A Spirited Book Club discussion of the bestseller, “Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps” by Richard Rohr.
We are all addicted in some way. When we learn to identify our addiction, embrace our brokenness, and surrender to God, we begin to bring healing to ourselves and our world. In Breathing Under Water, Richard Rohr shows how the gospel principles in the Twelve Steps can free anyone from any addiction—from an obvious dependence on alcohol or drugs to the more common but less visible addiction that we all have to sin.
Find helpful ways to incorporate Twelve Step spirituality into your life – whatever your addiction or affliction. Only people who have suffered in some way can save one another. Deep communion and deep compassion is formed much more by shared pain than by shared pleasure. This, says Richard Rohr, is one of the great discoveries of the Twelve Step Program, America’s most significant and authentic contribution to the history of spirituality. To survive the tidal wave of compulsive behavior and addiction, Christians must learn “to breathe under water” and discover God’s love and compassion.
In this prophetic exploration of Twelve Step spirituality, Rohr identifies the core Christian principles in the Twelve Steps, connecting them to the gospels. He draws on talks he has given for over twenty years to alcoholics and others in recovery and those who counsel and live with people with addictive behavior.
Reviews for Breathing Under Water
“Great book…Well written. Rohr closes the gap between secular recovery programs and The Church’s responsibility in addressing this pressing and growing issue of addiction. It also helps the reader to establish a greater understanding of addiction and how to approach it from either perspective, (ministerial or secular based recovery). This is one of the better books I’ve read on recovery and the spiritual approach we should be taking as ministers, as well as explaining the relationship between the 12 steps and The Gospel. I HIGHLY recommend it!” — Jamie H.
“Spirituality is perhaps an ill-chosen word in this book’s subtitle, given that Rohr’s characterization of Christianity is (and always has been) relentlessly incarnational. Here his identification of the gospel with the core tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous underscores how redemption comes to us in and through the messes we make of our lives, not despite them. Anyone with first- or even second-hand knowledge of the Twelve Steps can attest to the unsettling challenges they present to safe, respectable, middle-class Christianity: ‘When the churches forget their own gospel message, the Holy Spirit sneaks in through the ducts and air vents. AA meetings have been very good ductwork, allowing fresh air both in and out of many musty and mildewed churches.'” — The Christian Century
“Breathing Under Water is a must-read for any person who recognizes the need to go “inward” on their soul’s journey to question what their relationship is with God, themselves, and others. The author guides us on a journey that begins with a powerlessness or being shipwrecked on a deserted island. It is God’s greatest surprise and constant disguise. We always want to be the manager of our lives. But God makes sure that several things will come our way that we cannot manage on our own. What Breathing Under Water comes to be is an understanding that those people who have undergone suffering and pain come up to be a compassionate people, loved by God, to be there for others experiencing a similar challenge in life. Rohr summarizes that a graced moment from God is when the suffering people can love and trust a suffering God, and through this deep transformation, will save and be there for one another.” — Paula J. Scraba, PhD., The Cord
“Richard Rohr continues to guide us to greater wholeness. The latest example is Breathing Under Water. A prolific writer, his books have helped countless souls, especially those who struggle with issues of brokenness and seek transformation.” — National Catholic Reporter
FIRST BOOK CLUB MEETING for July 8: Introduction – Chapter 6
SECOND BOOK CLUB MEETING for July 22: Chapter 7 – Postscript
There is no need to share from the personal reflection questions at the end of the book. You are encouraged to do them in their own time, but not necessary for our discussion.
- In consideration of ‘coming to believe’ how does the phrase impact our theology? … “The immediate embrace is from God’s side, the ineffectiveness is whatever time it takes for us to come to believe…”
- Have your assumptions or understanding of addiction or the 12 Steps changed as a result of reading this book?
- How could the Steps benefit anyone, regardless of addiction?
- What Step do you think might be the most difficult for an addict? For a ‘normie’?
- Did anything strike you that you’d like to spend more time with?
- Many Christians become upset with the term ‘higher power.’ What is your take on the term ‘higher power’?
- The author says Step 1 is the most difficult. Do you agree? If not, what Step do you think is the most difficult?
- Which of the last 5 Steps do you think would be most difficult? Why?
- The words ‘will’ and ‘willing’ are used frequently throughout the book. How is my work and God’s work divided up on the spiritual journey to wholeness?
- What in this book do you think Christians and their practices could benefit from?
- Has reading the book or this discussion changed the way you see and understand those in addiction and/or recovery?
Book discussion facilitated by Henry Rojas.
Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (www.cac.org) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he also serves as Academic Dean of the Living School for Action and Contemplation.
Fr. Richard’s teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy–practices of contemplation and self-emptying, expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized.Fr. Richard is author of numerous books, including Everything Belongs, Adam’s Return, The Naked Now, Breathing Under Water, Falling Upward, Immortal Diamond, and Eager to Love.
He has been a featured essayist on NPR’s “This I Believe,” a guest of Mehmet Oz on the Oprah and Friends radio show, and a guest of Oprah Winfrey on Super Soul Sunday. Fr. Richard was one of several spiritual leaders featured in the 2006 documentary film ONE: The Movie and was included in Watkins’ Spiritual 100 List for 2013. He has given presentations with spiritual leaders such as Rob Bell, Cynthia Bourgeault, Joan Chittister, Shane Claiborne, James Finley, Laurence Freeman, Thomas Keating, Ronald Rolheiser, Jim Wallis, and the Dalai Lama.