Thursday, September 13, 2007

Another Court Rules that AA/NA are Religious

A recent court case ruled that a parolee can sue a parole officer for damages if the parole officer requires the parolee to attend 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous when this violates the parolee's religious or non-religious beliefs.

The case is titled Inouye v. Kemna, issued Sept. 7, 2007. The full text of the opinion is here. The court that issued the decision is the Ninth Circuit of the United States Courts of Appeal. The court's ruling is the law in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Ricky Inouye was imprisoned in Hawaii after conviction on drug charges, and served his time. As a Buddhist, he objected to participating in 12-step treatment programs because of their religious nature. After his release, he sued his parole officer, Nanamori, for giving him the "choice" of AA/NA meetings or prison.

When that case came to trial in the federal court in Hawaii, Nanamori argued that he, a parole officer, could not have known whether AA/NA are "religious" because the law on that issue was foggy at the time he ordered Inouye to participate (2001). If the issue was unclear, Nanamori was immune from suit. Nanamori won on that issue in the lower federal court in Hawaii. Inouye (or rather his son Zenn, Ricky having meanwhile died) appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

The Ninth Circuit's opinion makes short work of the claim that the law was fuzzy on the religious nature of AA/NA. The court points to virtually identical cases decided before 2001 by the federal courts of appeal for the Seventh Circuit (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin) and the Second Circuit (New York, Connecticut, Vermont), in addition to a string of similar cases in lower federal courts and in state courts, all with the same result. The "unanimous conclusion" of these courts was that coercing a person into AA/NA or into AA/NA based treatment programs was unconstitutional because of their religious nature. Because the law on this issue was "uncommonly well settled," Nanamori cannot claim immunity.

Accordingly, the Ninth Circuit sent the case back to the lower federal court in Hawaii to decide how much, if anything, Nanamori has to pay Inouye's estate in monetary damages.

The court's ruling means that criminal justice officers -- or, arguably, any agents of the state, local, or federal government within the bounds of the Ninth Circuit -- can be sued for damages if they ignore a client's religious or anti-religious objections and coerce the person to attend 12-step meetings or 12-step based treatment programs.

What should prisoners, parolees, and criminal justice officers do in response to this ruling?

(1) Prisoners and parolees who have problems with the religious content of 12-step programs should stand up for their beliefs and make their objections heard, loud, clear, early, and on paper. In this case, Ricky Inouye won in part because he wrote letters and filed suit promptly after he was coerced into 12-step programs. He held to his position consistently, and enlisted legal help as soon as possible. Prisoners and parolees need to make it clear both in words and deeds that they earnestly want to remain clean and sober, that they are willing to participate in alcohol and other drug treatment programs and to attend support groups, but that the religious content in the 12-step programs violates their constitutionally protected beliefs and interferes with their recovery. Prisoners and parolees can match these words with actions by demanding referral to non-religious (secular) treatment options, if they exist, and by taking the initiative to organize secular support groups, such as LifeRing, on their own.

(2) Officials in the criminal justice system (and other government officials with coercive powers over addiction offenders) need to offer their clients a choice between religious and secular treatment programs and support groups. The "choice" between AA/NA or prison offends the constitution, and officers who insist on it need to check their professional liability insurance. Government officials can help themselves as well as their clients by sending the message to treatment programs that the programs must embody a secular track along with the 12-step track, or risk losing referrals. Officials need to inform themselves and their clients about the availability of secular support group alternatives, such as LifeRing. Where clients take the initiative to organize such support groups, officials need to be cooperative and provide a level playing field when it comes to rooms, publicity, literature, referrals, and other resources. In an appropriate case, officials may take the lead in initiating secular support groups themselves.

The Ninth Circuit decision ruffles some feathers because it contradicts the belief of many AA/NA members that the 12-step approach is "spiritual not religious." Of course, these words can have many meanings. But as far as the First Amendment of the US Constitution is concerned, the 12-step approach is clearly religious, and the Ninth Circuit only joins a "march of unanimity" of other courts who have come to the same conclusion.

The basic thrust of this line of cases is that the constitutional guarantee of freedom of and from religion extends over the whole of the United States, including the ever-expanding areas enclosed by prison walls. Since such a large proportion of prisoners are there because of drug and/or alcohol abuse, this recent ruling serves as an important refresher. Jails and prisons, notoriously in California, are overcrowded and in deplorable condition. The Ninth Circuit's decision says that the freedom of religious belief or disbelief must not go down the drain along with so many other elements of civilized penal treatment.


Anonymous said...

hey marty, this is good news - thanks for writing about it!

Anonymous said...

While I wholleheartedlly concur with the decision and the clear reasoning behind it there is still the very real issue of providing some sort of proof to judges or others that one is attending some sort of recognized therapy be it group or other. AA signs off on so called court cards which seems to suffice ... what can we do to filll that same need? Many of us are not in urban areas that host meetings. A terrific post . . . thoughts?Nat

Anonymous said...

this is a great topic, but i think that people need to realize that AA is not about religon because your higher power could be anything
so i just think people need to realize that the whole world is not black and white there are shades of gray..

Gadfly said...

Anonymous No. 3, PUH-leeze.

AA's Steps specifically call this higher power "God."

And, do NOT come back here with the crapola line that the Steps are "suggestions."

Try ending an AA meeting without the Lord's Prayer, or starting it without reading the Steps, and see how much hell breaks out.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your summary of this case. It made my heart glad to read that another court concurs with our position that religion should not be forced on parolees (or anyone). I intend to read part of this at the Burlingame meeting and use it as a springboard for dicusssion.
Gail C.

Anonymous said...

Oh what a bunch of crap. Just another excuse for convicts to sue people. I am a member of AA. I do not believe in God, and nobody tells me I have to. Not only that, I came to AA via the court system and I'm glad they made me go. While I am not technically a Buddhist (not practicing anyway), I will say that I do lean strongly in that direction. This guy claims he was a Buddhist but I guess he missed the whole thing about the Eight-fold Noble Path... which includes right speech, right livelihood, right concentration, right ACTION. Hmmm....convicted on drug charges? Doesn't sound like right action to me. Some Buddhist. Or maybe he found "religion" in prison? Sounds like he found the one that suited his purposes.
This ruling is ridiculous. Now what will happen to those who really need to get to AA and they don't make it there because someone is afraid of being sued? Maybe a court can make you attend a meeting but they can't make you listen, and anyone with strong enough religious conviction shouldn't be worried about it because their own particular faith would not waver simply because someone talks about "God". This whole case is just stupid.

Anonymous said...

and P.S. My home group closes our meeting with "A moment of silence to use as you wish". It is called "Beginner's Mind" after a Buddhust saying which goes something like: In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, In the experts there are few." This group was started BY A BUDDHIST Alcoholic.

Anonymous said...

AA may not be "about" religion, but it is most certainly defined by it. The Lord's Prayer is the Pledge of Allegiance of Christianity, and it is the height of ignorance to suggest that a group whose meetings typically end with that prayer is anything but religious. To each his or her own, but let's not kid ourselves.

Anonymous said...

There are MANY groups who DO NOT close with the Lord's Prayer. It is NOT about religion, it is about spirituality. Just beacuse many AA's are "christian" doesn't mean that AA as a whole is christian. Also many members use the WORD "God" for the sake of simplicity. It's much more concise than "spirit of the universe" or "my higher power, which I chose not to call God". But that does not mean they are referring to "God" in the traditional sense.

Anonymous said...

I think this suit is just another way for a low life to possibly get paid. I am not religous or christian but I thank my higher power which I choose to call God every day for my sobriety. I am also so very thankful for the other members of AA that loved me until I could love myself. I have now been sober for almost three years and with the support of AA I will be sober for life.

Anonymous said...

