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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Doorknob God

I have touched on this before, but since it comes up rather often in conversations with new readers, it is worth returning to.

Those of us who have hung around enough meetings have heard that old saying, "You could even have that doorknob as your god."

I always wanted to slap people for saying that, and not just because it is stupid, but it is contrary to everything the 12 Steps teaches.  I put it on the level of telling alcoholics they can go back to drinking after their 10th anniversary and nothing bad will happen because they'd be cured by then. 

Just for clarification, I have not slapped anyone since childhood.

Anyway, I have posted an article about how God is described in the Big Book.  This precludes any notion that the definition of God is somehow up for interpretation.  In AA, God is 'anonymous' but He is not 'amorphous.'  He does not take on the shapes of our imaginations.  Rather, we take on His shape.  He changes us.

We do not necessarily say 'Jesus Christ' or 'Consubstantial Trinity' in a meeting, but that does not mean that we can just make up strange deities  with attributes and characteristics of our own choosing.  The God of AA has definite characteristics, independent of our own desires and opinions: He is loving, He is able to change us, He is present with us, He forgives... read your Big Book again and see.  A doorknob does none of these things.

Of course, my good friend Red said it best about the topic:

"The best thing about having a doorknob as your god is that it is probably the first god you've had that wasn't trying to kill you."

Touché.  That's definitely an improvement.

But, the danger still remains that the 'Doorknob God' will then become a recipient of all the attributes the addict wants a god to have, but that the doorknob itself does not actually have.  Addicts in recovery realize that one of the biggest challenges there is is to accept God on His terms, without projecting false attributes to Him.  This means that the doorknob becomes more in our minds that what it really is.  This is an impediment to sobriety.

Isn't that kind of departure from reality what gets addicts into their addictions to begin with?  Why indulge in more fantasy?

The sad truth is that we can often apply these false attributes to God while calling Him by all the right names.  That's why lots of good Christian folk end up getting addicted.

Christians will often mistake God for some kind of monster that is out to destroy humanity and is seeking every opportunity to condemn us.  Sure, they mouth all the right words at the right times, but their in their heart of hearts, they are terrified.

Hyper-religiosity is another symptom of this.  Not long ago, I was asked to evaluate a certain local church figure who is known for his views and as being a very strict person.  Unfortunately for me, I've had to deal with some of the wreckage of his presence in addition to being his neighbor.  So, when asked, I said this:

"He was a spoiled rich kid who snorted a lot of coke and slept with a lot of girls, and after his father abandoned him, he got Calvinism and has spent the rest of his life trying to prove that he is one of the Elect."

I've oversimplified him, but not by much.  Some of the listeners were familiar with this guy's background and could confirm my characterization of his younger days, but they were all astonished that this fellow's early profligacy would lead to such a weird guilt complex.  Well, it often does.  And, that's because at a profoundly deep level, this man who deems himself a greater teacher of things religious is rather something of a heretic.

He can't accept that God is a God of love, not of punishment and condemnation.  He takes his own self-condemnation and applies it to God.  He yanks the Cross away from those who are struggling to find God in the mess of their lives, and tells them they are hopeless until they 'earn' God's mercy... by following his instructions.

This man is worshipping the Doorknob God, because the real God is not like that.  The real God visits us and has mercy on us even when we are unworthy... because we are always unworthy.  We are constantly falling short and disobeying, and yet God loves us and struggles to free us.

If we are at all honest, then we must admit that all of us have, to some degree, a bit of heresy within us.  There are times when  we doubt God or assume the worst of Him.  This is part of our fallen nature, and this makes theology such risky business.  It is about the constant battle over misunderstandings and projection and justification of our failings.

To understand theology, we must return to the purpose of it, which is the knowledge of God that is witnessed by its healing power.  Christ comes and confirms His teachings with healings.

Until doorknobs start healing people, they are off the list for potential gods.

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