It occurred to me a few years back that I kept getting upset with people "outside" the Christian faith for how they acted... and how ridiculous that was. They do not subscribe to my beliefs or convictions or faith so why would they act as I would? And in rereading the Gospels it also became painfully obvious that Jesus was constantly upset with the most "religious" people who encumbered people who did not know God with more rules than anyone could keep.
So whenever I run across someone or something that I feel is encumbering to the mission of Jesus by being overly "religious" and not loving I tend to get bent out of shape... as I did recently in reading an article by Denn Guptill entitled "Why Jesus Drank and I Don't". I was upset as a Christian, a pastor, a person, a scholar, and as a Wesleyan (my denomination)... you can read it here for yourself.
In short my response is: why do Pharisees feel so compelled to talk? In a longer way... well, you can read my letter.
"To Whom It May Concern:
For several years I have been an active member, student, and minister in the Wesleyan denomination, I have listened, watched, and read many stances- both past and present… I have never written in to or in regard to the Wesleyan Life but this last issue concerned me greatly. You posted an article entitled “Why Jesus Drank and I Don’t” by Denn Guptill with which I took great exception on numerous points which I will list for the ease of the reader:
As an ordained minister Guptill, I assume, has had the privilege of a formal education. However, throughout the article he utilizes the assumption that Jesus drank which is one from silence. We see him make wine, host the last supper, assume he participated in cultural “norms”, and get called a “drunk” but nowhere do any of the Gospels state that Jesus drank.
Even so, moreover the problem lies in Guptill claiming that the distillation process dates back only 500 years while it is a well known fact that the Babylonians in Mesopotamia knew about and used distillation. A simple search of the Internet will prove this and yet the author apparently was too lazy, inept, misinformed, or falsely motivated to claim otherwise.
Last point here: the cultural argument was horrific. Jesus makes “good wine” at the wedding of Canaan- and anyone who drinks or knows anything about alcohol will tell you “good” means higher alcohol content (hence patrons being upset over “watered” down drinks). The claim that the wine at the time was 3-11% alcohol is so unimportant it is stunning it is mentioned. At what point does a “drink” become a “drink” then, I wonder? If beer is “only” 5-7% is that okay, then?
It would also seem to me that a pastor such as Guptill would understand that in Romans 14 the “weaker” brother is the one who has to keep more rules. That said, is Guptill then claiming that he is refraining from drinking so that other people who refrain from drinking won’t drink? So he is a “weaker” brother helping other “weaker” brothers be “weak”? This kind of circular rhetoric is logically unsound and a hermeneutic nightmare that has been promoted and tolerated in educated circles for far too long.
Romans 14 also says that we should leave our personal convictions between us and God. So why are we, as a denomination, not following the advice of Paul and simply being silent about our own opinions about food and drink?
“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” It evidently wasn’t enough to misuse Scripture but also the work of a famous author like Fitzgerald who was writing to a 1920’s flapper culture obsessed with overindulgence and greed. Any first year debate student will tell us that the “slippery slope” is a style to be avoided because it cannot be objectively proven and is one bred out of individual’s experiences and stories- not statistics.
It seemed to me that the 2008 General Conference granted local church voting rights to community members and allowed for personal conviction when it came to alcohol and tobacco use. If this is really our stance, that people who drink may be part of our membership then we cannot allow articles like this one to be printed without one on the other side of the page entitled, “Why Jesus Drank and I Do”. We are now talking out of both sides of our mouths.
Allow me to “weigh-in” on a related point that Guptill beats to death, that drinking leads to drunkenness. He is right… in the same way that eating leads to gluttony. It is true you cannot be a drunk without first drinking but by that logic we should all be anorexic. With the obesity and diabetes rate of Americans climbing annually I, for one, think it would be far more culturally impactful if we took a denominational stance against gluttony instead of alcohol… but that may hit a little to close to home. The point is the Bible speaks more to gluttony than drunkenness. We need to be against overindulgence on credit cards, possessions, money, alcohol, and food- not pick and choose to preach on just the stuff we don’t struggle with."