Archive for May 2009

First Baptist Church in Melrose, MA draws Alcoholics Anonymous into Public Controversy

I thought that this story was interesting. Three licenses to sell wine and beer were granted to high-end shops in the neighborhood of the First Baptist Church in Melrose. If you follow the links to the stores’ websites, you’ll see that they’re all gourmet specialty shops, where people can go to get their fine wines or arts-n-crafts beers, along with gifts and yummy foody things.

Wont someone please think of the children!

Won't someone please think of the children!

The church and its members put up a fight, arguing that the fact that they host both a childcare center and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, makes the proximity of these shops grossly inappropriate. Of course, the argument is as ridiculous as saying that grocery stores should not carry alcohol because children and AA members shop there.  And it’s quite unlikely that granting these licenses will attract a certain element to the neighborhood. I can’t remember seeing anyone sprawled out unconscious with a bottle of chateauneuf de pape in a paper bag out front the local gourmet grocery. These licenses make sense for these businesses.

But, getting back to the church’s using Alcoholics Anonymous as an argument:

Greg Staples, husband of First Baptist’s minister, Rev. Damaris Cami-Staples, and a First Baptist parishioner, stated his concern about how the Lambs’ and Beraldis’ would handle operating a store selling wine and beer in close proximity to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and the Chime Time Children’s Center. Both Gene and Rebecca Beraldi said they have family members and friends who have struggled with substance addictions and are sensitive to the needs of those attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

This seems to go against Alcoholics Anonymous in a couple of ways. The first, most obvious, is that AA does not engage in public controversy such as this — and if there ever was a public controversy, this is it. Second, Alcoholics Anonymous promotes “living life on life’s terms,” which means that members are expected to learn to handle the obstacles they face. If someone is offering free booze on the sidewalk out your front door, and you think that’s going to be a temptation for you, you adjust your behavior; you don’t try to adjust anyone else’s. Go out the back door. Or learn to walk by withouth having a conniption fit. The fact that local AA members, or the ones who meet in the church, have not spoken out about this is true to the letter of their traditions.

But, I also think that this is one of those instances in which people are staying true to the letter of the law, while disregarding the spirit of the law. I don’t believe it’s overly fussy of me to expect that — in the spirit of the traditions — the members would request that the church where they meet desist from using them in this manner, even if it meant that they would be at odds with their host. Either that, or offer a statement saying that, while they appreciate the support and concern of the church, they do not hold a position one way or the other in this public debate.

Not doing either of these things is a sin of omission — they are exploiting a loophole in their traditions, and allowing themselves to be drawn into the debate, using the church as proxy.

Another interesting element to this story is that Alcoholics Anonymous (like churches) take all comers. No one is screened at either door — there are no background checks done (I’m not saying there should be). And both churches and AA are known for embracing every sinner, every broken and lost person that shows up. Not only that, but AA accepts court-ordered offenders — violent offenders, people who are not ready to quit drinking, who don’t want to be there. There are a lot of people in AA who are still drinking.

So, while the church is beating its breast and imploring everyone to think of the children, they are allowing active alcoholics and violent offenders through their very doors. They want to deny someone from choosing a bottle of schmancy wine to go with their schmancy cheese, in the interest of protecting the babies, while they open the doors, where they keep the kids, to criminals.

What on earth is really going on here?

You have a big fat problem. And we just happen to have the answer!

Imagine that!

Dr. Dave and Bill have another article up today.

The Serenity Prayer

This review of The Serenity Prayer in the Boston Globe is a few years old, and probably many readers are aware of the fact that The Serenity Prayer, as we learned it, is not the original version — and in fact, the version we know diminishes its author, Rheinhold Niebuhr’s philosophy and sentiments:

At some point the prayer was simplified. Printed on Hallmark cards. Displayed in plaques with praying hands by Albrecht Durer on countless walls. On bookmarks and keychains and coffee mugs. (Sifton asks, “And ash trays?”) One is astounded to hear it even in the background of a number called “Gotta Make it to Heaven” by the rap artist 50 Cent. (There cannot be many professors of Christian ethics who have achieved a reach like that!)

But such simple reachings after feel-good serenity obscure Niebuhr’s deeper legacy — his profound, simultaneous indictment of self-righteousness, complacency, and despair.


As for his famous prayer, the irony is that the version that has achieved mass distribution is really rather un-Niebuhrian. He was less concerned with individual healing than with political responsibility, and was critical of the pious individualism and sentimentality that marred much of religion in America.

As Sifton points out, the prayer as Niebuhr wrote it was communal. He wrote, “God, Grant us,” not “me.” Moreover, AA’s altered version refers merely to the things one “can” change, rather than the things one “should” change. This reduces the prayer strictly to an individual supplication, dependent on one’s own limited abilities. The AA version also eliminates praying for “grace” and strikes straight for that soothing word “serenity,” which in truth could almost have been dropped from the original version without much loss.

