Alcoholics Anonymous, Its Christian Endeavor Root, and A.A. Co-founder Dr. Bob
By Dick B.
Whenever I find some solid evidence about A.A. history that no historian has mentioned, I become interested and challenged. Further, whenever I find that neither Bill W. nor the current A.A. publishing group has made mention of the item, I become even more interested and challenged. Finally, when I see that the evidence has a direct bearing on the early A.A. program in Akron, as reported to Rockefeller by Frank Amos – our trustee-to-be – the challenge becomes a priority. And if no one mentions a challenge that smacks of religious, church, Christianity, Bible, or alcoholism cure, I know that I’m on to an investigative quest that will be welcomed by the many who just plain want to know. That’s the case here.
“We had both been associated with the Oxford Group, Bill in New York, for five months, and I in Akron, for two and a half years. Bill had acquired their idea of service. I had not, but I had done an immense amount of reading they had recommended. I had refreshed my memory of the Good Book, and I had had excellent training in that as a youngster. . . .
I found after much further research that his statement does not square with the facts—facts still under further extensive investigation by my colleague Richard K. Nor were the facts presented in full or in the context as to Dr. Bob’s other statements and views about the Bible, his training as a youngster, and the ideas which he later promulgated as he worked with over 5,000 alcoholics subsequent to A.A.’s 1935 founding.
Dr. Bob’s stated that he had attended three or four church services and meetings in week at the North Congregational Church in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. He said that when he resumed his religious studies, he had refreshed his memory of the Bible and had received excellent training in that in church and through Christian Endeavor as a youngster. His son told me his father had read the Bible completely through three times in his “refreshment” period. His daughter told me her father read the Bible every day. Dr. Bob told his son he had read for an hour every night, drunk or sober, for many years. Dr. Bob spoke of the immense amount of literature he read. Scads and scads of books were found in his home, under his bed, and in the homes of his kids after they were alleged to have been thrown or given away. And we now know the broad scope of the Biblical, devotional, Christian literature he read, just by looking at the remnant books we have found mentioned by family and friends or found in possession of his children. There is no doubt that, from early AA’s beginnings, Dr. Bob set aside a quiet time three times each day for Bible study, prayer, and reflection. He read and circulated a large number of Christian books on the Bible, Jesus Christ, prayer, quiet time, the sermon on the mount, the Book of James, and 1 Corinthians 13. We also have Dr. Bob’s own frequent statement as to the “absolutely essential” study by AAs of the sermon, James, and Corinthians. Also, Bob’s statement that AAs started the day with James, Corinthians, and the Sermon. We also have examined with care Dr. Bob’s specific interest in The Runner’s Bible where James is much discussed, his interest in at least four well-known commentaries on the Sermon on the Mount, and his enthusiastic circulation of Henry Drummond’s The Greatest Thing in the World.
I particularly want to mention here again the two illuminating statements Dr. Bob made about clergy and churches. His son made the statements to me personally. Smitty, his son, said: (1) Dr. Bob’s real beef was with “sky pilots”—a not uncommon, derogatory statement about preachers of that day. (2) Dr. Bob was far more interested in the “message” than the “messenger”—an interesting declaration of Dr. Bob’s avowed preference for Bible study, prayer and the seeking of guidance, reading Christian literature, and using devotionals And I believe these comments may explain his alleged aversion to church and his patent involvement in Bible study, prayer, guidance, Christian literature, and using devotionals like The Upper Room, Daily Strength for Daily Needs, and My Utmost for His Highest. It may also explain his infrequent mention of his church—though he and Anne were charter members of the Presbyterian Church in Akron, though he tooks his kids to Sunday School, and he recommended that early AAs attend church..
“Object. Its object shall be to promote an earnest Christian life among its members, to increase their mutual acquaintance, and to make them more useful in the service of God. . . .
About Christian Endeavor Founder Francis E. Clark
“Trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for strength, I promise Him that I will strive to do whatever He would like to have me do; that I will make it a rule of my life to pray and to read the Bible every day, and to support my own church in every way, especially by attending all her regular Sunday and midweek services, unless prevented by some reason which I can conscientiously give to my Saviour; and that, just so far as I know how, throughout my whole life, I will endeavor to lead a Christian life. As an active member I promise to be true to all my duties, to be present at and take some part, aside from singing, in every Christian Endeavor prayer-meeting, unless hindered by some reason which I can conscientiously give to my Lord and Master. If obliged to be absent from the monthly consecration meeting of the society, I will, if possible, send at least a verse of Scripture to be read in response to my name at roll-call” (Clark, Christian Endeavor, supra, pp. 251-252).
Interesting also are the first two of six covenants in the prison-societies of Christian Endeavor:
“First. I will accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.
Rev. Clark said the covenant has thus been analyzed:
“First, I will read the Bible.