UPDATE: I’ve decided to preface this blog entry with the fact that I am NOT making a counter argument that Christians should drink. I am actually evaluating Mrs. Sanders argumentation. I stated this below, but as I have seen the feedback from this post, I thought I’d go ahead and post it at the top, so that any future readers will realize that this is the case.
I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time. This is a response to an article called, Why I don’t Drink, that was written by Angela Sanders over at the Word Slingers blog in July of last year. I saw the article almost immediately, as many of my facebook friends thought that she was spot on in her analysis of alcohol in the Christian life. I do not know Mrs. Sanders, but I am sure she is a wonderful Christian woman, and in no way do I wish to impugn her character. I do, however, want to respond to what she says concerning Christian consumption of alcohol, and for posterity’s sake, I’ll mention that you can find the article in question right here: http://www.wordslingersok.com/2013/07/why-i-dont-drink/
As noted, I first saw this article a day or two after it was written. I had planned to write a response the last week of July, but when I actually sat down to do so, the link had mysteriously quit working. I tried again the next day, but again, the link was still down. So, it got put on the back shelf until today.
For the record, I was raised in an evangelical, Southern Baptist environment, where drinking was at least taboo. My parents drank very rarely, and were somewhat secretive when they did. This only pushed me further toward an ideal of total abstinence from alcohol in my high school days. I reasoned that my parents occasional drinking was proof that they were at least poor baptists, if not poor Christians.
My first two years of college I went to a very fundamentalist Bible institute, which demanded all student abstain from alcohol, and taught that whenever wine is mentioned is Scripture it is referring to water that has been purified with a little bit of alcohol; not enough to get anyone drunk. I immediately bought into this, as it proved my bias. However, it was Scripture itself that eventually proved to me that alcohol was actually alcohol. Scripture is replete with warnings against drunkenness, and if one is going to be honest, he must come to the conclusion that if there are numerous warnings against drunkenness, then drunkenness must have been a legitimate possibility when drinking said beverages. This means that “wine” and “strong drink” in Scripture, must at least sometimes actually mean “wine” and “strong drink”.
In an attempt at full disclosure, I will admit that I’m a beer drinker, and that makes living in Grand Rapids a great thing. I also home brew as much as time allows. But enough about me, let’s review the article. This is not an argument for drinking, but a response to her argumentation. I will not be critiquing every point, but I will hit the highlights (and lowlights) of her argumentation.
Mrs. Sanders initially said: “To my brothers and sisters who do drink, please do not take offense. I’m sure that you have weighed and prayed about your decision as well. I do not think less of you for the decision you’ve made…”
While this sounds encouraging, she does exactly what she says she’s not going to do. This will be seen in more detail as this critique continues. My interaction may seem somewhat pithy, but it’s not intended to be so.
Below I will post her arguments with my thoughts about them in parenthesis.
Mrs. Sanders notes:
* The Bible says not to be drunk, and the line between having a drink and having too many drinks is just too fuzzy. Drunkenness, or being controlled by alcohol (even for a short time), is something that Christ died to set us free from. To me, drinking after He did that would be like being released from jail and choosing to frequent the jail parking lot.
(I agree with her point about drunkenness; who wouldn’t? However, as she continues, her argumentation gets worse. As a woman who is married with children, I am curious if she would argue that since sexual immorality is something that Christ died for, that sexual relations in marriage “would be like being released from jail and choosing to frequent the jail parking lot.” My guess is that she would not make the same statement about sex in marriage, and she shouldn’t. However, her argument falls flat because she fails to see that there is a right and wrong way to do most anything. Eating, drinking, and sex are all things that can give glory to God, or trample his grace, and the list could be much longer.)
* I don’t want to contribute financially to an industry that capitalizes on the pain, neediness, and addiction of anyone. I know too many people whose lives have either been ruined or forever altered by alcohol. Though many people are able to drink without becoming addicted, I wonder how many people, without realizing it, have come to depend on alcohol as a social crutch, trading in Christ-centered or even people-centered relationships that might have been for ones that revolve around the consumption of a substance.
(Her argument seems to assume that “pain, neediness, and addiction” are the reasons that all breweries exist. It’s almost as if she thinks that all beer company executives are sitting in a dark room, waiting to hear the good news about alcohol dependency and drunk driving related deaths. I don’t know her, but I would be much more persuaded by this if she believes the same thing about fast food and all clothing made in sweat shops. Perhaps she does, but I haven’t seen it. If she’s not 100% organic and fair trade, then her argument is insincere.)
