catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 24 :: 2006.12.29 — 2007.01.12


If life gives you gooseberries...

Part 1 of 3


How did your family view alcohol when you were growing up?  How did your views and behaviors change as you grew older?

Alcohol consumption was strictly forbidden in my parents' conservative, Christian home. My sister and I were told stories of alcohol abuse on my dad's side of the family. I actively participated in S.A.D.D. (Students Against Drunk Driving) in high school. Growing up, I came to believe alcohol consumption was inherently evil and sinful. My first wife did not drink, but after we divorced, and I remarried a woman who drank occasionally, I told her before we married that I would not want to keep alcohol in the house for appearance's sake.  I was comfortable with her purchasing a glass of wine if we dined out. By that time in my life, I had come to the conclusion that you could be a Christian and consume alcohol.

How did I come to this conclusion? More about my personal history. The aforementioned first marriage's ending was messy. My father is a preacher and his church took sides over my divorce. I, the piano player at my father's church, had an interest in the growing contemporary Christian music scene and I was feeling unrest with the music at my dad's church already. When my mother saw that a Lutheran church in town had advertised for a music director's position for a contemporary-styled worship service, I interviewed and was hired. At that time, I could play for the Lutheran church's contemporary worship service at 9am and still make it to my dad's church to play for their 11am service, as well as the evening worship service at 6pm. A few months down the road, the Lutheran church needed an organist for their traditional worship service, and I decided to take the job and forego playing at my dad's morning worship service. A few months later, my dad took a job at the headquarters of the denomination he works for and shortly thereafter, I cut ties with my dad's church altogether.

I was skeptical about the Lutherans. There were no altar calls, no public testimonies, no laying on of hands, no "amens" or "hallelujahs" during the sermon—just quiet, reserved folk who faithfully attended and communed weekly. I was so far out of my element playing for the traditional worship service. And on top of all that, this Lutheran church actually served communion once a week with REAL WINE. I did not partake of the wine and restricted myself to the few glasses of grape juice they had in the center of the tray. Well, after much observation of these Lutheran creatures, I learned that they seemed awfully Christian to me, and they consumed communion wine. How could this be?

Then, the big shocker (cue the dramatic music): after worship rehearsal, I went with some of the folks and pastor to a local restaurant.  We ordered pizza and for his beverage, the pastor ordered (drum roll) a pitcher of beer!!!! Oh my, oh my. I honestly felt like getting up and leaving. I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. I was sitting at a table with people who were consuming alcohol, including my pastor. What if people from my dad's church saw me and reported back to my parents? Would they disapprove? Oh, how I wrestled with these questions—seriously! Well, the pastor didn't get drunk, no one else disapproved of his beer drinking, and no one appeared to think twice about it, but me. Over time, I had seen these people going to church, taking the gospel seriously, singing the same church music together—were we different? Were they doing something sinful? The conclusion I drew was…no. I observed, now, first hand, that alcohol can be consumed, even by a pastor, in moderation, with no harmful effects. This realization unleashed a whole host of things in me that I had bottled up since childhood. Do I really think dancing will lead to sex? Playing with cards to gambling? Having my ear pierced to a homosexual lifestyle? Do I really think that watching movies at the theater will cause me to be subject to profanity, on-screen violence and sex scenes that I might act out? Could I engage in any of those activities I had convinced my mind were evil and still be a Christian? The evidence seems to point to yes. I believe these activities can be enjoyed by someone mature enough to understand the consequences of excess and who can discern when your actions could cause someone to stray. So, to sum up, I agreed to marry again, a woman who drank and considered herself a Christian. That was when I was 28.  Now, here I am at 34, and I started to consume alcohol last year.

Do you still come up against differing ideas about Christians and alcohol consumption?

On vacation recently, my sister and I had dinner with some friends of our family at a fantastic restaurant. Our friend noted that at the bottom of the menu it said, "Serving…in Jesus' name". He went on to say that this restaurant didn't serve alcohol, to which my sister quickly piped in that there was a beer and wine list in front of her. His response was, "I'm sorry for that" and as everyone else at the table shook their heads in disapproval, I could sense them asking, "Aren't these two things incongruent? How can you serve 'in Jesus' name' and serve beer and wine?"

I just finished reading The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck and he claims that our unconscious is God. He suggests that our unconscious mind is always trying to communicate with our conscious mind and one way is through dreams. This morning, I awoke from a dream feeling upset that my parents condemned my sister and me for drinking wine and for trying to share some orange wine with them. Granted, orange wine doesn't sound too appealing, but in my dream state, I thought something that tasted like orange juice might be appealing to my folks and help initiate them into something my sister and I have come to enjoy in moderation. So why did I think God was trying to communicate with me? Because after my parents chided me in my dream, I rebutted with this question: "Wasn't Christ's first miracle turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana?" I have to think that Christ must have been the hit of the party and certainly overshadowed the folks throwing the party. Are the names of the bride and groom even mentioned in the gospel text?  So I'm left wondering why so many Christians dismiss the substance that Christ miraculously created and consumed on a regular basis.

How did you go from just beginning to drink alcohol to making your own wine?

A few years ago, my wife and I chose to live in community with our best friends in our home. Our best friends drank. I gave in to keeping beer and wine in the house (my excuse was that it belonged to my housemates, should anyone ask). I had tried a few sips of my wife's wines she had ordered when we would eat out and had convinced myself that I did not like the taste. I was told I had not had experience with enough drinks to know. I gave into the peer pressure and tried to find a drink I liked, and it was a margarita that won me over. I felt a "buzz" and compared it to a caffeine "high" with coffee, or a sugar rush from sweets. I know that if I drink too much regular coffee or eat too much dessert, I feel sick, so I thought I should be cautious with this new-found friend, alcohol. I started trying to learn the subtleties of red and white wines, dryness and sweetness, etc.

Last year I played piano for a cocktail hour at a Christmas party. An older woman came and sat by me on the bench while I played. We sang Christmas carols together and she rounded up a few other ladies who looked over my shoulder while I played. She offered to get me a drink. I froze. At that time I knew colors of wines, but didn't know any names.  All I could remember was a wine my wife once ordered: a white zinfandel. When she brought it back to me, she said, "This is wine with training wheels." Boy, did I feel dumb. I realized at that point that if I was going to drink, I needed to educate myself and become more familiar with wines and terminology.

All that to say: I thought the best way to understand wine was to make my own.

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