Monday, November 26, 2012

On the consumption of alcohol....Part 1: Overview

This is not a confession (because, as we'll see, I don't consider drinking to be an absolute sin); rather, it is a statement of position — i.e. where I'm "coming from" currently. It is not a statement of how I got here, or why I'm staying here. That follows below.

Overview

I drink. Not very much (I don't like the weight gain and brain damage it does if consumed in quantity for a long time), and usually not in large amounts at a time, either (I also don't like the feeling of being drunk; buzzed is great — drunk, not so much). But socially, sure, and also every once in a while at home when experimenting with different mixes, cooking, etc.

However, I was raised in a community and household that taught that consumption of alcohol was evil. There was some him-hawing over whether Nyquil counted or not, but the general idea was that consumption of alcohol for recreational purposes is absolutely verboten for all people at all times.

This stance was supported by Scriptures such as Proverbs 20:1, and others, taken in a woodenly literal, "exact words" sense, combined with certain assumptions about those verses.

Passages that seemed to support the recreational (John 2:1-11) or medicinal (I Tim. 5:23) use of alcohol were explained away using various historical/cultural and linguistic gymnastics.

How then, did I come to be a joyous consumer of the stuff? And what limits have I placed on this consumption, and why? How might this be applicable to your own practice?

Well, as I began to study the issue for myself, I found that a) the explanations provided for the "supportive" passages, and b) the assumptions made about the "prohibitive" passages were both somewhat suspect, in different ways.

Then, one day during my personal Bible reading, not related to studying, I discovered a key verse that had never been addressed, either positively or negatively, in all of the various discussions, sermons, etc. which I had come across on the topic. As far as I can tell, this verse admits of no other hermeneutic but that completely destroys the false assumptions mentioned above.

In fact, it admits only a hermeneutical hypothesis that allows us to make complete sense of both the prohibitive and supportive passages, understanding them as a coherent whole, rather than holding them in opposition.

All of this study was done under the personal ethic, "I don't drink". However, as I began to progress in this journey, my reasons for not drinking shifted from "It's not right" to "I'm not comfortable with it". By the time I finally started, I was obviously firmly in the "I'm OK with it, within reason" camp, and have been ever since.

The key point here is that I reached that camp based on my study, not the other way around. (i.e. I wasn't influenced to change my hermeneutic in order to justify my behavior; rather, I changed my behavior based on careful analysis an updating of my hermeneutic.)

Outline

In Part 2, I will present the "prohibitive" passages, along with the teachings that I was originally taught about them.

In Part 3, I will present the "supportive" passages, along with the teachings that I was originally taught about them. (e.g. How they were dismissed.)

In Parts following those, I'm not sure what order I'll do things in yet. (I'll update this post when I do it.) But I'll be covering:

  • a point-by-point deconstruction of the tactical errors of the teaching from my childhood (EDIT: This has been included in the second and third Parts),
  • the neglected verse I mentioned above, and how it affected everything, and
  • how it reordered everything (this will include an re-exposition of the prohibitive and supportive passages from this new perspective)

I may even include some meditations on the strategic errors of my childhood indoctrination, and possibly some anecdotes regarding the specific events in which I put these new discoveries to practice; I haven't decided on this part yet.

I'm also not sure as to the release schedule of these posts. I'm hoping for one a week, although it may wind up being once a month. If you feel it's been too long, and you're just on the edge of your seat waiting for the next one...let me know, and I'll try to prioritize a little better. :)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

On Strangers, Love, and Sin

Got some thoughts swirling about how everyone (even those we think we know) is really, when we get right down to it, an utter stranger; but how the miracle of love, which starts with God's love toward us, and rushes out (if we allow it) into all of our other connections, no matter how insignificant, destroys our illusions, and brings us to know and be known in truth, so that we are at once strangers and yet miraculously other-self-beloved (I don't have a word to express what I'm trying to get at here -- so frustrating).

And how this is dynamic, not static, so that it is a constant movement, a dance, a constant refreshing. As C. S. Lewis put it: "Farther up and farther in!"

Then I'm reminded of how I constantly fail to allow this love to flow. Instead, I act like I "know" someone, and treat them according to that illusion, or according to how -I- want them to be, for my own selfish desires, and not according to truth.

In that sense, I am what's wrong with this world.

What am I to do? Despair would say: if you are the problem, then leave!

But that's the worst possible answer! It's so bad, it's not even an answer at all. Leaving aside the stark reality that I can't leave the world — even suicide (which I'm NOT contemplating, by the way, so please don't call me about it...) would not take me out of existence, because I am not my own.

It would simply put me directly in the presence of the One Who sustains my existence. Remember: I am loved, therefore I am. There is NO WAY to sever that, and thus no way to leave the world, even if I wanted to, which I don't.

And there are lesser forms of suicide, which don't involve physical death. None of those would suffice to "fix the problem", either, and for exactly the same reason.

No, the wonderful truth is: I am the only one who can be me, loved of God in exactly the way I am, and returning that love — both upward (back to Him), and outward (loving others) — exactly the way He has called me to. (However much I fail at this return...failure is no reason to quit trying. :) )

So what's the answer? Romans 7-8, that's what. My problem is the same as Paul's:

For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

I suppose if the problem is the same, the answer must be, too:

I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; although with the flesh the law of sin.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, be merciful to me a sinner, and save me!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

On love...

I wrote this for a friend:

"I love you." More powerful expression never made.
The Song of Creation, these words cause the entire universe
to harken, to rejoice, to peer with trembling
at the union of lover and beloved.

Come, all you nations!
Come you earth!
Come you heavens, and that abyss that is above the heavens!
Mountains, hills, valleys,
Fruited plains and deserts,
well-springs and forests
Sea, air, and all the things therein
Cattle, birds, fish, and creeping things!

Come, all of creation, both visible and invisible!
Hear my voice, my cry.
Witness the mystery, and be amazed!

"I love you." Spoken, sometimes, in words, more often in deeds —
a look, a touch, a gift unexpected —
but always healing, always bringing life.

What then is this pain I feel? This loneliness? Where is my beloved?
To whom shall I flee when my soul sorrows,
longing to be granted entrance
to this garden of delights?
Or, having once tasted its sweet fruit, to return?

Nevertheless, I shall not fear.
Fear flees where love is. Death itself is slain by love!
I will never cease loving, and never fear! For Love conquers all.

Love loves me,
comforts me,
indeed, created and recreates me,
that I may love, for I am loved!

And so I shall. My neighbor and my enemy,
stranger, acquaintance, and friend —
My love shall embrace all!

I will acquaint myself with Love,
I will acquit myself by Love,
I will suffer all things for Love,
For all things pass away, but Love remains.

God grant me the grace to live this.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Poem by a friend...

My friend Jake Haskins posted this poem, and it touched me enough I asked him if I could repost it, and he agreed. :)

Why, oh heart, do you love so easily?
Do you not know the rocky precipice
Upon which you tread?

Your hopes have been dashed,
And tears shed,
But still you love.

You run heedlessly into the fire,
Though you've been burned,
But still you love.

You break again and again,
But still you love.

Why, oh why, oh heaven above,
Must I traverse this rocky shoal?

You take wing and are smashed below,
But still you love.

God's grace will find you
And make you whole,
Nourishing your soul --
This is why we love.

We see His proofs of love all 'round,
His blood on the ground,
And we can love.
Hope eternal and the Love which confounds,
Dispensation so profound!
God lowers himself to the ground
That we may love.

The freeing gift lifted high --
Draw nigh! Draw nigh!
Hope eternal,
Earth raised to heaven.
This is our hope;
This is our Love.