Monday, May 17, 2010

Addiction in the Church

"96% of us come from unhealthy (dysfunctional) families. Most of us employed in the helping professions (counselors, pastors, doctors, psychologists, and social workers) are untreated codependents in addictive relationships. Over 75 million of us are touched directly by the abuse of alcoholism alone. 82% of all nurses are the oldest child of an alcoholic parent."  I didn't even know what "codependent" was a year ago and now I find myself agreeing with the writer in concluding that most (if not all) ministers struggle with it.  It's the need to be needed.  I saw it clearly in my life when I stepped away from my ministry for a period of three months.  It was desperately traumatic for me to live without my church.

"The ultimate insight and insult to our egos has been given by psychiatrist Gerald May as he concludes, 'I am not being flippant when I say that all of us suffer from addiction. Nor am I reducing the meaning of addiction. I mean in all truth that the psychological, neurological, and spiritual dynamics of full-fledged addiction are actively at work within every human being . . . . We are all addicts in every sense of the word.'"  Take a minute and try to get your mind around it.  The person who sacrifices with abandon to make a church program successful is likely doing the "right" thing for all of the wrong reasons.  They likely just need to be needed.  They are codependent.  They are addicted (not to Jesus) but to the church.  And that my friend is idolatry and is something that we should not encourage. 

"Pastors, as well as laypeople, are in crisis. They suffer from a range of addictions, including alcohol, prescription drugs, food, pornography, sex, and the very congregations they serve. This pastoral sickness is the Church's family secret, which we refuse to discuss. When congregations deny this problem, they expose their own sickness."  What exactly does a "healthy" pastor look like?  I'm not sure that I have ever met one.  For years, I was applauded and awarded for my zeal in the ministry.  My churches grew and I had a place at the table.  The problem was that I worked hard (not to honor Christ) but rather because I needed the affirmation from my peers.  I prostituted my soul in order to get a mention in the program or to get one more "certificate of appreciation" for the wall.

"The most unrecognized addiction is workaholism. Christians justify this disease by attributing it to their religious calling and the demands for succcess that they believe those callings bring."  Ahhh....yes.  Sacrifice!  The joke is that once you have given all, sacrificed your health, your family, and your youth, the church will say, "What a great pastor! . . . . We loved our pastor! . . . . Let's get another one!"

"If most pastors and church leaders are workaholics, virtually all congregates are codependent. We help leaders to base their whole identities on the Church. As a result, we become enmeshed in a damaging cycle that makes us all Church addicts. The idea that pastors and lay leaders are addicted to the Church as a drunk is addicted to cheap wine is unthinkable. Nevertheless, for many leaders, the people of the parish serve as their drug. Ministers use congregations to alter their moods, determine their well-being (or lack of it), and fulfill their messianic fantasies.

"We meet our own addictive needs by meeting the needs of others. As a result, we serve the Church for ourselves. This is the hidden sickness of codependency."

--Don Williams, "Jesus and Addiction", Recovery Publications, 1993.

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