Just READ the book!

Recently a staff member of mine got very frustrated with a conversation I was having with another staff member about Christian denominations.  He said “Why does it matter what denomination people are!”  My response was “If I know a churches denomination; I can figure out what lenses they use to interpret scripture.”  My friend was not satisfied with my answer and forcefully said “Why don’t Christians just read the book, it is that simple.”  Oh if only….

My frustrated friend is a very strong believer in Alcoholics Anonymous and will tell you that it is in AA that his life was saved, quite literally.  It is in AA groups where individuals read from the AA “big book” that he found the support he needed to connect to a loving God and to reorder and reorient his life toward God.  It is in AA, not the church, where he found the healing he needed.  When I asked my friend what would happen if someone read out of the big book and interpreted something differently than another member of the group.  He said “Well of course people all read things differently, so what.  The problem with churches is that they have concentrated so much power and authority at the top.  You should just read the book!” 

I remember thinking my friend was overly idealistic.  The Church could never be that simple.  But then I read this post by Richard Rohr in his daily reflections this week.

“The spirituality behind the Twelve Steps is a “low Church” approach to evangelization and healing that is probably our only hope in a suffering world of six-and-a-half billion people. Do we really need to verify belief in atonement doctrines and the Immaculate Conception when most of God’s physical, animal and human world is on the verge of mass suicide and extinction?Our suffering is psychological, relational and addictive: the suffering of people who are comfortable on the outside but oppressed and empty within. It is a crisis of meaninglessness and the false self, which had tried to find meaning in possessions, prestige and power. It doesn’t work. So we turn to ingesting and buying to fill our empty souls.

The Twelve Steps walk us back out of our addictive society. Like all steps toward truth, they lead downward.

Bill Wilson and his A.A. movement have shown us that the real power is when we no longer seek, need or abuse power. Real power is not at the top but at the bottom. Those who admit they are powerless have the only power that matters in the world or in the Church. Saint Bill W., pray for us.”

from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 315, day 327

(Source: Radical Grace, “The Twelve Steps:
An Amazing Gift of the Spirit”)



Perhaps my friend is onto something.  What if as the church we just got together, read the book, tried to live what it says, and focused on our own recovery instead of pointing fingers and worrying about our neighbors “salvation” and wasting time looking for the “right” answers.  My friend’s vision of the church reminds me of the early church described in Acts 2:42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  Maybe it really was supposed to be that simple!

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