Saturday, October 08, 2011

Courage to Change: The Christian Roots of the 12-Step Movement

Courage to Change: The Christian Roots of the 12-Step Movement
by Bill Pittman and Dick B.

How This Book Came to Be Published, and Why It Still Circulates Widely

Dick B.
© 2011 Anonymous. All rights reserved

How It All Began

By the early-to-mid 1990’s, I had already written some six books on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous. The first, Dr. Bob’s Library, was published by The Bishop of Books, West Virginia. Two were published by Glen Abbey Books, Seattle. And Bill Pittman worked at Glen Abbey when those two were published.

I had proposed to Bill that a book needed to be written on the role of Rev. Sam Shoemaker in Alcoholics Anonymous. Bill told me that a staff member at Fleming Revell had a different idea. This man believed a book should be written about Shoemaker and that it could be used to stimulate reprints of many of the Shoemaker books that had been published by Fleming Revell. Bill tried to get such a book written by contacting a writer who had been to the Episcopal Church Archives in Texas, done a great deal of work on Shoemaker and A.A., and published that work as a dissertation for his doctoral degree. That writer knew I had been doing much work on the Oxford Group, Shoemaker, the Bible, and other aspects of A.A.'s history and roots. According to Bill, the writer said “Dick B. has done it all. I’m not interested.” Bill phoned me, related those facts, said that he simply could not write such a book, and asked me to write it for him. I declined, but agreed to co-author the book with Bill. And work began.

The Two Publishers

After Bill and I had completed the manuscript, Bill arranged to have the book printed by Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Book House, in Michigan. When the publication was completed, the cover of the book appeared as follows:

Courage to Change: The Christian Roots of the Twelve Step Movement by Samuel M. Shoemaker, Compiled and Edited by Bill Pittman and Dick B., ISBN 0-8007-5499-9, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Fleming H. Revell, 1994).

Someone had decided to list Samuel M. Shoemaker as the author—which, of course, was not true since Shoemaker was long dead and had had nothing to do with the writing of the contents. The phrase “Compiled and Edited” was also not true, since Bill and I co-authored the book; and we were were neither compilers nor editors. When I discovered these problems, I met with the editor in Michigan, straightened out the facts, and was told by him that one or both of the Shoemaker daughters had protested the use of their father’s name as author. The copy that I have contains the language as quoted above. But apparently a change occurred somewhere down the line—particularly because Fleming H. Revell had decided not to publish further and had apparently sold the rights to Hazelden.

The new published cover and data read as follows:

Courage to Change: The Christian Roots of the Twelve-Step Movement, “Compiled and Edited by Bill Pittman and Dick B.” ISBN 1-56838-245-6 (Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden, 1998).

Shoemaker was no longer listed as the author, but the “compiled and edited” remained.

Pittman died, but sales continued. And, with my consent, Hazelden arranged to have the book come out in electronic form. And sales are still continuing. All this is mentioned so that readers will know: (1) who the book's real authors were; (2) the book is certainly about Shoemaker and A.A.; and (3) the content is valuable and very much focused on the biblical ideas and Step materials that Shoemaker had taught, in part, to Bill Wilson before the Big Book was published in 1939. These facts alone make this explanatory work of great value in helping people: (1) learn and understand the Twelve Steps; (2) discover how Shoemaker understood and explained them; (3) understand Shoemaker’s view of “conversion”; and (4) become aware of Shoemaker’s idea of what the church can learn from A.A.

The Immense Credit and Plaudits Bill Wilson Gave to Rev. Sam Shoemaker

As the years passed after Dr. Bob’s death in 1950, and Shoemaker’s death in 1963, Bill Wilson began to heap honor and credit on his good personal friend and spiritual teacher, Sam Shoemaker. Bill's statements of praise were made in person, in correspondence, to Shoemaker’s family, and in A.A. literature. In fact, Shoemaker was twice invited to speak at A.A. International Conventions. Shoemaker's first talk was in 1955 at the St. Louis Convention. The second was in 1960 at the Long Beach Convention. Shoemaker also wrote a number of articles for publication in the A.A. Grapevine magazine. His articles dealt primarily with the Twelve Steps and how to understand them. And Shoemaker language can be found sprinkled throughout Bill Wilson’s Big Book editions and in the Twelve Steps themselves.

Yet Shoemaker has simply not received the attention that scholars, historians, writers, and AAs themselves can and should give to Shoemaker’s related works. Sam’s whole philosophy of “how to find God” permeates Big Book ideas. His discussion of “self-surrender” can be found frequently. His very words and language became embodied in the language of A.A.'s Steps One, Two, Three, Four, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven and Twelve—even to the point that Shoemaker wrote a book on the meaning of a “spiritual awakening” and told AAs themselves the four elements he found at the heart of such an “awakening”—conversion, prayer, fellowship, and witness.

It should also be remembered that Shoemaker himself probably wrote more Oxford Group and other spiritual literature than any other person writing such material before A.A. came into existence in 1935. He left behind over 30 books, and also many sermons, articles, pamphlets, letters, and manuscripts. My son and I ploughed through many that are contained in the 58-box Shoemaker collection at the Episcopal Church Archives in Austin, Texas. Shoemaker was known as one of the 10 greatest preachers in America. He conducted a radio show. He joined symposiums. He was known as an American leader of the Oxford Group. He allowed the Oxford Group founder Dr. Frank Buchman to occupy quarters in and have office facilities at Calvary House, the large and tall building adjacent to Shoemaker’s Calvary Episcopal Church in New York. Shoemaker went on the make a big name for himself through his work with the “Pittsburgh Experiment,” prayer groups, and his leadership as rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh.

My Work to Insure That Shoemaker’s A.A. Role Is Understood and Benefited From

Courage to Change, which is the subject of this article, is a great starting point for those who want to see the Shoemaker's specific connections with A.A.

I also wrote and revised two important titles devoted to Sam himself.

The first is the voluminous second edition of New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A. This large study thoroughly reviews all of Shoemaker’s relevant books, his relationship with A.A. and Bill Wilson, the influence of his language and ideas on A.A., and his great work in Pittsburgh. There are ample footnotes, biographical references, and meaty appendices that document and provide sources for statements.

The second is my work on A.A.’s “prayer and meditation,” which Shoemaker and early AAs called “Quiet Time.” They later incorporated some of their “Quiet Time” and related ideas in their Eleventh Step. I titled this book “Good Morning” because that was the title and subject of Shoemaker’s first radio broadcast. It detailed his own activity with the Bible, prayer, God’s guidance, and Quiet Time; and it filled in much information about how the Oxford Group people observed and read about “Quiet Time.” My book’s title is Good Morning!: Quiet Time, Morning Watch, Meditation, and Early A.A.

Two other books are essential in understanding the Shoemaker ideas and language that impacted upon AAs. The first is The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous: A Design for Living That Works The second is By the Power of God: A Guide to Early A.A. Groups & Forming Similar Groups Today. This latter book details Shoemaker’s specific Step contributions and builds on the title of one of Sam’s important books, By the Power of God.

The Solid Path to Understanding and Applying A.A.’s Twelve Steps Today

AAs spend (or waste) a lot of time speculating on the words and meaning of things they read and hear at meetings, see in the Twelve Steps posted on the wall, and study in their Big Book study groups. But no greater understanding of the Big Book and Twelve Steps can be gained than by taking Courage to Change, New Light on Alcoholism, Good Morning, and By the Power of God; using them in study groups or as a foundation for speaking; and applying the Shoemaker ideas to an understanding of where the Twelve Steps really came from and what they are all about.

Gloria Deo

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