Redemption, Resurrection, and the 12 Steps of AA

Recently my wife and I had dinner with two friends whose family was very active in the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  I commented how much I enjoyed living in Jackson, Mississippi years ago because there was such a spirit toward racial reconciliation that is not present in many other locations I have lived.  Indeed, as our friend noted, the newly opened Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is the only such institution sponsored, supported, and operated by an individual state in North America.  He then commented with something like the ‘Redemption is commensurate to the degree of the sin.’  In this way, Mississippi, and the rest of the U.S. in my opinion, sin(ned) greatly and are in need of substantive redemption and resurrection.  I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Richard Rohr:

Death is not just physical dying, but going to full depth, hitting the bottom, going the distance, beyond where I am in control, fully beyond where I am now . . . When you go into the depth and death, sometimes even the depths of your sin, you come out the other side – and the word for that is resurrection.

Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond pp. xx-xxi, Josey-Bass

I have long equated my sobriety as going to that depth of death with the opportunity for coming out the other side in resurrection.  Compare the general content of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous with Rohr’s Twelve Ways to Practice Resurrection Now:


Twelve Ways to Practice Resurrection Now

1. Refuse to identify with negative, blaming, antagonistic, or fearful thoughts (you cannot stop “having” them).

2. Apologize when you hurt another person or situation.

3. Undo your mistakes by some positive action toward the offended person or situation.

4. Do not indulge or believe your False Self – that which is concocted by your mind and society’s expectations.

5. Choose your True Self – your radical union with God – as often as possible throughout the day.

6. Always seek to change yourself before trying to change others.

7. Choose as much as possible to serve rather than be served.

8. Whenever possible, seek the common good over your mere private good.

9. Give preference to those in pain, excluded, or disabled in any way.

10. Seek just systems and policies over mere charity.

11. Make sure your medium is the same as you message.

12. Never doubt that it is all about love in the end.

Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond, pp. 211-212, Josey-Bass

This past December I had the opportunity to hear Richard Rohr speak.  During a book signing session, I spoke to him briefly.  I commented how my experience as a recovering alcoholic paralleled so much of what he discussed in his presentations.  He noted that recovering alcoholics by virtue of their resurrection are folks who are often better able to understand the spiritual development toward true self.  I certainly agree and find that journey one of the true blessings of recovery for which I am grateful.

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