Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: big book, god stuff, sponsorship, twelve step practice
“The Twelve Steps are a design to change you. They also bring you every Step closer to God.”
HISTORY AND CONTEXT
Alcoholics Anonymous, which earned the moniker “the Big Book” due to the unwieldy size of its first edition, was not used as a guide to recovery from alcoholism until some years after its publication in Cleveland, where a member of the fellowship named Clarence S. began using the book as a way of educating newcomers. In Cleveland, meetings of this now growing fellowship were the first to call themselves Alcoholics Anonymous. Clarence S. and the AA members in Cleveland modeled a style of one-on-one sponsorship in which a member of the fellowship experienced in the Twelve Step program would take a “pigeon,” or newcomer, under his wing, help him adjust to sobriety, and coach him through the Twelve Steps. This meant that the sponsor and newcomer would meet and work their way through the Big Book together, page by page. “Big Book sponsorship” was a style of AA unique to Cleveland at that time, and has since become a vocal minority movement within the fellowship.
Much has been made of the religious language that is sprinkled throughout Alcoholics Anonymous, commonly called “The Big Book.” Some conservatives cite this language as evidence that the Twelve Step program is really a Christian program that cannot be fully effective without an active faith in Christ. Others see this same language simply as a product of its time that does not play an important role in Twelve Step spirituality. Still others are threatened by the religious language of the Big Book and disregard the book as a whole because they feel it is aggressively religious.
It is common knowledge that AA (and therefore the entire Twelve Step movement) had its birth within and evangelical Christian movement known as the Oxford Group. AA separated itself from the Oxford Group prior to the publication of the Big Book. The Big Book contains some religious language, but only mentions Jesus once, and then only in passing. This has left historians and AA members divided over some important questions. Just how Christian was early AA? Who is the God of the Big Book? Is this the Christian God, or can we really take this to mean a God of our own understanding? Continue reading