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Praying for Serenity

I learned to embrace the prayers we recited at Al-Anon meetings, until I started to feel left out as a Jew

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I’d been in plenty of churches when I was growing up—carnivals, voting booths, the Sistine Chapel with a fanny pack and a Eurail pass—but the first time I pulled up a chair and actually prayed in a church was in November 2009, in Los Angeles.

I’d returned several days earlier from family week at the rehab center where my husband was staying for a month, a world-renowned residential treatment facility with bright white buildings and a state-of-the-art gym, perched high upon a mint-green hillside, the drug rehab version of the Emerald City. The treatment center’s anchor building was its auditorium, with rows of red-cushioned movie theater seats and flaxen light streaming in through its rectangular glass windows. The Twelve Steps and The Twelve Traditions, the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous, were painted on its walls. There, during lectures on chemical dependency by experts in the field, I learned that addiction is a disease. I had known that before, in the abstract. Now, there was a PowerPoint presentation with diagrams of the human brain and the limbic system and spiked dopamine levels to prove it.

On Sunday morning the auditorium became a chapel. A tall priest with white hair and ruddy cheeks led a nondenominational prayer service, where patients shared their stories. A teenage junkie took the stage and recalled what it was like turning tricks for heroin and crack. A recovering alcoholic gave a speech making amends to his family. The priest spoke of God and forgiveness, and people slung their arms around one another and exchanged hugs and high-fives. Everybody in that chapel seemed connected, like soldiers returning home from brutal combat. They shared a common language that nobody else understood. And I felt a part of it. For the first time in a long time I was in the midst of people who knew my misery. That chapel felt like home.

Then we recited the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

A local Chabad rabbi who served as a chaplain for the Jewish patients—because, contrary to myth, Jews can be alcoholics and addicts just like anybody else—lingered afterward in the hallway outside the chapel, fingering the hairs of his graying beard, offering up counsel and advice or just a friendly hello to anybody who approached him. A handful of observant Jewish men wearing kippot and tzitzit were scattered throughout the chapel; several other Jews, my husband among them, weren’t wearing any outward markings of their Judaism. I asked the rabbi how he felt about Jews attending a prayer service that incorporated Christian liturgy. He encouraged it, he said, not because of the religious aspects of the service but because the loss of spirituality is one of the most devastating casualties of addiction, and prayer is a crucial step toward recovery. You don’t have to pray to Jesus even if you stand in a room with other people who do, he told me: In the serenity prayer, the word “God” is meant to express a “higher power,” which could take the form of pretty much anything.

I’d pretty much given up on a higher power, Jewish or Christian or otherwise, by this point. I still lit Shabbat candles and bought kosher meat and Kineret frozen challah dough at the Israeli supermarket in Valley Village, but I didn’t really feel anything. It’s not that I didn’t feel Jewish; I felt nothing. Living with my husband’s drug addiction had sucked me dry.

But like Woody Allen’s neurotic character in Hannah and Her Sisters who tries everything to find meaning in life, from buying a goyishe loaf of white bread and a jar of mayonnaise to reading complementary Hare Krishna literature handed out in a park, I was willing to give the serenity prayer another try. Back in Los Angeles a few days later, waiting for my husband to come home from rehab, I decided to check out a local meeting. And this time it wasn’t in a fancy auditorium with plush seats and audio-visual equipment; it was in an actual church: the Pasadena Church of the Brethren. Its motto, “Continuing the Work of Jesus—Peacefully, Simply, and Together,” was carved in white block letters on a brown wood sign out front. And by the side entrance was another sign that said “7:30 p.m. Al-Anon meeting here,” with an arrow pointing inside.

Co-founded in 1951 by Lois Wilson (wife of Alcoholic Anonymous founder Bill Wilson) and her friend Anne B., Al-Anon is a worldwide fellowship for people whose lives have been affected by somebody else’s problem drinking. Like AA, Al-Anon is a spiritual program based on no particular religion. But with rare exceptions—hipster coffee houses, community centers, and the odd Vietnamese noodle house—churches host most meetings. In part, this is a vestige of the program’s early affiliation with Christianity, but mainly it’s because church rent comes cheap. Churches have long opened their doors to 12-step groups; synagogues, for the most part, have not.