I have not been on this site long and I am especially pleased that it is a non-12 step specific site. I am really pleased that the 12 step programmes are at long last being brought to task over thier religious and indoctrinating philosophy.
I think they serve the purpose in the short to mid term but if you develop well as a person yu begin to see through the charade and the next 'evolutionary' stage is to leave and move on when recovered. If you are a member of a 12 step programme please, please watch the video "10 reasons why not to go to AA" (which is a humourous and light-hearted video) before discussing with me. Alternatively dont respond but ratehr - talk it through with your sponsor.

Anonymous said...

This person just doesn't get it. In order to 'get' AA, you have to accept a higher power. That's mandatory. I was once banned from an AA website because I told them that I don't accept the higher power concept. They told me either accept it, or get out, and all of a sudden I couldn't log into the chat room anymore. They were paranoid that I challenged their beliefs and they couldn't handle intelligent questions. LSR isn't about 'higher powers' or 'sponsors', it's all about 'self-empowerment'. If you really want to spout your AA philosophies, do it at an AA site, not here. I don't have some 'higher power' that's looking over and protecting me, and that's OK for me. I'm not wrong and no one can tell me different. AA forces members to find some kind of 'higher power', and even tells people 'make a doorknob your higher power', which insults my intelligence. I tried to make AA work for me, but just couldn't handle all the religious aspects of it. I get really tired of the morons that try to explain 'AA isn't religious, it's spiritual'. What's the difference? I have never attended an AA meeting that didn't have some mention of God. Members chastise anyone that can't accept the 'higher power' concept as being 'wrong', and they will get in your face trying to prove you are 'wrong'. AA does NOT accept athiests or agnostics. The chapter of the big book to agnostics is an insult. They tell you to keep coming back until you 'get it'. How can any meeting that starts and ends with a prayer not be religious? I still can't figure out the difference between 'religion' and 'spirituality'. Isn't 'spirituality' the belief that there is some mystical, magical being in the sky that's looking over all of us? I also don't believe in Santa Claus either. The courts only use AA because it's convenient, and most judges don't have a clue what AA meetings are all about. I'm glad that this issue has been challenged, but the problem is that AA is the only game in town in most parts of the world. LSR isn't organized well enough to ever grow to be a true alternative to AA, which is sad. LSR needs more than one person running the entire organization, but the current leader will never let that happen. So, we are stuck with AA - live with it.

Anonymous said...

If AA is so great, why are all these AA people using our website to give us their AA philosophies? Why not hang out with your higher power and your sponsor at some AA website? I came here to get away from you people.

Anonymous said...

I think AA needs to be overhauled if it is to be universally accepted by the court system. It is definitely religious and people that try to explain it isn't just sound ignorant.

"I am not religous or christian but I thank my higher power which I choose to call God every day for my sobriety."

You have a higher power who you choose to call God, and you aren't religious?

I've never met too many avid AA'rs that were very bright...

Anonymous said...

AA is all about religion, who is anybody kidding?

How can you pray, have faith, and believe in some higher power, yet not be religious?

I'm surprised that the courts didn't figure that out until now. I tried to make AA work for me, but the higher power issue always stopped me. I don't believe forcing someone to attend AA meetings will help them unless they are ready to stop drinking. I've attended so many AA meetings that were filled with people that didn't want to be there, and it just diluted the meeting.

I get the creeps when people here start talking about their higher power and AA.

Why does stopping drinking have to involve some God? AA really falls short for all of those people that don't believe in God, yet they make no attempt at resolving that issue.

Maybe some Buddhist started an AA meeting, but if he's following the AA program, he's including some kind of God in it.

If you attend AA and don't believe in God, you aren't working their program correctly. Unless you really can pray to a doorknob...

Anonymous said...

bring a real alcoholic/addict, i needed somewhere to go when i 'got done'in '91, and AA was there, and compared to LSR it's everywhere. putting up with the 'god bizness' wasn't so hard when i was a 'page 151'er' and 'terror, frustration, bewilderment and despair' were my life. now i find it hard to swallow the rote invocations of 'HP' and all the other 'god' references and superstitious mumbo jumbo, i find that it's good for me to practice openmindedness and tolerance and paqtience, while at the same time not being shy about my own positions, as it evolves, which is not the same as 'your' position, or LSR's position.
i've been to maybe 20 AA meetings in the last 6 months, and exactly 0 LSR meetins ever, despite avidly pursueing them in Houston(my home)last year(2006), aided by misinformation provided by LSR Central, but today (10-22-07) am goin to try to get to the 8pm meeting at Herrick Hosp., and hope to get down to the Serv. Center at 1440 Broadway. lookin forwaqrd to meeting and talking with some of you today.
dave hutsell

Anonymous said...

AA is still the only game in town. LSR will never get bigger than it is because there is only one person running the entire organization, so run the math. It can't happen. If he dies, so does LSR, and there's nothing anybody can do about it.

Anonymous said...

An interesting debate. Surely the central concept is that of choice. The only thing we have in common is that addictive substances have affected us and those around us.
I recognise that it is not easy to alter the status quo, but there is only one way to do it - do something. Next week I will be involved as a "service user" and will be asked by those who provide support (NHS, not for profit charities etc) opinions about how options, resources, approaches have affected my recovery and others. One thing is for sure I will be letting them know about LSR. But I will not ever get into a "this is the best thing for everyone" monologue.
There are a whole lot of ways to get to a destination.
If people are interested in the process, outcome (which I expect will take a while), and implications of this, I'm happy to contribute and relay.

Unknown said...

Wow, hot topic! Touch on beliefs and the passion rolls. I can see many different sides of this issues, and I agree it boils down to allowing an addict the freedom to choose what works for him/her. Personally, I have never been able to get past the higher power issue off AA/NA despite my own strong spiritual beliefs. Yes I understand that ones higher power can be anything, yet this does not work for those who are agnostic, athestist or my own beliefs. If one is struggling with addiction, being forced to waste valuable time is dangerous. I can't tell you how many times I went into an AA meeting feeling strong and came out wanting a drink. Completely counterproductive for me. Luckily my situation gave me the option of private counseling and support groups.

AA can be wonderful if it helps the addict to learn coping skills and gains support in sobriety. If turning your addiction to a higher power gets you where you need to be, then hallelujah. But if it does not work, then forcing an addict to attend unprodutive sessions is wasteful and foolish.

With regards to the financial aspects of law suits, it is an unfortunate fact in our society that if one wants to get the attention of the press, the courts,the government, corporations and even some individuals, one has to sue for money. Money is the universal value that is equal in everyones mind. Things only change in our society if making the change is less expensive than continuing to lose law suits. Ugly, but true.

Whatever works for you, I wish you acceptance, joy and peace in your journey.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time believing that people would waste prescious time arguing about the rights of criminals although I realize that few if any rights are lost by breaking the law . So once again we do not have to take responsibility for anything we do .

Martin Nicolaus said...

Re: "LSR will never get bigger than it is because there is only one person running the entire organization, so run the math. It can't happen. If he dies, so does LSR, and there's nothing anybody can do about it."

I appreciate your concern. What part of the organization are you willing and able to run, now? If you step forward and ask for responsibility, you will very probably get as much as you can handle, or more. For the record, LifeRing has a nine-member Board of Directors and an annual Congress of Delegates. One part of the reason for this democratic structure is exactly what you pointed to, namely to ensure the survival of the organization after the current CEO steps aside. Check out the Bylaws, at

Anonymous said...

"What part of the organization are you willing and able to run, now? If you step forward and ask for responsibility, you will very probably get as much as you can handle, or more."

There is only one person that is 'able to run' the organization?

And exactly who does a person have to 'ask for responsibility' to?

Anyone that has ever attempted to pitch in and help LSR has been summarily run off by the current and only CEO, who resents anyone that 'challenges' his authority.

Who wrote the bylaws? Was it the current and only CEO?

In the entire history of LSR, how many different CEO's has the organization had?

How many people have ever run in opposition of the current CEO?

Why does the organization have to wait until the current CEO 'steps aside' before there can ever be change for the betterment of the group?

