A model for the development of Christianity in the First Century?
- I have become intrigued by a possible model for the early development of
Christianity that might be instructive.
This model is based on the early development of Alcoholics Anonymous(!),
which shows a number of interesting common features:
1. Antecedent spiritual tradition:
* Christianity: Judaism
* AA: The Oxford Movement (Lutheran)
2. Early Oral tradition (no written guides)
* Christianity: From the crucifixion to just before Paul's first letters
* AA: 1935 (when AA was founded) to 1939
3. Publication of the first written guides
* Christianity: Paul's letters & Mark (maybe the other Gospels, too; at
least Matthew & Luke)
* AA: 1939 (Bill W. wrote the 'Big Book', including the Twelve Steps)
4. Period of rapid growth
* Christianity: [Rodney Stark data?]
* AA: 1940 - 1953 [AA grew from 800 in 1940 to 6,000 in 1941]
5. Period of first pastoral guides
* Christianity: The Pastoral Letters (1 & 2 Timothy; Titus)
* AA: 1953 (publication of the Twelve Traditions)
The Twelve Traditions "outline the means by which AA maintains its unity
and relates itself to the world about it, the way it lives and grows."
These traditions were apparently established in response to the
organizational chaos that resulted from the rapid growth of the fledgling
organization. The framework of the Twelve Traditions succeeded in holding
AA together as the program's popularity increased. By 1990, AA claimed that
2,000,000 people had "found recovery" through AA worldwide.
This comparison is interesting to me because both groups faced similar
organizational and personal issues in the first 50 or so years of
existence. Of course, Bill W. was not crucified (at least, not literally),
and AA folks do not worship him (although perhaps he would rank as a
prophet). I'm not sure how much he was involved with writing the Twelve
Traditions, but if he didn't write them, his fingerprints seem to be on
them, even as the Pastoral Letters, if different in language and style from
the authentic Pauline letters, still bear Paul's imprint in a number of ways.
One useful early history of AA may be found in Irving Gellman's "The Sober
Alcoholic: An Organizational Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous" (1964, New
Haven, CT: College & Univ. Press)
Does anyone else see some value in this comparison?
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