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Step Three

Parent Message

To make the decision to turn the will over to this Power as we understand it.

Mr. Begay was my tutor, patient in his efforts to teach me the Navajo language. He had fallen deep into the bottle, very deep, but had been dry for five years. He was bingeing with his girlfriend — bad wine, cocaine — and for reasons he could never understand, cut her face up with a knife. That was his turning point: nausea and self-disgust. Step One. He joined AA and sought out a Singer (a medicine man) for spiritual guidance.

"The liquor belongs to Coyote," said the Singer. Coyote -- that wild streak that cuts through the otherwise orderly world of clan and tribe. "Give it back to the rascal and then we can do a Blessingway." And so Mr. Begay poured his last bottle into a coyote bush and gathered his people for the four-day ceremonial that reconciled him with them, with the spirits of the land and with the Great Spirit.

Coyote not only likes liquor, but he thrives on any impulse that divides us from being in right relationship to the world.

Mr. Begay’s story says something essential, though implicit, in Step Three. We are reconciled with God to the measure we are reconciled with the community. This is the essential context of the twelve steps: None of us can do it alone.

God’s healing moves within the circumstance of our fragility, most specifically the fragility of our relationship with the world that has been ravaged by our addiction. In recovery culture the community of recovering addicts bear witness to each other’s little and big moments of surrender. One could imagine an AA meeting as kind of Blessingway ceremony.

Step Three is about yielding the substance, the arrogance, the emotional immaturity, the hopelessness – whatever it is that alienates us from the movement of God’s will in our lives.

September 11th slashed into the American psyche just as we have slashed the Iraqi, Iranian and Afghani people. The fractured world of the addict seeks wholeness but will often act in ways that tear at international relations even further. But running with the wounded rage of a presumably innocent victim has squandered the moral capital of our call for justice by redoubling the militaristic bravado that is making us more and more isolated in the community of nations. It is for the citizens now to sing a Blessingway on behalf of America to heal the consequences of our violence in the world.

Since God sits in the community that sustains us in our effort to be free of our addictions and since there are no extant recovery programs for those addicted to militarism, enemymaking and rampant consumerism, how might we invoke a circle that receives America in its present confusion?

"Blessed are the peacemakers," said Christ, "for they shall be called the children of God." Christ’s teachings about peacemaking are consistent and adamant: There is nothing in the gospels that could justify war of any sort for any reason. In some scriptures Christ almost seems to dissolve the very concept of "enemy." "The rain falls on the just and the unjust." Rather than defy these teachings, many early Christians died for their refusal to serve in the Roman army.

Few Westerners realize how central peacemaking is to Islamic society from the level of the village to the resolution of conflicts between Arab nations. "Among the Shabana of Southern Iraq," writes Raphael Patai, "the peacemaking function belongs to the sada class, whose members enjoy the status of nobility based on their generally accepted claim to descent from the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima. The sada are associated with each tribal segment of the Shabana but remain free of active fighting and do not become involved in blood feuds. Instead they take an active part in peacemaking."

Likewise, in Algeria the holy ones, the marabouts, "interfere as soon as a conflict becomes intensified to the point where human life is threatened: They stop the fighting and then embark on a lengthy process of mediation. This enables the two sides to discontinue the fight without dishonor or shame. This is, as they call it, a ‘door’ to an honorable way out of the dispute."

When Patai writes, "The very authority of the elders who arbitrate in such disputes is based on their recognized ethical stature," he could just as well be referring to Ashkenazi or Sephardic Rabbis applying Torah to resolve disputes in their respective communities. Both Judaism and Islam confer authority to those who have shown their skill in the arts of peacemaking through the pragmatic application of sacred law and folk wisdom.

In all three traditions we stand with our adversaries before God — equal in our insignificance and our frailty, equal in our possibilities and our capacities for wickedness.

Peacemaking is both the heart and soul of these three traditions and dismally marginalized by all three’s insistence that "God is (militarily) on our side." Making peace within a community is different than making peace between demonstrable enemies, and the damnable parochialism of peacemakers leaves us knowing each other’s violence but scarcely able to imagine being a guest at each other’s table.

If we take seriously the recovery of America from its addiction to violence, the elders must step forth. The vitality of the twelve steps approach would invoke a community of brothers, sisters and sponsors, some of who are farther along the path of renouncing the compulsion to make enemies. Alone, none of us are wise. Wisdom is in the community itself. God wants peace and will move through whoever yields to the possibility.

Without this context September 11th will remain an incomprehensible trauma impeding the possibility of yielding to God’s will. Within this context we can face our brokenness with generosity and hope.

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