The review gives a very good overview of the theologian’s life, and worth a read if you are unfamiliar with him. And here is the original version of the prayer:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

Sound Familiar?

Winter brings in the funny this morning, by tipping us off to this Onion piece:

Oh, No! It’s Making Well-Reasoned Arguments Backed With Facts! Run!

I…I think it’s finally over. Our reactionary emotional response seems to have stopped it dead in its tracks. If I’m right, all we have to do now is smugly reiterate our half-formed thesis and—oh, no! For the love of God, no! It’s thoughtfully mulling things over!

Run! Run! It’s making reasonable, fact-based arguments!

Quickly! Hide behind self-righteousness! The ad hominem rejoinders—ready the ad hominem rejoinders! Watch out! Dodge the issue at hand! Question its character and keep moving haphazardly from one flawed point to the next!

All together now! Put every bit of secondhand conjecture into it you’ve got!

Goddamn it, nothing’s working! It’s trapped us in our own unsubstantiated claims! We need to switch fundamentally unsound tactics. Hurry, throw up the straw man! Look, I think it’s going for it. C’mon…c’mon…yes, it’s going for it! Now hit it with the thing that one guy told us once while it’s distracted by our ludicrous rationalizations!

Read the rest.

I Can't Help Myself

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t share this quote that “stevesien” left over in the Caledonia Courier “Were You Conned?”  comments section. The sheer, sparkling lunacy of it all just makes all weepy:

“Two hundred years from now, the 20th century won’t be remembered for penicillin or landing on the moon, but for the 12 Steps,” says Graeme Cunningham, director of addiction with Homewood Health Centre in Guelph and associate professor of psychiatry at Hamilton’s McMaster University.


I found this letter to the editor posted on The Durango Herald, and was going to give it the old “Balls!” treatment, but after reading it over a few times, I found that I couldn’t. It appears to have been written by someone who has experienced a lifetime of incredible despair, and who ultimately found some peace by attending a 12-step program. Further, his problems seem to stem from a bleak and relentless depression (among other psychiatric complications?), and addiction as well. 

While I consider individual members of AA and other 12-Step advocates to be fair game — because, even though they insist that they don’t speak for AA, they do. They are the only ones who do. They’re the face of AA. As I’ve said, they’re the front line. These are the 12-steppers, the sponsors, the ones telling each other how it’s done. And Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t exist as an accountable entity; it has deliberately placed that onus on the shoulders of its members. So they’re the ones I address. As far as I’m concerned, they don’t get to hide under GSO’s or AAWS’s skirts, because GSO and AAWS have hiked their skirts up and run away screaming toward the horizon with their asses on fire. Continue reading feh

The Cat's Away

I just wanted to let everyone know that MA is on vacation until next week. So, for your entertainment, Speedy and I will be performing Blog Kabuki and holding a staring contest.

Um.. Oh, hey! Wanna see something funny?


(I’m in love with their mothers day video.)

My Short AA Experience

My Short AA Experience

by Samuel Ross 

I’m twenty-five years old and I have been an alcoholic and a drug addict for about five years.  I say I have been rather than I am because I do not believe these addictions are a disease that anyone must live with for the entirety of their life, regardless of what Alcoholics Anonymous indoctrinates its followers with.  When I felt I had hit bottom about five weeks ago my initial plan of action for my recovery was to join the local AA group.  I did this with the most positive and open-minded intentions I could have had.

I made it very clear at the first meeting I attended that I was an agnostic would not do the God thing and I was told by other members not to worry about it and that the God thing is not necessary.  All that was required was that I had a desire to stop drinking.  I continued to attend twice a week, which is the amount of meetings held in this town each week, for about one month.  I was told by other members that my progress was going great and that I was doing the right things in my life.  I just felt I was living my life without my addictions and I was happy because I was doing more productive things and feeling great.  I was enjoying learning a new way of living my life. Continue reading My Short AA Experience

Wait… What?

Did I slip through some kind of an interdimensional google wormhole? I found an article, in a mainstream news source (The Caledonia Courrier, in BC), titled “Were You Conned?” in which the word “con” refers to AA.

Go give them some love.

Here’s a little excerpt:

The perception and the hype surrounding these twelve step programs give everyone the impression that these programs are the only way to become clean and sober. The 12 Step modalities are laden with caveats which often take one down the path of misunderstanding. Traditional recovery insists on labeling one’s self. (ie: “My name is….. and I am an addict/alcoholic, etc.). This can be self-defeating. Labels can hurt. Rene Descartes once said; “it is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it.”

When we label ourselves we deny our right to use our minds constructively.

Right on!

The First Step

I have been hearing this all my life: “The first step to admit you have a problem.” It’s so common that it’s become a cliche. Where did this misconception come from? What else could it be refering to but a “step” program? There’s a world of difference between admitting you have a problem and admitting that you’re powerless over that problem. I’ve been curious about this for a while, but it just doesn’t seem worth doing a post about. Certainly using the “Admit you have a problem” version is much more palatable…

Just wondering about it. Anyone know?