Once a theist and deacon, he sets out on a spiritual journey with his home group to discover if the Lord’s Prayer truly serves all its members
By Christopher S.
Santa Rosa, California
Copyright © AA Grapevine (October, 2017)
On October 21, I am celebrating 19 years of continuous sobriety thanks to better choices and the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. The road was a bumpy but awesome journey as I’m also a healthy and vibrant 66-year-old man.
I began my AA journey as a Christian-God-believing theist both praying to and meditating over this version of a Higher Power. Bill W. and the majority of the “First 100” through the Big Book and Twelve and Twelve certainly support this view. The Lord’s Prayer, though not prescribed in AA principles, became a common meeting-ending prayer from the very beginning. But my journey made a radical change in 2011. Without first realizing it, my “Happy Destiny” led me on the path to atheism.
2011 was the year that I became a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church.
For the first time in my life – it seems – I read the Bible and the catechism with a critical eye. The God Yahweh (Jehovah) became to me an intolerant, demanding, cruel, misogynistic, narcissistic, jealous, and vengeful deity. The Biblical stories no longer made sense and Jesus, the incarnated God, with his message of love and compassion, also preached war between loved ones and the inerrancy of the Old Testament teachings.
I no longer believed. With this new outlook I left my music ministry and the Church. But I did not leave my lifesaving AA fellowship.
I just had to find a new way to define Higher Power. Since I now believe in a humanist view of the world, the here and now is of paramount importance. Carrying the message and serving my fellows both in the program and in the world are essential to me. So what about the Lord’s Prayer that was chanted in my home group every Thursday night?
A few years earlier our local intergroup business meeting made a controversial decision to replace the Lord’s Prayer with the Responsibility Declaration at meeting’s end. Being an Intergroup rep and a theist at the time, I vehemently opposed the action wondering who could possibly be offended by this hallowed tradition? When the motion was passed and Responsibility Declaration chanted I fumed, but eventually accepted it.
But after my de-conversion from Christianity and theism, I learned how exclusive the Lord’s Prayer actually is to the non-believer, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, and even polytheist. I learned empathy and humility – if only a bare beginning. So I decided to introduce a discussion of the Intergroup change to my home group’s business meeting. Being a 16-year member of this group, I had earned some respect because of the service I had given to the Fellowship over the years. My fellow AA’s listened to my explanation of how the Lord’s Prayer excludes so many members as well as to prospective newcomers.
I shared that the prayer was a direct quote of Jesus Christ in both the gospels of Mathew and Luke in the New Testament and it speaks to the God Yahweh (Jehovah) as Jesus petitions him for guidance and protection both on this earth and in Heaven. I further asked the group how this prayer tells the newcomer that the Fellowship is non-religious and inclusive to all and accepting to all of no beliefs?
After six months of discussion we finally came to a vote on a motion to replace the Lord’s Prayer with the Responsibility Declaration. The most influential opinion from one of our respected long-time members and admitted born-again Christians, who was initially dead against the motion, but changed her mind because she wanted the message of inclusiveness to the newcomer to prevail. The motion was carried overwhelmingly.
Unfortunately, we did lose a few members over this change. But the group held its ground and has happily worked this new ending into our closing. I now call my Higher Power “love.” It is the group conscience which has helped me stay sober, alive, and happy these almost 19 years.