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I had another conversation that went like this. A man from church tells me of his daughter who got clean in AA. He admires the twelve steps but says that he has a disagreement. AA thinks that alcoholism (or the many other 12-step ailments) is a disease that needs to be managed through meetings and program for the rest of her life. The church thinks it is a sin that needs to be repented of towards a deeper cure in Christ.
I’ve also heard the conversation the other way. Someone in the rooms talks about his addictive disease. He rejects the moralistic teaching of the church and the idea of sin. He has come to believe that the god of his understanding doesn’t judge and pretty much accepts him the way he is.
When the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous spoke of addiction as a disease they were attempting to describe what was not understood in the 1930’s. The popular assumptions of the day were that if someone was a drunk, they were weak and were morally deficient. But this flew in the face of people who were strong and moral in every aspect of their life except in this one area. In their addiction, they were fighting on an unfair playing field.