The chapel of the Pasadena Church of the Brethren was small and windowless, with brown low-pile carpeting and metal foldout chairs arranged in a crescent. There was a crucifix on the altar and a brown metal folding table across the room with stacks of Al-Anon literature and 12-step pamphlets with titles like Detachment, Humility, and Just for Today. I was hoping to find refreshments sandwiched between the Al-Anon welcome packets, but apparently mandatory doughnuts and coffee are the stuff of 12-step urban legend.

I looked around the chapel the way one would standing in a crowded cafeteria on the first day at a new school, not knowing where to sit. I finally opted for an aisle chair in the front row and when the leader asked if anybody wanted to share, I swiftly raised my hand. Yes, I was in a church. Yes, Jesus was bloody and nailed to a cross right next to me. But nobody spoke about religion during the meeting. Instead, they talked about their drunken dads and alcoholic aunts and moms who got loaded and the hypodermic needles they found stashed in their lunchboxes growing up. But as they told these stories, they were also flush with forgiveness. Al-Anon, they said, had given them tools to lovingly detach and rebuild their own lives. The room was abuzz with inspiration and hope. By the time we said the serenity prayer, I had pretty much forgotten that Jesus was even there.

***

For about four months, that meeting became my “home” meeting. I’d attend once, sometimes twice weekly. But Los Angeles being the mecca of self-help programs that it is, I soon branched out to other gatherings. Over the past three years, I’ve attended Al-Anon meetings in all sorts of churches, from Mennonite to Lutheran to Unitarian Universalist. I have logged more hours in that time sitting in churches reciting the serenity prayer than I have in shul saying the Amidah during mincha.

For a while, it wasn’t really an issue. If anything, one could argue that going to all these meetings made me a better Jew. Healing inner wounds, re-connecting with God as we understand Him, learning to become a more patient, tolerant, and compassionate human being—these are core Jewish values that could easily fall under the categories of ahavat yisrael (being kind to others), pikuach nefesh (saving a soul), and tikkun olam (repairing the world). The strength and hope that I reaped from these Al-Anon meetings also helped me to establish a sense of shalom bayit (peace in the home) as my husband’s sobriety slowly, and sometimes painfully, took root in our existence.

Which is not to say that every once in a while during my Saturday afternoon meeting at Silverlake Community Church, it didn’t occur to me that maybe I should be at Shabbat kiddush spreading a lox shmear on a bagel and spearing herring slices instead. But the truth is that at this stage in my recovery, I’ve yet to find a shacharit prayer that provides as much emotional comfort or makes as much practical sense as the reading selections from the Living With Sobriety booklet.

It’s not for lack of trying. Abraham Joshua Twerski, the famed Hasidic rabbi and psychiatrist who founded Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, has penned numerous texts on how the myth that Jews don’t imbibe (save for the occasional glass of Manischewitz) has resulted in a dearth of addiction treatment resources for the Jewish community. Of the hundreds of meetings in L.A., there are two or three that meet on Jewish soil, but for the most part, if you’re in desperate need of a 12-step fix, you’re headed for a house of worship with a parking space reserved for its priest or pastor. I’ve yet to meet a single rabbi (Conservative, Orthodox, or otherwise) who’s dissuaded me from going to an Al-Anon meeting because it’s being held at, say, Calvary Presbyterian Church.

So, I felt comfortable as a Jew, going to churches and reciting the serenity prayer at meetings. Until one day, I went to a meeting that wrapped up with a different prayer.

It was a women’s meeting, and pretty much everybody in it either had a gray bob and gardened in her spare time or looked like a walking window display from Talbot’s. When this group of women stood, bowed their heads, and began to pray, they recited the Lord’s Prayer. I stared down at the floor, trying my best to look inconspicuous, as the words “Our Father Who Art in Heaven” reverberated around us, bouncing off the church basement’s dark-brick walls.

