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Spiritual Inclusion in ACA Literature

by | Nov 15, 2023 | ACA Boundaries, ComLine

The 2021 ACA Annual Business Conference adopted a motion for the Literature Committee to plan “a revised edition of the Big Red Book to be more inclusive of all experiences of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion/spirituality, and a broader range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.”

I have thought about the spiritual inclusion issue a lot since coming into my first Twelve Step program as an agnostic. My first efforts to work Step Two resulted in a recognition that faith in something that cannot be proven is simply a personal choice I could make. I could (and did) make a decision to simply believe in “something” that I did not have to prove or even understand. My conception of that “something” has changed several times over almost four decades, but my choice to believe has continued and I have reconciled that choice with all the different words for a higher power used in the literature of all my programs. I really do not care what word, name, or label is used in the literature because it does not change my personal beliefs.

As an ACA member, I think ACA may get into trouble trying to be inclusive in program literature by accommodating every possible preference for a word or two to stand as a label or symbol for a higher power. Relying on some sort of power greater than oneself is a cornerstone of all Twelve Step recovery programs. Those who sincerely (or desperately) want to work the program appear to be able to reconcile their personal views with the words in the literature and successfully recover. Maybe the ACA program is not for those who cannot or will not do that. The ACA recovery program is not for everyone who needs it, but only for those who want it.

Alcoholics Anonymous seems to have realized early on that their best course of action was to stick with “God, as we understand him” and “Higher Power” or “power greater than ourselves” in their literature, while encouraging those who cannot or do not use those labels to use whatever word or words and concepts work for their individual spiritual needs.

Instead of trying to fit seven or seventeen names or labels for a higher power into our program literature, we might be better advised to follow AA’s example and stick with two or three used interchangeably. An appendix could be included in each piece of literature with a comprehensive list of alternative names members can choose from as substitutes for the names used in the literature.

The ACA program is a “spiritual program based on action coming from love”. Perhaps it is time to set a boundary. To pretend to accommodate those with non-spiritual beliefs and values and make the program purely secular is like telling adult children that they really do not need the help of a power greater than themselves in order to recover. If that becomes our message, then I fear that ACA will no longer be a spiritual program and will become just another self-help group.

This is purely my personal opinion. Take what you like and leave the rest.

Anonymous Fellow Traveler

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