Sober Mercies by Heather Harpham Kopp

Subtitled: How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk.

Sober Mercies is first and foremost an addiction memoir, showing the secrecy and the deception and the havoc wreaked by Heather Harpham Kopp’s need to drink as much alcohol as possible every single day.

What makes her story stand apart is that Kopp was (and still is) a professing Christian at the time of her addiction. She believed that alcoholism was only a sin problem, not an addiction or a disease, and so she resisted seeking help. She didn’t know why she couldn’t just repent her way out of her problem. She was editing books on Christian theology but wasn’t seeing her beliefs translate into her life at all. I think this is a common problem for all Christians, especially in the evangelical tradition. We have orthodoxy (“right doctrine”) but not orthopraxy (“right living”), and I think the relentless focus on individualism in popular evangelicalism is a big reason. We’re told that Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus and so we get lost in our personal experience, instead of being taught that Christianity is first and foremost about what Jesus Christ did on the cross, vanquishing sin and making it possible for us to be right with God. As long as it’s all about us, we’re doomed to see how we fail every day. That’s what happened to Kopp. I wish she had spent more time showing how her perspective on God and herself changed because that’s where the magic in a believer’s life happens. She sort of rushed the ending and I wanted more because I she did a fantastic job getting me invested in her story.

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