You don’t have to say anything in Al-Anon; you could sit there in silence the entire time knitting a scarf or eating a bag of chips and nobody would bat an eyelash. I didn’t know the Lord’s Prayer, so I couldn’t say it even if I wanted to. But I didn’t want to say it because unlike the more ambiguous serenity prayer, this was most definitely a Christian prayer. What would the Chabad rabbi from rehab have done, I wondered? He probably would have suggested that I say a different prayer: So, halfway through the Lord’s Prayer, I whispered the serenity prayer, quietly, to myself, so that nobody else could hear. But I didn’t feel serene—I felt separate.

Months later, I found myself at another meeting where the same thing happened. The meeting itself was powerful and full of wisdom, but when it ended, as I stood there holding the hands of those next to me, the Lord’s Prayer was recited in a collective low-pitched voice, and a sudden tidal wave of guilt washed over me.

Was it un-Jewish of me to stand in these rooms? Was I committing some sort of sacrilege by being a Jew in a room full of people reciting this Christian prayer? Was I praying in a church? Or was I praying … in a church? What if God saw me?

I also felt cheated. It wasn’t just that they were saying the Lord’s Prayer. It was that they weren’t saying the serenity prayer, which had come to mean so much to me as part of my recovery. For me, the meeting felt incomplete. The main thrust of Al-Anon was that it wasn’t based on any one particular religion. How was I supposed to get in touch with my Higher Power if we were reciting a Christian prayer that I didn’t know because I’m Jewish? Couldn’t we just stick to the non-denominational stuff so everybody felt included?

I spent the next few months bombarding people in meetings, approaching my husband’s AA buddies, determined to find an answer. What I got was a slew of unsatisfying responses, ranging from “The word ‘Lord’ is up for interpretation” (no, it’s not) to “It’s left over from when the meetings used to be more Christian-based” (so then why not just take it out?) to “Why don’t you just stick to meetings where they don’t say the Lord’s Prayer?”

And while that wasn’t exactly the point, it was practical—if not obvious—advice, and that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing ever since. At some point, a bit of recovery slipped in, and like it says in the serenity prayer, I was able to accept the things that I could not change. I came to understand that, as much as I sometimes want it be, Al-Anon isn’t magic, and not every meeting is a big pink cloud. Not everything said in the meetings will appeal to everybody, not every prayer makes sense, and there’s no perfect way to work the program. In Al-Anon, it’s all about progress, not perfection. Which in a way, is a lot like Judaism.

***

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Cheryl says:

Thanks Malina, for saying so eloquently what I have felt for all my years in Al-Anon. I have diligently worked to have that prayer eliminated in the groups I attend and have heard it is slowly being exorcised from the program even on a National level. While the fellowship espouses inclusion, that prayer has always made me fell excluded.

But is there any sentiment in the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ that could be offensive to a Jew?

Josh Gressel says:

Hi Malina: Thanks for the great article. I don’t know if this will help you the next time they recite the Lord’s prayer, but the prayer itself (which appears in Mathew 6:9-6:10) is based on the kaddish. If you read the English translation of the kaddish (“Hallowed and enhanced may He be throughout the world of His own creation. May He cause His sovereignty soon to be accepted, during our life and the life of all Israel”) I think you can readily discern the similarity with “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Frankly, I like the English of the Lord’s prayer much better, but we never say the kaddish except in Aramaic, which is why so few people are aware that it’s been lifted by Mathew.

I have been a member of Alaon or over 25 years. It is the only set of ideas, practices and institution I have seen that is able to stand up, not beat, but stand up to the horrific disease of alcoholism. Doctors, the legal system, police, the medical system, businesses, etc are all easily scammed and defeated by alcoholism and other addictions and mental illnesses. Note; I do not speak for Alanon or anyone/thing other than my own “Experience, strength and hope.”

