Thursday, December 4, 2008

Addiction Recovery

Sunday we had a someone from LDS Social Services speak to us about their twelve point addiction recovery program (They call it ARP). Most of the sessions involve recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. The next highest number of sessions currently available deals with pornography and sexual addictions. The least number (and let's face it, the one that should have the most number of sessions, at least, in my area of the world) deals with eating and over-eating addictions.

Last week I viewed the new film, "Happy Valley" which deals with the drug addiction problem in Utah Valley--the "Happy Valley" of the title. After both of these presentations I couldn't help but ask myself, "Why is addiction to self-destructive behaviors such a problem in our society?"

In his wonderful book, "The Free Market and Its Enemy", Leonard Read states, without any proof, that it is his conviction that anyone living completely in the free market will not descend into that market and "vote against himself." I agree, which says that few of us, no matter how much we believe ourselves to be operating in the free market, are actually doing so, because most of us go into the what we view as the free market and "vote against ourselves". Mr. Read himself, according to his biographer, Mary Sennholz, went into the free market every day and bought exactly 18 cigarettes--his daily ration of self-destructive votes. The very fact that he so scrupulously limited himself to exactly 18 must have been an indication to him that there was a problem, unless by an interesting bit of logic or evidence, he actually believed that smoking 18 cigarettes was beneficial but with the 19th they suddenly become destructive. In one of his books he tells how annoyed he was at a FEE board of directors meeting when the director sitting next to him chided him for drinking coffee. (I have always wondered if the director in question was Ezra Taft Benson--I can't imagine anyone else on the board of directors who would care). But the very fact that he took umbrage must have been an indicator to him that he really somehow felt that he was "voting against himself". If for example they had chided him for drinking orange juice, I think he would have merely responded, "I like orange juice and believe furthermore, that it does me good."

My own conviction is that the depth of our addictions is also, in a sense, the measure of the depth of our enslavement. We are told that the people of the communist countries had a horrible problem with alcohol--a problem that apparently no amount of rules, laws, or strict enforcement could alter.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I conclude my series on thankfulness with a couple of thoughts about it.

Sunday night the Burmese refugees gathered in their apartment complex to celebrate the coming of the month in which Christ was born. They gathered, sang hymns, watched Christian videos, and similar activities starting at 6:00 PM. Then at midnight they gathered in prayer. I am deeply touched by this expression of gratitude for their Savior. I reflect on my own situation. Here are people who were driven from their homeland (they were forced out of Burma into refugee camps in Thailand) because of their religion (Christianity is an unpopular minority religion in Burma) and the fact that they are different in other ways. But I wonder if I would have that same fortitude. Of course, America is corrupting many of them even now. Some are beginning to struggle with problems that they could hardly have imagined in Burma or Thailand, i. e. drugs, alcohol, pornography and the like, but I suspect that most of them will raise above those things. What will assist them in that struggle is that they also must struggle with something that many Americans never experience--poverty. None of us wants to be poor, but poverty does often--not always--make us more humble and that is a good thing. Better, of course, is to have plenty and still be humble, but that is very difficult. Christianity is dying worldwide, because its adherents refuse to make the sacrifices necessary to keep humble.

I read much conservative literature and in that literature there is much brow beating about the raise of "evil Islam" and the decline of Christianity. They predict that in just a few years, Europe will be more Islam than Christian. It is not hard to see why. The daily practice of prayer and the regular practice of fasting have all but disappeared in the lives of most Christians. I am reminded of something I saw in a video by John McDougal--a man I greatly admire. He went to his church (he is a Methodist) and heard a sermon about the plight of starving people somewhere and decided that it would help him to understand their plight if he fasted a couple of meals. He did that and then, in the video, describes the absolute agony he went through with this experience and the joy he had in finally--after missing two meals--being able to eat again. He concludes the section on the video by stating that he decided that missing meals was not a good way to appreciate the plight of the poor--too much of a sacrifice. My own reaction was different. I was amazed. Here is a man, presumbably a Christian, who apparently goes to church at least occaisionally, has probably a passing familiarity with the Bible, and yet, has gone his whole life and fasted once for two meals? The devout follower of Islam, of whom I have known a few, carry on such fasts for an entire month out of every year. They pray at least five times every day, and we wonder why Christianity is losing out to them? When I was in Germany, the population was 90% Christian, the churches--on a typical Sunday, not Easter or Christmas--were 99% empty. Most Germans had never in their lives offered up a formal prayer, much less fasted on a regular basis. As I contemplate my Burmese friends, I am grateful for the reminder that there are Christians who care about Christ.