Spirituality: All Inclusive, Never Exclusive
Ever since its original publishing, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous makes many references to God. At Discovery Place, a concerted effort is made to avoid placing restrictions on, or promotions toward, any particular form of spirituality; here, spirituality is always purely a matter of personal discernment and choice. Though most of our guests have been raised in some form of Christian environment, some have not.
Recently, a Moslem guest completed the thirty-day residential recovery program at Discovery Place, and never at any time did he proselytize or promote Islam as a part of his daily participation in our activities. More than likely, except for the guys in the kitchen, most of the other guests on campus would have never known the actual spiritual views of our Moslem friend. Often, we will have guests that will protest the use of the word "God" in our groups and prayers. Our Moslem friend never voiced a single complaint. Sure, concessions were made for our brother’s abstinence from pork, as well they should have been. At no time did our friend ask for special allowances concerning his participation in traditional Moslem prayers. In other words, he did his best to practice one of the most basic spiritual principles of Alcoholics Anonymous: total inclusion and absolutely no exclusion. In 1939, the word "spirituality" had a widespread connotation to it.
When people in this country heard of spirituality or religion, their natural instinct was to presume a definition along the lines of Christianity in one of its many forms. Today, we find no problem with that assumption; in fact, some of our guides, board members, staff and guests happen to be Christian. But what about the feelings of the thirty-something alcoholic who has been barraged with an overdose of grandiose Christianity? What about the man who has disdain for the very concept because as a child he had some form of religion crammed down his throat? What about the young men who come here who are Jewish, Moslem, Native American, Buddhist, or practitioners of another of the myriad forms of religion or spiritual practices this planet has to offer?
The good news is that, here at Discovery Place, no special accommodations need to be made for such inidividuals. We have no opinion concerning another’s opinion or conception of God, or if you wish, Higher Power. When the Oxford Group was formed, the basis of their program was definitely Christian. Calvinistic in its basic concepts, it naturally existed as an essentially Christian organization. In "Bill’s Story", his friend comes to him and announces “I’ve got religion!” Bill's reaction was less than enthusiastic. Bill Wilson had his own prejudices against the "Czar of the Universe". Then Eby T., a member of the Oxford Group at the time, introduced a concept that was actually out of order in his own group. He said to Bill, "Why don’t you come up with your own conception of God?" This was a declarative question that still confuses many today. How does one come up with a "concept of God" on one's own?
I can explain it in terms that I call "reducing it to the ridiculous". I have nine children. Each one has their own pet name they call me. I have a relationship with each child that is as uniquely different as the wonderful uniqueness of my children. All of them love me, but some need more comfort than the others, some are more independent than the others, some are difficult to deal with because of their own personalities, and still others are easygoing and laid back. To each of my children, I am Dad; however, each of them relates to me in their own unique way. Each of them views their father differently... even though I am, of course, the same man. Can we not parallel that with our own individual concepts of another father, or grandfather, or God?
In Alcoholics Anonymous, we have come to understand that regardless of what a man or woman comes to perceive as his/her "Higher Power", it's a good thing. Love and tolerance is our code, therefore we have come to know that even the smallest of a flicker, can be fanned into a flame by the working of all Twelve Steps. When we, as members of Alcoholics Anonymous or as staff, alumni, volunteers, or friends of Discovery Place meet a new guest, or another alumnus that was here long before us, can we honestly say that we endorse their conception of God with the same enthusiasm as we endorse our own? If love and tolerance is our code, then it has to extend beyond personal appearance, language, color, creed, and social status. Our tolerance must extend into the heart, mind, soul, and spirit of all we meet. Always inclusive, never exclusive. Simple but not easy; a price had to be paid.