Though voting is usually recognized as one of the main characteristics of democracy, a country's having an election featuring the populace casting votes does not necessarily mean the country is democratic. Many authoritarian governments have "elections" but the candidates are pre-chosen and approved by elites, there is no competition, voter qualifications are restrictive, and voting is often a sham.

Does this sound familiar?

Anonymous said...

Sure. It sounds like the intro music to the syndicated Internet game show "Name That Troll."

Anonymous said...

Anyone that voices an opinion you don't like is a 'troll'?

Sounds pretty paranoid. Maybe you need to use Tony Robbins blog site.

Anonymous said...

For some good reading back under your bridge, try reading Google's results for "possessive punctuation".

If calling out a threadjack constitutes paranoia in your book, you might want to check your tin foil hat, too. Sounds like it's on a little too tight.

Anonymous said...

I just found this page because a person wrote in to the local papaer. (letter to the editor) The reason i was looking is because they used their name and referenced AA. I am sure most of the AA croud has to know this person because they seem to be a representative of AA. After all, they used their real name and AA in the same letter. People who believe in the "FELLOWSHIP" and not just the AA program will NOT express their like or dislike for the "PROGRAM" because they love the "TRADITIONS" Right?
And the last words are:
"Life continues, long after humanity is gone"

Anonymous said...

I would agree that there should be a seperation between church and state. And that POs have no right to force someone into sobriety, when a person is ready for treatment, they will seek it out. But don't you think that we are excluding some people inadvertently by doing this? Aren't there people out there who would not voluntarily seek treatment but need it in order to survive? And the only way there are going to get help is by being forced? What do we do about these people? I work with adolescents who are "forced" into treatment and I feel that they fall into the category I mentione above. How do we handle them?

Anonymous said...

I am both a long time AA member (26+) years (who by the way considers self a Buddhist and does not believe in "God" as the Christians would define such an entity), and a treatment professional. I agree that community based support groups are almost universally a valuable part of long-term recovery planning, AND that this should not be just AA or other 12 step based programming, alternatives should be offered.

One question that would be of interest to me is: how did Inouye die? I guess it could have been of old age, or maybe something else?

Anonymous said...

The 9th Court is stupid and so is anyone else who thinks that Spirituality and Religion are the same thing. A higher power can be anything greater than oneself. Now, religion is a set of dogmatic rules written by men and acknowledging a specific diety or dieties and the rules surrounding the worship of. That is NOT what AA does. I do agree, however, that the courts are wrong to suggest that this voluntary program be required as part of one's sentence. AA should never have been used as a tool by the government.

Anonymous said...

By the way...there is no such thing as "separation of church and state" in our Constitution. Look it up. Doesn't exist.

Alex Colvin said...

I support the conclusions of the court; it is long overdue. I was, for years, a card-carrying AA-member, but got so sick of the dogmatic approach to recovery I eventually left. I later did enough sessions in Alcohol/drug treatment and learning the "disease concept" approach to recovery that I now prefer it, to AA. Most lisenced counselors who specialize in Drug/Alcohol treatment regard AA as a suppliment (for those who "Chose" it, to an overall treatment plan; this is quite different from AAers who see AA as the ONLY treatment needed, which is not only erronous, its dangerous. Alas, like many religeous zelots, AAers invariously proclaim themselves, mis-understood, mis-quoted, mis-treated, and misaccused of being religeous, all while hiding behind a dogma-drenched ideology that insists its adherents acknowledge and have a working relationship with a Christian Diety (God)in order to have "real" recovery, and then try to pass that off as "spirituality." I think not. Anyone whose ever taken even a freshman level course in comparative religeon knows their claim is a crock of shit.

Dick B.'s son Ken B. said...

A.A.’s Spiritual Program, Co-founder Dr. Bob, and the A.A. Christian Endeavor Society Factor from Dr. Bob’s Youth

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
(Proverbs. 22:6)

At last! There will be, and now has been, established a hospitable, accessible home for the resources at the Dr. Bob Core Library just founded at Dr. Bob’s own North Congregational Church (UCC) at St. Johnsbury, Vermont

Dick B.
© 2008 by Anonymous. All rights reserved

A Look at the Early A.A. Program that Bill W. and Dr. Bob Founded in 1935

When Bill Wilson met Dr. Bob Smith at Henrietta Seiberling’s Gate Lodge Home in Akron on Mother’s Day of 1935, each man had some strong alcoholism recovery factors stored away in his mind.

Bill Wilson brought to the table three major spiritual ideas that Dr. Bob had simply not implemented in his previous Christian walk. (1) Because of the deadly, downward spiral of drunkenness, relief could not come by willpower or human aid alone. (2) The experience of Dr. Carl Gustav Jung as to the efficacy of conversion as a cure, and the experience of Dr. William D. Silkworth as to the efficacy of relying on the Great Physician (Jesus Christ) for complete cure. (3) The vital importance of telling others still suffering about the healing that could be achieved through the power of God. In a very real sense, Bill’s convictions were embodied in the so-called abs’s he put in his Big Book on page 60 of the 4th edition, and in the message he gave on page 191 of the 4th edition: “Henrietta, the Lord has been so wonderful to me curing me of this terrible disease that I just want to keep telling people about it.” See Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W. (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2007)—

Dr. Bob brought to the table the totality of his Christian upbringing and what he called his “excellent training” in the Bible as a youngster in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. These principles and practices were, for the most part, not those of the Oxford Group with which both Bill and Bob had been “associated” as Dr. Bob put it. Dr. Bob had not implemented the principles for the very simple reason that he called himself a “wanna, wanna” guy, and simply did not want to quit drinking. Bill Wilson was really not conversant with these Congregational, Christian Endeavor, and YMCA ideas; and Bill had been totally unsuccessful in getting anyone sober until he met and joined with Dr. Bob. See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers (NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1980).

Bill moved into the Smith home in Akron for the entire summer of 1935. Bill and Bob had lengthy discussions until the wee hours of the morning each day. We know that Anne Smith (Dr. Bob’s wife) read the Bible to the two men each day. We know that the two men drew their basic ideas from the Bible. And we know that Anne Smith wrote down in her journal and shared with all the pioneers the elements of the Oxford Group and Bible principles being used. But little has been said about what Dr. Bob really contributed to the simple early program that had such remarkable successes.

From his parents, his North Congregational Church, his Sunday school, his Bible study and prayer meetings, his participation in the Christian Endeavor Society, his touching base with the activities of the YMCA of which his father was a local president, and the rigorous daily chapel and required Bible study and church attendance of his St. Johnsbury Academy, Dr. Bob was fully equipped to develop a program of recovery, using Bill’s contributions, and using the Christian Endeavor ideas of Dr. Bob’s youth. Thus, from St. Johnsbury, Dr. Bob brought some clearly defined ideas from his youth: (1) Abstinence. (2) Reliance on the Creator and conversion to Jesus Christ. (3) Obedience to God’s will. (4) Growth in fellowship through prayer, Bible study, Quiet Hour, and the reading of Christian literature. (5) Reaching out to others in love and service.

Yet the origin of these basic ideas from the Bible, and particularly from St. Johnsbury, has not, until recently, even been mentioned by AAs, recovery writers, or historians—perhaps largely because Dr. Bob in his usual reticence and modesty simply did not discuss them. And so it has become important to search out, report, document, and disseminate A.A.’s Christian Endeavor Factor via the Biblical training and Christian upbringing Dr. Bob received as a youth in St. Johnsbury.

A Look at the New Dr. Bob Core Library Now Being Filled at the St. Johnsbury Church

Prior to this year, there never has been a library devoted exclusively to the when, where, what, how, and why of the basic Biblical contributions made by Dr. Bob from his youthful training to the Akron Pioneer A.A. Christian Fellowship he and Bill Wilson founded in 1935 and which brought the hope and reality of cure to so many of the seemingly hopeless, medically incurable alcoholics willing to join a fellowship of like-minded believers who really tried to get well by the power of God.

