D. L. Mayfield's "Why I Gave Up Alcohol" offered a unique perspective. I gave up alcohol a few years ago as I realized that my purpose in life is to know God and to make him known. Alcohol made me less discerning of the Holy Spirit or unable to perceive him at all. And it lowered my resistance to sin. I was more apt to say and do things I normally wouldn't do when sober and under the influence of the Holy Spirit. I want to be able to respond to the Spirit without hesitation or question when he prompts me to action.
Lake Norden, South Dakota
Mayfield offers a cogent and biblical basis for her family's total abstinence from alcohol. Her views are formed, primarily, in light of their chosen life of ministry to the inner-city poor, who are characterized by the painful effects of alcohol abuse.
But what of us Christians who live in prosperous suburbs, where when our churches seeks to minister to the poor, we have to go several miles to neighboring communities? Does the rationale for avoiding alcohol disappear with the apparent lack of those who would stumble (1 Cor. 8)?
Like Mayfield, and Carrie Nation of a century ago, our decisions to drink or avoid alcohol, all to the honor of God, must be rooted in the cultural context where each of us lives. And whether we live in prosperous suburbs or decaying inner cities, there are several modern cultural factors that affect us all when it comes to the use of alcohol. I am not a theologian, but I do run a small business, so let me offer something of a cost-benefit analysis with eternal consequences.
1. Getting a DUI is expensive, but more than that, it is a poor testimony for a Christian. None of us, regardless of our view on drinking, would justify a DUI driver, but how often do my friends drive home after a couple margaritas and a chaser during a respectable evening with friends? What of the insurance increases, the inability to rent a car, and other consequences of a DUI ticket? How does this affect our testimony and reputation as a follower of Jesus?
2. Far and away, the highest percentage cause of car accidents is alcohol. This is just a more potent example of No. 1 above.
Was there an injury to a loved one in my car—or perhaps a death to an unknown passenger in the other car? Is my example here exaggerated? It is until I become one of the thousands of such cases each year in America. And guaranteed, each of those drivers assumed they were in complete control of their social drinking that night.
3. While drinking socially, exactly how much is required before my inhibitions and speech codes are slightly loosened? Do I say things which, at the least, are embarrassing, at the worst, cause permanent damage, and all of which are damaging to the name of Christ?
4. Every adult child of an alcoholic will tell you of the lifelong pain and trauma caused by the adult alcoholic in their home. Was there physical, sexual, or mental abuse? Was there failure to provide materially? Were there broken relationships and failed role models? Alcoholism is never intentionally chosen and it always starts as social drinking. It is medically complex and beyond the range of this discussion why some are easily susceptible to this cruel addiction, but for those of us who value Christ's reputation even more than our own, and who are charged with the overall responsibility of rearing the next generation, why would we assume this addiction would never touch us?
Playing the odds
In the conferences where I have an opportunity to speak to men, we have an audience participation moment where I ask one man from the audience to come down front. I give him a single die, and ask him to roll a six. Sometimes it only takes one roll, sometimes it can take several. But one thing is certain, in less than a minute, he'll get a six. As men, fathers, and grandfathers, we have a generational responsibility. Our children and grandchildren will emulate our choices as being approved by God s role model for them—their dads. We may choose to drink in moderation all of our lives, and our children and even extended family may choose the same with no negative consequences, but as sure as a six will eventually be rolled, sooner or later, someone among our loved ones will have a serious problem with alcohol.
All of our choices have consequences—some much more than others. But few have greater gravity than the choice to drink alcohol.
We all live in a high-speed, mobile, and litigious society. Is our freedom in Christ, on a single, optional social issue worth these risks?
And if we choose to defy sound reason and play against the odds, shouldn't we honestly ask ourselves if our choices are not rooted in pride as much as in Christian freedom?
Jennifer Woodruff Tait's historical essay was fascinating. I was raised in a family and a church that were both strong on temperance, but I never understood why. Trying to make a case for alcohol consumption being strictly forbidden by the Bible is a lost cause—it just isn't there. With these two articles, I have a much better grasp of why my spiritual predecessors took the strong stance they did. Thank you for enlightening 21st-century Christians to the causes of 19th- and 20th-century believers.
CT online comment
Tait labeled the 19th-century temperance, abolitionist, and women's rights leaders "progressive." I believe they would be more accurately labeled "radical reactionaries": radical, in that they were attacking the root causes of social ills; and reactionary, in that they were going back to the biblical standards against sin and abuse.
