Thoughts on Christianity and Alcohol

as a youth leader i know i need to be careful. sometimes my indifference to a subject can be mistaken as an endorsement. or my silence on a subject can be mistaken for affirmation. i want to talk about alcohol because i’ve mentioned it on my blog here before. i dont think drinking alcohol is a sin. i do think it’s wrong if not done in moderation.

i like the Q&A format, so my thoughts will be typed out in the form of this fictional interview with reporter Haywood Jashutupp. Please remember as you read this, i am not claiming to be an authority on anything, i am simply sharing my honest thoughts on this:

Haywood Jashutupp: Do you drink alcohol? Do you think it’s wrong to drink alcohol?

Bryan: yes, on occasion i enjoy a drink. no i dont think its wrong.

HJ: Does the bible say it is wrong to drink alcohol?

B: I dont think it does.

HJ: But there are websites that say all acohol is evil, according to the bible.

B: Yup, here’s one. I just don’t think they’re right though. This whole “the wine Jesus drank was unfermented wine and not alcoholic” stuff. I’m sorry, i think it’s bunk. That’s what i call “twisting the text to make it fit your own arguments”. Doesnt it feel like that to everyone else?

Another excuse people give is that the water in that day was bad and contaminated, so people drank wine because it wouldnt make them sick. That’s how this website explains why Jesus might have had wine and why Paul told timothy to have wine. This might be true, the water might have been contaminated, but how is that relevant to whether drinking alcohol is wrong or right? acohol is either inherently evil or its not, regardless of the water purity of the times.

Another thing to think about is this. Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. And not just any wine, but “good wine”. 6 barrels of it in fact. And the passage implies that the guests were drunk, as they had consumed all of the other wine. So i doubt it was “unfermented, non-alcoholic wine”. My point is this: If alcohol was inherently evil, and was to be avoided in EVERY circumstance, would Jesus had made wine from water with his FIRST miracle? heck, would he have done it at all? I don’t think so.

HJ: But alcohol has ripped apart so many families.

BA: not to be technical, but ABUSE of alcohol has ripped families apart, not just acohol. just like MISMANAGEMENT of money has ripped apart families, not the money itself. to be honest with you, i know about making stupid decisions under the influence of alcohol. been there, done that. dont want to go there again. it is powerful stuff.

it is very bad if not used in moderation. even advil can kill you if you abuse it, but in moderation it serves its purpose. Alcohol can be the same way i think. Theres a reason Paul told Timothy to have some for his stomach, and theres a reason that warriors returning from battle would have wine. in moderation i think it can be a good thing. (and i think its harder for youth to determine that moderation line, thus the need for an age limit)

Many people have given up on alcohol completely because of the damage they have seen in their lives and in the lives of others. That is awesome. To follow through on a conviction and make a decision like that is great. Many people have done similar things with Cable TV, the internet, Movies, and travel because of struggles in their lives with pornography and other vices. Again, this is a good thing. But i don’t think it makes it a sin for me because it is something you have cut out. Unless it is clearly stated in the bible as such, you are getting dangerously close to adding things to the gospel in my opinion.

HJ: so anyone is ok to drink as much alcohol as they want?

BA: no, no no, i didnt say that. hear me out. if you live in america and you are under 21 you shouldnt drink. its against the law. i think its a good idea to have an age limit, because alcohol can be powerful stuff. also, if you live with your parents and they do not want you to drink, then you should honor that. i am a firm believer in honoring your parents while you are under their roof and not an adult yet. Once you are an adult of legal age, you need to make your own choices with the help of God’s Spirit.

HJ: so adults of legal age can drink as much alcohol as they want?

BA: again, i didnt say that. the Bible is pretty clear that getting drunk isnt going to do you any good. Over and over in the bible you see folks who have too much to drink and make stupid decisions. In Ephesians 5 we are told not to be drunk, and in Proverbs we are warned that being drunk will lead to bad situations. In 1 Corinthians 11 some folks were eating and drinking too much and Paul warned them not to.

HJ: So, BOTTOM LINE, is it OK or not OK to be drunk?

BA: I see what you’re doing, you want ME to define what is right for YOU. I really dont want to do that. But i do appreciate that you are seeking my advice on the matter. I will say this. If I HAD to answer i would say that it is NOT OK to be drunk. The Bible is clear that it is not a good idea and it won’t do anything for you except make you act stupid and make you feel terrible later. so i would say it is NOT OK if forced to make a decision. But you should really pray about it and search the Bible for yourself, dont take my word for it.

HJ: OK, so to sum things up, you feel that drinking alcohol is not wrong or a sin, but that it is wrong to drink if you are under 21, going against your parents while under their authority, or if you are participating in drunkenness?

BA: yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Moderation is key, in all things, not just alcohol. And remember, I’m not a pastor or a monk or anything, this is just my opinion on the matter. Remember that you always need to honor the laws of the land and honor your parents. Beyond that the most important thing is that you seek God about this yourself. Read the bible, pray about it, ask other folks who you respect about it. Don’t just take someone else’s convictions and make them your own.

And on the flip side of that, convincing yourself that getting drunk is OK, doesnt make it OK. same goes for anything else. The ability we have to deceive ourselves is amazing. This is why its best to pray, read, and seek wise counsel.

HJ: wouldnt it just be easier to say “all acohol is evil. just avoid it”?

BA: ya know what, that would be easier. but i’m tired of turning my brain off and just accepting the easy answer. i want the right answer. and as long as i am given the opportunity to speak into teenagers’ lives, i want them to keep their brains turned on, keep listening to the Holy Spirit, and keep searching for the right answers. even if they are not the easiest fixes or least messy solutions.

i say this with no malice at all, but in my opinion there are christians out there who have added to the gospel by making the consumption of alcohol a sin. Then they think that by keeping this “new law” that they’ve created that they are gaining some sort of favor with God. Doesnt that seem very similar to what the Pharisees did? Now, i realize the Pharisees motives were all wrong, and that cant be said for many alcohol-abstaining christians, who are honestly trying to serve God with everything they have, but i do think its shaky ground to start creating new laws.

This all comes from my struggles in trying to serve God. I admit that I have failed miserably in so many ways. Looking forward, I want to be concerned with what God is concerned with and for too long i havent been. Have I been more worried about what label the band is on that i’m listening to than loving the unlovable? Have I been more concerned with replacing cuss words that i want to say with “freaking”, “crap”, and “Dang” , than helping the poor and oppressed? Have I been more concerned with looking cool or looking smart than doing something about social injustices of the world? And that’s not to say that God isn’t concerned with our personal behavior as we strive for holiness, because he Has called us to be holy. He wants us to be ambassadors for Christ on this earth.

And i believe wholeheartedly that there are good reasons to be careful about what you watch and listen to. There are good reasons not to swear and use cuss words. I think you all know that. But sometimes i just think that we are not emphasizing some of the major points of the gospel, and minimizing them, because they are harder to live by than “don’t swear” and “don’t drink”.

If Jesus had said “They will know you are my disciples because of your clean language” or “they will know you are my disciples because of your abstention from alcohol” then we’d be in a lot better shape probably. But he said they’d know us by our love, and for me personally, that is a smack across my face. I’m not sure if “my love for others” is the reason that ANYONE knows I’m a Christian. Shame on me, seriously.

Anyway, I’ll shut up now. if anyone wants to talk to me on any of this or has other questions, let me know. I love dialoguing about tough issues like this. And i know I have a lot to learn. Haywood, sorry to ramble at the end there.

HJ: Thats ok. Well that wraps up this interview, join us next week for a look at Settlers of Catan Addiction.