From Brokenness and Addiction to Blessedness and Community
- ISBN: 9781540960825
- Published By: Baker Academic
- Published: September 2020
Recovering: From Brokenness and Addiction to Blessedness and Community is a welcome interdisciplinary treatise. It is a labor of love from an evangelical urban minister widely read in biblical theology, history, contemplative practices, social psychology, social ethics, and seasoned pastoral counseling ably complemented by rich bodies of personal, communal, ecclesial, and academic experiences. The book’s author, Aaron White, offers us a discourse on the nature and dynamics of addiction by way of spiritual autobiography, biography-as-theology, and case studies. The introduction speaks to the universal via an intimate sharing of the personal. Part 2 offers a comprehensive exegesis of the Beatitudes interrelated to and aptly grounded in White’s life experiences. In short, this is a multi-volume work compressed concisely into a single volume, which is commendable.
Part 1 of Recovering is rooted in the nature of addiction, how it functions, and what it takes—steadfastly—to practice recovery (hence, the present tense gerund title). White’s compelling analysis and prognosis is rooted largely in and elaborates upon social psychologist Bruce Alexander's decades of teaching and research, culminating in his magnum opus, The Globalisation of Addiction: A Study in the Poverty of Spirit (Oxford University Press, 2008). Alexander’s thesis offers the classical formulation of the theory of dislocation, whereby addiction as a coping strategy is almost inevitable given society's massive fragmentation and dislocations. This assists White in taking addictions personally, interpersonally, culturally, communally, and globally with the utmost seriousness, maturely guided by his well-read findings in the social sciences and humanities. The book is also assisted by White’s competent biblical thinking and pastoral experience. Finally, here is a work that suitably unpacks the depth and extends the range of meaning to the Alexander’s “study in poverty of spirit” subtitle. However, White engages the human condition more boldly and deeply, with the due accent of grace. The book is valuable on its own to this point.
But one could—and should—read Recovering as a present tense work-in-progress. Reading it thusly would reward one's efforts if only on the main body chapters. They convey a Part 2 reading of the Beatitudes via Matthew’s gospel. The themes combine a beatitude with an aspect of what crisply and cogently White calls being and living the "Beatitude Community," so crucial to an addict's genuinely hopeful recovery if and as practiced. For this fuller, incarnational reflection—in the service of social ethics and the liberation theme in biblical theology—the strong emphasis on the Beatitudes feels indispensable. According to White, those in recovery face temptation and persecution, and become disconnected from their community and friends as they stabilize. “This is normally necessary, at least for a time, because healthy surroundings are a major factor in long-term recovery success . . . as people struggle to find belonging in supportive communities” (160).
The gospel of Luke's coverage of the Beatitudes is missing in White's book. Preachers and pastoral counselors tend to shy away from Luke’s harsher renderings. Yet, taken seriously and with broader allies or helpmates, it serves as an admonition to take on advocacy and organizing for change for the sake of justice with a disciplined commitment. After all, “righteousness” is oft equated with a “right-wising” level of justice. White hints at this in his reflections of the 4th, 7th and 8th Beatitudes. One thinks of Hak Joon Lee’s God and Community Organizing: A Covenantal Approach (Baylor University, 2020) and Margaret Marquardt’s Reading Religion review. Nonetheless, Recovering’s subtitle constructively summons our personal witness and collective work to the utmost: “From Brokenness and Addiction to Blessedness and Community.”
It helps thus that Recovering cautions while encourages. Hence "... we may taste the first fruits of heaven's liberation and comfort now, individually, and especially in kinship relationships with others. But we must confess that we do not yet have the fullness of it. In this life we will still know sorrow and struggle, fear and death, the ever-present lure of attachment and addiction." Then, reminiscent of St. Paul's wrap to the I Corinthians 13 hymn of love and my own faith community's (United Church of Canada) creed), "But we are not left alone, without blessing or without hope." White irresistibly adding: "Hope is the currency of Beatitude Communities. Friends, there is hope" (171, cf. 166).
Herein White joins a chorus of timely and tested advocates for hope; and hope being a relative theological virtue, welcomes as it needs the relatives -- “all my relations” -- of faith as trust via justice-making and keeping.
Barry K. Morris is an independent scholar and an urban minister in the United Church of Canada, Vancouver, BC.Barry K. MorrisDate Of Review:May 31, 2022