Aa history Lovers 2006 moderators Nancy Olson and Glenn F. Chesnut page

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Doctor Bob was raised in the Congregational and

Christian Endeavor traditions. Puritans. He and

his wife Anne were members of The Presbyterian

Church in Akron.

They also attended St. Luke's, Westside Presbyterian,

and lastly, St. Paul's Episcopal in Akron. Bob's

funeral was held at St. Paul's. Listing Doctor Bob

as Episcopalian paints an incomplete picture of his

church attendance.
john lee


Dr. Bob attended the Congregationalist Church while

he was a child in Vermont.

Puritans were back in the 1600's. There were no

Puritans anymore by Dr. Bob's time, and there

hadn't been any for a long time.
Some Congregationalists during Dr. Bob's childhood

were Protestant liberals, while others were more

traditional in their beliefs.
Dr. Bob also belonged as a youth to an

interdenominational Protestant evangelical

youth group called Christian Endeavor, which

was designed to appeal to teenagers.

Dr. Bob was born on August 8, 1879. He wasn't

a Fundamentalist during his childhood, because

the Protestant Fundamentalist movement didn't

start until the 1910's and 1920's, and was

extremely small even in the 1930's.
The Christian Endeavor youth group was not a

Fundamentalist group in the modern sense.

The Congregationalist Church never (to the best

of my knowledge) got on board the Fundamentalist

bandwagon. They are part of the United Church

of Christ (UCC) today. The UCC has been in the

news recently because they wanted to air a

commercial on television which made it clear

(without overdoing it) that people who were gay

or lesbian were welcome in their church services.

They are one of the most liberal Protestant

denominations in the U.S. today. At their seminaries,

their ministerial students are taught modern

historical-critical biblical interpretation. They

are not biblical literalists.
This is the church Dr. Bob was brought up in

as a child.

This is important to note, because there are

people who note that Dr. Bob belonged to groups

which read the Bible and sometimes prayed and

sang hymns to Jesus, and have jumped from that to

the claim that Dr. Bob was brought up believing

what were essentially Fundamentalist Protestant

beliefs and doctrines and dogmas. They don't

say this explicitly, but it is clear from the

conclusions they draw about how AA "must"

be practiced to get back to "genuine old time

All Christians read the Bible and sometimes pray

and sing hymns to Jesus. That observation does

not tell you whether they are Protestant or

Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. They could be

Amish and refuse to drive automobiles or use

electricity. The Berrigan brothers who carried

out protests against the Vietnam War that landed

them in prison, were associated with all the

major liberal causes in the U.S. during the

1960's, but they read the Bible and prayed to

Jesus, because they were Catholic priests.
People change their religious beliefs as they

get older. Childhood religious beliefs may or

may not be relevant to understanding what an older

person believes.

Dr. Bob was born on August 8, 1879 which meant

that he was already 55 years old when he met

Bill Wilson. Most people by the age of 55 no

longer believe the same things they did when

they were 15.
Dr. Bob and Anne were by that time attending

the Presbyterian Church, and later switched to

the Episcopalian Church. There were not a lot of

Congregationalist Churches in the upper midwest.

The Presbyterians and Episcopalians would both

have been "socially appropriate" for a doctor or

lawyer. Both of these denominations (at that

time) had enough of an upper middle class feel to

be appropriate for people of their background,

and this may have been a far more important

issue than any specific doctrinal beliefs.

But obviously we don't know about that for sure.

As good AA historians have known for years, it

is the Oxford Group connection that is truly

important for understanding where both Dr. Bob

and Bill Wilson were coming from. The Oxford

Group had strong links to the Protestant missionary

groups of the early twentieth century which were

trying to preach the Christian gospel in non-Christian

countries like China and most of India. This was

the world of H. A. Walter and John R. Mott.

