There are the familiar ones (alcohol, tobacco, porn, narcotics, food) but everyone’s brain is wired to light up upon doing something – it could be eating a chocolate donut or buying new shoes – and we like the lightening, sometimes too much. Obviously these are tame activities for some of us and monsters for others. Check out this story about addiction as a reflex.
For example, alcoholics experience a reflexive moment of euphoria when drinking. Gambling addicts feel comfort at a slot machine.
Here’s an excellent story about the reStart Center in Seattle – a detox facility for young men addicted to technology to the point of having mostly virtual friends and not knowing how to cook a basic meal. I don’t play video games but this story made the study of addictions click.
We all have comfort habits: a glass of wine, a bowl of ice cream, a trip to Nordstrom, a long run, a joint, a lottery ticket. They relieve our stress and restore our lives for but a moment . . . unless the wine, food, shopping, exercise, weed, or gambling begin to control us because we aren’t dealing with the stress at its root. The stress mounts; we turn to comfort habits faster and more often.
How does the church respond to the stress/crazy/need for comfort?
For starters, we need to acknowledge that most pastors and parishioners alike are addicted to our own substances/activities. May God have mercy, but some of us are even addicted to Church Power (e.g. we have been in charge of Coffee Hour for a decade, we have been Church Treasurer for 20 years, we have The Pastor for 30 years. We experience a peculiar euphoria when standing behind that coffee urn, that financial report, that pulpit.) Honestly, we are these people.
But . . . back to how church can engage with our addicted culture:
- · Are our spiritual communities healing places where we are loved and accepted in spite of our inability to control ourselves in certain corners of our lives?
- · Do our churches teach us how to relax in healthier ways? MAMD reminded us at OASIS that the church has much to offer here: Sabbath, liturgical seasons, prayer, meditation, spiritual songs. Now more than ever, our culture needs these practices.
- · Are we paying attention? Do we even know that we live in the meth capital of the state? Do we know that binge drinking is the favorite weekend activity of our local honor roll students?
- · Do we serve the 12-Step Groups meeting in our church buildings beyond giving them space? Yes, they are anonymous, but we can connect with them in non-threatening ways. My previous church set up espresso machines in the lobby to serve made-to-order coffee drinks to an NA group of women who came from a prison to attend a meeting. Believe me, if you give free lattes to a group of people who get sub-grade coffee in prison, they will connect with you. We just wanted to express the love.
But then again coffee is addictive too. This is why life is so complicated and grace is so amazing.