Sunday, December 7, 2008

thoughts on alcohol...

So, I was chatting with John Smith this morning at St. martin's community God Squad celebration. Good times. We started to talk through the subtle differences between our communities (Salvos and St. Martin's). We have much more in common of course, rooted in the same Wesleyan theology and staunch supporters of holiness impacting tough places with light. One of the main differences is alcohol.
Now, John has a familiar take on this having come from a deeply religious home seeped in tradition and rules... alcohol was simply a pious, religious rule that kept the church people separate from the worldly people... from a missiology (thoughts on mission) base Alcohol abstinence can be a hindrance (at least that's his take). By separating ourselves from the world by abstinence he suggests that we can become holier than thou pious types that can't connect to people in culture... Our take of course is that Alcohol abstinence is about being called 'out of the world' in a Nazarite-type call to be different YET somehow we believe that our call is to the world at the same time. We believe that our message is one that is about purity lived out-loud without the religion but with the purity and impact of transformed lives being beacons of hope to those stuck in the grip of alcohol.
Is it possible?
well, i get the struggle. Sometimes it is awkward to be set apart in an extreme way like total abstinence... it can feel like we are so separate that we've lost touch with the people we are called to love... and it can lead to a seclusion or exclusion from real life that leaves us part of a holy club protected from the world but leaving little impact.
On the other hand, how can we remain pure or prophetic from the grip of excessive alcohol consumption and it's impact on the poor in society - how can we present the good news of transformation and freedom when we struggle ourselves with the same demons that assault the world... how do we proclaim the gospel with power if we are prisoners to the poison of culture and it's abuse?

I think there's still time for John to change his mind! ;-) But even if not - here's a strong Christian salute to a man who stands for Christ and serves the world with good news. I'd be thrilled to be more like him - cause he reminds me of Jesus.


Geoff said...

I think in lots of ways the question starts not with "should Christians drink alcohol", but rather - what is the "solution" (for lack of a better term) to excessive alcohol consumption.

For me, I'd go for a similar approach to alcohol consumption as I would to sexual activity. The "solution" to sex outside of marriage (as I'd see it) isn't no sexual activity, but sex in the right way and place - inside marriage. Likewise, I'd consider that the answer to the abuse of alcohol isn't abstinence but moderation.

I have a hard time reconciling a blanket ban on alcohol with a Saviour who turned water into wine; but I absolutely would want to respect the opinion of those who have different views on the "solution" to alcohol abuse. I do think that missional context is absolutely vital in considering how we respond: I'd like to think that if I was walking with someone/people for whom moderation wasn't a viable solution to alcohol abuse, that I'd be ready and willing to join with them in choosing abstinence.

(Obviously I'm not a Salvo, but I'm really appreciating reading a perspective that I don't necessarily hear in my Vineyard church setting!)

armybarmy said...

yeah, it's a hard one. The abstinence stance was really a prophetic stand with the poor who were often oppressed by alcoholism and addiction... it was a solidarity move.. recently a new incarnational movement among the poor (UNOH - uniting neighbours of hope) after walking/living with the poor have come to a similiar place after realizing the effects of alcohol on the poor.

In Aus. of course even the government is doing it's best to rescue a generation of youth from addiction and it's harsh effects on society... perhaps the question should move from a holiness/purity one to a social justice one?
just thinking... thanks for your perspective... I wonder if it's possible to have an abstinence position with a church called the Vineyard! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Missionally it makes sense in my context. I have many friends for whom "one drink is too many, and never enough", so for me to not put a stumbling block in front of them one drink is too many for me as well.

That is a part of my culture - excessive abuse of alcohol. In other cultures, French and Spanish for instance, there is a much healthier approach to wine, and there the approach perhaps ought to be different.

Now, what about marijuana? Missionaly should we perhaps consider toking up? Is our anti-ganja stance a pious one that keeps us separate from our neighbours? I ask this in all seriousness, though I have no intention of ever lighting up a spliff. (Although our covenant says "the non-medicinal use of drugs" - what about if/when marijuana becomes an accepted medicine?)