* Alcohol dulls sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Alcohol creates spiritual static, making it hard for me to discern what God might be saying to me, and I never know what He’s going to say or when. Missing a divine appointment because I chose to drink, for me, would be like letting someone drown because I’m busy watching TV.
(This is the argument that makes my blood boil. We (even she, as a Southern Baptist) are Sola Scriptura people. We get our information about God and his will from Scripture alone. This type of thinking is rampant in evangelicalism, everyone has their own personal Jesus sitting on their shoulder, giving them personal instructions. I’ve often heard people say that “God told me…” to do any number of things that violate Scripture. If Mrs. Sanders wants to hear God speak to her then she had better open her Bible, because that is the only way that God speaks to his people. Any belief that she will miss some secret message from Jesus because she had a drink is not only mystical nonsense, but breaking the second and third commandments.)
* I don’t want to exclude anyone or hinder relationships. People who do drink often exclude those who don’t drink when they gather socially. I like peanut butter, but I don’t let it keep me from spending time with friends who have peanut allergies. I simply don’t eat peanut butter when I’m around them. The effects of drinking often carry over into the next day, causing others to feel as if they are less important than the drinking experience to the one who chooses to drink.
(I’m curious about this one. I had friends who drank (and smoked reefer for that matter) in high school and college. Not a single time did they ever exclude me because I didn’t. More often than not, they told me that they really respected my decision to abstain. Perhaps the people Mrs. Sanders knows who do this are just crummy people. Everybody has different experiences, and if these are hers then I feel bad for her, but my experience is the opposite. On another note, one could make the exact same argument against vegetarians and vegans… but I’m curious if she would do so. As for her idea about “The effects of drinking often carry over into the next day…”, well, this can be said about any group of people who enjoy a specific hobby; football, baseball, soccer, bridge, scrapbooking, etc. So again, this isn’t a real complaint.)
* I don’t want to point others, particularly my children, toward anything that could potentially become a problem for or hurt them.
(Well, fine. But I hope you include fast food (any food, really), all sugar, diet soda, all sports, driving…)
* If I chose to drink, it would be for me, to fulfill my own desires and purposes, which is where every sin issue I’ve ever had has started. I just don’t want to go there.
(Fair enough. If this is going to lead you to sin, then by all means abstain. I am a little curious if she considers all of her own desires sinful, or at least that they open her up to sin.)
* If I broke off a piece of the Loritab, Darvacet, Percacet, or Vicadin in my cabinet every time I felt the need to relax, people would say I had a problem. I struggle to see how that is any different than pouring a glass of whatever when I feel the need to chill.
(Here is a shot below the belt. She implies that everyone who drinks does so because they need help relaxing, and then she compares it to abusing prescription drugs. Remember when she said initially, “To my brothers and sisters who do drink, please do not take offense. I’m sure that you have weighed and prayed about your decision as well. I do not think less of you for the decision you’ve made…” well, turns out that wasn’t true.)
* I just don’t need it. As a Christian, every freedom is mine in Christ. In fact, the spiritual yard that the Father has given me to play in is way too huge for me to worry about whether or not to set foot in the 10X10 plot of freedom that is social drinking.
* I want to be set apart. The Bible doesn’t say that no one can ever drink, but God does tell several individuals whom He sets apart for higher tasks not to consume alcohol. There has to be a reason for that. On some level, He must value abstinence from alcohol, and, hey, if God is taking volunteers for higher tasks, sign me up!
(I get the feeling that this is a powerful argument in many evangelical circles. It was how many things were presented to us in youth group growing up, and at the time most of us thought it was cheesy. However, what she infers from Scripture is fairly silly. God indeed commanded some not to drink alcohol, those taking a Nazirite vow come to mind (of course, those who had taken a Nazirite vow were also prohibited from vinegar, grapes, raisins, and cutting the hair on their heads), but of all the people God DIDN’T forbid to drink, one important figure was Christ. Not only did Christ drink wine, but his first miracle was turning water into really great wine. I think that puts some of this into perspective.)
Thus concludes my critique of her article. As a conservative Presbyterian, I’m glad that this type of thinking is not prevalent in my circles.
Eat, drink, and do it all to the glory of God.
(All beer pictures taken from the first page of google images for “beer”)