If we are to believe many within the modern evangelical church today, beer and Christianity are wholly antithetical notions. Citing the many abuses of alcohol, these “neo-prohibitionists,” as they’ve been described, are quick to assert that Christians ought not drink alcohol, even in moderation, as it can too easily lead to overindulgence, drunkenness and sin. Furthermore, drinking in front of other Christians, weaker in the faith, can cause them to stumble in their faith making the imbiber all the more culpable. It’s better, they say, to just stay away from the stuff all together.
I have dedicated some space in past articles, like this one and this one, to the topic of Christians and the consumption of alcohol, but I’ve never undertaken an exhaustive treatment of the subject here – In part because I haven’t had or been willing to allocate the time, and partly because I seriously doubt that the vast majority of my audience on BP are in need of convincing that the moderate use of alcohol is in no way antithetical to the Christian life. I’d be preaching to the choir, I think.
As I dwell on the subject more, however, I am increasingly convinced that a cogent, thoughtful analysis of the subject is warranted. Particularly for the folks in a region like southern Illinois, where Christian Fundamentalism runs rampant, a well-reasoned defense of the moderationist view can certainly not hurt. In fact, it can probably only help those who have found themselves on the defensive when self-righteous and woefully uninformed Christians condemn a well-meaning believer who enjoys a good beer or two at the local restaurant. I’d have said the local pub, but if the critic is in the pub, save for the purpose of evangelism I suppose, we’d be looking at an entirely different brand of hypocrisy!
I bring all of this up now because the subject is coming up quite frequently as of late on a couple of other beer blogs I enjoy reading. Jay Brooks’ Brookston Beer Bulletin has revisited a subject he wrote about a year or so ago concerning a poll that was taken on an Evangelical website that asked the reader whether or not Christians ought to drink beer or not … I appreciate Jay’s response and think you might as well. Read it here.
Wilson over at Brewvana has not only embarked on a terrific series he’s calling “The Gospel According to St. Arnold – The Role of Beer in a Christian Life,” but he’s done it with such thoroughness and eloquence that I am absolutely indebted to him for his work – you see, this means I don’t need to write about it myself! After all, why attempt to re-invent the wheel and why try to improve on something that already bears the hallmark of excellence. Wilson’s analysis ought to be mandatory reading for anyone who has struggled with this issue or searched for answers to give that Fundamentalist friend who just won’t leave you alone about that occasional beer. Please read his series in order to get the full impact.
The preface is here. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. And Part 3 is here. Look for Part 4 next Wednesday, as this is a weekly series. I’d also encourage you to read the comments left by readers after each installment … these are, like the articles themselves, quite well-written and insightful. Once you’ve read Wilson’s series, don’t hesitate to drop him a line and let him know you’ve enjoyed the discussion.
Why am I writing about Religion on a beer blog? Several reasons, really. I’ll sum up just a few to end this post:
1. Religion (read: Christianity) has a rich tradition of brewing. To deny the place of the Church in the history of beer is to deny much of beer’s best and most productive legacy.
2. Religion is spiritual; religion is intellectual; religion is about both the here and now and the transcendent. Beer, in many ways, shares a commonality with these traits. As a Christian, I believe that God gave us beverage alcohol as a gift to celebrate life, love and faith. This doesn’t mean I am gonna thump anyone over the head with a King James Bible, but I don’t intend to shy away from the reality of a “lived faith” – a life lived “Coram Deo” (before the face of God). One of my passions in life is good beer … God gave that to me. Period.
3. I am, maybe to the surprise of some, an ordained man. I am not an active Minister, Pastor, or Priest, but I do have the “credentials” as it were. I also carry academic degrees in both Philosophy and Theology, so it’s like breathing to me to see the parallels between the enjoyment of world-class beer and the enjoyment of the Christian life – often times they run in tandem.
There you have it. Please read`Jay and Wilson’s pieces, as both are worthwhile. If you find you still have questions, or just want to share your story, feel free to leave a comment here anytime!