We live in very confusing times.  As a Christian this really isn’t surprising.  God never said the world would get fixed after he left, he said it would continue to spiral until he came back.  The problem though, isn’t the confusion in the world; it’s how the church and non-church respond to our circumstances.  From my perspective, the two most controversial non-essential spiritual issues I have faced have been drinking and views on gay marriage.

 My experience with alcohol has presented itself to be the epitome of how poorly we handle confusion and of the tension Christians feel in and outside of the church.  As a kid, I knew that beer and wine were for the adults, and I never had a problem with that.  My dad usually had a few of what he called, cold “brewskies” in the fridge and it was never a shock to find a box of mom’s weird grape juice in the lower cabinets.  I knew the rule that the wine was for my momma, and the brewsky for dad, leaving all other liquids in the fridge up for grabs for my sister and I.  This never concerned me, and alcohol never stood out to me, it was just there.  This isn’t to say I didn’t see the problems alcohol could cause.  My parents and adults around me weren’t perfect, but they were great at teaching me from a young age that when I would drink when I was older, moderation would be the key word (though to say I didn’t learn this lesson fully the hard way would be a lie).

It wasn’t until college that I first began to see that alcohol was the great divide between the prudes and the popular.  As a freshman before becoming a Christian I drank underage a few times thinking that it was just “what you did.” However, after becoming a Christian and getting involved in a youth ministry I chose to stop drinking until I was of age.  No big deal right? It’s not like I actually enjoyed the Natty Light frats served or that disgusting mix o’ crap they called punch. 

WRONG!                          

Oh my gosh, you would have thought I was a leper from the way some people reacted to me and my friends for not drinking.  Not all people, I met some really awesome people who drank underage and were really cool with me not joining in.  But oh my gosh, this was like THE thing that distinguished a “Christian” from a true Christian in college, or it was the thing to defend if you were a Christian.  I felt so on edge and left out all because I wouldn’t drink! In the defense of the insiders, I probably acted as awkward as I felt, which was probably more of the cause for being (or should I say feeling) on the “outside” than drinking.

No big deal, push through and it will all be over after college.  We’ll all move on from the drinking issue and no awkwardness will exist when the drinking age has come and gone along with the rebelliousness or newness that had come with it in school.

WRONG!

Now I’m not worrying about people on the outside of the steepled buildings thinking I’m a prude, I’m more worried about the people inside thinking I’m living in sin (gasp!).   This feels ridiculous to write about, but I know I’m not alone.  Once when I offered wine to a couple friends, a girl came up to me and whispered “I really needed some Christian friends who drank, thanks.” I totally knew where she was coming from, and I totally understood her need to whisper.  For whatever reason, alcohol has become this very uncomfortable topic.

What? Why?

Why is this such an unspoken hot button issue for the church?

I’m going to go ahead and get it out there right now: I drink! I love a good margarita, white wine, Dos Equis, or hard cider! Yum!

To some people that may not seem like a big deal, and back in the day I wouldn’t have thought so either.  However, having experienced people whose view is that drinking means I can no longer be a part of the church, and having felt the pressure of not letting others see me participate in what is really such a simple thing compared to, oh, I don’t know, war, hunger, poverty… just to name a few, I love being able to just put in writing that I drink.  Moderation, like my parents so wisely taught me, is key.

This isn’t to downplay that drinking can be a problem. I have seen what alcoholism can do to a person and their family, and I always want to respect that person and their sobriety over having a freaking drink.  In other situations a person may not be able to drink because of medication they are taking (I have been this person at times).  In instances such as these, a beer just wouldn’t cross my mind. It just isn’t a big deal to not consider alcohol in that case.

I write all this to show how something so unimportant in the big picture (again, war, poverty…), can be blown out of proportion.  And amid all of what I wrote about, amid my whole experience, how often did Jesus come up?

It should have been simple when I was in college: I met a man named Jesus, and his love has changed me, so now choices I make look different than before, but that doesn’t mean I love you any less or look at you as any less.  If anything it is the exact opposite. I love and value you more than ever. 

The same awkwardness and tension arises in our nation over things such as the marriage debate.  In our hearts there are so many devoted followers of Jesus that know that our job is well defined: love others.

Not love others unless they drink or unless they are homosexual or unless they use bad words.

And yet we’re scared because you see all of these controversies where the church is trying to protect the “sanctity” of marriage (let’s just ignore the 50% divorce rate in and out of the church), and we’re scared into silence.  Are we not being truthful enough? Defending what God defined as marriage? Are we not honoring God if we vote the “wrong” way? God, am I going to have to be the prude once again?

And amid all of this, how often am I, are we, mentioning Jesus?  How often do we ask about him, talk about him, consider him? After all, he is the cornerstone of our beliefs and our church, and yet we aren’t talking about him at all.  No one is discussing the man who lived over 2,000 years ago, let that soak in.  People will argue till they are blue in the face about the morality in marriage without considering who they are following, a man who died, over 2,000 years ago.

Everything about this situation is strange. 

First, that we aren’t talking about the foundation of what we believe; the one who started our movement, the reason we (Christians) exist, while we exhaust ourselves trying to figure out how to defend which politics we side with.

Second, that who we are forgetting is strange in and of itself considering he died over 2,000 years ago.

We are distracted, as individuals, as groups, as a nation.  We are so caught up in defending what we believe is morally “right”, that we have forgotten to discuss the one we believe in.  This is really our loss, because it is quite fascinating that 2,000 years later, a lower-class individual from an afterthought of a country still has people so devoted to his story and to him.

My sincerest desire is to step outside of our cloud of confusion, step outside of alcohol, outside of the marriage debate, outside of the politics and the mundane distractions, and focus on the question that matters, the question that started over 2,000 years ago, the question that changes everything.

I want the masses to stop bickering, so the individual can ask: Who was Jesus?

 

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