The new library will, as this article covers, contain substantial background on A.A.’s Christian Endeavor roots. I have covered some of the material in my earlier published titles such as Dr. Bob and His Library, 3rd ed.; The Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual Growth, 7th ed., The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials, When Early AAs Were Cured and Why, The Good Book-Big Book Guidebook, Real Twelve Step Fellowship History, and Introduction to the Sources and Founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.

To make the resource comprehensive, useful, and accurate, the library will also include materials on: (1) The “Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury. (2) Dr. Bob and the Smith Family. (3) The Fairbanks Family of St. Johnsbury and its predominant influences and activities. (4) The North Congregational Church of St. Johnsbury. (5) Revivals, evangelism, and conversions during the period from 1875 to and including Dr. Bob’s graduation from St. Johnsbury Academy in 1898. (6) The Christian Endeavor Society to which Dr. Bob belonged and what it did. (7) Vermont Congregationalism and Missionary Work during Bob’s years as a youngster. (8) The activities and influence of the Young Men’s Christian Association. (9) The impact of the evangelist Dwight L. Moody. (10) St. Johnsbury Academy and the significant contribution of the Smiths—father, mother, and Bob at that period. (11) The Town of St. Johnsbury. (12) St. Johnsbury as Dr. Bob knew it as a youth—his boyhood home and birthplace, the North Congregational Church, the Fairbanks Museum, the YMCA building, the Athenaeum (town library), the courthouse, and the many buildings at St. Johnsbury Academy. (13) The relevant A.A. and historical literature. (14) Items from the Dennis Wayne Cassidy memorial historical collection of A.A. history. (15) Photographs, manuscripts, and memorabilia. (16) Twenty plus binders with abundant additional historical resource data prepared by Dick B. and Ken B. (17) All of the 28 volume Dick B. Historical Reference Title set. (18) Two new books by Dick B. on Dr. Bob’s youth and also his biography. (19) The tie between St. Johnsbury and Akron. (20) The evidence of the documented 75% to 93% success rate of Akron pioneers among the seemingly hopeless, medically incurable real alcoholics who went to every length to establish their relationship and fellowship with their Creator and His son Jesus Christ. (21) The original Akron program, and (22) More as it is acquired, analyzed, and publicized.

If, as, and when its acquisition, analysis, documentation, publication, and dissemination—along with shipping and handling costs—has been funded by benefactors whose contributions are already being made and who will be joined by others, the great majority of the books and materials for the library will be placed over the next months of 2008.

Christian Endeavor Literature for the Core Library

In the course of is writing, Dick B. has read, studied, and acquired a number of basic Christian Endeavor books and materials. And these will be in the library.

Dick was invited to be a principal speaker at the 125th Anniversary Convention of Christian Endeavor International at the Cannon Office Building in Washington, D.C. There he located the present-day leaders of Christian Endeavor and also saw literature he did not have. Timothy Eldred, Executive Director of Christian Endeavor International graciously agreed to make available to Dick some of the major CE books located at headquarters in Michigan.

Those Christian Endeavor books have now been acquired, and they will be in the new core library at North Congregational Church.

A bibliography of those books to be placed in the library is set forth below. And the books themselves contain an enormous number of references to United Christian Endeavor Society literature and recommended reading. So also do Dick B.’s books and the binders being placed at North Congregational Church. Some of the books have already been discussed at length elsewhere, but the entire collected books are listed below – with appropriate additional quotes, comments, and references.

The Christian Endeavor Bibliography of Books Being Placed in St. Johnsbury

We have added a number of quotes which will prove useful in utilizing the library books.

Those books just acquired from Christian Endeavor International—a Panoply of Writings

Brain, Bell M. Fifty Missionary Programmes. Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor,
1901, 13-14 (Describing the typical Scripture Lesson and Prayer at an “ideal missionary meeting” where “the Bible is used as ‘the sword of the Spirit,’ the all-powerful Word of God, which according to his promise shall not return unto him void; and also “the ‘Great Commission,’ as recorded in the four Gospels and the book of Acts”.)

_____. Weapons for Temperance Warfare. Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1897,
14-15, 17-24, 40-47, 81-82 (Describing “pledge-signing;” the devotional service of the
temperance meeting—the Scripture lesson, the prayer, and the hymns, with ample simple texts, Bible readings, and Bible testings; innumerable quotations from Shakespeare, Milton, William Penn, Spurgeon, John B. Gough, St. Augustine, Luther, John Adams, Father Matthew, Frances E. Willard, and others; and “An Evening With John B. Gough, programming the Scripture Lesson, Prayer, Roll-Call, Solo, Anecdotes, and personal reminiscences).

Chaplin, W. Knight. Francis E. Clark: Founder of the Y.P.S.C.E. Boston: United Society of
Christian Endeavor, n.d.

Clark, Francis E. World Wide Endeavor: The Story of The Young People’s Society of Christian
Endeavor From the Beginning and in All Lands. Philadelphia: Gillespie, Metzger & Kelley, 1895.


“The Society of Christian Endeavor started with another conception of the prayer-meeting. It was not a place for instruction from man so much as for instruction from Go. It was not the place for the exposition of a body of divinity or for indoctrination in the fine points of theology. It was a place for practice rather than preaching, for inspiration and fellowship rather than for instruction. A place for participation of all the average two-talent people, rather than of the exceptional ten-talent man and woman.

“The idea of instruction was not ignored, but the leaders of this new society contended that the prayer-meeting was not the place for instruction in the ordinary sense of the word, and that there is ample room for instruction in other services of the church.

“The Sunday morning service is for instruction. The Sunday evening service is for instruction. The Sunday-school is for instruction. The pastor’s catechetical class if for instruction. The missionary concert is for instruction. The religious newspaper is for instruction. In fact, there are few departments of church life which have not this for their central idea. But the Christian Endeavor Society has always believed that the prayer-meeting was for another order of service, and that this other service is quite as necessary to the development of spiritual activities as the service of instruction.

And so it happens that the whole idea of participation is changed. There is something for Thomas and Harry and Mary and Susan to do, as well as for their respective and respected fathers and mothers. . . . It is not sufficient for them to confess Christ before men by baptism and by publicly joining the church of Christ, but frequent, nay, constant, confession of Him alone insures their growth in grace. . . he can rise to his feet and say: ‘I love Him because He first loved me.’ He can offer the Publican’s trembling prayer, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner,’ or the Psalmist’s humble petition, ‘ Create within me a clean heart, O God.’ . . . . They can at least repeat a verse of Scripture or a favorite hymn which expresses their heart’s devotion. . . . In short, the society of Christian Endeavor is built upon this radical idea, that in the prayer-meeting there is a place for every one; a word, a testimony, or a prayer; that it is a necessary part of the Christian life to confess the Lord, and that no one can grow in grace as he should when he neglects this aid to an outspoken Christian life.” (68-69)


“What, pray, is the church? I am speaking now of the local organization. Is it a certain number of the older members? Is it the congregation that gathers to hear the pastor’s Sunday morning sermon or to engage in the evening service? Is it the mid-week prayer meeting? Yes, it is all these and more. The church is the local body of Christ’s followers who worship Sunday morning and Sunday evening. The church is the people at prayer in the mid-week service. The Sunday-school is the church giving and receiving instruction. . . The missionary society is the church praying and giving for the advancement and extension of the Kingdom of God. The Christian Endeavor Society is the church training and being trained for practical service in the kingdom” (185)

[Note: Dr. Bob and his parents were involved in all these, as our documentation in our new resource book and in the resource binders being placed in the Dr. Bob Core Library makes quite clear.]