Lancaster, South Carolina
Wesley Hill's column reminded me of when, in 1964, my English lit instructor introduced me to George Herbert and John Henry Newman. She never said whether she did that for theological rather than literary reasons, but they (Herbert especially) powerfully shaped my own newly found Christian faith. It was a short trip from Herbert to John Donne, then Lancelot Andrews, Richard Hooker, and all the rest. I sensed myself "surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses" even then. If you are discovering Herbert for the first time, your soul will be blessed.
CT online comment
The beauty of this article . . . was its final section, where it called attention to . . . an opportunity for discipleship—for Christians to ask the question [of] what it means to love our Muslim neighbors.
[Bradley R. E.] Wright pinpoints Islamophobia as a present reality that we need to become more aware of. And this "awareness" should lead us to engage the issue in Christlike love: we do not grasp and cling to religious freedom just for ourselves, but we demand it for our neighbor.
I would put it like this: [T]he way of Jesus is the way of the Cross, which means refusing to secure power and freedom at the expense of the other, and, instead, securing power and freedom for the other (even my enemy) even if, in the process, it costs me my life.
J. R. Daniel Kirk
Storied Theology blog
Kate Shellnutt is spot-on regarding Jimmy Fallon's joy, humility, and wholesome innocence. I am a rather serious person who's always loved being moved to chuckles and belly-laughs. Fallon is a catalyst for both. While there is plenty to take seriously in our fallen world, let's not forget the portion of Ecclesiastes that Shellnutt so carefully noted.
CT online comment
Editor's Note: In "First church planned for Muslim nation" under Gleanings, we should have clarified that Our Lady of Arabia is the first Catholic cathedral in Bahrain. The information has been updated at ChristianityToday.com/Gleanings.
We've included some early feedback to July/August's "33 Under 33" cover story. Look for more in the October Reply All.
"Loved discovering many I didn't know and all they are doing with their passions."
Melanie Gillgrist @MelanieGillgris
"Dang, I didn't know some of you were so young!"
Trina Lee @TrinaKLee
"You know you are getting old when @CTmagazine sets the bar for young influentials at #under33."
Steve Woodworth @steve_woodworth
"It's neat to have my (mostly undeserving) work recognized for this sort of thing. I try not to put too much weight on these sorts of things, as youth is a fickle thing and the real meaning of my life will not be known until the end of it. . . . But it would be a disservice to those who have formed me if I did not extend the commendation where it properly belongs: to my parents and family, to the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola [which] gave me such a great education and . . . continues to support me, to my many friends and interlocutors whom I have learned so much from, and to all of you readers here at Mere-O for sharpening my thoughts along the way. There's a 'we' that stands behind the 'I,' which is never to blame but which invariably sets the conditions for success and so necessarily shares in the reward."
Matthew Lee Anderson
Responses from the Web.
"Christian or not is irrelevant; the copyright law does not allow for one to take notes from one song and put them into another song without obtaining the original owner's permission."
Stanley Straughter, CT online comment.
Gleanings: "Lecrae v. Katy Perry: Christian Rappers Sue Pop Star," by Kate Tracy.
"Good thoughts on how Christian ideas may seem pretty uncool in a world built on cool. But that's normal."
Gabe Lyons @Gabe Lyons
Mud Alive: "Called to Be Uncool," by N. D. Wilson.
"I loved this. Especially the exegesis of the difficult passage in Hebrews. But please, just buy a baby gate!"
John Schweiker Shelton, CT online comment.
"Confessions of a Bad Dad," by Peter Chin.
"Watered-down corporate prayer among people of unknown convictions gathered for a secular purpose is like disparaging retailers for refusing to use the word Christmas. It will always be stripped of the meat that truly pleases God."
Phil Conkling, CT online comment.
Where We Stand: "Not the Government's Prayer," by Ted Olsen.
"Rather than allowing Scripture to look over their shoulder and submit to it, they have done the opposite. By doing so, they are rewriting truth to mirror culture. When you walk in the fear of God, the fear of man is no longer an issue."
Rev Darrell Bowen, CT online comment.
"Is Gay Marriage Destroying the United Methodist Church?" by Timothy C. Morgan.
"Can we stop comparing all fallen pastors to David? He was placed on the throne by God and there was no set of qualifications by which he could be disqualified."
Mandy Boudreaux, CT online comment.
Under Discussion: "Should Christians stop studying the teachings of fallen pastors?" compiled by Ruth Moon.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.