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Fraser Trevor Fraser Trevor Author
Title: AA's most famous touchstone was written by an anti-Nazi theologian who was battling against an evil beyond his control.
Author: Fraser Trevor
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AA's most famous touchstone was written by an anti-Nazi theologian who was battling against an evil beyond his control. Niehbur'...


AA's most famous touchstone was written by an anti-Nazi theologian who was battling against an evil beyond his control.





Niehbur's Serenity Prayer struck an immediate chord. His Massachusetts neighbor, Dean Howard Robbins of the Federal Council of Churches, asked Niehbur if his little prayer could be included in material that the Council provided to army chaplains in the battlefield. In 1944 it was published for the first time in The Book of Prayers and Services for the Armed Forces. At the time, Alcoholics Anonymous was still in its formative years. Someone in the fledgling fellowship apparently saw the short prayer and brought it to the attention of AA founder Bill Wilson.


With Niebuhr’s permission, Wilson began using a shortened version of the prayer in meetings he led in his wife’s house in Brooklyn and in Akron, Ohio, where he was working with Dr. Bob Smith to convert alcoholics to sobriety. Less lyrical and less theologically complex—the plea for God’s grace is eliminated and the things that “should” be changed become the things that “can” be changed—the Serenity Prayer soon became as familiar at AA fellowships as the window shades at the front of the room printed with the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.


It's rare for us to be able to see and touch evil in our daily lives. We sometimes recognize such moments as a result of other people’s behavior—and our own complicity or silence. There are times when human beings—individuals, families, even entire societies—are possessed by powers that seem to contradict everything we think of as human. Occasionally these times are so disorienting that the victims can often seem stranger and crazier than the perpetrators and bystanders. That is what it was like to live in Germany under Nazism, and, on a much smaller scale, that's often what it's like to live in an alcoholic household. Action seems necessary, but confusion, danger or powerlessness render action seemingly impossible.


Addiction may be a disease, but it is also an evil that many people prefer to ignore. All we can hope for is the courage to strike out against it when we can, and the serenity to accept its existence when we can’t.
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