That Tricky Third Step
A new documentary looks at how people of different religions deal with the faith-based elements of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Having been born in Akron, OH, the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous, filmmaker Josh Gippin was well acquainted with the organization. But it was only more recently, as he jumped into a documentary about AA entitled God As We Understand Him, that he realized the problems created for many participants by the third of the program’s celebrated 12 steps.
“When I originally went into this project, I imagined making the film for mass consumption, a film that would just be a good story and would tell a story about AA,” Gippin explains in an interview with the West Side Ledger newspaper. “As I went along, there was a point where AA’s mandate hit me very emotionally (in the wake of a family member’s suicide). The purpose of this film changed. I needed to make a film that would help people.” And so, Gippin and his wife, photographer Shane Wynn, chose to focus on the issues raised by the third step, which decrees that AA members ‘made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.’
Though Gippin today is agnostic after a Jewish upbringing, he felt that for those of various religious faiths, this pledge might present a challenging hurdle. In the end, he interviewed 33 current and former AA members on camera, all of whom maintained their anonymity by being shot from the neck down. The one-hour God As We Understand Him will premiere June 7th and 8th as part of AA Founder’s Day weekend events in Akron, and will also be broadcast locally on PBS beginning June 10th. The film is also available for purchase on DVD via GodAsWeUnderstandHim.org.