First, check out this headline that an AA lady just sent me re Toronto Area
"Does religion belong at AA? Fight over 'God' splits Toronto AA groups"
Second, apparently there were two A.A. atheist or agnostic groups in the Area; and the "higher powers"-that-be "banned the groups" from the A.A. listings
Third, next to freedom of speech in A.A., I can't think of anything that has helped me more than belief in God, coming to Him through Jesus Christ, and studying the Bible. And I don't believe that God is a "higher power." He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth if you turn to Genesis 1:1. And nobody can or will evict Him from A.A. or prevent others from seeking Him.
Fourth, the event in the Toronto heirarchy is just the opposite of most of the censorship problems in A.A. today. And they are rampant. Frequently someone seeks to suppress literature, topics, names, studies, discussions, and individual voices. The would-be censors act as patriots protecting the members from something the censors dont like. They do it in the name of "moderating," yelling, citing "the Traditions," proclaiming things to be violative of some mythical "conference-approved" yardstick. Usually, the propaganda censorship people are those who "do not govern," who are said to be "servants" and not officers, and who have no authority at all to trench on the autonomy of A.A. groups. Nonetheless they have barred A.A. groups from mentioning "Bible Study," barred them from being listed if they read or discuss Christian literature, and insisted that to get a listing, they have to submit their plans to the super-heirarchy in New York. There, some individual--whether paid or unpaid, AA or not AA, elected or appointed--takes it upon himself or herself to write a letter declining status to the A.A. Bible Study Group. Often in meetings, newcomers and others are reprimanded for mentioning Jesus Christ, the Bible, or their church.
There is even a website now (and perhaps several) whose "moderator" denies forum discussions and contributions by any "history lover" who doesn't love history in the same form, fashion, or constriction that the moderator does. His excuse? "Others would be furious" if he didn't do it. Sort of like Hitler's propaganda minister banning thinking because Hitler didn't approve. And neither is American nor right.
Fifth, I object.
Sixth, A.A.'s stated primary purpose is to help the person who still suffers. Its Traditions--though neither governing nor binding--state that any decision by a group(not some dingo at GS0) should be as "a loving God may express Himself in our group conscience." That pertains to groups and their autonomy and reliance on God.
Presumably all the other structured offices from cities to world services just don't need to ask God what His will is in a particular situation.
Sixth, I am all for A.A. Newspapers more and more like to underline and highlight controversies in A.A. And the problem is that newcomers and oldtimers alike get intimidated (and a few would say drunk) when they are chastized for their religious beliefs. It's not whether they might drink over the criticism. It's a matter of their learning some kind of sobriety that is far far from that which A.A.'s original Christian Fellowship in Akron envisioned when A.A. was founded in 1935.
Seventh, anyone with any knowledge of A.A. history knows that in 1939, just before the Big Book went to press, "God" as such was eliminated from the Twelve Steps. Yet Wilson must have smiled as he still published "God" and descriptions like Creator, Maker, Heavenly Father, Father of Lights, and Father and allowed these words to remain and be capitalized. Yet, as Wilson himself wrote in the 1950's after his partner Dr. Bob was dead, the door was opened to atheists and agnostics in 1939; and it has come to be viewed as a door that opened on a "Broad Highway."
Eighth, by the time I entered the rooms of A.A. in 1986 (and for the twenty-five years of active, continuous sobriety I enjoy today), I either knew little or nothing about atheism in A.A. I do now, and it certainly exists. What I did know did not square with what many Christians and others in A.A. thought was their program.
Ninth, I did quickly find in 1986 and thereafter that A.A. was open to anyone with a drinking problem. And I helped all varieties of these "anybody" drunks. I also found that included policemen, firemen, Jews, Protestants, Roman Catholics, gays and lesbians, atheists and agnostics, men and women, African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and many who didn't believe in anything at all.
Tenth, I choose the folks with whom I associate and to whom I extend help in A.A. I choose to believe in the role that God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Bible played, do play, and can play in today among those who want God's help and will go to any lengths to get it. I also choose to believe in freedom of speech in A.A. That doesn't mean vulgarity though it is common place and prevails. That doesn't mean atheism though it is present and still prevails. It does mean that no purported authority from the top to the bottom of A.A. can, should, or will succeed in exterminating those with the variety of differing stages of belief or unbelief or no belief. But they will try. And consider the cesspools of prison, jails, mental wards, treatment programs, homeless shelters, abandonment, loneliness, terror, bewilderment, drug courts, divorce courts, bankruptcy courts, and many more, from which they emerged. I among them. One wag said we come in with "encumbrances."
Eleventh, A.A. today is neither Christian, non-Christian, atheist, humanist, or Muslim. It is what it is. And it allows just about anyone to come in, yell, shout, swear, and seek sex. Under those circumstances, if there ever was a time where censorship by another AA or A.A. group of these seeking souls was inappropriate, it's now.
Twelfth, those of us who love A.A. tend to look at it in terms of what it made available at a time of desperate need, and what God has enabled us to do, and what it challenged us to do in loving and serving and glorifying God and others. And censorship is just one of the prices we pay for letting drunks "rule" other drunks.
Today's media pay less and less homage to A.A. ideas of "anonymity," "no public controvery," and open-mindedness. Some media and the Christian and atheist critics alike pounce on every opportunity to tell others what's wrong with this or that A.A., which argument or wrongdoing A.A. is involved in, how how "cult-like" it has become, and how ineffective it is.
Today's news is censorship. Tomorrow's may be Sheen or Gibson. The next day's may be the intrusion of religion into A.A. And on and on and on. Whatever the approach, A.A. could wither on the vine just because of the loud protesting voices of its observers and critics who really know very little about A.A., its origins, its development, and its changes through the years. And who certainly have forgotten where God fits into the picture.