other people which all emanate from a failure to know and appreciate who I am.
So who am I? For starters, I’m a child of the loving God, completely unique…just like everyone else. My idea though of who I am is unfortunately falsified by either guilt from or admiration for what I do. As Thomas Merton says, “If I do not know who I am, it is because I think I am the sort of person everyone around me wants to be. Perhaps I have never asked myself whether I really wanted to become what everyone else seems to want to become. Perhaps if I only realized that I do not admire what everyone seems to admire, I would really begin to live after all. I would be liberated from the painful duty of saying what I really do not think and of acting in a way that betrays God’s truth and the integrity of my own soul.”
Every inmate I know at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp is here because he has an addictive/compulsive faulty process. Some know it; some don’t. An important part of the journey here will be to see how many are “rehabilitated” to borrow Red’s term from the movie “Shawshank Redemption”. Clearly it won’t happen without AA’s “higher power”. I pray that I’ll be fortunate enough to see that work in myself and others.