Sunday, April 08, 2007

Blogging Against Theocracy

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

Reprinted with permission of The A.A. Grapevine, Inc.


What does the Preamble of Alcoholics Anonymous have to do with blogging against theocracy? I'm glad you asked, because it is the greatest example of acceptance I have found anywhere.

Let's start with this line: AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution... No. Let's start with this. Alcoholics Anonymous is the most important spiritual development to come out of the 20th Century. Why do I say that? Because AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, or institution. ANYONE who has a desire to stop drinking can join; ANYONE who says they are a member is a member; NOBODY tells you what to believe.

I stayed away from AA for a long time because I thought it was a cult for white male Christian lowbottoms who wore dirty, torn raincoats and had bad teeth. But one of the first 100 members was an atheist who eventually came to believe in a power greater than himself - he defied religion, accepted a god of his own understanding, and had the founders insert after the word God as we understand him in every reference to God in the twelve steps.

There are days when the God of my understanding is simply Good Orderly Direction. Doing the next indicated thing, like going to work or calling my daughter or son - that is God. God is in the details of my day, not in whether I go to a Church, Temple, or Mosque. God is in how I treat my co-workers; am I tolerant? Am I kind? Do I listen? Or am I a bully, demanding my way or the highway?

The God of my understanding does not involve "mandating the death penalty for homosexuals and drunkards," as proposed by Rousas John (R.J.) Rushdoony. (hat tip to Traveling Man of Movable Jewel. I think that Jesus probably doesn't have any involvement with Rushdoony, either.

Here is what the God of my understanding does: this God leads me to meetings with other recovering alcoholics, and there I can hear stories of recovery. I learned how to get divorced without drinking. I learned how to not wake up in bed with a husband belonging to someone else. I learned how to not steal. I learned how to be a good worker, and to give my employer a dime for his nickle.

The God of my understanding has given me a group of friends, many of whom do not share my liberal political view, but who are there for me when I need help just as I am there for them when they need the same. The God of my understanding has taught me to honor the soldiers who have been sent to Iraq because the are not the makers of policy. The God of my understanding has taught me that quality of life and dying with dignity is essential, and that our government denied Terry Schiavo both.

Intolerance is nothing new. Here is a story. Rabbi Hillel, who lived some 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, was approached one day by a non-Jew who challenged him to sum up the Torah - the first five books of the Jewish Bible - while standing on one leg. Accepting the dare, Hillel stated, "What is hateful to you, do not do unto your neighbor. That is the whole of the Torah; all the rest is commentary. Now go and learn it."

That is the essence of human rights. Look at what various religious prophets have said about it:

Regarding war: "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD." — Torah Leviticus 19:18

Regarding undocumented immigrants: "When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." — Torah Leviticus 19:33-34

Regarding torture: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." — Jesus (c. 5 BCE—33 CE) in the Gospels, Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31, Luke 10:27

"None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." — Muhammad (c. 571 – 632 CE) in a Hadith.

"This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others what you would not have them do unto you." — Mahabharata (5:15:17) (c. 500 BCE)

"What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others." — Confucius (ca. 551–479 BCE)

I go to AA meetings because nearly 19 years ago, I reached a state of pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization. I was a hopeless, helpless drug addict and alcoholic, and an observant Jew who regularly attended Synagogue - I was a drunk with RELIGION. I have been sober since July 18, 1988, and through that time I have gone from being an observant Jew who had no God at all to an unaffiliated Jew who believes in a God of my own understanding. I have come to believe in the existance of this Higher Power because I don't drink or use drugs and was unable to stop doing this on my own. I have little personal use for religion. AA is not a religion. It is not a "self help" group. We are people who normally would not mix, but who wound up in the same lifeboat and there we are. AA has given me tolerance, and some modicum of patience. We have atheists, pagans, Catholics, Liberals, Right Wingers, Christians of many denominations, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, Democrats, Republicans, Doctors, Actors, Welders, thieves, cops, airline pilots, you name it, we've got it.

And nobody demands that I change my belief or faith to be a member of AA. The ONLY thing I need to get right on a daily basis is to not pick up that first drink. All the rest is commentary.


Traveling Man said...

A very powerful entry.

I salute your courage and insight.

I have always maintained that religion is someone else's experience of the Divine; mysticism is your own persnal experience of the Divine.

AA sounds as if it has the same requirements as Freemasonry. You must have a belief in a Supreme Being, what that belief is, is up to you. Discussion of sectarian religion and partisan politics is prohibited in Lodge.

Thanks again for your post, (and mentioning yours truly(grin)).

Be Well,


Essential Estrogen said...

Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your frame of reference) I've never had personal experience with AA. Your post has enlightened me -- Thank you! Your insights were personal and profound.

Intrepidflame said...

Great post. I have more to say, but a screaming baby and life beckon.

Lew Scannon said...

Congratulations! Almost ytwenty years is a long time, you have earned the right to be proud. I gave up drinking and drugs following my divorce, now I'm addicted to the internet.

dusty said...

Wonderful analogy. Thank you for sharing it. It gives one lots to think on.

sumo said...

Good post Diva...a different twist on the subject yet completely in line with the purpose of it.

Peacechick Mary said...

I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to read this yesterday. I salute you and honor you for this open and honest post. Loved the summation of the Torah.

Tree said...

Powerful words, Ms. Diva. Thank you.

DivaJood said...

Tree, thanks.

PeaceChick, the summation of the Torah is my favorite. That Hillel was a smart guy. Plus, we get to eat a sandwich named after him on Passover.

Sumo, thanks. I like a good twist.

Dusty, thanks for visiting.

Lew, it isn't almost twenty yet. It's only almost 19, and I heard about a guy with 33 years who went out last week. Made my skin crawl. And I'm addicted to chocolate, and the internet.

Intrepid, good to see you. Go kiss Kaia.

Estrogen, thanks for visiting!

Traveling Man, the only requirement for AA is a desire to stop drinking - that's all. So if that's the requirement to be a Mason... Really, AA is a case of the lunatics running the asylum more often than not.

Pursey Tuttweiler said...

So beautifully said. Thank you for sharing this story. It is such a good analogy of life without theocracy.

MICHAEL said...

I originally got to AA in 1974 and drank after nearly 11years...AA doesn’t keep one sober. I actually attempted suicide before I drank, and after my suicide attempt was unsuccessful, I drank to kill the pain.When I eventually recovered from my suicide attempt and "bust" I went back to AA, because it was familiar. I imagine AA to be quite controlling, which was very much like my history. <> In 1994 I started seeing a therapist and he helped me process my feelings. He is a recovered alcoholic and had processed his own history. Anyway, I did years of group therapy and EMDR. [Body Memory Therapy].All I knew from my childhood was terror, pain, shame, and guilt and I was able to feel these feelings and get support by other people in my group. About 3 years ago, I dropped into a "black hole" and had to be hospitalized.... I had 4 months of absolute terror; I thought I was in hell. One day I asked Jesus Christ {not a bedpan} to have mercy on me and forgive me my sins. Slowly all my fear and guilt has dissipated and today, I am just, Micky [A child of God]. What I had learned – my process in Hospital - that is what it was like for me as a child [METAMORPHOSIS]. I am not an ALCOHOLIC - I am a SINNER. AA [Satan] nearly got my soul but Jesus Christ the Son of GOD delivered me. I am blessed - because, I had to lose control to gain control [JESUS CHRIST] which has nothing to do with handing my will over to a higher power. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life John 3: 16].
Peace Be With You