Some Thoughts About AA (and NA)

Agent X went through a phase in high school that made him worry about alcoholism, but it was brief.  Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sent a representative to our school to give a lecture, at the end of which she passed out a card with a number of yes/no questions.  At the end of the list of questions, a note said, “If you answered “yes” to 3 or more questions, you might be an alcoholic.  You should seek help.”  They did not ask to see the responses.  They allowed us to answer privately and decide if we wanted to pursue help.

When I looked over my answers, I counted only 3 marked “no.”  I was very worried.  I continued to fret about it for another month, until one night at a party, a friend passed me a joint.  Then I was a pot-head.  I was no longer an alcoholic!  My alcoholism was finished like that!


I need to say 2 things here at the start.  1) I am no longer a pot-head!  That too was a relatively brief spell in my life.  After a couple of years playing around with it after high school, I decided to grow up and left those crazy days of experimentation behind.  2) I do not want my story to make anyone think they don’t need help.  If you need help – please, please, please – by all means ask for it!

I only mention my personal experience with the chaos of drugs and alcohol to establish (and confess) that I have personal insight.  I am not some innocent kid who never struggled with these problems.  But I have other experience too.  I have been a minister to addicts, convicts, prostitutes, drug dealers, ex-cons, and all manner of “left-out” people (and their children) for the last 17 years.  And I have been to a few AA meetings!  I have friends who find help there.

What I endorse about AA (and NA):

Far and away, the thing that I love about AA is the sheer and lavish acceptance of people.  I wish I could get my church to be like this.  This is the one really HUGE thing missing in church – the attitude of acceptance.  That message from one to another that says, “Call me!  Night or day, drunk or sober, happy or sad, no matter your condition – NO MATTER YOUR CONDITION – NO MATTER YOUR CONDITION!!!  Call me when you need me!  I will come and get you.

Yes.  AA will hold daily meetings, and if need be, your sponsor will come down to the gutter and get you and drive you back to the meeting.  And you will be accepted there among that flock who have NO pretention or apprehension about you showing up drunk, stoned, wasted – whatever – just show up!  WE WANT YOU!

And there is no end to this charity, this forgiveness, this acceptance.  There is an attitude of utter humility that says, “There but for the grace of God go I” and remembers where we all came from (Deut. 5:15; 15:15; 16:12; 24:22).  And this group is dedicated through and through with a desire to help others facing this struggle to get out of that jam in deeply self-sacrificial ways.

I love that!  The patience of forgiving seventy times seven (Matt. 18:22), the brotherhood of humility, the “patience of Job” as we sometimes call it.  Wow!  And Jesus says, “They will know you are my disciples by the LOVE you have for one another” (John 13:35), and I think, “Yeah, this is that!”  There can be no ultimate healing without this kind of humility, acceptance, forgiveness, patience – you know LOVE!

(Where is it in the church?  That’s another post, but worth laying down a marker just now.)

What I don’t like about AA (and NA):

“Higher poser” (a-hem) “power.”

AA claims to follow “biblical principles” to help you get sober.  They put you through 12 steps to get there.  The 12 steps are no where outlined in the Bible, btw.  Not that they are bad, and not that you won’t find them in one form or another in the Scriptures.  But there is no outline of 12 steps to salvation anywhere in the Bible.  But, I digress actually, because even though I quibble about 12 steps (I am not against 12 steps, but I question them), I am against claiming “biblical principles” on the one hand and claiming some generic “higher power” on the other.

As a church-man and a Bible-man, I find this aspect to be a deep, core betrayal of God.  All that love you find in AA that I praised in the paragraphs above gets you very close to God, close enough to poke your finger in his eye.  I am a monotheist.  The Bible, which AA claims as the foundation of its principles, is also monotheist.  Any group holding forth a generic “higher power” is actually worshiping in the pantheon rather than the inner sanctuary.

AA needs to get her false gods cleaned out.  Melt that golden calf, tear down the Asherah, the altars of Baal, the ovens of Molech, and clear out all the “high places” in your heart.  Your Creator has business to attend to in his creation, and he wants to do it through little ol’ YOU.  But he does not compete with these idols.  This is rock-solid, biblical principle bore out in the Bible time and time again!

Yes.  I can only advocate a monotheist community.  I am a prophet of the Most High God.  He towers over your “higher poser” like he towered over Pharaoh in Egypt and says to both your alcoholism and your generic higher poser, “LET MY PEOPLE GO!”  My only caveat is that I preach a Trinitarian monotheism.  Thus it is appropriate, as a matter of Bible principle, to claim Jesus is LORD – Jesus is all our highest power.

My suggestion: Find an AA or NA that is “Christian only.”  But then, of course that should be your church!  And your church, I know, falls flat on the love-one-another part, but I am working on them too!




  1. Ryan · December 10, 2015


    Liked by 1 person

    • Ryan · March 29, 2017

      Frederick Buechner – Alcoholics Anonymous

      Alcoholics Anonymous, or A.A., is the name of a group of men and women who acknowledge that addiction to alcohol is ruining their lives. Their purpose in coming together is to give it up and help others do the same. They realize they can’t pull this off by themselves. They believe they need each other, and they believe they need God. The ones who aren’t so sure about God speak instead of their Higher Power.

      When they first start talking at a meeting, they introduce themselves by saying, “I am John. I am an alcoholic,” “I am Mary. I am an alcoholic,” to which the rest of the group answers each time in unison, “Hi, John,” “Hi, Mary.” They are apt to end with the Lord’s Prayer or the Serenity Prayer. Apart from that they have no ritual. They have no hierarchy. They have no dues or budget. They do not advertise or proselytize. Having no buildings of their own, they meet wherever they can.

      Nobody lectures them, and they do not lecture each other. They simply tell their own stories with the candor that anonymity makes possible. They tell where they went wrong and how day by day they are trying to go right. They tell where they find the strength and understanding and hope to keep trying. Sometimes one of them will take special responsibility for another—to be available at any hour of day or night if the need arises. There’s not much more to it than that, and it seems to be enough. Healing happens. Miracles are made.

      You can’t help thinking that something like this is what the church is meant to be and maybe once was before it got to be big business. Sinners Anonymous. “I can will what is right but I cannot do it,” is the way Saint Paul put it, speaking for all of us. “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:19).

      “I am me. I am a sinner.”

      “Hi, you.”

      Hi, every Sadie and Sal. Hi, every Tom, Dick, and Harry. It is the forgiveness of sins, of course. It is what the church is all about.

      No matter what far place alcoholics end up in, either in this country or virtually anywhere else, they know that there will be an A.A. meeting nearby to go to and that at that meeting they will find strangers who are not strangers to help and to heal, to listen to the truth and to tell it. That is what the Body of Christ is all about.

      Would it ever occur to Christians in a far place to turn to a church nearby in hope of finding the same? Would they find it? If not, you wonder what is so big about the church’s business.

      Liked by 1 person

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