I went to church today with a friend. The man preaching had a good heart and worked with the poor, homeless, and addicted. He was even so humble as to share that he himself had once had a problem with addiction.

Then he remarked, rather softly, that no amount of praying and bible reading seemed able to touch his addiction. He himself, in order to break free, had to find help outside the church in a place where the “name of God” wasn’t even used — in group therapy.

That’s when I sat up straight. This was something rarely heard from the pulpit.

Unfortunately his remark was a digression; a brief and unintentional aside. And the remaining half hour was, not a bad sermon, but a typical one full of familiar bible verses and stories that he made a heroic effort to recast so as not to seem cliché.

The sad thing about all this, as I told him afterward, was that the stuff about “meeting God” and overcoming his addiction outside the church should have been the whole sermon; not something mentioned almost under his breath.

Had that been the crux of his message he wouldn’t have needed to put any effort into making the material seem fresh because it would have actually been fresh. And surely there were others in the audience that morning ailing from things that no amount of church-going seemed to cure.

Instead, I could practically hear him say resignedly, “Well I won’t talk much about how I actually progressed on my journey and where I really found help because surely you all are expecting bible stories.”

This seems endemic in organized religion today. It doesn’t know what to do when God and freedom and healing approach from outside the religions we so dutifully march to.