Wednesday, April 11, 2012

1 Chron 12:32 report 103: "Sugar-holics" Anonymous, the twelve-step alcohol/addiction recovery model and the repentance/gospel approach to life recovery and community reformation

A few days ago, the question of sugar as an addicting/habituating substance with serious potential health hazards -- not just diabetes etc, but also potential links to heart and even cancer problems -- was raised in this blog.

This opens the door to the wider issue of the now classic twelve step approach to addiction/habituation recovery and life reconstruction by reaching out to a Higher Power and to a community of the recovering; thence the gospel- repentance- discipleship approach. 

In the classic, Alcoholics Anonymous form, according to the AA "Big Book," Ch 5:
Rarely  have  we  seen  a  person  fail  who  has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give  themselves  to  this  simple  program,  usually  men and women who are constitutionally incapable of be-ing  honest  with  themselves . . . . If you have decided you want what we have and are willing  to  go  to  any  length  to  get  it—then  you  are ready to take certain steps. At some of these we balked. We thought we could find  an  easier,  softer  way.  But  we  could  not . . . . Remember that we deal with alcohol—cunning, baf-fling,  powerful!  Without  help  it  is  too  much  for  us.
AA then identifies the source of help: "there is One who has all power—that One is God. "

On that pivot, the classic-- and unquestionably highly effective -- twelve step programme is built:
Half measures availed us nothing . . . . Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:
1.  We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.
2.  Came to believe that a Power greater than our-selves could restore us to sanity.

3.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4.  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5.  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.[--> This is the famous, pivotal public confession,
"I am an Alcoholic . . . "]

6.  Were  entirely  ready  to  have  God  remove  all these defects of character.

7.  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8.  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9.  Made  direct  amends  to  such  people  wherever possible,  except  when  to  do  so  would  injure them or others.

10.  Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11.  Sought  through  prayer  and  meditation  to  im-prove our conscious contact with God as we un-derstood  Him,  praying  only  for  knowledge  of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12.  Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Many  of  us  exclaimed,  “What  an  order!  I  can’t  go through  with  it.’’  Do  not  be  discouraged.  No  one among us has been able to maintain anything like per-fect adherence to these principles. We are not saints.  The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress.  We  claim  spiritual  progress  rather  than spiritual perfection . . . [Alcoholics Anonymous, "big Book," ch 5, pp.58 - 60.] 
 Given the frankly theocentric, penitent sinner approach, it should not be surprising to hear that in the early days, this lay-led movement of addicts in lifelong recovery was often derided and dismissed by professionals, and that spectacular failures -- including a co-founder -- were luridly headlined to dismiss the approach as useless, naive and ill informed. 

But, in the end, it has been so vindicated by actually working, that it is the model for many similar movements of recovery. (Including from bondage to things like drugs, gambling, pornography and homosexual behaviour.)

But also, this recovery approach is in reality nothing new, for
we have just seen in a somewhat generic form, the principles of  transformation of life through discipleship founded on repentance and reaching out to God as Saviour, and to be expressed in a community of mutual support and lifelong growth; knowing that relapse is possible, and that moral-spiritual struggle is inevitable.

This, we may see in Eph 4 - 5:

Eph 4: 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance [-->en-darkenment] that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous [-->morally benumbed] and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.  [--> addicted to sin]

20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!- 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,5  which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

 25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.
28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

5: 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
                    “Awake, O sleeper,
        and arise from the dead,
        and Christ will shine on you.”
 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. [ESV]
Discipleship is founded on repentance, trust in the God who saves us, and a fearless and dauntless determination to walk in the light with God and with our brothers and sisters in God. 

Paul is direct:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
 9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
I know, I know, the inclusion of homosexuals in that list is offensive to the movement now labouring ever so hard to create the impression that homosexual behaviour is normal, acceptable even commendable to the point that those who would question or dispute such claims are immediately suspect of being hateful, fear-driven irrational bigots. Indeed, along with my objections to porn addiction and the industry that promotes it -- cf. here and here, that has excited some pretty hostile commentary in some atheistical quarters of the blogosphere. 

My comments to such are that in fact there is considerable evidence that homosexual habituation is inherently disordered relative to the clear creation order for sexuality, marriage and family, and that it is socio-culturally and psycho-socially induced behaviour, not essentially determined by genes or hormones or the like. It also, with significant results, responds to twelve-step type recovery programmes. Which are the main focus of this post.

(Kindly, cf. the book-length discussion here. I ask you to also notice Jesus on the Creation order for family and marriage here, before shooting off talking points on how he "never opposed" this. He endorsed the OT which makes it plain that such behaviour is abominable perversion, and Paul, who did address the matter in significant details, was his apostle, recognised by the twelve as such, and recognised by Peter as a significant author of scripture. If you now wish to reject 2 Peter as authentic, cf here and here, in light of here. If you wish to reject Paul's teachings here in 1 Cor 6:9 - 11 and in say Rom 1 -- and obviously you can do so if you wish to [but you should think seriously about such in light of here on and here on, you are rejecting the historic Christian faith. Those caught up in rage over the real and imagined sins of Christendom may find here on helpful.)

By the power of the indwelling, upwelling Spirit, we learn to walk in the light and develop the practice of walking in the light ever more and more, day by day, hour by hour.  

That requires a special vigilance over that which may benumb the conscience, en-darken the mind, and enmesh us in captivity to life-dominating sin.  

Instead, we live by the truth in love, through Jesus, upwelling from within through the Spirit, with the power of love, truth, and purity. 

Thus, as the people of God, we are transformed in the image of Christ.

Peter's counsel on this is ever so apt, even eloquent:

1 Pet 1: 22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for
        “All flesh is like grass
        and all its glory like the flower of grass.
        The grass withers,
        and the flower falls,
      25 ​​​​​​​​but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
            And this word is the good news that was preached to you. 
2: 1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation- 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:   
                      “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
        a cornerstone chosen and precious,
        and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 
 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,  
                        “The stone that the builders rejected
        has become the cornerstone,”1  
 8 and     
                    “A stone of stumbling,
        and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 
 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 
 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Again, and again, in ever so many different ways, we see that the pivot of the Christian life is receiving Jesus through repentance and faith based on the word of God; the gospel. And, that this is the pivot of life-rescue and transformation.

 What the twelve step addiction recovery movements bring to the table, is that we have here a widespread and known highly effective life recovery and reformation approach that shows that the principles of the gospel and of penitent faith leading to discipleship as a means of life transformation work. And, by working in lives, families, churches and communities, they point onwards to God-blessed reformation of cultures and civilisations.

Indeed, it looks to me uncommonly like these twelve-step programmes are pointing out that the miraculous redemptive, rescuing, healing and liberation intervention by God into lives is actually a commonplace. 

In short, signs of God at work -- and a "sign" is exactly what a miracle is --  in lives are to be found all around us, if we are but willing to pause and really listen with an open mind.

And, that seems to me to be a key bridge we can and should be using for ministry and communication of the gospel in our region and the world beyond. END