taking the words of Jesus seriously

Any of us familiar with the addiction recovery process know that until we overcome our denial, we still haven’t hit bottom.

Hitting bottom is, in fact, what happens when the pain of remaining in denial exceeds the pain of admitting we are in trouble, that we are not well, that we have lost our way and our sanity, and that we need help.

We Americans, as a nation and culture, remain in denial about our twin addictions and the degree to which they have robbed us of our sanity. What are those addictions?

First, we remain in denial about our addiction to weapons — both personal weapons and militarist ones. As weapons addicts, we believe that the more weapons we have, the safer we are, which is statistically untrue.

Regarding personal weapons, we have 5 percent of the world’s population and about 42 percent of the world’s private guns.

Militarily, our military is larger than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, the U.K., and Japan combined, requiring about half of discretionary federal spending. Five of these seven countries are our allies!

Second, we remain in denial about our addiction to whiteness and white supremacy: America seeks safety by keeping violent white men in charge. We have demonstrated this addiction throughout our history, especially in the depth of ongoing American cruelty and injustice to the Native Peoples and to African Americans who were enslaved and then subjected to American apartheid, mass incarceration, and other forms of systemic racism.

These twin national addictions to weapons and white supremacy are inextricably interwoven, like an addict who uses both alcohol and narcotics. Until Americans face our twin addictions, we will continue to demonstrate insane behavior, defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Recovery is a spiritual process, and facing our denial is a deeply spiritual act. For that reason, let’s end our national denial about our twin addictions to weapons and white supremacy.

Let’s begin a spiritual process of being restored to sanity.

Let us ask our spiritual leaders to lead in this process, and where they fail to lead, let us all be leaders.

We can start by saying something like this — whether in an in-person conversation or online post: “Any of us familiar with the addiction recovery process know that until we overcome our denial, we still haven’t hit bottom.”

About The Author


Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is a passionate advocate for "a new kind of Christianity" - just, generous, and working with people of all faiths for the common good. He is an Auburn Senior Fellow, a contributor to We Stand With Love, and a leader in the Convergence Network, through which he is developing an innovative training/mentoring program for pastors and church planters.

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