Frank Buchman did missionary work in China

before he came to Cambridge and Oxford.
The Oxford Group also had strong links to the

Keswick Holiness movement, which centered around

the annual Keswick Convention in the English Lake

District, and mixed traditional gospel preaching

with (sometimes) the kind of Catholic mysticism

which we see in St. John of the Cross (look for

example at Hannah Hurnard, "Hind's Feet on High

Places"). Frank Buchman had his decisive

spiritual experience while attending the Keswick


The Oxford Group also had strong links to the kind

of late nineteenth century American and British

revivalism which we see in Henry Drummond

( see http://hindsfoot.org/kML3rc1.html ), who was

closely associated with the great revivalist

preacher Dwight L. Moody ( see Mel B's book "New

Wine," http://www.walkindryplaces.com/books.html )
But most of these people accepted some at least of

the findings of modern biblical criticism, and most of

them put themselves on record as being totally opposed

to the new Fundamentalist movement. They were

all aware, for example, that if you put the sayings

of Jesus as found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke in three

parallel columns, that the wording was slightly

different in the three different gospels. So they

were not biblical literalists in the Fundamentalist

That was a key part of the background of the

Oxford Group.
Even more importantly, the Oxford Group represented

a rephrasing, in modern language, of the old message

of the founders of the evangelical movement back in

the 1730's, see:

1. The Oxford Group and the Eighteenth Century

Evangelical Movement


2. Power to Heal the Soul


3. House Parties, Confession, Surrender, and Guidance


4. Quiet Time, Guidance, and God-Bearers


5. The Four Absolutes and the Dangers of Legalism


6. The Balanced Life: Seeking the Golden Mean

The Oxford Group went back to the world of

Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley in the 1730's,

that is, back to the beginnings of the modern

evangelical movement.

Dr. Bob (along with most of the early AA people)

read the Bible and prayed sometimes to God the

Father directly and sometimes to Jesus. This is

so obvious and well established, that it requires no

elaborate "proofs."
It is equally obvious that the three most important

early sources of ideas for the early AA movement

came (in order of importance) from

(1) the Oxford Group,

(2) the Upper Room and the Southern

Methodists ( http://hindsfoot.org/UpRm1.html ),

and (3) New Thought as represented

by Emmet Fox's "Sermon on the Mount" and

James Allen's "As a Man Thinketh" (see

http://hindsfoot.org/kML3rc1.html ).

Questions about Christian Endeavor and

Swedenborgianism are interesting, and I am still

very curious myself about the latter, but they

should not divert us from seeing the main and

obvious sources of early A.A. ideas.
The most important thing that happened in early

AA, was that already in the Big Book, after long

debate, all references to Jesus were taken out except

for one referring to him as a good man and a wise

teacher, and most but not all biblical quotations.

("Not my will but thine be done" is Jesus praying

in the Garden of Gethsemane.)
In the AA writings from the 1940's (the Akron

pamphlets, the Detroit/Washington D.C. pamphlet,

the Little Red Book, Twenty Four Hours a Day,

and so on), the same policy was followed. No

prayers to Jesus, and no statement of any Christian

doctrines about being saved by Jesus' blood shed

on the cross, and so on.
Even Father John Doe's Golden Books, which

employ more biblical quotations and references

to traditional Christianity than any other early

AA literature, followed that same policy.

The three portions of the New Testament which

were still emphasized as containing good AA

teaching, were chosen in part because none of

these three portions of the New Testament make

any reference to the divinity of Jesus or being

saved by Jesus' death on the cross or praying to

Jesus: see the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew

5 to 7), the epistle of James, and 1 Corinthians 13.

What makes that significant was that it is not

easy to find any place at all in the New Testament

where those doctrines do not appear. It took work

for them to find three reasonably long places in

the New Testament which totally avoided those

doctrines, which means it almost certainly was

Romans 7 to 8 would otherwise have been an

obvious section of the New Testament to have

newcomers read, because that was the place where

the New Testament stated in clearest fashion the

basic principle which lay behind AA, the Oxford

Group, and the early evangelical teaching of

Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley: only God's

grace had the power to free human beings from

deeply obsessive and compulsive sins. When

we could not stop by using our own will power,

and found ourselves powerless, we had to call

upon the power of liberating grace.

But Romans 7 to 8 continually put it in terms of

"the spirit of Christ," and the early AA people had

found that God "as we understand him" will save

us from our alcoholic compulsion, even if we do

not approach God by praying to Jesus and calling

upon Jesus' name.

And already by 1939 and the early 1940's, the

majority of early AA's wanted to "deChristianize"

AA to the extent of freeing members from any

necessity of HAVING to follow any traditional

Christian doctrines or practices at all.
In somewhat awkward fashion, most AA's

continued to use the Upper Room as their main

meditational literature all the way down to 1948.

