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Home > 2013 > June Online Only > Drinking to Remember

I have been thinking about alcohol lately.

A couple of months ago, I was writing an article for a national magazine. Their readership is located primarily in the American South. It was a great project, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process and the editorial staff. I think we were all delighted by how the assignment was turning out. Delighted that is, right up until the end.

After a couple of months of work and revision on the article, a higher-up in the organization got involved with the project. He or she seemed to like the like the article. But the higher-up got a hold of my recent book, Neighbors and Wise Men. After one look, the article was cancelled.

The reason? The book's cover has a picture of a bar. This picture is appropriate since much of the book is about redemptive conversations I've had in a local Portland pub. The editorial staff assured their boss that the book makes no defense of alcohol consumption as a practice, but that didn't matter. My article was killed. They could not be associated with a book that features a picture of a drinking establishment.

Divisive drinking

I have no ill will toward this organization. The editors that I worked with were kind, generous, creative, and professional. If they called again, I would happily work with them again. And they allowed me to retain my work and even paid me for my time.

But my story illustrates how divisive the issue of alcohol still is in many corners of the church. Parts of the divide are along denominational or generational lines. There is also a regional element to the debate. My friend Mark said, "I wonder what would change if the American South's main crops included grapes and hops, instead of tobacco. Would there be a change in the pulpit rhetoric about alcohol?"

I responded, "I wonder if the American West didn't specialize in the wine and beer industries, if we would have become so cavalier about our alcohol usage."

Economics and morality are often linked—but that is a topic for another day.

I grew up in a religiously conservative church/community. There was a high demand placed on us for moral purity that included avoiding PG13 movies and secular rock-n-roll. We were also taught that alcohol was bad.

And so often that is the extent of our theology of wine: "Alcohol is bad!" We reduce it to a good or bad, moral or immoral issue. As a result our faith-family is often left with only one reason to consider alcohol: rebellion. If it is only bad, then under what circumstances would they choose to imbibe? The answer: moments of anger, rebellion, defiance, pain, sorrow, or depression.

So, here is my attempt to start a conversation about alcohol. This is not an argument for abstinence or an encouragement to drink. It is an attempt to simply raise the debate from dogma to discussion. It's far from exhaustive. There will be no behavioral emphasis here, aside from the brief observation that wanton and meaningless drunkenness is clearly destructive (Prov. 23:20, Is. 5:11, Gal. 5:19-21).

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Tony Kriz is a writer and church leader from Portland, Oregon, and Author in Residence at Warner Pacific College.

Posted: June 24, 2013

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Displaying 1–5 of 10 comments

Steve Grove

March 26, 2014  12:36am

Our denomination doesn't drink not because it is a sin, but because they do a lot of compassionate work, and sometimes abstaining is a model for people who abuse it or controlled by it. Sometimes we exercise restraint for the sake of ministry, for the sake of "denying self and taking up the cross".

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Sam ONeal

March 25, 2014  10:26am

This would certainly be a helpful conversation if we could get it going on a larger scale -- as opposed to people yelling at each other from both sides on a larger scale. As an employee of a Christian organization who has signed a "pledge" not to drink, I've thought through this issue myself. Here are some additional thoughts: http://bible.about.com/od/Biblicalprinciples/a/The-Bible-And-Alcohol.htm

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andy hines

August 06, 2013  6:56pm

I love good wine and I love Mic ultra, it's great with pizza! The Bible is clear about not offending my brother if something bothers him. I don't drink unless the people i'm with aren't offended. Seems like a logical response. Good article!

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Jeri Bidinger

July 16, 2013  7:11pm

Lovely thought about using wine to remember rather than forget. Wine in the Bible is closely tied to celebration and joy as well. Often we find ourselves raising a glass in toast to King Jesus--especially in our Sunday evening eucharist celebrations around our table in a land where Christ is not much known and where we are almost the only believers resident in the community. Intriguingly, too, I'm told that Muslim converts to Christianity often see a glass of wine as a celebration of freedom from the prohibitions of Islam.

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Eric Trott

July 05, 2013  5:53am

Thanks for this thought provoking article. I certainly do not believe that drinking alcohol is a sin but getting drunk could lead you into sin. Jesus drank but never got drunk. I was myself into drinking a lot before I was saved in 1991, so much that it almost killed me. After I gave my life to Jesus I still struggled with alcohol for a while in my own strength. I tried hard to quit and kept failing miserable. I tried real hard till I had to confess that I could not in my own strength. I confessed to Jesus that I was helpless and asked Him to help me. As soon as I did that the drinking and smoking habits left me and have not returned for more than 21 years now. I believe there is a line that a weaker brother can cross when he goes from holding the glass to the glass holding him. I was and still am the weaker brother when it comes to alcohol. But I praise God that He is able to make His strength perfect in our weakness so that He is glorified. Yes, I used to drink to forget...

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