Friday, May 25, 2012

Getting Drunk on Freedom?

It's a curious thing about our modern evangelical Christianity:

Alcohol consumption is suddenly expected of all of us.  Or at least it sure seems that way.

I can't have helped but notice how consistently the posts several of my Christian friends make on Facebook involve alcohol consumption.  As cohorts, my unsaved friends hardly ever mention alcohol on Facebook, but if you didn't know any better, you'd think these evangelical friends of mine are alcoholics.

And of course, I can't really say that out loud, because then I'd be branded a legalist.  I'd be denying my brothers and sisters in Christ their freedoms.  I'm the one who has unBiblical views regarding alcohol, not my friends who seem to talk about it all the time.

But isn't regularly talking about alcohol one of the tell-tale signs that you might be an alcoholic?

Then again, isn't regularly talking about Christians who drink alcohol one of the tell-tale signs that you might be legalistic?

So for the most part, I keep my mouth shut.  You already know that I personally don't drink, but not because I believe the Bible teaches that drinking is a sin.  Drunkenness - and, by extension, alcoholism - is a sin, but the reason I don't drink is because my father's father was a drunken sot whose inebriation destroyed his family.  I'm not convinced alcoholism isn't at least partly genetic, and since I already have an oral fixation with food and am struggling with the sin of gluttony, I hardly need to flirt with disaster when it comes to alcohol.

Yet the grace I'm supposed to show fellow Christians who may sin with too much alcohol somehow seems to evaporate when it comes to my ample girth - a dead giveaway that I have an overeating problem.  So, am I simply jealous that my sin is harder to hide?  People can joke about other fat people - it's socially acceptable.  But to suggest somebody has a problem with alcohol is somehow a violation of grace.

I have other family members who don't drink, either; again, not because they view it as sinful behavior, but because they're frugal, and they're already embarrassed by the amount of money they spend on soft drinks.  They've commented on how even in the sermons at their evangelical church, more and more references to alcohol consumption have been noticeable.

A couple of other evangelical friends have decided to give up alcoholic beverages, but not because they think it's sinful.  They're both trying to lose weight, and wine, and especially beer, are surprisingly loaded with stuff weight-watchers should be avoiding.  One of them mentioned that it's kinda put a crimp in his socializing - he hadn't realized how often he went out with friends from church to bars.

Back when I lived in New York City, I remember attending parties with church friends where there was no alternative to liquor but water from the kitchen faucet.  One of my former bosses, a Christian who's now retired, told me recently that as far as she knew, besides her own husband, I was her only friend - either saved or unsaved - who didn't drink.  She and her daughter used to have lunch dates regularly, but since her daughter began drinking a few years ago, they hardly ever get together anymore.  At her daughter's 50th birthday party, my friend and her husband - her parents - weren't even invited, since it was being held at a piano bar.  My friend's husband, who is a fanatical golfer and is used to be ribbed about his tea-totaling (or is it tee-totaling) from his golfing buddies in the clubhouse, tells her that's just the way it is.  Don't say anything.  As far as everyone else is concerned, we're the odd ones out.

And he's right.  Alcohol has come out of the Christian closet, and is the new normal.  And for the most part, I'm OK with that.  It's just that at those moments when you realize some of your Christian friends seem to have a preoccupation with alcohol, and you realize if you say something, it's you who's immediately at fault because they'll accuse you of legalism; what then?

Are some evangelicals using the threat of accusing us of legalism as a way to prop up what may be a not-so-innocent problem with alcohol?  Some evangelicals seem to be particularly focused on enjoying what used to be a forbidden freedom, at least in fundamentalist American Christianity.  And they think they have more rights to flirt with abuse than those of us who more strongly respect the dangers of alcohol.

No-win situations like this can't be what Christ expects for His people, which actually, in addition to my alcoholic grandfather, may be becoming yet another reason to validate my wariness of drinking.  And drinkers.

If I'm being the one silenced at the price of your exploitation of our freedoms, how free does that make you?  How is this any progress from the fundamentalism that refused to acknowledge that plain, old, ordinary, non-drunken drinking isn't a sin?

Shouldn't we all know our limits?

Why should my even suggesting that be off-limits?


  1. I don't see a middle ground here. What about people -- believers and nonbelievers alike -- who drink alcohol without becoming alcoholics?

    I think the key here is that people need to monitor and control themselves, instead of worrying about other people. Just because someone likes a glass of wine with lunch or dinner doesn't mean that a meal with a teetotaler is out of the question. Both of them should be comfortable sitting together. If the alcohol becomes a problem, then it's intervention time. But if it's not a cause of sin or other problem, then with alcohol, as with other items that can lead to sin in excess, people should proceed in accordance with their conscience, instead of worrying about the thoughts of others.

  2. Maybe my point should have been that the demarcation line between having a glass of wine at dinner, being a bit flush, being a bit tipsy, and full-blown drunkenness has gotten very blurred (pun intended). It seems that people don't really want to be held accountable for knowing when they've had too much. It becomes less about personal responsibility and more about accusations of legalism.

    It's a lot more socially-acceptable to suggest that somebody's diet should change than suggest they're drinking too much.

  3. It's always been interesting to me that my Christian friends (of all different denominations) seem to be more uncomfortable with the fact that I rarely drink (as in once a year ... maybe) than my non-Christian friends. The NC friends don't even bat an eyelash if I'm drinking something nonalcoholic around them, but believers more often than not seem to want to make it an "event."


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