Friday, September 7, 2012

I live next door to a dry county where "lips that touch liquor...."

I live next door to a dry county (Marshall County, KY). For those of you who live in a more tolerant and less religious region of the country, you’re probably thinking a dry county means they don’t get much rain, or they have a “dry sense of humor.” Well you would be wrong. A “dry county” means NO ALCOHOL can be served in restaurants, or sold in stores. Period.

Recently, Marshall County, KY had an election on whether alcohol could be served in restaurants and sold in stores. Reality check: I know this is 2012 but this was a big deal, and there were signs in yards everywhere, “I vote DRY,” “Vote NO, Keep Our County DRY,” “Vote YES.” The “No’s” which were opposed to the “evils” of alcohol were driven primarily by the local churches. Now, sadly, this tells you something about many of the churches in Marshall County (almost one on every corner) where the worst sin in the Bible is consumption of alcohol, as opposed to gluttony ( a leading factor in obesity which is an epidemic here in the South ).   churches).

Recently I was reading about the first miracle that Jesus ever performed: The miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana. Among all of Jesus’ miracles in the Bible, this is probably Bible-belt pastors’ least favorite and most ignored. I suspect that in many Bible-belt churches, this miracle is never preached or taught because they don't know what to do with this miracle which is "pro" alcohol, "pro" drinking real wine.

For a while I attended a church with a pastor who was a recovering alcoholic. He never addressed this miracle in John 2. However, in every other sermon, he would interject something regarding the sin of drinking and alcohol, one time inferring that if you had been to a bar the night before, you needed to come forward and meet Jesus. In other words, being at a bar was the sure sign that you were an unbeliever and far removed from the Lord. This pastor never distinguished between drinking alcohol and being drunk. For him the sin was not drunkenness, but alcohol itself, which is not biblical.

Historically, God’s people have enjoyed alcohol:
  • When a young Christian woman in Europe was to be married, they would get together and form a bridal ale for her. The men in the church brewed the ale.
  • John Calvin, one of the greatest pastors and Bible commentators, he had in his compensation package that he would get 250 gal. of wine for his duties as a pastor.  Martin Luther's wife, Catherine, was a classically-trained certified brewer of ale.
  • When the Puritans landed, did they erect the first permanent bldg. as a church or a brewery? They erected a brewery.
  • Martin Luther said that "Do you suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused? Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall then should we abolish and prohibit women? The answer is "No." Some people worship the stars...should we pluck them out of the sky?
Alcohol prohibition came out of feminism. Around the turn of the century, there was a great increase in liberal Christianity and feminism. Those things coalesced into the temperance movement. This was the reason for the origination of grape juice, created in 1869 by a Methodist pastor, Rev. Welch, who didn't want to serve alcohol anymore.

One of the reasons that women's movement fought so hard to get rid of pubs was because it was the center of a social movement--a gathering place. Those pubs were largely male-dominated, and there was a fight to get rid of the pubs and shut them down.

If you have been raised in a legalistic “King James Only” church, you've been told that when the Bible says wine, it doesn't mean wine--well, what does it mean? When the Bible says wine, it means wine and when it says God, it means God and when it says "hell", it means hell. The Bible speaks of wine frequently and every time it does, it means wine. The Bible says "Don't get drunk on new wine." How can you get drunk on grape juice?

How often have you been told that the wine in the Bible was “mixed wine,” diluted with very little alcoholic content? Mixed wine in Isaiah 1:22 is condemned because they were watering down the wine to “rip” people off.  Wines mixed with fruit, spices were dessert wines. Numbers 6:3 speaks of strong drink and also grape juice. So if the Bible has a word for grape juice and a word for wine, then when it says wine in the Bible, it means WINE, not grape juice.

In my next post, we’ll look more closely at Jesus’ first miracle and the implications of this miracle for us today, and what it tells us about God,

Does God abstain from alcohol? Would He vote "no" or "yes"? The answer may surprise you!

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