“The Y.M.C.A. can hardly be called a sister of the society without forcing language and bringing a smile to the bearded face of many a Y.M.C.A. brother, but yet the relationship between the Y.M.C.A. and the Society of Christian Endeavor has always been considered a family relationship. They occupy different fields, and they both recognize the fact. The association is for the community at large, the society for the individual church. Th3e association is necessarily undenominational, the society is necessarily inter-denominational. The association can acknowledge allegiance to no one church, the association [sic – but meaning “society”] must acknowledge allegiance to some one church; and yet, though they occupy different positions, each is doing an invaluable work which the other cannot accomplish. . . . But, as I have said, they can in many ways mutually aid one another; as the receptions which are given by the associations to the societies, and by the societies to the associations, have been proved. Some of the best workers among the secretaries of the Y.M.C.A. have been trained in the Christian Endeavor Society for their future work, and some of the most earnest advocates and eloquent speakers at Endeavor conventions have been leading Y.M.C.A. workers” (191)

[Note: Dr. Bob’s father was a deacon in the North Congregational Church, superintendent of and teacher in its Sunday school, as well as a regular attender at the church. He was also president of the local Y.M.C.A. The Fairbanks family members were deeply involved in the North Congregational Church and in the Y.M.C.A., donating to the building of the church and of the Y.M.C.A. They held offices in both organizations. The Y.M.C.A. lay leaders were prominent in the Great Awakening in St. Johnsbury. The Y.M.C.A. conducted lectures and concerts at North Congregational Church; and it also conducted lectures at St. Johnsbury Academy]

Clements, John R. The Francis E. Clark Year Book: A Collection of Living Paragraphs From
Addresses, Books, and Magazine Articles by the Founder of the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor. Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1904. The quotes following give a real picture of Clark’s role and views:

[QUIET HOUR – Prayer, Bible study, Asking guidance].

March 19: None of us have, perhaps, Henry Drummond’s wit, learning or natural charm of manner; but we may have the chief quality that made his character so uplifting and inspiration to multitudes. I have said much in these letters of late about “the morning watch.” I ventured even to recommend in my annual address at San Francisco the observance of this daily quiet time alone with God. I know of no other school than this in which the lesson of Drummond’s life can be learned (42).

March 20: To-morrow morning rise an hour earlier than usual. You will be tired and sleepy? No doubt. You will wish to turn over for another nap? I do not doubt it. But no matter; overcome drowsy nature for once, at least; and a good hour before breakfast, and before the rest of the family are stirring, be dressed and ready for a talk with the King. The joy of the appointment he is waiting to keep with you is worth the extra exertion a thousand times over.
Take your Bible, your own Bible, the one with marks and references, and comments in your own handwriting, and go, if possible, into a room quite by yourself. Open your Bible to the fourteenth chapter of John, and read a chapter or two from there on, slowly, meditatively, lifting up you heart, and saying frequently as you read, “O Lord, open thou my eyes that I may understand.” Perhaps you will not get through half a chapter, so full of new and wondrous meaning will each verse be as you dwell upon it, the new light from heaven illuminating the page. No matter. All the better, indeed. The spirit of Christ is in every verse. There is food enough in any verse for a morning meal (43).

March 29: Giving God a chance at you; that is the meaning of the Quiet Hour. Parents, teachers, friends, books, newspapers, business, pleasure, all these have a chance at us. Should we not also give God a chance at us? (48).

June 12: “Practicing the presence of God.” It involves going away by one’s self. It involves a daily quiet hour with God. It involves a putting away of all known sin. It involves a searching of the heart for the rebellious life-guard who would keep some of the apartments of the soul closed to the entrance of the King (71).

[OBEYING GOD’S WILL – Eliminating sinful conduct, walking in the light]
July 9: Confess, repent, forsake sin; and the darkness will flee away, and God’s light will flood your soul (80).

July 19: Why are we banded together? Why do we keep the Quiet Hour? Only that we
may receive a blessing in our own hearts? Only that we may know the joy of communion with God? Yes, for this, and for much more—even that we may bring a blessing upon
others, that we may offer the fervent, effectual prayer that availeth much (83)>

[FELLOWSHIP WITH LIKE-MINDED BELIEVERS – Avoiding slipper people and slippery places]

August 22: If your companion, though he be your best friend, cause you to stumble; if he
leads you into bad ways; if he makes you careless and thoughtless, and indifferent of the good, and complacent of the evil, cast him off, flee from him as Joseph fled out of the way of temptation, though you leave the very garment by which he seeks to hold you in the clutches of the tempter (96).

October 9: . . . . There are multitudes in whose ears have been sounding as with cataract roar this tremendous truth spoken by the voice of God himself: “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people;” and yet they have never heard it (114).


November 9: I believe the great danger in these days is not of asking people too often to decide for Christ, or of asking it in an unwise, perfunctory, or unpleasant way, but of not giving the invitation at all (127).

December 4: I look upon it as one of the first duties of a child of God to tell the glad news to others, “Let the redeemed of the Lord, say so” (138).


December 19: Meditation shows us that God is the source of supply for all our needs. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.” Prayer digs a channel straight and true to this source of supply. “Ask, and ye shall receive.” Devotional reading of the Word of God keeps the channel from becoming clogged with selfishness and self-seeking. It keeps us from simply teasing God for material blessings and nothing more. “My God shall supply all your need.”

Poling, Reverend Daniel A. Dr. Poling’s Radio Talks with Questions and Answers. NY: George
H. Doran Company, 1927.

[See the quotations from Dr. Poling in the review of A.A. principles below]

Wells, Amos R. Expert Endeavor: A Textbook of Christian Endeavor Methods and Principles
Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1911.


“What are the results that we may gain from the prayer meeting? They are five: original
l thought on religious subjects; open committal to the cause of Christ; the helpful expression of Christian thought and experience; the cultivation of the spirit of worship through public prayer and through singing; the guidance of others along all these lines of service and life” (9)


“Does the pledge make Bible-reading, prayer, and prayer-meeting testimony a duty when
They should be a privilege? It holds us to them as a duty, and so gives them a chance to become a privilege” (14-15).


“Definite standards of service, and definite commitment to those standards. Open
confession of Christ, and speaking for Him according to ability and opportunity. The cultivation of the devotional life b regular prayer and Bible-study. Training in Christian service by a variety of committee work. Loyalty to the church and regular attendance upon the church services. Generous giving to Christian work. Christian citizenship. Interdenominational fellowship, and the promotion of peace and goodwill among the nations of the world” (20)


“It is twofold: to help the Sunday school through the Christian Endeavor society, and to
help the Christian Endeavor society through the Sunday school” (81)

“The Sunday school is for Bible-study; the Christian Endeavor society, for religious
training. The first is for impression, and the second for expression. The Christian Endeavor society has no time for teaching the Bible, and the Sunday school has no time for training in prayer-meeting testimony, in public prayers, in mission-study, in the leading of meetings, in the conduct of business meetings, in the many activities of the Christian Endeavor committees and officers” (84)


“. . . . They may engage actively in temperance campaigns, holding mass-meetings,
organizing temperance parades, with striking banners and transparencies, circulating temperance leaflets, and working to get out the full temperance vote. They may get up a society temperance pledge to be signed by all the members and then framed, each new member signing it as he enters” (95)


“It is a regular time spent daily in quiet communion with God and meditation on the
Bible, and the greatest themes of life and destiny” (125)

_____. The Officers’ Handbook: A Guide for Officers in Young People’s Societies, with
Chapters on Parliamentary Law and Other Useful Themes. Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1900, 1911.


“And our Christian Endeavor business should be done in the very best way. We are ‘about our Father’s business’” (7)


“Private devotion is the fourth plank of our society platform—daily prayer and daily Bible-reading” (12)


“Sixth and last in the list of Christian Endeavor principles is the interdenominational fellowship. Christian Endeavor has developed a very complete and beautiful system of unions—city, county, State, national, and world-wide. In most communities, these unions are the only rallying centers for the Christians of all faiths” (14)


“This society, being a part of the church, owes allegiance only and altogether to the church with which it is connected. The Pastors, Elders, Deacons, Stewards, and Sunday-school Superintendent, if not active members, shall be, ex officiis, honorary members” (30)

_____. The Young People’s Pastor. Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1905.

“There is one purpose for which I wish our pastors would more frequently assume the leadership of our prayer meetings, and that is to ‘draw the net.’ If the meeting has been an impressive one, and the pastor thinks that some have been moved are usually indifferent, why should he not at the close simply take charge of affairs for a few minutes, and give an invitation for Christian decisions? Thus every Endeavor meeting would be a possible revival. To watch for signs of spiritual awakening, and take prompt advantage of them, is the pastor’s blessed task, and the Endeavor prayer meeting gives him a superb opportunity for it” (15-16).

