Ok, my answer to a comment from my last post was running so long that I said the heck with it…..I’m too lazy to post lately so this will have to suffice. I know you’ll all be shocked, it’s more church vs. AA rambling…
Chaz, thanks for the thoughtful post. Dammit man, you are so much nicer than me! I could go on and on forever about this subject because it’s such an easy and obvious target. My new word… “sanctionimosity” comes to mind, pomposity, a grating level of piety….and I do agree that it can pop up in AA just as easily as church. I have a certain level of guilt when it comes to avoiding business and group conscious meetings at my hall, but man…I spent so much of my life dealing with the negative side of the politics in church and it’s all the same thing. Plus, my education in organizational psychology would be more of a millstone around my neck, a total distraction…personalities and group dynamics would be too much of an issue. I know my limitations.
Long story short… for a culture that could benefit from so many of the traditions and organizational aspects of AA, the evangelical world is completely closed to change. Being a pastor is an easy career move disguised as a calling (much of the time, not always), and the level of control and guilt used to keep order is mind boggling. As you mention, true personal growth and change is glossed over in lieu of how to act, how to fit in, go through the motions….it’s more of a process of socialization than spiritual growth. All of my ego and sarcasm aside, it’s all about the lack of humility and honesty. Chances are, a dickhead who is washed clean of his sins is still a total dickhead, and the “discipleship” that takes place after his salvation goes back to the socialization. And the absolute same can be said for AA….newcomer comes in, quits drinking, gets ecstatic about it…but he doesn’t put in the work, and he disappears. Keyword: WORK. If it doesn’t feel like a job and it doesn’t take daily reflection and initiative, you aren’t doing it right. In church, unless you’re “feeling the spirit” you aren’t on track, so the emotion that comes along with “feeling the spirit” is manufactured when it isn’t present.
False humility is a cornerstone of the mega-church world. It’s an ego-fest. There is talk of humility in reference to the greatness of God, but the spirit of the whole thing is arrogance…like the guy who is fasting for ten days and can’t shut up about how he’s fasting for ten days. And I have all of those tendencies in me to an exponential degree, no question. What I do to keep it in check is work the program…I have to recognize it, accept it, be willing to change it, and take action. There is no ecstatic “WASHED IN THE BLOOD!!!!” moment, but there is a kind of serenity and peace I can’t really even communicate. Everybody wants it fast….they want to be washed of their sins and then run with it a million miles an hour….and evangelical Christianity is right there to make it happen. Then once you’re saved, it’s a sign of failure, weakness and lack of faith when you’re not “on fire”….and the abuse of scripture to back all of that up is unforgivable.
Anyway, like I said, I can ramble myself into an egomaniacal rampage……but for me, right now, today, where I’m at at this moment with the program is- amends. I’ve worked the steps, grown in faith, found countless moments of serenity, faced my defects of character, became willing to change them, and with God’s help and am now at a point where I have the courage to make real amends to those I have wronged. The easy ones, the scary ones I hate to think about, total honesty with myself in order to even contemplate it. My burning bush moment on how to accomplish this came to me as I was driving home from golf today. In my experience with the pentecostal world, there was never an avenue for that…it was more about “look how much I believe in Jesus, you should too!” instead of spiritual growth based on honesty and the acceptance of your humanity. There isn’t anything “grand” about this thing, no chance for car salesmanship, it’s real work and so simple that it’s threatening. Growing up, AA was always described as “pure secular humanism”, and at its core it really is about knowledge of SELF. But what people don’t realize is unless you are giving back you aren’t working the program. Your power comes from surrendering instead of sharpening your skills at being on the offensive, and the whole world isn’t our goal…it’s all about one person at a time.
In church you get a lot of credit for the things you do. Accolades are a big part of the culture, and so is getting into various “inner circles” depending on the size of the church. AA takes more of a monastic approach, and if you get bent out of shape because you don’t get credit for something, someone is going to put you in check. The Anonymity part of AA is something I truly love. To some degree I can see how it’s viewed as a “clique”…but it’s a clique you get into because you have completely fucked up your life. I talk to people in every meeting who are probably “kind of a big deal” out in their little part of the world, but that shit is left at the door. And what is said in meetings stays in the meetings. A prolific author or world renowned brain surgeon might show up early to vacuum or clean a toilet, and the sponsor who has most influenced them and helped them could be a Wal Mart greeter. I love that. It’s so simple and strips away the caste-system dynamic found in most organizations. Real diversity and equality, things are broken down to their simplest state. Long story short, church folks can’t come to AA unless they are alcoholics, but there are so many positive things about the program that could be implemented in church. I said all of this other stuff just to say that. As it stands now, this trend of evangelical Christianity peppered with the tenets of Manifest Destiny is simply not sustainable for a long period of time. The logical conclusion of what the politically conscious evangelicals are after is exactly what pissed Jesus off enough to violently throw the money changers out of the temple. To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy: If you’re a born again Christian who rejoiced when the Republicans took back the House, you might be someone Jesus would boot out of the temple.
So anyway, this is my lazy post…..a response to Chaz’s comment that I’m using as a way to not feel horrible that I don’t post as much as I used to. Honestly, I’m just in a great place right now. I’m working, playing golf, working the program, hanging out with my wife, and I do a LOT of introspective work that would be even more boring and Jerry-centric to read than what I’ve been spewing lately. I’ll feel very good that I’ve actually posted something prior to leaving for Thanksgiving with my wife and her family in Richmond, Virginia.
First trip on a plane since I got sober……and I hate to fly, a fact that has been chronicled on here more than once I’m sure. I’ll have an emergency Trazodone on me in case I get too freaked out, but I will not have my usual quart bag full of mini-bottles of bourbon to dump on top of the four or five Manhattans I already drank in the terminal, in addition to however many drinks I can get the flight attendant to sell me before cutting me off. If nothing else, flying will be a shitload simpler without micromanaging THAT monster. I did get that book Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man to read on the plane….I just can’t get myself to read very often. Grad school cured me of any desire to ever read another book, but so far I’m liking this one. Reminds me of a period of my life that you’d only ever hear me talk about in the safety of a meeting.
Off to make dinner (scallop and fresh asparagus risotto with sauteed brussel sprouts), and contemplate how to put my plan for amends into action.
Everyone have a Happy Thanksgiving. I’m still here. For better or worse I’m never going to stop showing up here and typing something out. It’s a permanent part of my life, but I let my life dictate when I pop in and what I write. It’s never going to be as insane as it once was, but it’s also never going to be gratuitous. Quality over quantity and progress instead of perfection.