The absolute genius of the Twelve Steps is that it refuses to bless and reward what looks like any moral worthiness game or mere heroic willpower. It spots the counterfeit and “drags it publicly behind it in a triumphal parade” (Colossians 2:15). With Gospel brilliance and insight, AA says that the starting point and, in fact, the continuing point, is not any kind of worthiness at all, but, in fact, unworthiness! (“I am an alcoholic!”) Suddenly, religion loses all capacity for elitism and is democratic to the bone. This is what Jesus affirmed in prostitutes, drunkards, and tax collectors, and what Paul praised when he said, “It is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). When the churches forget their own Gospel message, the Holy Spirit sneaks in through the ducts and the air vents. AA meetings have been very good ductwork, allowing fresh air both in and out of many musty and mildewed churches.
—from the book Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps
by Richard Rohr