The founders of AA were wise in avoiding any language that would turn recovery into an exclusive theological debaters club. God is defined as “God, as we understood Him.” There are obvious positives for this move. Let’s just focus on the essential spiritual principles of recovery! What about any negatives?
People have a tendency to feed their resentment against religion (often Christianity), and reject its vision of God for their own personal, privately conceived deity. One imagines thousands and thousands of such ‘gods’ whose existence depends entirely upon the creative thinking of the addicts that conceive of them. But the language of the AA steps and the Big Book seem, actually to speak of God as a singular, universal – and yes male? – being. “God, as we understood Him.” The literature speaks of God as the “One” with all power and authority. It seems that God is being spoken of not as a privately conceived lower-case ‘g’ deity, but as the highest possible, ultimate Creator.
‘Understanding’ a God is not to stand ‘over’ it, in a position of power and dominance (not to mention resentment); fashioning for ourselves a ‘god’ we ‘understand’ to be better than the one I despise. To understand is more to stand ‘under’, in a position of humility and growth, never claiming to have God-like knowledge of God, but eating whatever crumbs we have been given. AA was wise to coach addicts to ‘be quick to see where religious people are right’ (p. 87 of Big Book).
What’s the point here? Simply this. Understanding God is about humility and openness; standing ‘under’ the One who can never be fully ‘understood’, rather than standing ‘over’ a god you create with the fashionable power of your own brain.