“What are promised here? Eight things:--
1. An attempt to do Christ’s entire will.
2. Daily prayer as a rule of life.
3. Daily Bible-reading as the rule of life. . .” (73)

Those Books Previously Acquired by, and Discussed, in Other Dick B. Titles, Articles

Clark, Francis E. Christian Endeavor in All Lands. Boston: The United Society of Christian
Endeavor, 1906. And here were some key quotes relevant to the Akron A.A. program:

“Christian Endeavor is a school Teaching us to trust and obey, To read and pray. To serve; Christ and the church in every way” (326)

“Bear with me if I rehearse once more the fundamental necessary features of this world-wide movement. . .—
Confession, Service, Fellowship, Fidelity.
Confession of our love for Christ.
Proof of it by our service for Him.
Fellowship with those who love Him.
Fidelity to our regiment in which we fight for Him” (100)
“Christian Endeavor is a watch Whose mainspring is love, Whose movement is service,
Whose hands point to heavenly joys on the dial of eternity” (326)

“Here at last in the history of Christianity is an organization that is confined to no one
sect, no one nation, no one language. . . . There are absolutely no denominational barriers which Christian Endeavor cannot surmount. There is no one of the many folds of the one Shepherd where the Society is not at home, and has not found its rightful home” (615, 618).

“Christian Endeavor does not ask a man whether he lives in Africa, in India, China, or America. It does not ask him whether he be clothed with a black skin, a white, a tawny, or a red one. Christian Endeavor stands first, last, and always for the salvation of man” (341)

_____. Memories of Many Men in Many Lands: An Autobiography. Boston: United Society of
Christian Endeavor, 1922

Cowan, John Franklin. New Life in the Old Prayer Meeting. NY: Fleming H. Revell Company,

Murch, James DeForest. Successful C.E. Prayer-Meetings. Cincinnati, OH: The Standard
Publishing Company, 1930.

Sheldon, Charles M. In His Steps. Nashville: Boardman Press, 1935.

Wells, Amos R. Expert Endeavor: A Textbook of Christian Endeavor Methods and Principles.
Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1911.

Review of the Original Akron 5 Point Program and Correlative Christian Endeavor Sources

1. Abstinence: The Temperance position and pledge advocated by:

Christian Endeavor (Brain, Weapons, pp. 41-47)

“Every moderate drinker could abandon the cup if he would; every inebriate would if he could—John B. Gough” (42)

2. Reliance on the Creature and becoming His child through a decision for Christ:

Christian Endeavor (Dr. Poling’s Radio Talks)

“For man is man and God is God” (48)

“The word “meek” here means whole-hearted submission to the will of God. In
the original the word means bowed down or brought low, with humble as a derived meaning. In the sense of whole-hearted submission to the will of God, it may be applied, of course, to Moses, who, however imperious he was, did give himself unreservedly to the will of Jehovah” (48)

“How do we lose our fear of God? By knowing Him. . . . We know God at least through Jesus, His Son; know Him through Jesus, know Him as long-suffering and generous, sacrificial and kind, know Him as the omnipotent Father of us all” (102)

“How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? Salvation offered once and for all—salvation, triumph in Christ? . . . . How is the salvation achieved? Not by purchase. Not by blood inheritance. Not by right of earthly stations. It is the prerequisite of no office. It is the crown land of no temporal authority. What can mortal man do to secure his salvation? Mortal man can do only and just what God bids him do. He can repent and believe. He can arise and follow Christ as Matthew did, and as have all others who have achieved the great distinction” (162-63)

Christian Endeavor (Clark, Memories of Many Men in Many Lands)

“The corner stone of Christian Endeavor is not a theological doctrine, but a covenant of service: ‘Trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for strength, I promise Him that I will strive to do whatever He would like to have me do’.” (688)

3. Obedience to the Creator’s will

Christian Endeavor (Clements, The Francis E. Clark Year Book)

“There are multitudes in whose ears have been sounding with cataract roar this
tremendous truth spoken by the voice of God himself: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people. . .” (114)

“When we seek first the kingdom of God, other things will be added. Only when
we love the Lord our God with all or might shall we love our neighbors as ourselves” (12)

Christian Endeavor (Dr. Poling’s Radio Talks)

“What do you think the phrase ‘pure religion’ means? I think that it means exactly what James has said; namely, “pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world”; in other words, to live a clean life personally, and then to minister to one’s fellows. Pure religion is being and doing the will of the heavenly Father” (265)

[Note: the Book of James was the favorite of early AAs and considered “absolutely essential” to their program. This particular verse—James 1:27—is quoted in one of the AA of Akron pamphlets commissioned by Dr. Bob to enable AAs to gain a simple, “blue collar” understanding of the real A.A. program].

4. Growth in understanding and Fellowship through Prayer, Bible study, Quiet Hour, Reading

Christian Endeavor (Wells, Expert Endeavor)

“What is meant by ‘the Quiet Hour’? It is the regular time spent daily in quiet
communion with God and meditation on the Bible, and the greatest themes of life and destiny. In the pledge we promise to make it the rule of our lives to pray and read the Bible every day. The Quiet Hour simply makes this pledge a little more definite. . . . Why is it best to observe the Quiet Hour in the same place, as a rule? Because the surroundings will come to suggest devout thoughts and will put the spirit in the mood for helpful meditation and prayer. . . . Why is it best to set a minimum of fifteen minutes? Because we do not usually give enough time to such exercises, and they are so brief that nothing comes of the. . . . What may well be the beginning of every Quiet Hour? To remind ourselves that God is present. To say over and over to ourselves, ‘God is here. Christ is by my side. The all-seeing, the all-powerful, the all-loving One is in this room. . . . Reading the Bible, the message from this present Father and Saviour. Read it in large portions. . . . What other helps shall we find for our Quiet Hour? Bible commentaries, especially those of a devotional turn, and books by the great masters of devotional writing, such as Jeremy Taylor, Fenelon, Thomas a Kempis, Meyer. . . and the great hymn writers, What will fill out and complete your Quiet Hour? Much prayer—loving and faith-filled talk with the Father; and much meditation—peaceful waiting to hear what the Father has to say to us” (128)

[Note: If you study DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers as well as my titles, Good Morning and The Akron Genesis, you will see how closely Dr. Bob followed these suggestions in his prayer life three times a day]

5. Witnessing to others in word and deed through love and service.

Christian Endeavor (Clements, The Francis E. Clark Year Book)

“I look upon it as one of the first duties of a child of God to tell the glad news to others. ‘Let he redeemed of the Lord say so” (138)

Christian Endeavor (Clements, The Young People’s Pastor)

“Christian Endeavor has always been true to it noble motto, ‘For Christ and the Church.’ (101)

Christian Endeavor (Wells, Expert Endeavor)

“What is meant by being a Christian? Accepting Christ openly as one’s Saviour from sin and the Master of one’s life” (119)

Christian Endeavor (Murch, Successful C. E. Prayer-Meetings)

“An Evangelistic Meeting—Pattern your program after that of a modern revival meeting. A live leader of song should have charge of the music. The songs should be of soul-winning. Have a number of church-members to give brief testimonies and urge the young people to make decisions for Christ. The minster should be invited to make a closing exhortation and hear the confessions of faith, if such is the usual order. Personal work prior to the meeting itself will make it more effective in every way” (pp. 66-67)

“A Front-seat Meeting—Or this might be called a Reconsecrating Meeting. With ‘Trusting in the Lord Jesus for Strength,’ as the central theme, have a number of talks, urging every member to loyalty. At the close of the service, let your minister give an invitation to all those who want to reconsecrate themselves to their C.E. pledge to come forward and occupy the front seats. Those who wish to accept Christ as their personal Saviour should be included in this invitation. Those who have taken the front seats should then kneel in prayer” (72)

“A Testimony Meeting—Obviously the leading characteristic of a prayer-meeting should be the testimony. The leader and the chairman of the prayer-meeting committee should. . . urge them to use their tongues for Christ in this meeting better than ever before. The way to get this done is not to preach to these Endeavourers. . .” (88)

Christian Endeavor (Clark, Christian Endeavor in All Lands)

“In fact, he came to see that the order of our Lord’s life-motto could not be reversed, but that those who should be won for the Christian life must minister, and not merely be ministered unto” (28)

“Another universal principle of Christian Endeavor is constant service” (96)

Note: These five “musts” of early A.A. (which can be found, item by item, in numerous Christian Endeavor books, writings, and talks) were summarized by Frank Amos to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. after the Amos visit to Akron and investigation of its principles, practices, and results. The specifics can be found in A.A.’s “Conference Approved” DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, pp. 131, 136.

