What the Church Gave Alcoholics Anonymous and What It Should Offer Again

John Stonestreet, Radio Host and Director of the Colson Center

National Public Radio’s This American Life aired Tina Dupuy’s story recently. Tina had a difficult home life and was prone to acting out as a kid. Her parents eventually sent her to a group home. At 13, she went to her first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. What she heard resonated. People spoke about not being able to control their own bad behavior; about feeling rejected by family and repeatedly getting into legal trouble. By 13, Tina had tried alcohol a few times. But it was in the philosophy — the worldview — of AA that she really saw herself.

And for two decades, she (to use AA’s lingo) “hung in.” For 20 years in AA, Tina learned how to stop pitying herself and to take responsibility. She attended meetings and shared her gritty story openly. But once she was firmly settled in her thirties, with a husband and a steady job, Tina started questioning whether she was actually an alcoholic. So she tried a drink and nothing happened. Now, she says, she’s been drinking occasionally for years, with no addiction.

So what was it about AA that held so much sway over Tina, and for so long? What does her story reveal about what humans need to get along in the world?

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by Christians in the 1930s. The modern-day organization has distanced itself from those religious roots, but traces remain.

Everyone’s familiar, for example, with AA’s insistence that adherents surrender to a “Higher Power.” The official line today is that this Higher Power can be whatever we want it to be. That the practice remains, especially in our cultural moment, is a sign that AA knows that belief in God has a uniquely powerful and motivating influence on our minds and behaviors.

AA also requires each member to have a sponsor, someone else who is actively recovering from addiction. Apparently, humans benefit from a mentor who is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses.”  

AA also teaches members that they need community and accountability, because bad habits thrive in isolation. Tina Dupuy told NPR that what first drew her in was everyone’s nearly obsessive insistence that she “keep coming back.” AA teaches that forgiveness and personal responsibility are paramount. That human beings are capable of terrible behavior even if we don’t mean to be.  In fact, AA has a name for the addict’s real disease: “self-will run riot.” 

Christians have a name for that too: sin. We also know it’s an affliction not exclusive to those struggling with substance addiction. 

Alcoholics Anonymous may have stopped outwardly acknowledging the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but His natural laws are woven into every fiber of the organizations’ success stories. That’s fine — the Church is happy to share her playbook. Still, going through the motions without knowing the how and the what for, which are by God’s grace and for His glory is a terrible waste and a tragic case of settling for less.

And even if AA inches right up to the Truth without making the final leap, the group has strengths that many churches might count as weaknesses in their own communities. 

Tina Dupuy’s experience with AA was of a group of people obsessively in each other’s business. That culture of unconditional intimacy should exist in more churches.

Church isn’t a place to hang out with friends we’ve carefully chosen based on superficial similarities like cultural tastes, or even age. Church is a place of confession and forgiveness as much as it is for the mild, pleasant feelings we mean to evoke with the word “fellowship.” Jesus doesn’t call us to love the social outcast because social outcasts are all really wonderful people the world has judged wrongly, though that happens a lot. He calls us to love outcasts because He loves them and knows they need community and brotherly love in order to run the race with endurance. Just like we do. 

If that kind of intimacy isn’t happening spontaneously in our churches, maybe we should work to create it. AA does. Unconditional intimacy is the natural outgrowth of groups whose members don’t have to be convinced they’re unlovable sometimes, or often. When people walk into an AA meeting, they know they have a problem. That’s why they’re free to be so patient with everyone else. Church can and should be like that, too.

Copyright 2021 by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Reprinted from BreakPoint.org with permission.

Washington County Passes Pro-Life Resolution

On Thursday the Washington County Quorum Court overwhelmingly passed a resolution to declare that the county is Pro-Life.

The resolution reads,

WHEREAS, we affirm that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; and,

WHEREAS, we affirm our belief that God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them, Genesis 1:27; and,

WHEREAS, Amendment 68 to the Constitution of the State of Arkansas makes clear that we are to protect the life of every unborn child from conception until birth, to the extent permitted by the Federal Government; and,

WHEREAS, it is the duty of governments, such as ours, to protect this unalienable right to life of every person within our jurisdiction.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE QUORUM COURT OF WASHINGTON COUNTY, ARKANSAS, that Washington County, Arkansas, declares itself to be a Pro Life County, committed to the protection of all lives, including the lives of the unborn.

The resolution passed by a vote of 10-4.

This resolution sends a powerful message about where Washington County stands on abortion.

Planned Parenthood operated an abortion facility in Washington County for many years, but the facility closed in 2019 after the group’s landlord reportedly chose not to renew their lease. The fact that Washington County’s elected leaders passed this pro-life resolution shows that they want to protect the lives of unborn children in their community.

Any city, town, or county in Arkansas can pass a pro-life resolution like the one Washington County passed. In 2019 the City of Springdale passed a good, pro-life resolution.

Public opinion polling shows Arkansans are overwhelmingly pro-life. We hope other communities will do what Springdale and Washington County have done by passing their own pro-life resolutions soon.

Arkansas Joins Amicus Brief Supporting Pro-Life Law in South Carolina

On Tuesday the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office joined nineteen other state attorneys general in an amicus brief supporting a pro-life law in South Carolina.

The amicus brief was filed with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. It supports the State of South Carolina in a federal lawsuit over the state’s pro-life fetal heartbeat law.

South Carolina’s law requires abortionists to perform an ultrasound before an abortion. It prohibits abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected. The law also contains exceptions for cases of rape, incest, medical emergency, or fetal abnormality.

Planned Parenthood and others challenged South Carolina’s law in court.

In response, the amicus brief that Arkansas and others joined notes that 24 states require an abortionist to offer to display an ultrasound image to the pregnant mother before performing the abortion, and 16 states have enacted laws requiring abortionists to let her hear the unborn baby’s heartbeat.

It’s worth pointing out that earlier this year the Arkansas Legislature passed Act 498 requiring an abortionist to show an ultrasound image of the unborn baby to the pregnant woman before an abortion. The law also requires the abortionist to explain the ultrasound images to the pregnant woman, and it contains exceptions for abortions performed due to medical emergencies.

Research indicates that some women are less likely to have an abortion once they see an ultrasound image of their unborn child — meaning these types of laws can save lives.

All told, 20 states signed the amicus brief supporting South Carolina’s pro-life law, including:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arkansas
  4. Georgia
  5. Idaho
  6. Indiana
  7. Kansas
  8. Kentucky
  9. Louisiana
  10. Mississippi
  11. Missouri
  12. Montana
  13. Nebraska,
  14. North Dakota
  15. Ohio
  16. Oklahoma
  17. Tennessee
  18. Texas
  19. Utah
  20. West Virginia

You can read the amicus brief here.