From yesterday’s Washington Post, an article about the publication of the original, annotated Big Book entitled “AA Original Manuscript Reveals Profound Debate Over Religion.” We couldn’t have asked for a better advertisement for our recent publication Grace in Addiction: What The Church Can Learn From Alcoholics Anonymous, which picks up the topic and runs with it! (Speaking of Grace in Addiction, it’s available for 25% off until Sept 30th). A few excerpts from the article – avoid the metafiler comments if you know what’s good for you:
After being hidden away for nearly 70 years and then auctioned twice, the original manuscript by AA co-founder Bill Wilson is about to become public for the first time next week, complete with edits by Wilson-picked commenters that reveal a profound debate in 1939 about how overtly to talk about God. The group’s decision to use “higher power” and “God of your understanding” instead of “God” or “Jesus Christ” and to adopt a more inclusive tone was enormously important in making the deeply spiritual text accessible to the non-religious and non-Christian, AA historians and treatment experts say.
But the crossed-out phrases and scribbles make clear that the words easily could have read differently. And the edits embody a debate that continues today: How should the role of spirituality and religion be handled in addiction treatment? They also take readers back to an era when churches and society generally stigmatized alcohol addicts as immoral rather than ill. The AA movement’s reframing of addiction as having a physical component (the “doctor’s opinion” that opens the book calls it “a kind of allergy”) was revolutionary, experts say.
“We didn’t have any knowledge then about the brain. Today we know there is a neurological component, we know there are spiritual, psychological and environmental components,” said Joseph Califano, founder of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
Despite objections from some secularists, experts generally believe that “there is a significant spiritual component for the overwhelming majority of people” coming out of addiction to alcohol and drugs, Califano said. The question was – and is – in what way? The notes in the margins of the manuscript make clear there was disagreement, and even Wilson was torn.