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I don't drink alcohol, not even socially. To some that makes me a legalist. To many of my "Boomer" peers, who think it is totally uncool to be a teetotaler, that makes me a conservative. In the interest of being more popular with my liberated Boomer peers and accepted as cool by the Generation X crowd, should I reconsider my hard-line position on alcohol? Maybe I should loosen up a bit and chug-a-lug along with the rest of 'em so that "I might by all means save some"(1 Cor. 9:22 KJV).
After considerable (sober) thought on the matter I've decided that I am not going to start drinking ... I'll stick with "total abstinence." I know many of you will be disappointed that I'm still up here on the wagon, but I remain unconvinced of alcohol's usefulness. I'm sure you wonder why and are breathlessly waiting for my rationale. I hear that many nowadays are seeking a good rationale for total abstinence (not really). But just in case any of you hunger for sound argument, here are my own reasons for sticking with Diet Coke(r) (except for an occasional shot of that nite-time-sneezy-stuffy-nose-cold-so-you-can-rest-medicine). Here's why I don't drink:
1. I Don't Need It.
I realize thatalcohol is the social lubricant of the American business culture. And I know that when Evangelicals' clientele came from skid row this was a clear-cut issue - reformed drunks know exactly where to draw the line. But we've moved uptown now. Or rather to the edge of town. Evangelicals don't run many missions anymore - we let Roman Catholics and the mainline churches do that. Instead, we cater to the dire needs of suburbia and have been populating our churches with social climbers and "quality people." These folk use alcohol like their DayTimers(tm) - as a social and political tool to grease their career tracks. So of course, following our newfound market share, most Evangelicals will eventually come to approve the drinking habits of our wealthy patrons. The customer is often right.
In fact, my own denomination will probably "open up" and "abandon legalism" sooner or later, adopting a more contemporary and pragmatic approach to alcohol. Not right away, but eventually I suspect. After all, "some of our best people drink." They also tithe. But even if my church legalizes drinking, I still won't drink. I just don't need it. It would take more than alcohol to grease my career track.
2. Social Protest. This is really the major reason I don't drink. To me, the alcohol industry is merely a group of drug pushers dressed up in suits. I think they are pushers running their dirty little industry at the expense of other people's pain. So I boycott them. Sure, I know it won't break 'em. I don't do it to run them out of business. I do it to keep from supporting them. I do it for me, not against them. Yeah, I know, their Super Bowl frogs were cute several years ago, and their "I love you maaaaan" commercials were delightful. But when you strip away all the ad-man cleverness, they are simply liquid drug traffickers and I won't support them. It doesn't matter to me that their customers want the drug, or even that it is legal. I just boycott them. Not far from where I live and write in Indianapolis, there is a huge chain of liquor stores which purposely preys on poor people. I don't care if the owner of this chain dresses in classy $500 suits and attends a respectable church. He's no better in my mind than a street corner drug pusher. I'm an old hippie who went without California lettuce for several years to support the migrant workers. That boycott was about fair wages. This is about destroyed families, ruined livers and perpetuating poverty. I know my abstinence won't change things, but I do it anyway. This is one industry that introduces plenty of hell on earth. So, I just boycott them.
3. Abstinence Is a Clear Line.
OK, OK, I know the Bible doesn't forbid alcohol. It condemns drunkenness. But drunkenness is a foggy thing. When does a social drinker get drunk? After one drink? Three? Six? Adozen? See? I can't say for sure. Most Bible students agree that drunkenness is sin, but when does the drinker get drunk? In college I wondered what it would be like to get drunk. So I hustled a jug of wine out of a Jewish friend's party, pulled off the road in Allentown, Pennsylvania and chugged down the entire jug. Discarding the empty jug in a nearby trash can, I then drove 40 miles home. Was I drunk? Who knows? I didn't know. That's my point. Since then, I haven't touched it at all. Total abstinence is an easier line for me to enforce on myself. If drunkenness is sin, and therefore I shouldn't get drunk, how am I going to know when I've crossed the line? Carry my own breathilizer?
4. My Denomination.
I am a member of a denomination that "requires" teetotaling (as much as any denomination can "require" anything anymore). Indeed, many (American) Evangelicals have a similar heritage. For 150 years, four generations of folk in my denomination have pretty well agreed that total abstinence is the way to go. Hey, I don't want to toss that overboard without a bit more thought. I like my denomination on most days, so even if I wanted to drink, if abstinence has been important to the people in this church for 150 years, I can think about it a little while longer.
5. Church History.
Not that I am locked into the past, I recognize that the church has not always been against alcohol. In fact, given 2000 years of history, abstinence (for the masses) is a rather recent notion. But then again, so is opposition to slavery and the notion of ordaining women. So while I respect Christian tradition, I am not locked into it - especially if the thing in question being eliminated from society would benefit all of us. That was true of slavery. Is there anyone who would argue it could not also be true of alcohol?
6. For the Kids.
I can't imagine drinking - even in moderation - then being hypocritical enough to tell kids to abstain. "Hey, kids, do what I say, not what I do." Suuuuuuure! I don't want kids to drink - my kids or yours - so I don't drink. It's that simple.
Now I suspect some of you fine readers will want to broaden my thinking and help me understand how a good stiff drink each day will delay my heart attack by three months and 13 days. Thank you very much for your concern. But, I'll give up eggs instead.
Will most evangelical churches loosen up their tradition of total abstinence in the coming twenty years? Should they?
1. On what other issues has the church "softened" over the years?
2. Do you think this common rule of alcohol abstention will also be dropped in the future? Should it? Why or why not?
3. What reasons for teetotaling that the writer missed would you add?
4. What arguments might be given for softening up the church's stance on alcohol?
5. Where would you go in the Bible to support your position either way?
6 So, what is your own personal position on this matter?
Excerpted from SO WHAT DO YOU THINK? by Keith Drury Copyright © 1998 by Wesleyan Publishing House. Excerpted by permission.
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