What's hot, what's not and who
by Dale Ryan
from STEPS Volume 4, Issue 1, Winter
About six months ago, I started hearing people say "recovery is
over." I first heard this from a publisher of Christian books who
told me: "It's just not as hot anymore; I think it'll be dead in
six months." Let's be clear about what this person meant. He
meant that the profitability of publishing projects that are
explicitly about recovery has decreased. It will be more difficult, he
thinks, to generate best-sellers on recovery. I have no idea whether
this is true or not. What is certainly true is that nothing lasts for
very long as "hot property" in a media-intensive culture. It
would not be reasonable, I think, to expect publishers or the popular
press to treat recovery any differently than they have treated
homelessness or domestic violence. Both of these issues were lavished
with media attention in the 1980s, neither have gone away, but
apparently both are no longer considered "news." The media
is driven relentlessly to the next high-profile social problem. People
into "news" must move their focus on to something new long
before any meaningful change has taken place. Real change is too slow,
too difficult, too frustrating and too painful to qualify as
Maybe we should review the obvious: Recovery is not "over"
just because you can't sell as many books. Recovery is not about
selling books. Recovery is not "dead" because it may not
show up in Time this year. Recovery is not "over" because it
is not as "hot" or as "newsworthy."
The inner logic of recovery is completely different from the inner
logic of our profit-driven, media-based culture. The fundamental
difference is put succinctly by one of my favorite slogans from the 12
Step tradition: "If nothing changes, nothing changes." The
Christian community has done nothing of any consequence in the last
two generations to decrease the incidence of addiction and abuse. I am
unable to point to a single denomination which can claim to have
implemented prevention programs capable of significantly reducing the
amount of addiction and abuse in its pews. There is absolutely no
reason to think that the incidence of sexual abuse in the Christian
community is decreasing. Nor is there any evidence to suggest that
addiction in the Christian community is declining.
If nothing changes, nothing changes. The need for recovery is not
going away. It has not gone away in my own life. It does not seem to
be going away in the lives of those I know best.
My own conviction is that we are at the very beginning of a remarkable
movement of God's Spirit. I believe that in the next decades we will
see a dramatic expansion of distinctively Christian recovery
ministries, both in the United States and in many other cultures. The
passion for truth-telling and for spiritual vitality, which are at the
heart of the recovery journey, may not be as marketable today as they
were last year; but I do not think that God is obsessively concerned
with marketability or newsworthiness. I find it very comforting to
know that God's commitments, passions and attentiveness are securely
founded in covenants that are more stable and will last longer than
what seems to be "hot" this year.
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