Sunday, August 8, 2010

Alcohol (Honest August)

Years ago, I was sitting in my theology class when my professor made this simple statement,

“You know, in Europe, many theologians discuss their views of theology over pints of beer in pubs. Alcohol is viewed very differently over there.”

And his short comment began to deconstruct my idea of drinking. Isn’t the very idea of drinking wrong? Or is this just what I’ve been told. Maybe it’s cultural.

Later, another professor showed us Psalms 104:15.

“You [God] cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the the heart of man.

I knew about the many of passages that condemn drunkenness. But thankfulness to wine was something very new to me.

Martin Luther once joked,

“Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”

Last week, we talked about the shift in perspective about our language. Now I want to talk about the shift in the perspective of drinking. What changed?

Are the reasons similar to swearing?

1. The Bible doesn't say anything specifically against drinking. Drunkenness, yes. Consumption, no.

2. It's cultural. Some cultures permit it, others disapprove.

3. In general, Christians are getting tired of being told what they can and cannot do. Is that pride? Or freedom?

One aspect that I have noticed is that there are two types of drinkers.

The Frat Boy. This individual drinks for the sole purpose of getting buzzed or drunk. Sometimes socially. Sometimes alone. As I grew up, I thought this was the only reason or mentality to drink. To get drunk.

The Aficionado. This person appreciates and respects the culture and taste of alcohol. The goal is not to get a buzz or to be drunk. But rather to enjoy community and conversation that is had over a drink or two.

Some churches have adapted and established Pint Nights (evenings to gather, drink, and enjoy conversation). Others have Theology on Tap (theological conversations to take place in bars, where people who don't feel comfortable visiting churches can talk about God).

Years ago, I went to hear Rob Bell speak in Atlanta. Instead of speaking at a church, he spoke at a music venue. I was sitting close to the front, and I heard a guy comment behind me, “The bar is open! I’ve never had a beer while listening to a sermon before.” And sure enough, I looked, and behind me sat the man with his lager. My mind spun as the two worlds collided.

Author Stephen Mansfield, in his book The Search for God and Guinness, said this,

"A brewer once told me that he did not think of himself as brewing beer, but rather as creating conditions in which brewing takes place. He told me he felt closer to God brewing beer than he did in church, because when he is brewing he feels like he is participating in the secret ways of the Creator."

My friend Sam, who brews his own beer, said,

"I began to notice that conversations over beer were much more meaningful than conversations I had over cokes. Instead of talking about videogames, we talked about worldviews, theology, and personal convictions."

To be sure, beer isn't a necessity to have good conversation. But if the culture is changing, if it is permitted by everyone around, then is there a problem with that?

Now, I know too that alcohol can lead to serious problems.

Excess leads to drunkenness.

Drunkenness can lead to destructive decisions.

 can lead to driving under alcohol’s influence.

Abuse can leads to alcoholism.

All terrible consequences. Maybe these reasons good enough to completely abstain.

Lastly, I want to bring up the cost of alcohol. It can be expensive, especially if you drink at bars or restaurants. To those of you who drink, how do you spend the rest of your money? Do you spend more on alcohol than on your giving? I am a huge advocate of International Justice Mission. I think there are more important things in the world than tasty beverages. I don't think money spent on alcohol should exceed what you give to organizations you believe in.

Your turn to be honest. If you need to, you can leave a comment as Anonymous. 
Do you drink? Why or why not?
What do you think has caused this cultural shift? 

I saw this church sign and thought it appropriate to add it to this blog. There are still some who take a strong stance against drinking.