Thursday, May 04, 2006

Soap Box Derby

I currently reside in a border town-- a city half in one state and half in the other. This oddity reveals itself in several ways, one being that half the city is wet (sells alcohol) and the other half is dry (doesn't sell alcohol). So when you drive down State Line Road, there are liquor stores lining one side and not the other.

This has been a source of contention for restaurant owners for years. On the dry side, in order to buy alcohol at a restaurant you have to buy a "membership" in order for them to sell it legally.

Well apparently the issue is up for a vote now. And of course, this means there is all kinds of politicking going on. The visible campaign is the one against having my state becoming "wet." There are lots of yard signs and bumper stickers and other propaganda around town.

What I find interesting is that many local churches have taken up the cause. I shouldn't be surprised... American Christianity has historically shunned alcohol. But I also think that's funny; definitely one of those cultural issues that we've made doctrine. Don't misunderstand-- the Bible certainly takes a stance against drunkenness (as well as anything in excess-- money, food...), but I'm not sure where the idea came from that alcohol is inherently evil.

I have heard strange things taught in churches about alcohol. I've heard people attempt to make convincing arguments that Jesus never drank wine, or that the water he transformed at Canaa was just some kind of magic grape juice, but certainly not fermented. :) Several churches I've been involved with "don't allow" any of the leadership to drink, no matter how moderate they may be. Even my dear old alma mater doesn't allow students to drink after they're of legal age.

Where on earth did this come from? Doesn't this smack of legalism to anyone else? I'm reminded of the passage in Colossians 2:

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Colossians 2:20-23

And of course Jesus had something to say on the matter as well:
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions... You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!... Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that... Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside you can defile you by going into you. Rather, it is what comes out of you that defiles you. Mark 7: 8-16

I know alcohol has caused a lot of problems for a lot of people, and that is a shame and I'm sorry for it. But I also believe we've made a "false god" of sorts out of abstinence from alcohol.

The campaign rages on here in T-town, and I'm pretty sure the vote will go to keep my state "dry." But I hope that people aren't fooled into believing this is somekind of holy war-- the majority of the funding for the materials of this campaign is coming from "other state" businesses that hope to keep raking in money from alcohol sales. But, as often happens in politics, if you make people think that your cause is an issue of God and country, then you can win votes. An ingenius-- but horribly evil-- tactic.


Summer said...

Maybe one of the oddest experiences I've had in Boston was when we went to a pub with "the elders" (actually a steering committee made of men and women, since we have no elders) and all shared a pitcher of beer with our hamburgers as we discussed whether or not to hire a new minister. Yep. This is a Church of Christ!

Obviously, Boston is as wet as it gets, and I think the church we go to goes a great job of understanding that, even though everyone at our church grew up in Southern Churches of Christ and "dry" families. The great thing about that meal was that not everyone there had to share if they didn't want to. Some didn't. But those that did weren't shamed or stupid about it.

I think you're absolutely right, wet/dry/holy, it's an interesting question. Alcohol can have devastating consequences, and that should be respected. But senseless piousness can alienate and hurt people too. Just think how awkward it would have been if someone, on either side of the pitcher, would have made a big deal about it...

Keith said...

I myself am a recovered alcoholic and have been sober for 5 and a half years. The subject of alcohol is a very controversial subject in Christian circles. I attended an Assembly of God church for years and they smack of legalism. They "required" leadership to abstain from alcohol.

The Bible does not state at all that you should abstain from alcohol. The only thing the Bible speaks out against is drunkeness. Alcohol in moderation is okay.

Some people however cannot drink. I am one of them. Their filters don't work. They cannot stop. I realized that and the Lord got me though it. Now I can help others that struggle with the same problem because I've been there myself.

But for a church to "require" that you abstain from alcohol is legalism, pure and simple. Your Bible verses that you provided prove that.

Great post and great blog. Blessings to you.


ann said...

My friend Josh just posted a brilliant blog on this topic here:

Keith said...

Thanks. I just read it. His was right on the money. Thanks for sharing it.