I can’t remember exactly when I first heard it, or who said it, but it was so to the point that I never forgot it: “The only thing worse than a recovering alcoholic is a born again recovering alcoholic.”
My best guess is that it was a close friend who in the 80s was a 25-year recovering alcoholic. Fortunately, he was not “born again” and had the depth and insight to recognize not just the addiction that he broke and fought against each day (as he would describe the true state of a recovering alcoholic), but the fundamental nature and condition that forever drives an addict.
What brings this to mind is a column by Kathleen Parker, “Hi, my name is Glenn, and I’m messed up.”
Given that I find Glenn Beck potentially certifiably insane and waste as little time as possible on what he says and does, I was unaware of his “history.” As I read Parker’s piece, the discovery that Beck has a history of alcoholism and drug addiction provided one of those “a hah” moments where not only does the subject come into focus, but so does an entire range of others with “troubled” backgrounds who have gravitated to religion, and specifically evangelism.
Parker begins by saying that “the real meaning [of Beck’s tent-less revival] may have been hiding in plain sight.” The event had all the elements of a 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program wrapped up in one event. But as is the case with so many recovering addicts, “taking others along for the ride…is also part of the cure. The healed often cannot remain healed without helping others find their way.”
And that’s where the “born again” evangelical Christianism comes in. They are compelled to “save” the rest of humanity – whether or not humanity wants it or needs it.
With the benefit of 60+ years of life experience behind me, I could appreciate Parker’s observation that “it seems that people talk about God all the time these days.” As a transplant to Longmont, I remain stunned at the number of letters to the editor that appear in the Times-Call that are little more than a religious sermon, not to mention the amount of coverage the Times-Call devotes to religious issues in its coverage.
Parker wrote that even in the heyday of Billy Graham, “…most Americans could get through 16 or so waking hours without feeling compelled to declare where they stood on the deity.” Coming from the relatively conservative state of Indiana, I can attest that in fact this was the case during my first three decades in that state – at least by comparison to Longmont and Colorado.
Those with an addiction often trade one addiction for another. Or if they have more than one, keep the other. My friend was well aware that he was and always would be an addict, so he made a choice. He continued to smoke, even though it would eventually contribute to his death.
But some recovering addicts get carried away with this “higher power” thing. They transfer their addiction to “God.” If you delve into the backgrounds of many evangelicals, you will find a history of alcohol or drug addiction. The leaders behind the Heaven Fest event in Longmont in July readily admit their histories of addiction. Since they were saved – presumably by God – they have a compulsion to inflict their new-found addiction on all others. They even felt compelled to devote 24/7 prayer days to members of Longmont’s city council. Presumably they were praying for these council members to be instruments of God as they defined him.
So far we still have no formal religion test for holding public office, although that may soon crumble if we as a nation don’t get a grip on ourselves. And because it’s about religion, no one dare find fault with the obsessions of evangelicals. Or so it seems. But it’s no accident that freedom of religion and freedom of speech occur in combination in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. You do not need permission to challenge, criticize or analyze. It is your right.
So as you run across the Glenn Becks of the world, applaud them for the demon they have conquered, but remind them that even God can become an addiction, if not a demon, if they allow it.