I kissed whiskey goodbye*

 

mmmm. milk.

mmmm. milk.

 

I wrote a piece for Christianity Today that ended up being the cover (!) story. I am super excited about it, but I am aware that it might ruffle a few feathers. In short, last year I quit drinking, mostly due to my experiences with my neighbors. While I am not asking you to stop drinking, I am asking all of us to be a bit more thoughtful about it (or at least how we portray it/possibly exclude others). Really, I am asking all of us (myself included) to put ourselves in the position of minority/learner. Hanging out with alcoholics has changed my life.

I can’t think of much else I want to add to this discussion that wasn’t in the article. I will say that in doing the research for this piece I was so encouraged by the witness and testimony of all of those stout-hearted temperance women. Women who cared about the poor, about equal rights, about social inequalities. It’s a pretty fabulous, and a very different story from the common ones we have heard of moral piety.

So do me a favor and read the piece. I would be very interested in hearing thoughtful push back.

 

 

 

*title suggested by the one and only Darren Prince. Sadly, it did not make the final cut.

 

 

 

 

 

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22 thoughts on “I kissed whiskey goodbye*

  1. Woah! Congrats on that! And really great article. Put more coherent words to a lot of my thoughts on my own “teetotalism” and made me see it in a new way. Again, congrats. I cheers you with my seltzer. 😉

  2. Bill says:

    Congrats on the cover story! Well done!

  3. Yes, yes, yes!!! What a blessing it is when young people “get it” about alcohol! When I was a 23 year old newly wed, I read exemplary David Wilkerson’s new, at the time, illuminating book entitled Sipping Saints. It helped seal the deal on my view on alcohol. That, and the fact that our dear friend, visiting our charismatic church with us, immediately caught a whiff of the communion wine as soon as she entered our sanctuary. Offended and hurt that a recovering alcoholic would be faced with that smell at a Sunday morning service, seeing it through her eyes drove us to discuss her dilemma with our pastor. We implored him to only serve grape juice during communion, due in part to the revelation we received through our friend, as well as to the many other lives that are destroyed in myriad ways due to the imbibing of alcohol. Even before my husband and I were blessed with our four children, we knew it would not be safe or wise of us to drink as parents, because of the need to be always sober, alert and vigilant in order to take responsible care of them, and to be ready for any emergency that could arise at any time. Not to mention how alcohol causes one to lose all inhibitions and engage in illicit, unsafe sexual practices. Those adversely affected are definitely NOT at the margins of our society. They are all around us. Sadly, most folks who refer to themselves as Christians freely drink alcohol. Disciples of Jesus, in many ways, do not differ from those in the world, even though we are commanded to “be ye separate from the world.” We are called to be the light, the salt, the example to the broken, corrupt world in which we live. Instead, it appears as if it’s the world that is the example to us. Many take freedom in Christ as license to sin. Three cheers to David Wilkerson, and to you, D. L.!!!

    • To be clear, I definitely think you can be a follower of Christ and drink alcohol. For me and my context, the choice not to drink is one of neighborly love. Also, I think not drinking is a great way for us to engage with the sorrows that alcohol has wrought–but I certainly will not judge those who do drink (like my husband, who still imbibes occasionally and in tasteful and respectful ways).

      • It matters not what you or I or anyone else thinks about drinking alcohol. It only matters what our Lord has to say. Does drinking alcohol cause one to run after Jesus and His way and His will? Does it cause one to have a love for, and a reverence for, the Bible? Does it cause one to love others above one’s self? Does drinking alcohol help create an atmosphere conducive to denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him? To be clear, my choice not to drink has come, first of all, out of my love for, and obedience to, God’s holy written Word and His Word made flesh. Secondly, it follows that I would deny myself out of my love for those created in God’s image. God is love, and we are unable to love others in His name until we first love Him. Of course someone who drinks alcohol can be a follower of Jesus, but that is a slippery slope on which to remain. Good day.

