Monday, May 11, 2009

Eat, drink,and be very unsure what to make of it.

I've had this entry sitting on my desktop for a while, but I've hesitated to post if for reasons that will be clear (at least to the "lifelong evangelicals" among you) when you read.

A few months ago I got to go to Disney World.

By the grace of God – and the generosity of my wife’s parents – Staci and I spent several days at Saratoga Springs Resort in Orlando, taking our boys to the Disney Parks and generally having the kind of vacation that we could never have had without someone else paying for it. It was a fantastic week, and as always, I’m so thankful to have cool in-laws.

It was so ridiculously fantastic that I’d feel guilty elaborating much further. It's very difficult to think about this or this while talking about free vacations to the most magical place on earth. So I won't spend a lot of time bragging on it. However, I do have something, from the non-theme-park aspect of the trip, that I’d like to throw out there.

One of the cool things we got to do while we were there was called Party for Senses (some info about it here and here). Basically, several hundred people get together in a huge room and try out food and wine from the many of the best chefs and wineries in the country. They give you little tiny portions so that you can eat and drink and sample lots of stuff. I ate stuff like duck wrapped in bacon over fresh greens, and barbecue-braised short ribs over cheese grits. I had smoked pork loin and scallops and lamb filet. Desserts were abounding: chocolate brownie with white chocolate mousse and coffee ice cream; orange-honey cheesecake; various chocolate truffles.

Oh, and wine.

I won’t elaborate on the wine, out of respect for some of you.

Here’s what I want to talk about. I ate too much. I was gluttonous. It’s a fact. I know I ate way past “full” and indulged to sinful excess. Some of you might be quick to cry “legalist!” Hey, sin is sin. I’m not beating myself up over it or trying to over-dramatize. I’m just being honest and, as much as I know how, biblical in dealing with myself. Just because gluttony isn’t something we talk about anymore doesn’t mean it’s not sin. More on that in a bit.

Bear with me.

I also had a glass and a half of wine over the course of 3 hours. I did not drink in excess. I don’t like to get into this kind of stuff very often, but for clarity, I will say that I was with family the entire night. In case anyone is tempted to bring up “weaker brothers” and all that, the only people in the room that knew me were the people with whom I shared a table, and I’ve known all of them (and their opinions/perspectives on alcohol) for over a decade. Though I don’t agree with the way that many people interpret the “weaker brother” passages, I will say that I feel confident defending myself within that context ( I’ve dealt with all of this before, so I won’t spend time on it here). In short, I am as certain as I can be that I wasn’t sitting in the presence of (what Paul would call) weaker brothers (or sisters). The people that knew me are fine with drinking alcohol and following Jesus, and the people that didn’t know me wouldn’t have any reason to pay attention to me. (Again, if anyone wants my interpretation on the “weaker brother” passages, let me know and I’ll give you my take.)


Here’s the weird thing. Lots of Christians wouldn’t think twice about eating too much. In fact, lots of Christians would think it's kind of silly for me to even talk about it with any kind of seriousness. But lots and lots of Christians would scorn my alcohol consumption – which was in moderation, and didn’t lead to drunkenness in the least. I actually repented over my eating, because I was confident that I ate to sinful excess. But there wasn’t anything sinful about my drinking.

And I just think that lots of Christians would disagree with my perspective on this. I'm not trying to invite a fight or assume the worst about people. Maybe I'm wrong and nobody even cares about drinking alcohol, so long as it's in moderation. Maybe I'm wrong and everybody really cares about gluttony. I'm honestly just perplexed by what I perceive to be a weird imbalance.

Any thoughts? I’d really love to hear what people have to say.

But first, let me address what I think might be the knee-jerk reaction for some folks. Aside from the weaker brother idea (again, I'm aware that my perspectve on it will be problematic for some), most people, when comparing/contrasting drinking with gluttony, will say, "well, if someone eats too much, the worst thing that happens is that they are unhealthy, but if someone drinks too much, awful things can happen."

Assuming that someone might make this kind of argument (and I admit that they might verbalize it a lot better than I just did), I guess my response would be, "If Jesus wanted us to weigh sin based upon its consequences, he would've never equated 'hating your brother' with murder or 'looking lustfully on a woman' with adultery." (I'm referring to the latter part of Matthew 5 here, in case you're wanting some documentation.)

See, its not enough for our argument to be about consequences. It has to be about more than that. So, to that end, let's hear it. Keep it civil. Readysetgo.


joe.peebles said...

This is a good word, Ross. I'd agree we've tended to gloss over or completely ignore gluttony, at least for the most part in the Christian circles I've been a part of.

Which is sad, because for me, gluttony has probably been a more constant and long-standing struggle than lust, even. I both think about food too much and not enough.

I'm not totally convinced there aren't occasions for feasting and letting out our belts a little, but honestly that mindset is much closer to a default for me than a special instance.

Johnny! said...

One just needs to look around to know that gluttony is a pressing problem among Evangelicals, if you know what I'm sayin.'

Just goes to show that pietism is no solution for the sin problem. Don't drink, don't dance, you'll find something else to overindulge in.

The ironic solution to legalism and its unintended consequences is to follow God's Law and don't add a bunch of silly barriers around it.

We also have to be careful not to err in the opposite direction--refusing to feast on the unbelievable bounty which God has given to us, in an attempt to justify ourselves by what we don't eat. The Lord wants us to live a life of Sabbath feasting, using things properly and joyfully with thanksgiving.

Robert Conn said...

Wasn't the "weaker brother" the one not with the immature mindset but rather the one with more religious scruples? Meaning not the young, liberated, baby Christian but rather the older Republican-voting, and Pharisaical-minded rule keeper?

Besides that, are we really to assume that if a Christian from Indiana happened to see you partake then he should have returned home, denounced his faith, his Savior, and all that he knew as Christian??? Simply because he saw you take a drink? Really? Are there really people who believe that?

Isn't that putting a little too much importance on us?

FUNNY: I didn't get invited to see Mickey... did any of you guys?

Lauri Hahn said...

Brilliant. All of it. RC said something I have been reminded of lately. The ones who are likely to stumble are the legalists. Stumble into judgement, accusation, self-righteousness and the never admitted but firmly believed salvation through works.

New Christians are so full of freedom & new life they ain't got time to worry about whether you're having a glass of wine out of your freedom or out of your repetitive downward spiral (well, not YOU, Ross, of course) you know what I'm saying.

Overheard on the Disney Channel/Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: We've got ears, say "cheers!"

It's all making sense now. You've been subliminally influenced through having 2 toddlers.

Kevin Sturm said...

I read your post and this other post in the same day.

Agree on both fronts. A specific food nor lack their of a specific food (or drink) leads to strength of heart or faith. Scriptural reference Heb 13:9-14.