People who haven’t experienced alcoholism simply cannot conceive of the horror of The Disease (alcoholism). In the worst, but not uncommon cases, we are talking about husbands, wives, mothers, sons, daughters, bosses, co-workers, parents, people in authority, celebrities,etc. who drink QUARTS of liquor a day and being blind drunk — all the time. Effectively, no one either knows about nor accepts the medical facts. As a society, we are all enablers.

Currently, the only way to stop the disease is usually death or jail. Jail is often the best way to prevent death. The medical facts are well understood of this permanent brain disease are well understood but universally ignored.

A few things on the article. First, “There are no musts in Alanon.” So everyone has the right to engage with the program in their own unique way. Still there are Traditions and Principals, these include:

– Anonymity – The author violates the core principal and boundary of Alanon which is anonymity at the level of press. That’s predictable. A primary symptom of the disease and it’s effects on us who have experienced the disease is inability to set of honor boundaries. The Disease (alcoholism) HATES boundaries and attacks them all. Of course, the author believes doing so is for a greater good — The Disease always lies to us.

– AA is an entirely separate program that often has opposite practices. Alanon is for friends and family of people suffering from alcoholism. AA is for people with The Disease. Again, that boundary problem.

– Yes, American Christian beliefs and ideas of a “god” are written and spoken in the program. Magical thinking (e.g. prayer) is part of the Alanon program as it is for 99% of the world. However, “Take what you like and leave the rest is also a principal.” I am a complete anti-“spiritual” (whatever that spiritual means) non-believer but have been comfortable in the program for decades. Like I do in my daily life – I just ignore references to supernatural stuff. No biggee.

In fact, anything other than sharing experience, strength and hope about the primary purpose of Alanon which is coping with LIVING with The Disease, not having it, is called an “outside issue” and is discouraged in meetings since it detracts from unity and is an obstacle to embracing needed diversity and group-help in recovery and healing.

Of course, religion (let’s be honest) is all about creating distinctions and strengthening in-group/out-group separation. Religious ideologies, of any stripe contradict the Principals of Alanon.

Bringing any religious-ideological beliefs and practices into Alanon damages the benefits, for everyone. As do some of the narrow US Christian words and ideas the program first adopted.

For example, this article. If not for the emotional tension caused by trying to bring/exclude religious ideology into her program — the author probably wouldn’t have broken the first principal of anonymity.

But The Disease, often using religious ideology, is always clever. Don’t you think?

    missizzy says:

    I am quite confused as to why you believe that Melinda has broken anomitity but you have not? You too speak of religious overtones. Besides announcing that the serenity prayer (and later the Lords Prayer) is said she did not speak about who was there or what was said. She spoke about location but that is not private information. … or was it the fact that she let the cat out of the bag that donuts are not typically served?

      Hi MissIzzy,

      The donut remark makes me smile:

      >> What if all of us brought some Bagels and Strawberry Cream Cheese to the next meetings?

      Bet they would be g-o-n-e almost instantly and a happy smile about “Things Jewish” put on every persons’ face.

Malina,

Thank you for sharing this story and for revealing YOURSELF as an Al-Anon. You did not violate the anonymity of others, which would be against the principles of the program, yet you were strong enough to step forward and share your story at the cost of your anonymity. I myself do that often if the need be as I am in a position in my life where MY anonymity is not as important as it may be to others.

With that being said I would also like to thank you for bringing this practice to light. I recently started a new group in my area and there has been great debate about whether or not TLP should be used. I voted against it because, as a Jew, it made me feel uncomfortable. So did other Jews and non-Christians at the meeting. Unfortunately, those votes were not enough to carry a majority, so TLP is in for the next six months, as our group conscious will vote on it again.

Again, thank you for this. I have to say that I am surprised that here aren’t more meetings in L.A. that are in “clubhouses”. We are rife with clubhouses where we are, which makes the meetings feel less “denominational” for me. Good luck in your recovery and thank you again.