  4. Charles Maki says:

    growing up in detroit,in a working poor neighborhood,saw all you talked about and of course joined right in. getting saved by faith in Jesus,fellowship of my church, and AA . i praise Him for it all.sober, for going on 8 years.i hope others will see the article and think about the choices they make about alcohol.

  5. Rachel says:

    “I didn’t give up alcohol because I wanted to flee the evils of the world. I gave up alcohol as a way of engaging the evils of the world.” I resonate with your perspective as it applies to alcohol as well as pork, tank tops, having pet dogs and the like in my life. As your mentor said, we are free not to do all these things, but not just for the sake of not doing them, but so that we are free to engage those who cannot be around us if we do. Thank you for your thoughtful article and perspective and I am excited to see it gain a wide-readership at CT.

  6. I was finally able to sit down and read this over the weekend. Then I read it again…and again. Not only do I echo the positive response you’ve received with this piece I also think you offer a profound hermeneutical key to understanding the complexity of St. Paul’s bold statement, “I’ve become all things to all people…” (1 Cor. 9). It seems that this statement is typically used in our current situation as a way to give ourselves permission to do something. You’ve exposed a very simple truth about a possible inverse application – sometimes becoming all things to all people means to *not* do something. Lest we forget the end of what Paul wrote here, “…so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

    Blessings to you.

  7. dianeemiller says:

    Great piece, agree with Daniel’s comment on your hermeneutical key… my only push back might be that I would describe you as a contemplative vs. an evangelical. You think and live deeper than most evangelicals I know. And, you have the best friendships with folks that are black or brown skinned, or live below the poverty line. You live with a beautiful orthopraxy vs. just teaching orthodoxy, promoting betterment activities/education and finding comfort in white privilege with comfortable lifestyle ways. Even if you were not part of Innerchange, I think you would still live this different orthopraxy.

    I also liked the whiskey title better… it had an authentic kick. I am so over Christian literature promoting being a good soldier, following the rules… that’s what CT’s title reminded me of – ugh. After all, I am your beloved pop-pops age and spent the first half of life following the top down rules… I finally have the freedom to enjoy wine. But, I must say, you have caused me to think a tad deeper about how I might choose to partake… thank you.

    • Thank you Diane! I agree about the title . . . it does come across as if I have an airtight “case” (which I certainly don’t). You are so encouraging to me.

    • Chris E says:

      Diane –

      I think there is an implicit problem with placing evangelicalism and a certain sort of orthopraxy in opposition to each other (unless evangelicalism is to be a catch all for all that is bad). The economic and racial divisions in some kinds of evangelicalism isn’t a universal rule. In some parts of evangelicalism some of us even are poor and brown ourselves.

  8. Judie Weseman says:

    AWESOME!!!

  9. I came here because I read that article on CT. I am a moderate drinker, but I served seven years in the Diocese of the Arctic (Anglican church, that is) 1984-91, and at that time pure bishop required us, whatever our personal views on the subject, to make a commitment to abstain within the borders of the diocese. This was all about what you are talking about here: there high levels of addictions in the communities, and the need not to put a stumbling block in front of our neighbours.

    There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus and the apostles drank wine, so I don’t think we can use them as examples of doctrinaire teetotallers. But we don’t need chapter and verse for this; we need Christian love and common sense. As I said, I’m a moderate drinker, but your article encouraged me to think carefully about that, and to choose to abstain when it seems the loving thing to do. Thanks.

  10. Sorry about the typos in the previous comment – ‘pure’ bishop should have been ‘our’ bishop, of course, ‘there’ high levels should have been ‘the’ high levels etc.

  11. Matthew Fisher says:

    The virtue of temperance is a worthy topic, and you handled it well. The alternative is to have a belly for a god, which at times, I do.

    Your article touches on 19th century America’s moral crusades. Mainstream abolitionism played out very badly in my opinion, and the abolitionist’s idea that we could fix the world through fratricidal war is still with us. The tale of Cain and Abel would however not have turned out any better, had righteous Abel killed wicked Cain.

    Which is not by any means to accuse you of urging violence. I see the difference. I just don’t agree wholeheartedly with your statement that “Christians’ willingness to advocate for social and civic change on behalf of suffering friends and neighbors is a powerful model for us today.”