The Importance to Recovery of the Christian Endeavor Factor

A.A. is not a Christian Fellowship today. Nor will it become one as over seventy years of evolutionary changes have made quite clear. On the other hand, it certainly was a Christian Fellowship at its inception as Dr. Bob often pointed out. The importance of this history is not about what A.A. could or should or might become today. The importance lies in the fact that almost no AAs today know this history. You won’t find it in the ever-growing body of biographies of Co-founder Bill Wilson (except in my recent title, The Conversion of Bill W.). You won’t find it in A.A.’s “Conference Approved” literature except to the extent that tiny teasers exist in Dr. Bob’s personal story in the Big Book, in DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, in the memorial issue on his death (RHS), and in the published account of his last major address to AAs in 1948 found in the Co-founders pamphlet published by A.A. World services.

Should this history, including the Christian Endeavor roots of A.A., be allowed to die out? We don’t think so. In fact, the absence of these facts has given rise to all sorts of compromises, diversions, speculations, and revisions by the A.A. leadership hierarchy, by historians and commentaries, and by members themselves. Far worse, the lack of the history has led to the manufacture of a new program that hardly claims a success anywhere near that of the early program. The new program espouses bizarre ideas that A.A. is “spiritual but not religious.” It espouses the idea that A.A. was originally a part of and grew out of the Oxford Group—which it did not, though that factor is important in understanding the history and the Big Book. It espouses the idea that the very mention of “God,” “Jesus Christ,” the “Bible,” and “Christianity” will drive newcomers out of the rooms and get them drunk and that it is, to some old-timers, a repugnant attempt to force “religion” down their throats. It espouses the idea that a newcomer or an old-timer can believe in any “power” he or she likes. That “power,” they say, can be a Light Bulb, a Radiator, Gertrude, Ralph, a Coke bottle, a chair, a table, a rock, the Big Dipper, Santa Claus, Him, Her, It, Somebody, Something, or nothing at all—if that is the member’s choice. It espouses the idea that the manufacture, shaping, and conception of this power can be at the whim of the member. It flatly contradicts most of the basic Bible ideas which, according to Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson, were the foundation for A.A. principles and practices.

At the heart of the need for the early history lies the absurdity of ignoring it. Long before there was an Oxford Group, an A.A., or a Light Bulb “power,” the idea that alcoholism could be cured by divine aid was in full flower among those that believed. I say full flower because it was embraced by the still-successful Salvation Army, the still-successful rescue missions, the early Y.M.C.A. precepts, and even by the Temperance Movement as it was lead by Christian figures.
When Bill and Bob first formed A.A., they firmly declared that the underlying philosophy of A.A. was contained in Jesus’ sermon on the mount. They declared that the Book of James in the Bible was their favorite. The favored the principles of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. They used all kinds of Christian devotionals like the Upper Room, My Utmost for His Highest, The Imitation of Christ, The Meaning of Prayer, and The Runner’s Bible. They were handed and read all kinds of Christian literature such as the King James Version of the Bible, the E. Stanley Jones books such as The Christ of the Mount, the Henry Drummond book The Greatest Thing in the World, the Glenn Clark books such as The Soul’s Sincere Desire, the Emmet Fox books such as The Sermon on the Mount, Toyohiko Kagawa’s book on Love, Harry Emerson Fosdick’s books on The Meaning of Faith and The Meaning of Service, Unity books on prayer, Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and a host of others. See Dick B., The Books Early AAs Read for Spiritual Growth, Dr. Bob and His Library, and Anne Smith’s Journal. They also read numerous Oxford Group books, books by Rev. Samuel Shoemaker, books by Norman Vincent Peale, and Roman Catholic Books such as St. Augustine’s Confessions.

Let’s consider what the early AAs embraced, largely from Christian Endeavor, from the ideas of Dr. Bob’s youth, from the Bible, from Bill’s experiences with conversion, and from Dr. William D. Silkworth’s ideas about Jesus Christ as the Great Physician and about the nature of alcoholism: (1) Abstinence. (2) Resisting temptation. (3) Hospitalization. (4) Reliance on the Creator. (5) Acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. (6) Daily Bible study. (7) Daily prayer. (8) Daily Quiet Hour. (9) Recovery in the homes among fellowshipping Christians. (10) Old fashioned prayer meetings—which Dr. Bob’s son likened to “Old fashioned revival meetings.” (11) Seeking God’s guidance. (12) Obeying God’s will by walking in love and eliminating sinful conduct. (13) Optional attendance at a church of one’s own choice. (14) Vigorous outreach to still-suffering alcoholics to help them get straightened out in the same way. This outreach was done for no pay.

Is this the A.A. you know today? Is this the therapy you receive today? Is this what your treatment program teaches and embraces? Is this the message you carry to a newcomer you are trying to help?

It’s important to acknowledge that you can quit drinking without A.A. or a 12 Step fellowship. You can quit drinking with medical, psychological, religious, therapeutic, pharmacological, nutritional, mutual therapy help. You can. People do. They also quit as participants in present day A.A. and 12 Step fellowships; in Christian recovery programs; in Christian-track programs; in Salvation Army rehabs; in missions; in City Team facilities; in Teen Challenge; and in a host of other ways. To deny this is to deny factual evidence. The key is whether one wishes to trust God and go the old school A.A. way or some other way. It’s a matter of choice. But you don’t have a choice if you don’t know and are told that you shouldn’t know or pass the information along. You should know. You may apply it. And, if it works, you ought to pass it along to someone who has been unable to quit on his own, has been unable to receive help through any human power, and who is attracted by Dr. Bob’s assurance that: “Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!”

The outstanding fact is that there was a documented 75% to 93% success rate among seemingly hopeless, medically incurable real alcoholics who bent every effort to establish a relationship and fellowship with their Creator and His son Jesus Christ. That’s available today. Dr. Bob learned it in his youth, applied it when he really decided to quit drinking, and spent the rest of his life helping others to learn and apply it.

Gloria Deo

Anonymous said...

As a member of AA I really have no desire to have the courts anywhere recognise AA. There is more than one way to skin a rabbit!! If other methods work for people, cool! I would rather that than have a load of people sitting in an AA meeting seething with resentment just waiting to get their card signed for the court. Here in the UK, thank God, this 'chit system' as it is called over here, is mercifully rare.
I am not getting into the 'religion or not' debate. It's a pointless one, if you don't like it don't go as people have said, there are other places if they work for you - rock and roll!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing that! Here is what I think:

They are right. As much as I want to buy into the whole "spiritual not religious" thing, the fact is that people say the Lord's Prayer at meetings. Until the AA community does not allow that, then I think it's fair for people to choose not to go. Seems to me the guy was only suing because he was faced with "AA or Prison". I think the courts SHOULD be able to mandate recovery (and monitor attendance); but there ARE other programs out there for people that feel like that.

