This article follows my other two on the American Counseling Association in this series, “Redefinitions of liberty…” and “Mindreading the ACA,” considering the case of Julea Ward. She was prevented from graduating from a counseling program due to her Biblical Christian beliefs and her related decision to refer a gay client whom she’d never met or spoken with to another counselor, to avoid disclosing to that client her inability to endorse a gay relationship based upon Scritpure. In response, the Ethics Board of the American Counseling Association banned all referrals based upon value conflicts between counselors and clients, essentially mandating that atheist counselors help clients seeking faith to find God, and requiring orthodox Christian, Jewish, and Islamic counselors to help clients reach goals which their spiritual authorities warn against.
Many of the alcoholics and addicts I worked with displayed what counselors call “stinking thinking,” which Hazeldon describes as lip service, corner cutting, grandiosity, and defiance. A problem drinker who’s been sober for two months won’t take another drink out of withdrawal pain, but they will take another drink out of resentment, if they stopped working a spiritual program of personal inventory and forgiveness. The addict or alcoholic at some point feels restless, irritable, and discontented, and they blame some other…family, friend, girlfriend, any other. At this point the addict’s defiance turns from willpower into willfulness, and the addict escapes that person, place, or thing; and either this escape or the next one looses this addict from the very threads from which their recovery was woven. The program of AA suggests an attitude of willingness, of open-mindedness, and ultimately of surrender and obedience to a higher power simply because otherwise the alcoholic’s willpower will become willfulness; and they will inevitably escape back into drinking or using.
If a person can have a relationship with a higher power and internalize love from their higher power, they can believe in a love without the conditions which beset human relationships, and manifest a relationship without the resentments that come from failing to meet others’ expectations (or their own). If they come to believe surrendering to their higher power can let some transforming good into their being, their recovery need not be sabotaged by temporary resentments towards others, which become significant when they’re not correctly interpreting when others do send good and whole messages their way. Their worthiness of love, their goodness, their wholeness all come from obedience, their surrender to an authority whom they accept as loving and good, and who will add these things unto them if they will remake their life in His image.
So this person gets sober, stays sober, and works a spiritual program. Eventually, they want to help others with addiction, so they join a counseling program. But can they? The other prominent text besides the Big Book to which alcoholics turn is the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. In teaching prayer, The 12 and 12 suggests: “Thy will, not mine, be done.” It then cautions against the “great havoc” which comes from a strict reliance on prayer, when that prayer can become a disguise for a person interpreting as God’s will their own wishful thinking, their own rationalizing, so they are encouraged not to interpret. How would a person such as this come to know of God’s will? From where could they get their guidance about God’s will for them, if not from reading the words of those who were closest to God, if not from those apostles who personally knew God?
If a person’s own will leads them awry (as the Big Book of AA would say, “the brainstorm [was] not for us…the dubious luxury of normal men…for alcoholics…poison”), then they would have to rely on the will of a higher power, whose will they cannot trust themselves to interpret without brainstorming or wishful thinking which would lead them back into rationalization, then willfulness, then drinking. The most popular written will of God for our American culture is the Christian Bible. So how can the American Counseling Association discriminate against those who accept the Bible as the literal word of God without discriminating against those who are the most spiritually obedient according to our therapeutic program of addiction? How can we counselors for alcoholics and addicts promote this spiritual path to our clients, yet tell our clients when they progress far enough to help others themselves that they cannot become counselors should they wish to maintain their own spiritual program, that very spiritual program which we suggested?
To be a counselor…now they must doubt, now they must rebel against authority, now they must brainstorm…now they must think wishfully about how they make something good of these behaviors from which their God did not. Now they must reject authority as written by those who were closest to the living Christ and accept what is spoken by pastors two thousand years later; this should better represent Christ, even if it contradicts the very words of those who knew Him. Now they must believe those who preach another Jesus, they must receive another Holy Spirit, they must accept another Gospel.
They must embrace a different metaphysics, the bedrock reality of all that exists. No longer can they believe in a God who loves them even when they don’t feel loved; now they must understand a feeling of being unloved means they really are, truly, abandoned…without salvation. Otherwise, why would the ACA exclude so many potential counselors from a helping profession, just to avoid that a potential client even might feel a moment’s lack which they additionally might interpret as abandonment? Where is this Ethics Board’s belief in salvation that it seems so inaccessible to those who’d need it?
So this recovering alcoholic can be a counselor…as long as they’re willing to change their metaphysics (their bedrock reality) and accept a philosophical certainty that a sensation of want overshadows the existence of love for them. They can be a counselor as long as they’re willing to change their ontology (what makes things right or wrong) and accept a philosophical certainty from the ACA’s pronouncement against the importance of religious conviction, which defines a labor union of gynecologists and obstetricians as more of an authority on morality than the Bible. They can be a counselor as long as they’re willing to change their epistemology (how they understand what’s real) and accept a philosophical certainty that Jesus did not understand the world as well as the current ACA Ethics Board (but not the previous three boards which all wrote revisions to the ethical code without promoting social justice).
They should question their God but accept the philosophical certainty of this Ethics Board who deifies the absolute good of social justice as one value worth promoting, but refuses to signify so many other values (like autonomy which it demoted) according to the moral equivalency of their multicultural worldview. This Ethics Board deifies the absolute good of social justice but refuses to promote individual justice and instead maintains consideration for confidentiality as more significant than individual justice; if justice really were the greater part of their purpose, why would they not seek to rectify individual injustices as they would social injustices? This Ethics Board deifies the absolute value of social justice, appointing LGBT’s as an aggrieved group whose rights must be protected above others (above the rights of conscience of religiously orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims) but refuses to consider equal protection for the very Christians whom the European Union’s Parliament identified this past month as suffering a genocide. From where would this Ethics Board come up with a justice that is so unbalanced? Or is this kind of justice just another name for what the Big Book of AA identifies as the number one offender leading to relapse: Resentment.
Perhaps if this Ethics Board sought to understand orthodox Christians, they would consider the words of Soren Kierkegaard:
“A clergyman who is entirely correct in his eloquence must speak thus in introducing the a word of Christ: This word was spoken by Him to whom, according to His own statement, all power hath been given in heaven and in earth. Now, thou, my hearer, must consider by thyself whether thou wilt bow to this authority or no, receive it and believe it or no. But if thou wilt not do so, then for heaven’s sake do not go off and accept the word because it is clever and profound or wondrously beautiful, for this is blasphemy, it is wanting to treat God like an aesthetic critic.”