I don’t think I’ve ever left a negative or critical comment on a blog– until yesterday. I read a post comparing AA to church. The author was posing the question I’ve frequently pondered. Why do alcoholics feel more acceptance from AA than from churches? Then he smoothed over the answer leaving the impression that churches, in general, are accepting of the wounded. Has that been your experience?
Before I type another word, I want to admit that I’ve been at both extremes with my church experience. On the one hand, I’ve experienced passion for the church family that surpassed any blood ties and on the other, I’ve been enraged and depressed by the damage caused to individuals at the hands of organized religion. I admit all of this with regret and sadness. I once believed church could be a panacea. No more. At best, it should be a place for the wounded to support one another and for the love of Christ to heal, without judgments, shame or labeling. No alcoholic needs another judge.
I have found that for me, it takes a lot of daily alone time with God before I can accept myself. One thing that might surprise the Normies* is that we addicts are very hard on ourselves. We probably know our character defects better than most people. If we’re working the Steps, we’re taking care of our wrongs and forgiving ourselves and others.
Only after forgiving myself and others, can I begin to accept everyone else. God in me is the only way that I ever experience peace and an ease with myself that gives me a willingness to be of use to others.
We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience.~ AA p 75
It took some time after I got sober to see that though I already had beliefs, knowledge, interpretations, illustrations and applications about the God I love, I didn’t have much experience with Him. In fact in the circles I belonged to, anything about feelings or experience was deemed to be less valuable than head knowledge. I’d learned a lot about systematic theology and for that I’m grateful. It’s a great footing to build on. It was not enough to keep me from falling apart, going nearly crazy and numbing myself with alcohol. All that knowledge apart from experiencing God, only made me more determined to hide my struggles. I felt so isolated. There was no place for being a ragamuffin in my church of long ago.
I’ve since experienced a great deal with God and believe that the answer to the question above is simple, but not easy. A church would have to welcome the wounded, the messy, the seeking, the imperfect people. It would have to become more about healing and sharing the Good News than about keeping things under control. The leadership would have to be open to input from the little people and they would need to develop an open heart for controversial individuals. It would cease to be a place developed and founded for analogous members and become one searching for diversity.
Doubt if that happens, truly happens, this side of Heaven. That was my problem. I thought church might be Heaven. It’s not. The closest thing this sinner has ever found is AA. That’s close enough for me.
*Normies are non-addictive types. I couldn’t begin to define them, but I like them.