Addiction & Lent

Timothy McMahan King Drug Education, Events, Harm Reduction

“Let justice roll down like waters.”Amos 5:24 Dear Friends and Colleagues,  “How do I get others to care?” is a question I hear all the time.  It is a perennial challenge for activists and advocates of all kinds. There is no shortage of important issues and causes to which we can all give our time and attention. But how do we get others to share our passion? While there isn’t an easy answer to this question, there is one practical tip I like to give:   Start where people are at, not where you want them to be.   Most people aren’t looking around for a new cause. If they were, our job would be easy. We all live with many competing demands on our time and attention. Engaging new people in an important cause often comes through connecting it to other interests and priorities they already have.  The Christian season of Lent is coming soon. It is a time we feel the pain of loss and the promise of new life to come. It is a season that calls us to reflect on many of the same themes we see in stories of addiction and recovery. Churches and pastors across the country have found Lent a valuable time to engage their congregations and communities in reflection on the challenges of addiction in our society and the hope the Church can bring for healing by ending our culture of violence and punishment.  I’m partnering with the Center of Addiction and Faith to host a Zoom meeting next week about engaging churches around addiction, overdoses, and the War on Drugs this Lenten season. While the conversation will center around the Christian tradition, all people are welcome to attend to see how they might apply these lessons in their context.  While there are lots of ways to connect Lent to these issues, I’ll focus on some of the themes of my book Addiction Nation: What the Opioid Crisis Reveals About Us. And provide resources and strategies for using the book as a conversation starter in your community.  This will be a Zoom meeting to allow for discussion and questions. During the meeting, you will: If you’ve been looking for a way to start a conversation in your community, we hope you’ll join us. Starting these kinds of conversations can be challenging, and we hope to support you on that Keep the Faith,  Timothy McMahan King Senior Fellow, Clergy for a New Drug Policy 

Addiction, Religion, And Recovery

Rev. Alexander E. Sharp Clemency, Events, Faith Perspectives

Dear Friends and Colleagues, Most church buildings host two kinds of activities: traditional worship in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, and meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the church basement, usually on weeknights. The twain rarely meet. Drug use and addiction don’t merit prime-time attention.  There is something profoundly wrong with this picture. AA and other Twelve-Step meetings are, of course, confidential. But what we do and say in church should reflect the reality that addiction exists all around us. If those who suffer from addiction feel not only unwelcome but stigmatized, what is our faith really about?  That is why almost three years ago I was delighted to learn of a conference on faith and addiction to be held in Minneapolis. I attended that meeting and blogged about it. Since 2019, the small group of volunteers who created that first event have transformed themselves into the organization called the Center of Addiction and Faith (CAF). Though it is still taking shape, CAF now has a board and executive director.  Its website offers theological reflections on addiction, sample sermons, a bibliography of helpful and inspiring readings, podcasts and webinars from leading authors and practitioners, and a directory of 12-step recovery groups for lay and clergy. This new organization has the potential to transform the way the institutional church, and, indeed, all of us, understand and respond to addiction.  CAF is holding its third annual conference in person as well as remotely in Minneapolis on October 7-9. Workshop topics will include: how to bring the subject of addiction forward in a congregational setting, and harm reduction as a spiritual response to substance abuse. I will be leading a discussion on the role of churches in ending the War on Drugs. All sessions will be online. Beyond these workshops, I see a second and possibly overriding reason why the conference is important. In bringing addiction out into the open, CAF may be key to accomplishing something that all of us hope for and few of us know how to do. I speak of revitalizing a progressive Christianity that is clearly in a downward spiral.  We normally think of addiction as manifested in those abusing substances or trapped in gambling or pornography. It is important to deal with these afflictions as they affect individuals. But, at a more profound level, seeking to understand addiction is a way of coming to terms with what might be considered the human condition. It raises profound questions about personal freedom, how we change, and the sources of meaning in our lives. These are religious questions. Yet they are rarely answered in the traditional church. Even as church attendance declines, we hear increasingly of those who say they are “spiritual but not religious.” They are the “new wine” that the Bible talks about when it says “new wine is put into fresh wineskins.” (Matt. 9:17) They reject the “old wineskin” of organized religion with its outdated theology and empty ritual.  In my experience, the religious figure today who comes closest to capturing what those who call themselves “spiritual but not religious” are reaching for is Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Father and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His spiritual insights have the potential to bring new vitality and meaning to a Christian church that must change to survive.   If you drop his name in casual conversation, you will be surprised how many people recognize it and smile. How many theologians recently have been the subject of articles in prominent national magazines such as the New Yorker and Harpers? The language of addiction is central to Rohr’s theological perspective. In one of his books, Breathing Underwater: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, he makes the case that in a profound sense, we are all addicts. In varying degrees, we pursue false gods. These, in turn, separate us from our “True Self” as the source and expression of authentic joy and meaning. Although he will not be with us in person, Rohr’s message will be abundantly present throughout the CAF conference.   Sincerely,  Rev. Alexander E. Sharp, Executive Director, Clergy for a New Drug Policy

Symposium Calls for Harm Reduction and Treatment

Rev. Saeed Richardson Decriminalization, Diversion, Events, Harm Reduction, Racial Inequality

Two influential faith leaders from the south and west sides joined forces last Wednesday to build a base of support in Chicago for harm reduction rather than arrests and jail as the response to drug abuse and addiction.   Chief Apostle William McCoy and Bishop Claude Porter, with Congressman Danny Davis, hosted a symposium on “Challenges and Options” for a new drug policy featuring the voices of diverse individuals from law enforcement, government, healthcare, and policy advocacy.  Over 50 community residents were present.

Ending the Drug War, Healing Our Communities

Cops, Docs, and Clergy Speak with One Voice

Rev. Katherine B. Ray Collateral Consequences, Decriminalization, Events

On Saturday, December 5, 2015, CNDP was privileged to participate in the symposium “Ending the Drug War, Healing Our Communities: Cops, Docs, and Clergy Speaking with One Voice” in Providence, Rhode Island.  Police officers, health care professionals, and clergy all spoke from distinct vantage points about the need to strengthen communities.  You can read some of their insights below. We are grateful to Rev. Santiago Rodriguez and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church of Providence for hosting us.