That said, unfortunately I think AA works precisely because of its spiritual nature. Well not unfortunately for us, but for them in the sense that people will miss out on it. But, if an addict or alcoholic is that vehement about not wanting to go there BUT is willing to go elsewhere, then let him, and God (as we understand Him/Her) be with them. It is their choice and the government should not force them into a SPECIFIC group. I personally think they have a better shot at recovery with AA, but it is what it is. People are stubborn and averse to the whole God issue. I think some of the blame lies with AA because in a way, they cannot regulate the groups' behavior at meetings (I know we have the Traditions but you know as well as I do that they get skewed). Until people stop talking about Jesus and saying the Lord's Prayer and ONLY use the term 'higher power' (and maybe have a serious statement at the beginning that the term "God" is open to interpretation, and specifically explain the meaning of 'as we understood him' instead of someone just breezing through it in the Chapter 5 reading), then folks will be averse. It is unfortunate but they'll either try elsewhere and succeed (and good for them) or fail, and then maybe they'll get sick and tired and try AA as a last hope. We're not going anywhere.

But government giving an ultimatum of AA or Prison is flat-out wrong.

Christin L.
San Diego, CA

Anonymous said...

I have been to 5 different AA groups and all of them end with the Lord's Prayer. The concept in AA of the higher power seems to be an afterthought. In the readings before the start of the meeting, the "How it Works" ends with a message to agnostics, and I am not giving a perfect quotation here, but it is read in every meeting I've been to (again, 5 different groups) there is only one who can save us from alcohol, that one is god, may you find him now. I've gone to meetings not held in churches hoping to avoid having the religious aspects of AA, but you can't because they are so tightly woven into the big book.

Anonymous said...

I am Buddhist and belong to AA, though attend sporadically anymore. (Honestly I get really tired of saying that little poem also. I find it to be just another example that in the U.S. we have freedom of religion so long as we're Christian.)

The thing I find funny about using the Lord's Prayer is that in one of the two places it appears in the bible (Sermon on the mount and Gospel of Luke), it can very easily be interpreted to be saying that Christians should not just go through the motions of getting on their knees and praying, but to actually pray- something that all of my past meditation teachers have told me about meditation (though there is no hope- apparently when it comes to sitting I am the most easily distracted person alive.)

Now I've attended a LOT of meetings over the years, and I know a LOT of the people in those meetings, and you can not convince me that most of them aren't doing the same thing I am when coerced into participating in that inherently christian passage- they are just quoting it verbatim, as they have memorized it.

So what is the point of that?

Anonymous said...

Wow this is a hot topic, I found this thread because I am in early recovery (96 Days) and am currently dissatisfied with my AA sponsor. I met a potential sponsor in NA and was googling the differences between the fellowships. I have a person close to me in a apparently newish fellowship of HA. What my issues with the recovery community have always been have been a basic issue of hypocrisy: after any AA/NA meeting almost everyone is smoking ciggarettes, during there is apundant coffee, and refined sugars is a program of abstinance abstinant if these are also mood altering substances, energy drinks, dip, where is the imaginary line in the sand, is inhaling a whipped cream can when it runs out ok since it's less harmful then ciggarettes? Why a christian prayer is used and direct Christian connotation of god (as opposed to say jewish connotation G-d, or simply higher conciousness, or allah etc...) is really bothersome, but less so then the idea of a program of almost abstinance from mood altering substances.
However, I have come to terms with this on my own, I notice the lords prayer is not used in NA meetings, it is substituted with the serenity prayer. I also realize that in recovery there are all kinds, and no one forces you to say the lords prayer, if you are asked to take a group out and object, say the serenity prayer instead. As for the hypocrisy I saw in the substances I was told, "first to pick up last to put down" which though it did not excuse it it made sense, especially since this thing appear to work for whatever reason. I have no idea what LSR is and so long as it is another free alternative (I spent all my money on heroin) I'd love to try that in tandem. Bring on any free accepting recovery group and I'll try em all! As addictions go they are acually benefical!
As for the original Thread, the idea of forcing someone into treatment seems ludicrous to me, I mean I like the reality TV programming of that stuff but I can't believe that forced recovery dosen't have a high recivdicism rate. I'm grateful to NA/AA/AnyA/All the TLA's (two or three letter acronyms) that helped myself, those who struggle and their families with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. Suffice to say, AA is not religious but has religious roots and connotations, NA too but fewer, and The steps...come on the god thing is just symantic debate like flag burning or true freedom of the press during wartime. If the steps work for you do them, if a psychologist helps get one, if a treatment program is offered and you have the means to pay for one do it...why exclude try to do recovery like you did drugs or drink, get as much of it as you can.


Anonymous said...

AA/NA may or may not be about religion .. but they do have religious content. I realize "your higher power" could be anything ... but that gives me no comfort.

I have difficulty with any form of religious reference. So, I find I'm more comfortable within the LifeRing format. Does that make it better than AA? No.

There seems to be an underlying argument between which is better, AA or LifeRing. I say both. I say, thank goodness there we now have choices! Whichever one works for the individual is, indeed, the better choice.

Anonymous said...

"this is a great topic, but i think that people need to realize that AA is not about religon because your higher power could be anything"

LOL Higher power? That's religious! You fool you make yourself sound like a idiot! When you begin in prayer and end in prayer adjoining hands in a circle chanting out to a "GOD". THAT IS RELIGIOUS YOU DUMBASS! I refuse to take part in such ritualistic activities!!! AA is a CULT RELIGION!! PERIOD! YOU CAN NOT REFUTE IT! IT IS FACT!

Unknown said...

AA isn't religious, but you would never know that from some of the meetings I've attended, or some of the comments of even long time members. AA attempts to get people to be open minded about everything, which is nearly impossible, since even though people might admit they have a drinking or drugging problem, very few nowadays are willing to admit there is anything wrong with their thinking. When the truth is that alcoholism is much more a thinking problem than it is a drinking or drugging problem. If my only problem was I couldn't stop drinking once I started, I really wouldn't have a problem. All I'd have to do is not pick up a drink. My problem, like virtually everyone who ends up in AA, is that I kept picking up a drink anyway. We keep convincing ourselves it will be different this time, despite the fact that it has never been different. The willingness to believe in God, to say "I guess it's possible", is simply being open minded about something, and that's a start. the willingness to believe is far more important than the belief itself. Belief is nothing, just an opinion. If believing in God was a solution, then there are probably thousands of alcoholic catholic priests, and others, out there who wouldn't have a problem. My own opinion is "if you don't believe in God, be willing to doubt everything you think you know and work the rest of the steps". And "if you do believe in God, be willing to doubt everything you think you know, and work the rest of the steps." The steps are about getting as honest as you can be with yourself about yourself, and getting as honest as you can be with other people, about yourself. Sobriety, serenity, forgiveness, unconditional love, acceptance, and spirituality (which is just unselfishness) are the inescapable, unavoidable byproducts of those two things. They are actually very seldom found in AA today, or at least the percentage of those who find them is far smaller than in the early days of AA. Only because people today seldom hit their own bottoms today, they hit the courts or someone else's botttom. In the early days people had tried over and over to quit themselves, and kept ending up in jails and prisons and hospitals. They were willing to say "I just don't trust what i think anymore, just tell me what to do and I'll do it". That is seldom the case today. New AA's today MIGHT be able to admit they have a drinking or drugging problem, but they're sure they don't need those "dumb steps",, or at least not to the degree the program wants them to work them. The result is a drop from 50 - 75% success rate, to a 2 or 3% success rate. And to be honest, all I have to do is look back honestly at myself to be able to understand that stubborn thinking!

Unknown said...

Aa is not going to change and the courts and schools either .nor will our constitution. I believe you are a bunch of retards with to much intellect. Stay sick keep hurting yourself and others and die from this disease. It's so sad and heart breaking to watch people like you still holding on to control and your way.good luck wish u the best.i will pray for you