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Reflections: Beards, cigars and beer

I enjoyed some theological discussion on a social media page until the day it went south. These were mostly young pastors who enjoyed beards, cigars and beer. One participant, a Baptist pastor, wrote that some church members were offended he drank beer. Well, of course!

The matter of alcohol is viewed differently in different churches. I served a Presbyterian church for several years and members commonly talked about drinking socially. Baptists and other evangelicals have historically had a different perspective.

I wish we could cite specific and clear verses that say, “do not drink,” but this is hard. The Corinthian church got drunk at the Lord’s table, so they didn’t use grape juice as our church does. The Bible, instead, warns of drunkenness, and tells about foolish people who got drunk, including Noah and Lot and the Corinthians.

My stance is that abstinence is a good choice for a number of reasons.

First, statistics are not favorable. One person in ten who begins to drink finds alcohol controls them. I talked with a lady recently who said she’d been in “detox” twice and yet struggled. Half of all traffic accidents involve alcohol. Women’s suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony was an officer in the “Daughters of Temperance” because she saw the abuse fostered by alcoholic husbands.

Another reason is the genetic propensity toward alcoholism. Research seems to suggest alcoholism in one’s family can bring addiction. My grandfather died as an alcoholic, and I’ve thought about this many times over the years. Former President Trump doesn’t drink because his brother, Fred, died as an alcoholic.

A third reason is influence. Suppose I can “hold my liquor,” but a vulnerable person who sees me drinking believes this sanctions their drinking. Perhaps they can’t handle alcohol and fall into addiction. If so, I’ve used my influence wrongly.

This was the kind of logical discussion I had with my unseen internet friend. I reminded him of the “idol meat” controversy in the New Testament church. The Apostle Paul said there’s nothing wrong with meat having been offered to idols and later sold at discount in the market. An idol is nothing, so the meat was offered to nothing. But, he said, if it offends my brother, I won’t eat this meat.

A pastor, of all people, should realize the gift of influence and use it wisely.

After my unseen comrade berated me as “naïve,” I left the group. I’m not naïve. I’m realistic. And I don’t know any Baptist preachers who can talk about drinking beer, or smoking cigars, for that matter, and keep their pulpits.

Presbyterians, not so much.

Though there is disagreement in the faith community, I believe abstinence remains a worthy choice.

Reflections is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church website is siluriabaptist.com.

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