Archive for Saturday, October 26, 2013

Faith Forum: Can religion cure addiction?

October 26, 2013


The Rev. David Rivers, senior pastor, First Christian Church, 1000 Kentucky St.:

Is addiction curable? For those of us who have struggled with the demon of addiction this is the fundamental question. Throughout the history of the Twelve Step programs, the reality of a cure has proven elusive. Instead, through a deep-rooted faith and a community of support, many have learned how to live one day at a time in the new reality of sobriety.

Interestingly, when one researches the history of this proven method of recovery, we find that the basis of the community and steps are deeply rooted in the Christian faith. Starting with the Oxford Group, the Steps were created out of the desire to have a vital spiritual awakening which leads one to wholeness and freedom. Once admitting to our powerlessness, the Steps guide us along a deeper spiritual journey.

Too often, religion teaches how to look the part of the faithful or how to sound spiritual while never changing the deep rooted issues of self. In fact, Jesus cautions us to not fall into a legalistic piety. He challenges us to not only clean the outside of the ‘cup’ or shell of a person, while maintaining the inside unchanged. Instead, we are invited to deal with our inner self in order that the outer self is a true reflection of the person.

A perplexing issue that most addicts face is that the graciousness and forgiveness of Jesus is not always reflected in the faith that bears His name. Religion often worries about the lesser issues of rules and judging others at the neglect of loving all people. Faith ought to lead us to healing in order for us to share healing with others. The success of the Twelve- Step program is based not on a cure, but on working the steps leading to acceptance and awakening while sharing our hope with others who struggle.

— Send email to David Rivers at

The Rev. Darrell Brazell, pastor, New Hope Fellowship, 1449 Kasold Drive:

Religion never cured anything, especially not addiction! That seems like a strange thing for a pastor to say. However, what I see in scripture, in 26 years of ministry, as well as 13 years of sobriety from my own addiction, is that religion damages the human heart and can be one of the most insidious of all addictions.

After all, it was the religious who turned the temple courts into a “den of thieves.” It was the religious who broke their own rules by having a trial by night to hand Jesus over to be killed. It was the religious who persecuted the early church. It was the religious who led the crusades and flew planes into the Two Towers. It is also the religious who told us we would never measure up which added to our need to use our addictions to medicate pain.

While religion is not the answer, a relationship with God is a critical ingredient in most recoveries. The twelve-step tradition points to a “Higher Power” and discovering, even in the middle of my mess, that my Heavenly Father was always “glad as glad can be to be with me” was life changing personally. The belief that there is something so wrong with me that I must do whatever is necessary to not face my pain drives most addictions, even socially acceptable ones like workaholism, escapism, etc. Religious expectations unfortunately often confirm that belief.

Jesus, however, meets us not with condemnation but with His amazing love. His last words on the cross were “It is finished,” which also means “Paid in full!” He meets everyone who turns to him in the middle of their mess with a grace that heals and shows us that what we truly need is him, not our addictions. He alone satisfies.

— Send email to Darrell Brazell at


Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 6 months ago

Rev. Darrell Brazell, you need to reread the Gospels. You stated "It was the religious who broke their own rules by having a trial by night to hand Jesus over to be killed."

If you read the Gospels carefully, you will learn that Jesus was judged by a Roman court and then killed by the Romans, and was certainly not judged by a Jewish court, nor executed by any Jews, who never used crucifixion as a method of execution. In fact, at the time Jesus was walking on the earth, the Jews almost never executed anyone, because the standards that had to be met for execution were so very high. Although I suppose you could say that the Romans were religious to their pagan gods, and they were the ones who had a trial by night. By the way, the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court, never met at night anyway, and only the Sanhedrin could met out the death penalty under Israeli law at that time.

New subject:
It is unfortunate that the term "addiction" as is commonly used today has two different meanings. One is when the illicit drug becomes necessary for the normal bodily functioning of an individual, and the other is when a person become emotionally dependent on an illicit drug to overcome daily problems.

