by an Anonymous South Bend Professor
In general, modern Christians believe in receiving divine guidance through prayer and meditation. It is also well to remember the widespread and fairly generic belief in talking with God or Jesus during prayer that we find in English speaking Protestantism during the early twentieth century. One of the most popular hymns of that time was written by C. Austin Miles (1868-1946), which breathes with the spirit of this common understanding within the evangelical tradition (with links in this case to St. John of the Cross’s poems and commentaries on the song of songs):
I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
He speaks and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet, the birds stop their singing;
And the melody that He gave me
Within my heart is ringing.
It was the voice of a simple piety, where ordinary men and women went around talking with God as they would with a friend, and seeking His counsel and guidance and comfort and encouragement through every hour of every day. The Oxford Group and early A.A.’s were both simply pointing out to those who thought they were among the more worldly-wise and sophisticated, that they too needed to develop that kind of simple piety.
Only when we do daily prayer and meditation will we be able to see the dew on the roses and hear the birds singing, and know the sweet song of the divine love which they reveal, which will heal our souls and change our lives.
Arising out of that same matrix of assumptions, the Twentieth-Century Protestant Pentecostal movement and the later Roman Catholic Charismatic movement developed the idea that God could communicate directly with the human soul in an even more radical fashion, where one only had people speaking in tongues during their worship services but also prophesying in the spirit in a way which they believed paralleled the great Hebrew prophets of the ancient biblical period. But, I know of no evidence of any direct involvement of Pentecostals or Charismatics with either the Oxford Group or with early A.A. so that (to the best of my knowledge) we have no examples within the early Alcoholics Anonymous movement of people speaking in tongues or prophesying in the spirit of meetings.
Oxford Group and twelve-step practices had quite a different style and form that were based on different assumptions. It is wise to remember at all points that it was the liberals and moderates among the Protestant evangelicals who had the dominant influence on early A.A. during the 1930s and 40s, not the fundamentalists and Pentecostals and other aggressively ultra-conservative and reactionary factions, which were still very small at that period of American history.
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