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Monday, November 11, 2013

Getting Back Into the Swing

My trip to Moscow has been a whirlwind tour, so to speak.  It will take me some time to pull everything together, fact-check, and even post a few pictures.

Russia is a confusing place in many ways.  Coming in as an outsider who has paid little attention since the fall of the Soviet Union, I have suddenly found myself caught 25 years behind what is happening now.  Some of my new Russian friends were surprised that I knew something of Soviet history.  Well, it was the subject matter for one of my bachelor programs, which I was certain would have landed me a nice job at the State or Defense Departments, up until the Soviets had the audacity to implode their own state and bring the Evil Empire to an end.  I was left with a 'history degree' and a long, winding road through the 1990s as with most of my generation.

Getting back to recovery and treatment, Russia is largely where the US was in the early stages of AAs growth in the US during the 1940s.  There is little treatment, and a large part of it has been driven by the 'pray-it-away' model of Protestant missionaries.  Sure, there are Orthodox parishes and priests attempting to help addicts with a similar approach, but the ROC seems to be leaning more towards a 12-Step model.

That's not to say that they have said anything official, but the speakers have mentioned that more of the bishops have voiced support for 12 Steps than spoken out against it.  Yet, no one appears to be making any kind of move towards an official position.  My sense is that there are a few contributing factors:

1) So long as clergy are taking it on themselves to provide treatment ministries, many of the bishops feel no pressure push for an official program.  They are in a unique position to just say 'not no' to what is going on.  If it succeeds, they can claim some of the glory.  If it fails, they have plausible deniability.

2) The wounds of the Soviet era are still fresh in the psyches of the average adult Russian, and the Church is no exception.  Active ministries like this were so suppressed for so many years that ROC officials simply don't have the instinct to get involved in this.  That's why they are kicking the ball around with ambiguous statements but don't know how to commit.

3) The ROC, like much of Russia, has a lot of bureaucracy.  If I wrote the story behind my entry visa, you'd think I was kidding.  When you have a bureaucratic instinct, everything slows down.  On the other hand, I am in a jurisdiction that runs heavy on personalities and light on administration, so when a bishop wants something to happen, it happens fast.  Not so in Russia.  Heck, even to exchange rubles at aclocal bank required the teller to complete several forms, scan my passport, and then deploy three rubber stamps in two colors.  Now, try putting together a regional addiction treatment center...

The Russians that I encountered who understood the 12 Step model liked it, and the only detractors I found were people who were unfamiliar with it.  There were only two 'concerns':

1) The use of 'God as we understand Him.'

2) Holding hands while praying.

These are workable problems.  The Romanians have long ago dealt with that, and they may be able to lend a hand.

In conclusion, I think that one thing we may be able to do to help speed things along is to better grasp how the ROC processes information, and format the facts about the 12 Steps in a way that is compatible with their system.  Asking the bishops and administrators to think in a new way is nearly impossible, and perhaps more than a little unfair.  But, I think that the 12 Step model can be presented to them in such a way that they will not only understand it, but become enthusiastic about it. 

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