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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.