Tuesday 1 November 2011

The Great Christian Beer Divide

There are two types of Christian and, as any good Greek Orthodox communicant can tell you, they ain't Protestant and Catholic.

Simply put, brethren, there are the beer drinkers and the wowsers.

I grew up Lutheran, and the wowsers of my home city were appalled to discover that the gentle, compassionate "we preach Christ crucified" pastor at St. Matthew made wine in his garage. I remember it particularly as the 'scandal' was shared with me, somewhat breathlessly, by a teenage friend with Adventist connections who had made this horrific 'discovery'. Nothing like that in Steps to Christ! I found his consternation quite humorous.

As I morphed into a self-important, intolerant, Bible quoting twenty-something plonker, my allegience shifted to a fundamentalist sect about as far removed from Lutheran orthodoxy as you can get. But one feature remained constant, 'real Christians' could enjoy a beer. And behold, I could even proof text it with a semi-scholarly reference to that marvellous koine word oinos (as in "take a little oinos for thy stomach's sake.") Grape juice? Considering the use of the same term in Revelation, I think not.

Parenthetical qualifier: I've never been drunk in my life, and never failed a breath test. My personal limit is fairly low and as I'm one of those boring people who doesn't like to lose control, there isn't much temptation to excess. To be clear though, people who have a drinking problem should stop and seek help. In my fundamentalist years I became aware that drinking could indeed be a big problem for "Bible-believin'" folk, and especially morally compromised pastors under pressure (which was essentially the entire ordained ministry of that particular sect!) Just like people with religious delusions should swear off their red letter King James Bible, Eddie Long should stay well clear of teenage boys, and those of us a tad heavy on the scales should avoid buckets of KFC, so too with the demon drink. But for most of us that isn't a concern, and I guiltlessly relish a good dark brew with a pub meal and occasionally, in the company of more refined tastes, a glass of red wine.

I know the wowsers have a few choice proof texts of their own, but they've never impressed me. I once attended a men's function organised by the local Baptist church where the guest speaker gave his testimony. He had been a very bad boy before the Lord had come into his life. He had been to Japan on business and imbibed a little saki! Worse, he had moved his lawns on Sunday a couple of times before the light shone down from above. Depravity unparalleled! I couldn't quite work out what he was repenting for...

I mention this in light of a posting by John Petty (reacting to a posting by Timothy Dalrymple.)  Why is it that the 'dry evangelicals' find a glass of beer - even a low alcohol  brew - such an issue, wouldn't be caught dead with a lawnmower on Sunday, and yet seem so totally blind to the big issues that move out from morbid personal piety into the real world?

Petty concludes his piece thusly:
In taking mainliners to task, Dalrymple makes no reference to any particular Biblical teaching. It appears he believes that his evangelical childhood was, without question, Biblical. He seems to assume that the mores and customs he was taught growing up in an evangelical household pretty much are the Christian faith.
That being the case, it's not surprising that he thinks evangelicals understand the Bible better without seminary training than mainliners do with it:
For instance, students (like myself) who had attended Bible churches or belonged to evangelical fellowships knew the Bible on the first day of the year-long survey course as well as the rest of the students knew the Bible on the final day of that course.
Even allowing for rhetorical license, I doubt that very much.
And that about says it all.


  1. There was an interesting public television documentary about the the prohibition era in the USA.

    Apparently beer was not on the outs until they sided with the hard liquor industry regarding whether the sale of alcohol should be prevented.

    The friend of my enemy sort of thing. The upshot is that beer as well as the "hard stuff" was preached against hot and heavy. Probably a little factoid that has been lost in history to those who now piously refuse to imbibe.

  2. Funnily enough, I never got a taste on for "the demon drink" -- altho my unconverted mother was a real hit with the ministry, given she made the stuff. (In the basement, not the garage. And yes, the vats exploded, a time or two.)

    The last time that I picked up the wrong long-stemmed glass by mistake (the one that did NOT contain the unsweetened sparkling fruit juice I prefer), all of the skin inside my mouth shrivelled up in horror, as though I had just swallowed a mouthful of turpentine. (Which is essentially what it tasted like.)

    In the present day, Church members still drink in moderation, though at the Feast I just attended, I did not see anyone at all "under the weather"...I didn't even see anyone with a hangover, which was unusual.