    As Julia Ward Howe found out, the model from that era was very bad. The author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic ended her life as a pacifist. Carrie Nation on the other hand believed right into the 20th century that hatchet-wielding vandalism could breed virtue.

    The way in which the Civil War brutalized and traumatized the nation probably greatly aggravated the drink problem — and other social ills as well. John Woolman’s earlier model for freeing the slaves by patient moral persuasion was better. But as a people we look for the quick fix.

    What I’ve said above is more tangential than a direct response. My Orthodox Christian misgivings about communion Kool-Aid are likewise beside the point. The meat of the article was very good, and I hope it will prompt many to think twice about the meaning of Christian liberty. It certainly has prompted me to consider again why Christians must be temperate.

  12. Chris E says:

    “The virtue of temperance is a worthy topic, and you handled it well. The alternative is to have a belly for a god, which at times, I do.”

    It really isn’t the only alternative. There is always moderation in all things.

  13. RubeRad says:

    I hope this counts as “thoughtful push back”…

    First, I would like to highlight that the Bible has lots of positive things to say about alcohol, which teetotaling arguments always conveniently omit (not to mention, for all of the obvious scientific studies about the effects of alcohol abuse, there are plenty of studies about the health benefits of moderate use). Good alcohol is a good thing created by God, given to man to make our hearts glad (which seems to imply a bit more than “boy that tastes good”…), prescribed for many Mosaic ceremonies, and I think very significantly, prescribed in the Lord’s Supper. So are we required to indulge in all good things? Not at all. Good cigars are also good things, but I would never smoke one (Maybe someday a pipe, we’ll see). But, I would challenge your readers to consider; if they someday find themselves in a church service where the Lord’s Supper is offered, with only wine: does their (entirely valid) personal choice to not use alcohol in their daily lives override an invitation from the Lord of the Universe to dine with (and through) his Son?

    Second, Rom 8:13 is often used as a model (and mandate) for teetotalling. But that has to be understood as hyperbolic. Does anyone think that Paul actually was vegetarian? Because he says right there “if food makes my brother stumble…”, and there is at least one brother that food makes him stumble (else why is Paul writing all this?), therefore by syllogism, Paul never ate meat again. That’s just silly. Paul ate meat, but with sensitivity to his brothers. So maybe you have a point with the “I heart bacon” and “Mommy needs wine”; we should not be rude and throw our liberty in the faces of others — but again, this can be taken too far. Are “I heart beef” shirts not ok because there are vegetarians in the world? Are Wisconsin cheeseheads verboten because there are vegans in the world? Are “I heart dachsund” bumper stickers not allowed because there are animal rights activists that see pet-owning as slavery?

    Also, we must understand Paul’s statement in a way that can make sense of the life of Christ. Did not Christ cause offense by his eating and drinking? Were there not alcoholics in their culture, and yet Jesus miraculously provided wine –and wasn’t it excellent wine? Was Jesus insensitive to how much more people would desire to drink wine that good?

    A final thought: let’s turn the tables with the Rom 8, Rom 14 etc. What if I am using alcohol responsibly, in Christian liberty, and by my moderate enjoyment and thankfulness I am glorifying God (Rom 10:31) — when I am confronted by a Christian brother who is an over-the-top teetotaler (note I purposefully use an anonymous other in this illustration, because I don’t want to accuse you or your article). Although he has never touched a drop and never would (and proud of it!) he tells me I shouldn’t drink because I might cause somebody to stumble. And now suddenly I have doubts about whether I can drink anymore; “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” So who is undermining whose faith?

    My point is it can work either way: insensitive flouting of liberty can erode others’ faith; and on the flipside, insensitive, moralistic legalism can erode others’ faith. We are all of us sinners, and we all need to learn how to love and edify our brothers and our neighbors.

    • thank you. I don’t think anything I wrote disagrees with what you wrote here. I was more speaking to the great divide we experience when we are not in diverse relationship with others.

thoughts?

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