We have just completed a 17 meeting and conference trip to California to survey, report, and encourage A.A. Friendly, Bible Friendly, History Friendly learning and listening by AAs, NAs, 12-Step groups, sponsors, speakers, meetings, conferences; by treatment and counseling programs; by A.A. Bible and Step Study groups and Big Book Study Groups; by Christ-centered and Christian recovery fellowships; by sober and transitional living recovery homes; by prison, military, veteran, hospital, and homeless message carriers; and by you.
Here's what we see from the audiences, the leadership response, the outpouring of emails and phone calls, and the visitor records on our internet site:
1. A.A. Study Groups: Today there are dozens and dozens more groups in A.A., N.A., churches, Christian recovery programs, treatment facilities, and counselor training groups than there were 20 years ago when we started unearthing and widely disseminating the neglected facts about A.A. origins, history, founding, original program, astonishing successes, and changes made just before the Big Book was published. People then didn't know the facts. Today they want to know them. And today we are receiving all kinds of requests from AAs, NAs, and Christian leaders who want to start study groups in their area and their church. And these are being facilitated by our continued production and distribution of the 4 DVD introductory class--"Introductory Foundations for Christian Recovery"--www.dickb.com/IFCR-Class.shtml. They are being facilitated by the hundreds of articles we are posting on the internet, our blog, facebook, and email newsletters. They are being articulated with the help of our new The Dick B. Christian Recovery Guide, 3rd ed., 2010--widely distributed and acquired by audiences during our California visit--www.dickb.com/Christian-Recover-Guide.shtml.
2. What about the flak received by a few about their study, distribution, and talk about these resources? The flak is there. But so are the appropriate answers: (a) There is no index of forbidden literature or books in A.A. AAs have been studying and reading the Bible and discussing it since the earliest meetings in Akron and in Cleveland. Dr. Bob urged AAs in 1948 to cultivate the habit of prayer an read the Bible. He insisted that the Book of James, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13 were "absolutely essential" to the program. Can you then read what co-founders Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob read? Can you study what the first three AAs studied? Can you read from the Bible at a meeting like Dr. Bob, A.A. Number Three Bill Dotson, Cleveland A.A. founder Clarence Snyder, and a host of others did in the years of early A.A. success? Can you invite clergy to talk to your meetings, as Bill Wilson did in St. Louis and in Long Beach AFTER the Twelve Traditions were adopted--having Father Ed Dowling, S.J.; Rev. Sam Shoemaker, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church; and a Roman Catholic Archbishop from the Los Angeles area speak to A.A. International Conventions in 1955 and 1960? Has A.A. suddenly and officially become anti-church, anti-religion, anti-Bible, anti-Christian, anti-Protestant, anti-Roman Catholic, and anti-Jewish? Has atheism, agnosticism, Buddhism, and humanism replaced the Creator with some new kind of nonsense god--called an higher power--and described as a light bulb, a tree, Ralph, Santa Claus, and the Great Pumpkin?
3. Not on your life! A.A. today is diverse, varied, tolerant, and inclusive when it comes to religion, church, Bible, and Christianity--as well as gay and lesbianism, atheism, agnosticism, unbelief, and worship of false gods. It's going on all the time in meetings all over the world. How do we know this? The Big Book, the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Traditions, the plethora of A.A. Conference-approved literature state so specifically. Pamphlets published by A.A. encourage membership by women, blacks, prisoners, gays and lesbians, and those who don't believe in anything at all.
4. What can you call your study group or recovery fellowship? Some call them The James Club. Some call them a Step Study group. Some call them a Big Book Study group. Some call them a Big Book/Bible study group. Some call them a History Study Group. And more and more and more are wising up and calling them "A.A. Recovery Study Groups." The virtue of that name is that some bleeding deacon in a Central Office or GSO cannot say that the name of the group is too religious, too Christian, too biblical, too violative of Traditions, and is sanctioning study of non Conference Approved literature.
5. Call your study group an "A.A. Recovery Study Group." So long as the group involves two or more people gathered for purposes of sobriety, it is and can be called an A.A. group.
6. As early AAs did, and as many do today, you can study the Bible, daily devotionals, religious books and literature; you can talk about your experience with God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and water baptism; you can tell how you established your relationship with, or found, or rediscoverd God; you can talk about the history of A.A.; you can talk about the Christian origins of A.A.; you can talk about the Christian up-bringing of Bob and Bill; you can talk about the early A.A. surrenders to Jesus Christ as Lord; you can talk about the Upper Room, The Runner's Bible, My Utmost for His Highest, The Greatest Thing in the World, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the Book of James, 1 Corinthians 13; you can talk about the origins of the language in the Big Book and the Twelve Steps; you can compare the Big Book language and Twelve Step language with the teachings of the Bible, Dr. Bob, Dr. Bob's wife Anne Smith, Henrietta Seiberling, T. Henry and Clarace Williams, Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., Father Ed Dowling, S.J., Father Ralph Pfau and his "Golden Books," Rabbi Abraham Twerski, Hazelden, William James, Professor Starbuck, Jerry McAuley, H.H. Hadley, Harold Begbie and the Salvation Army, Carl Jung, Emmet Fox, and the literature of the Young People's Christian Endeavor Society--which attained a membership of 4.5 million around the world at or after Dr. Bob was active.
7. Bill Wilson was called many years after his death "one of the most permissive guys I ever knew" or some such language. The man who called Bill that was Bob Pearson who not only befriended Bill but served A.A. for years as its General Manager, Chairman of the Trustees, and finally Senior Advisor. And Bob decried the rigidity and enforcement attitudes that have developed recently.
The bottom line? Let's stop bashing A.A. and AAs. Let's report the truth about our fellowship. And let's support it. It is not a cult. It is not a Christian Fellowship. It is not an anti-God, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-Protestant, anti-Muslim, anti-Buddhist, anti-Bible, anti-Morman, anti-church, anti-religious outfit. It is just a fellowship of men and women gathered together to maintain their own sobriety and to help others recover. Bill Wilson often called it a Society. Dr. Bob often called it a Christian Fellowship. Clarence Snyder called it Alcoholics Anonymous.
Freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of belief, freedom of studies, and freedom of reading and discussion are the watchwords of "love and service" and "love and tolerance." Both of these are stated codes about A.A.
Can you form and conduct an "A.A. Recovery Study Group" under such conditions? Of course you can!
firstname.lastname@example.org; www.dickb.com; www.ChristianRecoveryCoalition; www.drbob.info.