Many Christians have a problem with alcohol. Not a drinking problem, mind you. But I believe the issue of alcohol has become a major one within the church. Not because of its importance, theologically or practically. But because it’s such an obvious taboo. At least within my home denomination, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Denmark, but I suspect in other places as well.
My mind turned to this subject once again when I came across Blaqenedwyte’s brilliant post, Theology on Tap. Controversial, indeed, but thought-provoking as well. I mean, why not?
Historically, most evangelical Christians have shunned alcohol, but none so vigorously as the SDA Church. I will glady give all due respect to the health message of our pioneers which was really ahead of its time in the late 19th century. Many people have met God through this focus and continue to do so in some parts of the world.
But times change, and Adventists no longer have a monopoly on healthy living–far from it. The stance of total abstinence from alcohol of any source may have been helpful in many cases, but does it really need to be a cardinal point any more? Furthermore, I personally find no Biblical mandate for complete abstinence.
This is dangerous ground to tread. Why? Because it has become a case of black and white (or maybe it’s always been). Nobody wants to talk about it. Sure, there’s talk. But no reality check. The embarassingly low membership rate of the Danish Abstinence Union (Dansk Afholdsunion) speaks for itself. It seems as if we’ve all closed our eyes to the fact that a large portion of our fellow Adventists find it perfectly all right to enjoy a glass of wine with a good meal. Maybe people are afraid to wake up and find that a couple of drinks is actually not the end of the world and never will be.
On the other hand, the minority who take this position (no official figures here–maybe it’s even 50-50) don’t want to bother raising the issue because of the sometimes very hostile remarks they’ve become accustomed to hearing whenever the curtain is drawn back just a little bit. Better to just stay silent, then.
Is this really a problem? Perhaps not. But there shouldn’t be dishonesty within a church, not even on relatively minor issues as this. Sometimes, especially among young people, it’s as if there’s an invisible line dividing the doers and don’ters, each group frowning upon the other’s choices. That certainly can’t be healthy.
United in Diversity. Sounds good, right. The question may be, how diverse should we be? But before we can answer that, we need a reality check. The real question to ask is: How diverse ARE we and what do we do about it?