Malina,

Thank you for sharing this story and for revealing YOURSELF as an Al-Anon. You did not violate the anonymity of others, which would be against the principles of the program, yet you were strong enough to step forward and share your story at the cost of your anonymity. I myself do that often if the need be as I am in a position in my life where MY anonymity is not as important as it may be to others.

With that being said I would also like to thank you for bringing this practice to light. I recently started a new group in my area and there has been great debate about whether or not TLP should be used. I voted against it because, as a Jew, it made me feel uncomfortable. So did other Jews and non-Christians at the meeting. Unfortunately, those votes were not enough to carry a majority, so TLP is in for the next six months, as our group conscious will vote on it again.

Again, thank you for this. I have to say that I am surprised that here aren’t more meetings in L.A. that are in “clubhouses”. We are rife with clubhouses where we are, which makes the meetings feel less “denominational” for me. Good luck in your recovery and thank you again.

lcsterling says:

I have struggled with this throughout my life. We are, after all, a minority. I even had a funny moment when visiting a Gothic cathedral and automatically put on my hat … only to be rebuked by the tour guide (ironic that men have to uncover their heads while women have to cover them in Catholic and Christian “houses of worship”).

I have frequently been in settings, Al-Anon being one of them, where I felt uncomfortable but knew that remaining seated or not joining hands would only increase that discomfort.

So I looked into things. The Lord’s Prayer has significant roots in Jewish liturgical writings — after all, Jesus was a Jew.

Here’s something from Wikipedia:

There are similarities between the Lord’s Prayer and both biblical and post-biblical material in Jewish prayer especially Kiddushin 81a (Babylonian).[42]“Hallowed be thy name” is reflected in the Kaddish. “Lead us not into sin” is echoed in the “morning blessings” of Jewish prayer. A blessing said by some Jewish communities after the evening Shema includes a phrase quite similar to the opening of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our God in heaven, hallow thy name, and establish thy kingdom forever, and rule over us for ever and ever. Amen.” There are parallels also in 1 Chronicles 29:10–18.[43]Rabbi Aron Mendes Chumaceiro has said[44] that nearly all the elements of the prayer have counterparts in the Jewish Bible and Deuterocanonical books: the first part in Isaiah 63:15–16 (“Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation … For you are our Father …”) and Ezekiel 36:23 (“I will vindicate the holiness of my great name …”) and 38:23 (“I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations …”), the second part in Obadiah 1:21 (“Saviours shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be the LORD’s”) and 1 Samuel 3:18(“… It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him”), the third part in Proverbs 30:8 (“… feed me with my apportioned bread”), the fourth part in Sirach 28:2 (“Forgive your neighbour the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray”). “Deliver us from evil” can be compared withPsalm 119:133 (“… let no iniquity get dominion over me.”). Chumaceiro says that, because the idea of God leading a human into temptation contradicts the righteousness and love of God, “Lead us not into temptation” has no counterpart in the Jewish Bible/Christian Old Testament.The word “πειρασμός”, which is translated as “temptation”, could also be translated as “test” or “trial”, making evident the attitude of someone’s heart. Well-known examples in the Old Testament are God’s test of Abraham (Genesis 22:1), his “moving” (the Hebrew word means basically “to prick, as by weeds, thorns”) David to do (numbering Israel) what David later acknowledged as sin (2 Samuel 24:1–10; see also 1 Chronicles 21:1–7), and the Book of Job.

The entire posting can be seen here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord's_Prayer

Eugene Lubman says:

