Friday, June 10, 2011

AA or BB?

I read this news with dismay. Entitled, "Does religion belong at AA? Fight over 'God' splits Toronto AA Groups." In it, people who seek help for their drinking problem are increasingly upset over the presence of 'God' and 'religion' in their 12 steps to recover. In secular Canada, religion and anything to do with God is taboo in many public and private circles. Since four of the 12 steps make explicit reference to a God-figure, naturally, atheists and secularists are up in arms. They have come up with their own set of 12 steps that removes all references to God, and call it "Beyond Belief."

I am dismayed for the following reasons. Firstly, the amputation of tradition removes a part of the identity. I remember a Malay proverb that says: "The beans forget the pods that bore them." Like children biting off the hand that feeds them, it is like sawing off the tradition that has held the organization for years. Tradition is important because it is part of one's identity. History and stories about the tradition is key to retaining an understanding of that heritage. Chop it off and we will have lost a large chunk of humble beginnings and the many good works achieved over the years.

Secondly, I feel that freedom of practice needs to be respected for those who wants the original 12 steps. Not everyone is going to be comfortable with the new set of 'God'-less steps. There are many who want to remain status quo. What about the 'rights' of these people wanting the 12 steps to remain unchanged? By demanding a removal of God from these steps, what about those who are against removal? Perhaps, the die-hard secularists should form their own group by themselves. They have their freedom to do whatever they want.

Thirdly, I believe that the essence of AA is a recognition that one cannot depend on self for recovery. One needs help, and one needs a help greater than self. God is there for a reason. God is there as our Higher Power. Remove that away, and we would have chopped off our main reason for hope and recovery.

While the article goes on to talk about the differences between the traditional AA-12 steps and the BB 12 steps, how it ends is notable.

But it’s essential to turn yourself over to something or someone other, says Watters. “If you don’t believe in any power greater than yourself, you are on your own.”

A woman member of a group that adheres to the traditional Twelve Steps puts it this way: “You need to believe in something higher than yourself. Our self got us drunk.”

The key success factor for AA through the years is to seek help when we cannot help ourselves. AA fits the bill. On the other hand, BB at its very essence seeks a power that elevates the self, that the self is the 'higher power.' This is self-deception in its highest manifestation.


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