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I am 30, I am an evangelical Christian, and I don't drink. Not because I have a problem with alcohol abuse, although I enjoy a good sobriety story as much as the next person. My narrative is a bit more jarring, coming across to fellow liberated evangelicals as a throwback to our not-too-distant conservative past. In a culture that encourages us to celebrate the good things of life—Instagramming an artfully arranged salad, tweeting about Pinot Noir, posting Facebook albums full of vacations—choosing not to drink carries a stigma of pietism, a whiff of refusing to party with Jesus. A faith built on meaningless acts of righteousness, of disdaining the world and its evil values.
In the pastor's home I grew up in, alcohol was a nonissue: not a drop in our house, only grape juice in the Communion cups. Save for my mother's relatives—who served as a warning, since most of them abused substances at some point—nobody I knew drank alcohol. I believed we were teetotalers, just like all other Christians. Then, when I was 17, I discovered a stash of wine coolers in a broken dryer in our garage. As it turns out, my parents liked to indulge now and then, but had kept it a secret from my siblings and me. I suddenly had to mentally rearrange everything I believed about alcohol. Wasn't it inherently evil? Didn't it lead to only bad things—sour breath, ruined relationships, cars full of teenagers careening out of control on the way to prom?
After I found them out, my parents began keeping a bottle of wine in the cupboard and some coconut rum on top of the fridge. And I began to see that having an occasional drink was a grown-up way of enjoying yourself. It became a signpost of the wider cultural appreciation our family was developing as we eschewed our fundamentalist past. When I was of age, my older sister bought me my first drink: a White Russian, à la The Big Lebowski. "Welcome to the club," she told me, and ...