Hi Malina,
It is ironic that it is the Lord’s Prayer that became a stumbling block for you. There has been quite a lot of solid research in recent decades that traces the Lord’s Prayer directly to the Amidah (and possibly, as Josh Gressel already mentioned, also to early versions of the Kaddish.) In the first century CE, before the publication of the Mishnah, there was no set liturgy to speak of, as much of Jewish religious experience was still centered around the Temple and the sacrifices. The exact wording of even the few established prayers (like the Amidah) varied considerably from synagogue to synagogue. It was apparently quite common for rabbis to teach their own versions of these prayers to their disciples; the Talmud records several of such abbreviated versions of the Amidah. Jesus was not and exception, and if you examine it closely, you’ll notice that Jesus’s version covers all the major points of the weekday Amidah that we are used to. Remember, Jesus was a Jew, and his frame of reference was thoroughly Jewish. He never taught his disciples to pray to himself, but always to “avinu shebashamayim” (notice that it’s “Our Father”, not just “His Father”.)
To sum up, what is known today as The Lord’s Prayer is a thoroughly Jewish prayer, not a word of which is at odds with what Jews have always believed.
May Hashem grant you and your husband full and complete recovery, soon.

I would feel very uncomfortable with both prayers you mention. As I said here: http://www.kissamezuzah.blogspot.com/2012/05/let-reality-be-reality.html
the Serenity Prayer doesn’t express the Jewish way of looking at things:

The Serenity Prayer is pretty
good advice, but according to Jewish tradition, it doesn’t go far enough. It
implies that if there is something that I, personally, do not have the power to
change alone or in my lifetime, I should just leave it be.
In the section of the Talmud called “Pirkei Avot,” (“The Ethics of Our
Fathers,”) the rabbis acknowledge that the task is great and the day is short.
There is too much for us to do alone, and, even with the help of others, there is
more that needs to be changed than can be accomplished in one human lifetime, no
matter how young or energetic a person may be.

The Serenity Prayer is pretty
good advice, but according to Jewish tradition, it doesn’t go far enough. It
implies that if there is something that I, personally, do not have the power to
change alone or in my lifetime, I should just leave it be.

In the section of the Talmud called “Pirkei Avot,” (“The Ethics of Our
Fathers,”) the rabbis acknowledge that the task is great and the day is short.
There is too much for us to do alone, and, even with the help of others, there is
more that needs to be changed than can be accomplished in one human lifetime, no
matter how young or energetic a person may be.

However, say the rabbis, in that case we are still
commanded not to just “Let reality be reality.” Rather, they tell us, “It is not
your responsibility to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist
from it.” We are all responsible to do what part we can, be it large or small,
even though we may not live to see the result.
… For things that cannot be changed
at all, by anyone, no matter the effort, that may be good advice. But
for everything else, our tradition says to…
continue in your efforts to make the world a better place.

You – and anyone in L.A. who is interested in the fusion of Jewish practice and recovery – should check out Beit T’shuvah, Jewish a residential treatment center in LA that’s also a congregation that offers religious services, holiday celebrations and study. I’ve been there a few times for Friday night services, and it’s a very special place. http://beittshuvah.org

Friends, I’ve read the wonderful article and all the good comments.

1. There is nothing in the “Pater Noster”, the “Our Father”, that is not based on core Judaism; we should be proud if this summary of our thought would actually be INTEGRATED into daily life, not just prayed or talked about.

2. How we admire with pride the gentile members of our congregants as they attend and PARTICIPATE with their spouses in our services; let’s take the same attitude when we see and encourage the extension of Jewish Core Concepts into the larger gentile community.

3. Even the concept of Jesus as the son of G-d does NOT have to be a problem in testimonials at AA/ALANON. It is a metaphor, and since we are ALL sons and daughters of G-d: so why NOT -Jesus the Rabbi ? In other words, the concept of “son” just extends the concept that there was a loving creator: just as in our children.

Thank you for publishing the article and all of the wonderful comments that it has provoked.

liz friedman says:

With 33 years of sobriety I continue to feel uncomfortable with the recitation of The Lord’s Prayer> The routine I have developed is simply to remain silent, but that came only after many years of complaining. that went nowhere and even angered my friends. i believe the reason that most meetings are held in churches is because synagogues are not now, nor have they ever been “drop in” joints. Most churches are open 24-7. synagogues have never been, probably for security purposes.