Some prayers in the Upper Room are to God

the Father, but others are to Jesus. Lots of

biblical passages are quoted. But since that

little pamphlet was published by the Southern

Methodists, who were Protestant liberals,

the readings in the Upper Room hardly ever in fact

referred to the divinity of Jesus or being saved by

Jesus' blood shed on the cross (in fact, I cannot

remember ever reading any passages in the little

pamphlets from those days which talked about either

of those ideas). And the Upper Room also pretty much

stayed away from any of the miracle stories in

the Bible.

When Richmond Walker published Twenty Four

Hours a Day in 1948 in Daytona Beach, Florida,

and began printing it on the printing press in the

county courthouse and distributing it under the

sponsorship of the Daytona Beach AA group,

AA people all over the United States started

clamoring for copies of the new book.


Because Rich followed the same formula used in

the Big Book and all the AA writings of the 1940's.

He eliminated all (or most) references to Jesus,

and never prayed to Jesus.

He used almost no biblical passages at all,

although he did use a few: "And underneath

are the everlasting arms," for example, and

references to two of Jesus' parables, the Prodigal

Son and the Good Samaritan, both of which

had special significance to recovering alcoholics.

We came to God like the Prodigal Son, and

discovered to our surprise that he welcomed us

with open arms and all forgiving love. Our duty

then became to act like the Good Samaritan and

do whatever it took to help other suffering

alcoholics (the people who were left to die by

the side of the road, with everyone else walking

by in disgust and refusing to lift a finger to

The story of the Prodigal Son is in Luke

15:11 to 32, and the story of the Good Samaritan

is in Luke 10:29 to 37.
The priest and the levite (sort of a deacon or

assistant priest) in the story of the Good

Samaritan represented all the religious people who

insist on following every single point of doctrine

and dogma, and following every one of their

hundreds and hundreds of religious rules, and

tell you that you will go to hell if you don't read

the Bible in one specific translation, and so on.

They were afraid that if they tried to help the

man who was lying beside the road dying, and he

died on them while they were ministering to him,

that they would be rendered ritually contaminated.

Because the rules they followed said that those

who had touched a corpse were "unclean" and could

not approach the altar of God, without elaborate

cleansing rituals.

And the direction they were walking on the road

meant that they were going to Jerusalem to help

in the Temple services. (The man who lay beside

the road had been going from Jerusalem to Jericho,

and the priest and the levite came upon him while

they were walking down the road going the opposite

direction, which meant they were going from

Jericho to Jerusalem.)

The priest and the levite were willing to let

people die rather than take the risk of breaking

a single one of the hundreds and thousands of

rules and minor distinctions which they had

written down and memorized.
The man who truly acted as a child of God

in the little story which Jesus told was

a Samaritan, which meant that he didn't believe

in most of the Bible at all. He only believed

in five books out of the entire Bible, and he

interpreted those in a different kind of way.

He did not, for example, believe in any kind of

last judgment or life after death. When you

were dead, you were dead as far as he was


People like the priest and the levite were

convinced that the Samaritans were going to hell.

(The real historical Jesus, the Jesus for example

of the Sermon on the Mount, disagreed with these

rule bound fanatics, with all their doctrines

and dogmas and desire to scold and condemn other

people. And he had a real sympathy for the

Samaritans, in spite of some of their religious

beliefs, and on one occasion praised a pagan Roman

official for the power of his faith.)

Both of these parables (the Prodigal Son and the

Good Samaritan) were referred to by other AA

authors during the 1940's.
Father John Doe for example (Father Ralph Pfau

of Indianapolis) in his Golden Books.



Father John Doe wrote his autobiography and entitled

it "Prodigal Shepherd." By that he meant that, as a

Catholic priest, he was supposed to have been the

shepherd of his flock. But like the Prodigal Son, he

had gone astray, and had to return home and ask for

God's forgiveness and mercy. And he lived and

worked, after he had gotten sober, at the Convent

of the Good Shepherd in Indianapolis, which

continues this image. God had not only welcomed

him back, but had allowed him to become one of

his good shepherds again, reaching out this time

to the fallen alcoholics of the world.

