Monday, September 13, 2010

Johnny Walker and King James

This is an email I sent to some men from our church. Twice a month, we get together for The Eagle & Child Men's Forum, where we attempt to have substantive conversation over food, drink and cigars. We've been meeting for 2 years now, and as the group has grown we've had some guys raise questions over Christians and alcohol consumption. I sent this email to the men, and I got some good feedback so I'm posting it here now:

Since starting the Eagle & Child Men’s Forum 2 years ago, I have never really addressed the issue of Christians and drinking. The main reason for not touching on this subject is that I personally feel this is one of MANY issues that cloud deeper issues of the heart.

You can easily spend hours talking about alcohol – everything from why it is a sin, why it is not sin, why we should or shouldn’t drink, why Joe-Christian really isn’t a believer because he had a beer, why Dude-Alcoholic needs to get a grip, all the way down to what is your favorite drink, the best beer, wine, vodka, etc.... People on all sides get angry, tempers flare, fights ensue and the next thing you know everyone really DOES need a drink; y’know… to take the edge off. Hours are spent “tackling” the issue of alcohol.

The pious man goes home feeling really good about himself.

The agnostic goes home feeling he clarified his lack of commitment to either side, because he just doesn’t know.

The “casual” drinker feels he defended his right to have a drink well, and goes home for a nightcap; oblivious to his own addiction.

The alcoholic quietly leaves, distraught over the fact that once again, nobody really understands his pain and prison.

The latter is the one I am most concerned with here. If you’re the pious man, you have bigger fish to fry and we can’t really help you until you start getting over how great you are.

Because we are a “church” group (whatever that means) in the eyes of some, and because our group is growing, I feel clarification is in order.

I believe some men use alcohol in much the same way other men use the Bible.

I believe men can hide behind a glass of Scotch the way other men can hide behind a King James. Both can be used to self-medicate; one with a buzz, the other with self-righteousness. Both can also be used to mask the real issues of the heart that go unaddressed for a lifetime. Some men live their lives to a ripe old age, hiding behind career, sex, church, religion, intellect, X-Box, theology, unbelief, empire-building, laziness, food, TV… whatever, always avoiding self-examination. They never face their real issues as real men should, preferring to hide behind their excuses and self-loathing; making sure the world is always revolving around them, and also at a safe distance.

The man who has identified himself as an alcoholic instantly has my respect and admiration because he has begun his journey of self-examination; a journey of honesty and grace. It’s a journey that I’m on in fact, recovering from a life of addiction to self-absorption, lust and pride, and a life of hiding behind all kinds of different things. I still have a long way to go.

The quote that defines the Eagle & Child Men’s Forum from G.K. Chesterton reads “Because we are imperfect, we need friendships to fill up the imperfections”. Whatever path you are on, please know that Eagle & Child is a place to come and be yourself. Eagle and Child is not a place for drinking and smoking. However, we do drink and smoke… and eat sausage, chips… sometimes sliders and nachos. We also drink Coke and Sprite and on occasion Cuban coffee or red-eye gravy and country ham. It is a place of honesty and really, just a night to hang out with other guys and relax. If you have struggled with any of these issues I hope this email cleared some things up.