I believe that in both cases religious faith can be very helpful as a source of strength to overcome the bodily cravings of the first type, and in the second type religious faith would certainly be used in the same way.

Of course, the best thing is to never start, because addictions are terribly difficult to overcome. My personal belief is that if a person can reach a Higher Power for help, it will certainly be given.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 6 months ago

I think that many religious cults form and last because of the individual member's desire to be part of something greater than themselves. Of course, that desire to be part of something greater than oneself also applies to inclusion in many groupings of other types, such a nationality, tribal identity, the military, and club memberships of various types. That desire to be part of something greater than oneself is a perfectly normal human trait, and is probably an evolutionary result of tribal groupings ensuring survival.

Unfortunately, many religious cult members certainly did not use their critical thinking abilities, if they had any, before selecting which cult to join, be brainwashed into membership of, or acceptance of the cult's belief system.

I am positively sure that no religion on earth describes the complete truth, instead only facets of it are presented that different cultures can accept. The total reality is far too complex for us to ever begin to understand it. For instance, what is and where is dark matter and dark energy? Physicists and astronomers now know that atoms and molecules compose only 4% to 6% of all that exists. Only about 15 years ago, it was believed that everything was composed of atoms and molecules, now we know that is just plain wrong. The rest of everything is lumped together under the general terms of dark matter and dark energy, and no one has any idea of where exactly it is other than it is right in front of us, nor has any idea of what exactly it is. I have my own ideas on that subject, and described them completely in a short story that I wrote in 1996 - 1997, before the existence of dark matter and dark energy was commonly accepted by the scientific community. It took me almost two years to write that ten page story.

The truth is that we have only glimmers of ideas of what all surrounds us, and what is astounding is that some people sincerely believe that they know almost everything. That reminds me of a young man I know that can't be told or informed of anything at all, because he believes he already knows everything he needs to know, yet he is one of the stupidest people that I am acquainted with, and his life history is certainly proof of that.

John Graham 4 years, 6 months ago

First of all an addict is never "cured". Addicts learn how to control their addiction. One cures an appendicitis by removing the appendix. That individual will never again have an appendicitis. An addict while sober can always return to being an addict. While twelve step programs can help some addicts control their addiction, twelve step programs have been shown to be no more effective than going "cold turkey". This is not to say twelve step programs don't have a role in addressing addiction but it is far from the only way to successfully address addiction. The most successful methods (twelve step programs included) all have a low success rate when viewed from a single attempt of maintaining sobriety. Addicts serious about sobriety will typically need to make multiple attempts to succeed. An individual may find twelve step programs effective while others may do better with a cold turkey approach or another approach that has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. What does happen in some cases is the addict switches their addiction from alcohol, drugs, gambliing etc to being addicted to their treatment program such as attending multiple daily AA programs. While becoming addicted to a treatment program (whatever it may be) can in some cases cause problems in an individual's personal or professional life, those problems are typically less of an issue than the drugs, alcohol or gambling etc caused. So yes religion can help some addicts but no more so than non religious treatment options. What is important is to find the one best for the addict. No one suit fits every man.

Darrell Brazell 4 years, 5 months ago

Actually Ron, if you read the gospel narratives, it was the "Chief priests and the temple guard" who arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemene. They then took him to the home of the high priest where they stalled for time while the Sanhedrian assembled. They then had a trial before the Sanhedrian which was the court of 70 elders. This is the trial by night to which I refer. They also broke their own law in that they didn't convict him as "worthy of death" because of the testimony of two or three witnesses but because of his own statement about them "Seeing the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven." Why were they willing to break their own laws? Because Jesus was challenging the status quo. He was turning the apple cart of their religious abuses upside down for all to see. Yes, the Romans carried out the execution but it was because the religious leaders changed the charge from "blaspheme" for which they convicted him in the trial before the Sanhedrian to the charge that he claimed to be king and opposed paying taxes to Caesar. They in essence trapped Pilate who the accounts seem to show wanted to release Jesus but was afraid of what would happen to him if word got back to Rome that he had allowed a man who claimed to be king to go free. Blessings!

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