AA's roots are almost totally Christian. This is

obvious and undeniable, and does not have to be

"proven" with elaborate proofs.
It is equally obvious and undeniable, that most of

the surface Christian elements, and all of the

references to Christian doctrines like the Trinity,

the divinity of Jesus, and the substitutionary

doctrine of the atonement, began being removed

in 1939 and the early 1940's BY THE ORIGINAL

AA PEOPLE THEMSELVES, the people who

had gotten sober prior to 1939 in Akron and the

New York City area.
This is what was done in the Akron pamphlets and

the Little Red Book (all of which had Dr. Bob's

approval), in the same way that it was going on in

other parts of the United States and Canada during

the 1940's. You cannot play "Akron vs. New York"

on this issue.

We find none of the original AA people (who got

sober prior to 1939) complaining about the Big Book

once it had been published, or any of the AA

literature that was published during the 1940's.

They agreed that this approach was best.
But AA's roots still lay back in the Christian

tradition, and particularly in the Protestant

evangelical movement called the Oxford Group.
That has to be the starting place for studying

AA's roots.

Glenn Chesnut (South Bend, Indiana)
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
++++Message 3420. . . . . . . . . . . . Moderator out of town May 3-9 plus

another notice

From: Glenn Chesnut . . . . . . . . . . . . 5/3/2006 4:29:00 PM
I will be out of town and unable to get at

a computer from Thursday, May 3 till Tuesday,

May 9, 2006.
If you could hold off on sending stuff in for

a few days, I would appreciate it.

Also, as another note (more a reminder than a

notice), in the basic guidelines for the

AAHistoryLovers as established a long time ago,

Nancy Olson and the other original members were

very clear that they did not want the AAHL to

turn into an AA chat group, of which there were

already plenty.


So we don't post messages that are just

statements of opinion, no matter how heartfelt.

We try to stick, as much as possible (although

it isn't always easy to draw this line one

hundred percent), with messages about historical

questions which have objective answers, based on

verifiable historical facts and documents.
A lot of our members have written good books

on AA history, and we pride ourselves on also

trying to use really good historical methodology

in the messages that are posted in the group.

Also they jump on me, and write me highly critical

emails if I don't (grin). Like a prominent AA

historian who wrote to me about six months ago

and said, "and are you posting fairy tales in

the AAHistoryLovers now?"
And likewise, a message which is just a

personal response to someone else's message

should be sent directly to the email address of

the person who posted the message (such as

"oh gee, I really loved your message, it was

tremendously good" or "you dirty dog, your

message betrayed all the holy principles which

we truly good AA members hold dear").

We can't post those messages either.
Glenn Chesnut, Moderator

South Bend, Indiana

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
++++Message 3421. . . . . . . . . . . . Re: AA photographs for framing

From: kilroy@ceoexpress.com> . . . . . . . . . . . . 5/3/2006 4:17:00 PM

General Services has a package of wonderful shots.

These photos are fit for framing.

Kilroy W.

4021 Club

Philadelphia PA
Also from: Shakey1aa@aol.com

(Shakey1aa at aol.com)

GSO in NY archives has 2 different sets of photos

reasonably priced and perfect for hanging in

meeting rooms. Frames purchased locally will cost

you extra. It's a great way to develop interest

in AA archives.

Shakey Mike

++++Message 3422. . . . . . . . . . . . Re: Ernest Kurtz on Bill W. and Sam

Shoemaker falling out

From: Archie Bunkers . . . . . . . . . . . . 5/3/2006 5:21:00 PM
"One of the biggest issues with MRA was the

fabled 'Thank heaven for Hitler' remark by Buchman.

In this interview published in August 26, 1936,

Buchman said "I thank heaven for a man like Adolf

Taken from:
Archie Bunkers


The full quotation from that website is:
One of the biggest issues with MRA was the fabled "Thank heaven for


remark by Buchman. In this interview published in August 26, 1936, Buchman


"I thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of


against the anti-Christ of Communism ... Of course I don't condone


the Nazis do." This statement brought criticism to Buchman as a Nazi

lover and

his statement of Himmler being a great lad got him the label of a pro-Nazi.


> From: Ernest Kurtz

> Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2006

> To: Glenn Chesnut

> Subject: Re: Bill W. and Sam Shoemaker falling out?


> Glenn,


> In briefest outline, Bill and Sam fell out when

> Bill left the OG. After Buchman's 1939 praise of

> Hitler, Sam repented a bit and himself left the

> OG in 1941. His 1955 St. Louis talk reflected that.


> Copies of relevant correspondence may be at Brown,

> though more likely in Bill White's materials at

> Chestnut Hill in Bloomington. Cf. also this note

> from Not-God, which I think sums up the matter

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