I was fortunate that soon after a friend gave me a CD of Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light to listen to I saw a notice for a live performance of the composition playing with Carl Theodre Dreyers’s movie, The Passion of St. Joan of Arc. I did not know the history of the movie, of the actress that played St Joan, or of St Joan’s trial. I did not know that Einhorn composed the music while inspired by the movie. I did not know the history of the movie. I did not know of Anonymous 4 who were a major voice in the vocals of Voices of Light. I will leave you to research any of the above. I highly recommend the movie and Einhorn’s composition whether you are able to see/hear them together or as stand alones. The live performance I was fortunate to be at was both a showing of the movie and a live performance that Anonymous 4 performed at.
As I am a Jewish Atheist you might wonder what my interest might be in the above. First, I am a fan of the arts. I also honor every ones beliefs as long as they do not harm others. All of the above in the first paragraph fit the description of high art. Renee Jeanne Falconetti who played St Joan made one movie in her life of which Pauline Kael wrote, “It may be the finest performance ever recorded in film.” I was such moved.
What does the above have to do with gambling? One thing that happened to me as I researched some information about; the movie, the composition, and Anonymous 4 was that gambling ads kept popping up during my search. They are a persistent bunch with obviously way too much money to throw around.
The following is a either a well thought out opinion piece on 12-step and religion or a diatribe. You obviously get to choose for yourself and might choose to stop here and go find the movie, the musical composition, or both.
The other theme that has been on my mind lately is 12-step as a religious based recovery system. Anonymity as a spiritual principle means to me that we keep our personal lives outside of the principles of the program. We are meant to be sisters and brothers in a non-hierarchical system program to restore sanity and a better way of thinking and living while being abstinent and sober. My Jewish Atheism (I often do not mention that I am a lapsed Unitarian Universalist which in some circles gets a chuckle) does not allow me to be authentic in feeling welcome in some 12-step rooms. Notice please that I am not saying people are not welcoming me. And yes for those keeping score, I have just broken some of the tradition/unity steps.
Why do I think that 12-step is a religious based recovery system? The programs founders were religious men (from a narrow doctrinal experience-Bill W did not become acquainted with a Catholic until 1940 according to Ernest Kurtz (mentioned below) who deepened their religious connections through the Oxford Group. The Oxford Group is best studied by yourself. I will say that my reading is that they were a big influence on the founders, and founding, of AA. Not a bad thing in itself. And it is mentioned in some AA literature. The influence is in my mind not given it’s true impact of a sect of Christianity because there was one agnostic among the early followers of AA. That does not change the feel of AA being a Christian system to me. Interesting to me, in a Wikipedia article on the Oxford Group one person who criticizes the group is Reinhold Niebuhr the theologian whose prayer AA adapted to be their Serenity Prayer.
Here is some evidence to me about the Christian system of AA. The 12-steps speak of a God. Of a God who is addressed as Him. If AA were not Christian why are there not mentions of Allah, Goddesses of Hinduism, Jewish terms for G-d. Page 164 of the Big Book is titled, A Vision for You. After defining the book as suggestive only with the realization that they know only a little there are three paragraphs about one’s relationship with God, with Him-not all the other Gods out there. One last thing about the Christian nature of AA…
On page 47 of Ernest Kurtz’s book, Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous Kurtz writes about Bill W’s concern when he heard the Catholic Church was about to condemn the the Oxford Group. At that time there was only one Catholic in the NY group of AA. Bill W knew how much of the program was taken from the Oxford Group so he sent the one Catholic to see if the Catholic Church had any issues with the Big Book. It seems not. What I find interesting is that no emissaries were sent to the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu…religious community leaders.
All I ask is that the “not religious” charade stop. That sounds delusional to me. Who am I to ask that and to whom would I ask? Why does it bother me? One reason is that by being imposters (my language) AA has been able to act in a way that both keeps people wondering, sometimes in shame, about their own recovery/relapses because they do not “surrender” to a God or Higher Power, that they are “constitutionally incapable of being honest with their selves” etc. etc. etc.
Another reason is that other 12-step groups such as Gamblers Anonymous have picked up their language. I am considered to not have an “open mind” and am an “old dog not able to learn new tricks” because I do not believe in a higher power, or, my favorite, that the program “will never work for the person who will not face squarely the facts about this illness.” That was written decades ago and they did not have all the facts about the depths of the disorder. That quote is out of the Combo Book and the others are part of an 11th step discussion paper.
So what do I do with my own recovery if I have such strong feelings and I want to be authentic. What can I do for the others (many?) who feel the same way. There are secular recovery options for people with an alcohol or drug disorder. There were not any I know of for those of us with a gambling disorder. A group of us have started a group to explore our recovery using a humanist lens.
in peace and love