    Funny thing is, though, whenever I said I didn't drink, I was consistently asked if I minded if the person offering the libation drank in front of me. (Which is when I proceeded to give explanation offered above.) *shrug* Couldn't quite figure out why they all asked me that....

  3. It's evil, completely evil. Anyone who would actually drink wine would have to be evil too.

    Worse...it's only for men. Okay, don't believe me, look at any picture of the last supper...see any women? Read about it in the gospels, any women there? Women do not partake of the "communion" bread and wine.

    When do you suppose that changed?

    Anyway, just think of the sacrifice that those men had to make to represent their families at the communion...they had to drink that evil wine ~ horrors.

  4. Unfortunately, it appears that alcoholics seem to be attracted to those extreme fundamentalist cults which have raised consuming alcoholic drinks to manliness and godliness to the extreme with rather predictable results.

    Furthermore, such said cults usually have an alcoholic at the head as the founder (with the usual engagement of the intended pun), which leads to all sorts of abuse toward those who are dehmanized as lower beings in the artificial hierarchy of said cult.

    People wishing to retain some semblance of sanity should check to find out as much as is possible of the leadership and environment in which they are interested to insure that they not be subjected to adverse treatment of those with severe manifestation of personality disorders. Erring on the side of caution is the order of the day, because those subject to alcoholics, narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, drug abusers and nut cases, may find their lives become somewhat random and a bit chaotic.

    A word to the wise should be sufficient.

    To the unwise, no amount of words will ever be sufficient.

  5. Hey, Corky, you haven't seen The Da Vinci Code yet, have you? :-P

  6. Oh, and Dougie? The one psychopath I was unfortunate enough to be acquainted with in my life, actually improved his disposition, when inebriated; the booze took that cunning, manipulative edge off him, see. So he was almost human.

    None of which had anything to do with the teachings of the Church, by the way.

  7. I did, I did see The Da Vinci Code. Ol' Leonardo knew a lot of stuff no one else knew, huh?

  8. Corky,

    Ol' Leo was the world's first conspiracy theorist --- and just about as accurate, too! (Which is to say, not very at all.)

  9. A. Nonymous Backslider said...
    Ol' Leo was the world's first conspiracy theorist --- and just about as accurate, too! (Which is to say, not very at all.

    Naw, there was a gospel writer that came up with a conspiracy theory before Leo did (Matt. 27:62-66).

    Uh huh, yeah, how did the writer know what they said?

  10. Corky,

    How did who know what who said? How did the ruling authorities know that Christ had said the sign of Jonah would follow him, for this faithless generation? How did the author of the text know what the chief priests and Pilate talked about?

    Not sure what point you're trying to make....

  11. A. Nonymous Backslider said...
    How did who know what who said?

    Not sure what point you're trying to make....

    How did the writer of the gospel of Matthew know what was said between the Jewish authorities and Pilate?

    The point being, he couldn't have known what was said. There were no followers of Jesus present during that conspiracy written about in Matt. 27:62-66.

    And, since it was a conspiracy, which there is no evidence for, then surely the Jewish authorities and Pilate would have kept this to themselves and not bragged about it to the world - since it was, after all, a failed conspiracy.

  12. Well, take this for the centuries-after-the-fact second-hand hearsay that it is, but I read on one of those "Jews for Judaism" sites a long while back, that one of the Jewish Talmuds (I forget which, sorry) basically admits that this conversation took place (might have been the Babylonian Talmud). So that's a "second witness" as it were...although Rabbinic Judaism certainly does not recognize Christ as the Jewish Messiah (nor was he, by Rabbinic Judaism's criteria).

    Does this conversation in particular really matter, though, Corky? I can't see the narrative as a whole, falling apart, for the want of this one passage, personally. The Bible is God-inspired, not "God-breathed, inerrant and infallible in the King James Only" as the mad fundie nutters profess, from their small-minded perspectives.

    The Church always did have an answer for those "difficult scriptures" -- which is more than can be said for the professing Christians, either then, or now!

    The main point I remember being made, was that picking apart small scriptures, or even pulling mistranslations and clear mistakes, as well as textual discrepancies, from the collection of many books, written by many authors over several centuries, doesn't affect the Big Picture at all, in the slightest.

    Which certainly isn't a fundamentalist Christian viewpoint...but it is what the Church used to teach (and what it is, ever so slowly, moving back towards once again).