Have you heard that Methodists don’t “believe in drinking?” I heard that, but not during a sermon. In the ten years that I have been attending a Methodist church I never heard a talk about alcohol. I did notice that the word “wine” is never used during communion. The Communion beverage is either called “juice” (which sounds irreverent to me) or “the cup.” It was during a Church social function that I heard about Methodist’s perspective on alcohol. A woman asked our pastor and he said it was true, but he looked embarrassed and I could not hear everything he said over the music. I went to the Methodist Church’s website to discover their position. Indeed, the church encourages abstinence from alcohol. However, for those who do drink, they advise restraint and scriptural guidance. Their position seemed a little too conservative for me, but since the emphasis seemed to be on avoiding abuse and intoxication related accidents I can’t object either. I am disappointed in my church for not teaching about alcohol. I really don’t agree with their position, but what is the point of believing in something if you keep it a secret? It seems to me that churches ought to stand for something rather than just trying to make everyone feel comfortable all the time while avoiding the tough issues.
This made me start to wonder: how liberal am I? I am a member of a Methodist church, and I was faithful to the Presbyterians before that. If I am liberal, should I be put off by the church’s stance on alcohol? Exactly how do I feel about alcohol consumption? What about my church’s stance on other issues? I would have to do a lot of research to determine what church best aligns with my beliefs. The problem is, I am likely to discover that there is no church that aligns all that closely with my specific set of beliefs. Most likely this is the case for a lot of people. What can I do? I am supporting an organization with my volunteer hours and money. Yet isn’t a misaligned church better than no church? Churches are a great place to raise a family and support each other. If I didn’t support any church I would be on my own. I know what I will do. I am already doing it. I will try to influence policy from the inside.
To do that though, I first have to decide what I believe. I do believe that prayer and Bible study can guide a person’s beliefs. The concern I have with this is that plenty of conservatives also pray and study the Bible. They just feel led in a different direction than more liberal-minded persons like myself. All this thinking and deciding wears me out! I am so glad I am not on my own to make all these decisions about what is right.
Most of what the above links says seem pretty reasonable. Prevent alcoholism, support families that suffer because of an addiction and so on. The links also say that temperance is a personal choice, and practicing temperance is a way to be a witness to God. I would add that temperance is not the way for everyone to witness to God. Sexual abstinence is also a testimony to God, but starting a family is a contrasting way to witness to God. Likewise, running a vineyard or toasting a friend can be a testimony to God. Sometimes I wonder if that legal drinking age of 21 should be re-evaluated. Then again, no. Corporations that produce or sell alcohol would stand to profit from increased sales to young adults. The age group would be exploited and accidents and deaths would increase. It would be far better to continue to restrict the potential exploiters while saying there is nothing wrong with a class of wine at a wedding. Even Jesus shared wine at a wedding. Of course, the church is not going to put that in print as their official position. So I will put it on mine: there is nothing wrong with the healthy consumption of an alcoholic beverage.