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ARE THE 12 STEPS SECULAR?
by David Bender
09/15/09
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ARE THE 12 STEPS SECULAR?

Christians often refer to the 12 Step program as “secular” as opposed to the religious recovery programs like Celebrate Recovery or The Most Excellent Way, that have sprung up to copy the success of the original 12 step program. I am reminded of when the Pharisees said Jesus cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub. Christ “said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” Matt 12:25-26 NKJV. If the 12 step program is actually secular, then it appears the devil has created a program to help sinners escape the power of addiction.

Maybe the devil has a heart after all, why else would he help addicts get free of his control? On the other hand, it takes a lot of faith in alcoholics to think two drunks got together in Akron, Ohio in 1935 and started a program which freed millions of addicts the world over by their own brilliance. They must have been drinking some special kind of brew! Personally, I see God’s finger prints all over the development of the 12 step program, otherwise Satan is fighting himself. The same God who used fishermen to change world history 2000 years ago used drunks in our day so the glory has to go to Him, not the human agents. Regular 12 step attendees freely give the glory to their Higher Power, but Christians seem too narrow minded to think God has sheep in other pastures or works in ways they can’t comprehend. AA’s Big Book and the 12 Traditions of Al-Anon are more spiritual than 95% of anything printed in the “religious” press. I personally think the Almighty was tired of “believers” arguing over senseless doctrines. So maybe God said, I’ll show you I can transform lives without any of your useless dogma. All it takes is surrender, accountability and honesty (on a much higher level than what’s normally seen in churches or denominations). The 12 step program is copied because it works if you work it, period. Lives are transformed. It has been adapted and works on all types of addictions and dependencies. By the way, I wonder who has brought more hope to the world in the last 70 years - lukewarm Western Christianity or the 12 Step Program that has liberated millions and taught them to trust God? The devil has a heart, I think not.

God has a heart and if His so-called followers won’t help the lost and perishing, He will use other methods to save the hopeless. God uses the term “Higher Power” because many addicts have had bad experiences with “Christians” who take His name in vain, claiming to represent Him when they don’t have His heart or know anything about Him. So these addicts have to start with the “milk” of the “good news” as they learn to trust and obey. I have been a twenty year 12 step attendee in numerous states, and I have never met a long-time, regular 12 step attendee who thought their Higher Power was anyone but God. And their lives have been transformed far more in 5 years of regular, sincere attendance at 12 step meetings, than in 5 years of regular, sincere attendance at any church/ denomination that wasn’t Spirit directed. There is something about taking a spiritual inventory, finding the courage to change the things you can and learning the primary person you are responsible for is yourself. Churches and denominations have a lot they could learn, if they had the courage to change the things they could! Can you imagine a denomination spiritual enough to be operated by the 12 Traditions of Al-Anon? That’s probably too much to ask for until a few more decades. Thankfully, some Christians are catching on…

Some Christians will object that the 12 steps don’t have Jesus’ name in them. That’s true, but Christ Himself said the primary requirement to see the kingdom of God was to be “born from above,” not to parrot His name. Jesus said people might cast out demons “in His name,” yet be denied entrance to heaven. So which do you think is more important, using Jesus’ name or being transformed by Jesus’ power? If God can raise up children to Abraham from the rocks in the desert, He probably has numerous ways to help humans be born from above. I suspect having narrow minds doesn’t qualify folks for the narrow way. By the way, there are 12 tribes, 12 apostles and 12 steps…just a coincidence? I think not!


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