Having been reared in a community of WASPs, all of whom collectively and exclusively claimed the inside scoop on God and Jesus, you can only imagine my skepticism at my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where God was not his God or her God or the church’s God but God as “I UNDERSTOOD GOD”. My opinion mattered and my interpretation was valid.
“God can be the chair, the table, the AA handbook”, they told me. “Or God can be the AA group. Just accept that there is a power greater than you, a Higher Power.” I understood that concept because I knew that alcohol had been a greater power than me for many years.
It was within this realm of AA compassion and love that I finally, at age 34 years, discovered a God who was very much unlike the condemning, judgmental entity of my childhood. Of course I slipped several times back into the theology and philosophy of the Bible thumpers whom I had disengaged upon sobriety. I finally realized that what appealed to me about their “ways” was the black or white in all situations. There was no need for personal discernment because the infallible, inerrant, word of God was the only right path and straying from it was the best way to get to hell. It’s a scare tactic we would expect of cult groups, not mainline Christianity.
What these godly folks did not understand was that most of my adult life had already been spent in the hell of addiction. Their scenario of hell paled compared to what I had endured in 17 years of alcoholism. After several years of continued sobriety, I finally trusted in the success of Alcoholics Anonymous and their “God as I understand God” and in my own ability to navigate the perils of religious fundamentalism and intolerance.
The only requirement for AA membership was a desire to stop drinking. That was a no-brainer. But the fellowship of drunks from all walks of life and all religious backgrounds who were able to sit around a communal table and respectfully accept each other as brother and sister went beyond anything I had learned in my WASP church experiences. The Bible and its strict adherents somehow missed that element of faith. Throughout all the years of preaching and admonishing from the pulpits of my youth, compassion was amiss and condemnation was the keyword.
It is, therefore, with ruffled feather that I read about theology and religion that has self-appointed itself as the inerrant interpreter of God and, in Christianity, of Jesus of Nazareth. Numerous messengers have been sent of which Jesus was just one. Until the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faithful accept that the only true God whom they proclaim is also a universal Being who is inclusive of all humanity and all faiths, the eternity of the Kingdom will be just another illusion plotted by religionists to gain power, prestige, and wealth.