Thank you so much for this article.
I have recently fought this fight on my AA home group. And lost.
In my early days of sobriety, sometimes all I felt I could hang on to was when my group would hold hands and say the Serenity Prayer. When they say the Lord’s Prayer, I am left out and that hurts.
I understand what others are saying about the Lord’s Prayer. As I told my group, it’s a beautiful prayer and if I were Christian I would love to recite it. But, I am not a Christian, the prayer comes from the New Testament and it is how Jesus told his followers to pray. I cannot say this prayer.
Many of my group took great pains to explain to me why I should feel fine saying this prayer. I finally asked that rather than try to convince me that the prayer was fine, could they please explain why, given that I can’t say this prayer ( nor can other members of my group for a variety of religious reasons) it was better for the group, whose purpose is to help others to achieve sobriety, to say a prayer that leaves some members outside the group.
While the group conscience decided to continue with the Lord’s Prayer, it is interesting that in the month since the vote, no one has chosen anything but the Serenity Prayer for our closing.

thehasbarabuster says:

Frankly, Malina, I’m not very much moved by your experience. You were in
a room with people who said a Christian prayer that does not speak of
Jesus. Big deal! Think how an atheist must feel — he can’t attend AA
meetings at all because he’ll be expected to say a prayer that begins with the word God. You had other options; he doesn’t.

Or think how an Arab must feel in Israel — he must sing a national
anthem in which he is required to say that he has a Jewish soul. Again,
he has no other option.

In my opinion, moaning about such a trivial nonissue as described in this article is taking the victim thing a bit too far.

    u know-u r more of a bastard then a buster…,if u dont have anything constructive(even if not positive) to say-why not just step away from the keyboard(in other words for a dimwit like u : shut up)

Good article. Important subject. I like that the Chabad rabbi emphasized the loss of spirituality as a consequence of addiction. That is an important factor for these programs. Perhaps those who attend that are atheist could use the prayer times for a silent meditation or biofeedback?

    Peg Paulson says:

    I agree that this is an important subject but your suggestion for atheists may not be practical. I am an atheist who attends a 12-step program and it’s difficult to imagine meditation while others are reciting a prayer out loud. To be truly inclusive, 12-step programs must move away from Christian and Jewish liturgy and should stive for more inclusive recitations: those that reflect the spirituality found in a connectedness with nature, fellowship and the higher power as each of us understands him/her. Thanks to Malina for the article.

RJ Solomon says:

Malina – thanks for the article – I totally relate – as a double-winner I choose to hold hands in the circle and not say the Lord’s prayer when it is said but instead say the Serenity Prayer to myself or the Sh’ma – I have never experienced the reciting of the Lord’s prayer at an Alanon meeting here in Los Angeles – but one thing that could be done is at a group conscience or business meeting bring up the idea of reciting the Serenity Prayer instead as it is non-denominational and there are some in the group who are not Christian (Jewish, Muslim, atheist) you don’t have to say it’s you but there may be others who feel the same way – I find that usually the majority of the group isn’t even aware that some folks don’t subscribe to their philosophy or religion – it’s just not in their consciousness and usually they appreciate someone else’s point of view- in any case, know that you are not alone in your feelings and thinking and thanks again for the article!

Joanne C says:

Thanks Malina for your perspective. I’ve wondered about this. Even as a Catholic, I have issues saying “Our Father”. I struggle with addressing God as a perfect man/father. I have a hard time believing that one of these exists and that I can trust “him” with my troubles so “he” can fix them. But I keep coming back and I take what I can use and leave the rest.

I lead my first meeting last year and read the 43 personal stories in “How Al-anon Works”. I chose Chpt. 22. The Jewish husband/author wrote of adapting some rabbinical writings from 2,000 years ago: Get yourself a rabbi; acquire a friend; and judge everyone favorably. He then goes on to interpret, in light of his experiences in the program, “these small nuggets of ancient wisdom”. I loved his point of view, his humor, and wisdom. It really resonated with me and my group. Hope you’ll check it out.
Joanne C.,Ohio

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Praying for Serenity

I learned to embrace the prayers we recited at Al-Anon meetings, until I started to feel left out as a Jew