Beer & Christianity

christmas
It’s Christmas Eve and I’m sitting at my in-laws drinking a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. The kids are asleep, the presents are wrapped and we’ve finished the traditional meal of Chinese take-out (don’t ask). The rest of my wife’s family (she has four siblings) is watching television and finishing their own wrapping, kibitzing in the way brothers and sisters do. I can hear their conversations waft into the front room with all the presents snuggled under the tree — which is where I’m sitting alone — along with the Christmas music on my iPod playing in the kitchen. Christmas is always a time of reflection for me. While I’m grateful that my in-laws have welcomed me so openly into their family, I still can’t help but feel a little sad at this time of the year. My own parents and grandparents are long gone as are all but a handful of uncles, aunts and cousins who remain far away in Pennsylvania.

A couple of days ago, a press release caught my attention from ChristiaNet, which purports to be the “world’s largest Christian portal.” They released a poll taken on the website in which an almost two-thirds majority declared that beer is bad and that overall “drinking beer, wine, liquor, or alcoholic beverages of any kind is wrong.” Naturally the headline only mentioned beer, stating that “Drinking Beer Is Wrong According To ChristiaNet Poll.” This has been rolling around in my head for the last two days and since ChristaNet has seen fit to throw beer drinkers under the bus at Christmastime, I felt it appropriate to stand up for beer during the same time. So lest you think I’m being sacrilegious, remember that the press release was published three days before Christmas.

So let’s take a look at this issue. ChristiaNet, who I was previously unfamiliar with, in the press release claims they get “twelve million monthly page loads, receive around one million visitors per month and have 400,000 email subscribers who have access to an online shopping mall, job bank, Biblical and life application resources, free ecards, Christian blogs and friendship communities.” Out of those million monthly only 339 responded to the poll that is the subject of their press release. Of those few motivated to take the poll, 192 apparently believe “it isn’t appropriate behavior” for Christians to drink beer, when they answered the question “should Christians drink beer?” So of the approximately 2.1 billion Christians worldwide, less than 200 have a problem with people drinking beer. Eighty were okay with it and another 62 were undecided. And those staggeringly ridiculous statistics warranted a press release that was picked up by news organizations? What exactly was the point of the press release? If you can figure it out, please let me know because I’m stumped. Jesus obviously drank something alcoholic at the last supper, so if He could have a glass, why not the rest of the faithful?

I guess wine during communion is apparently different. I realize Catholics who believe in transubstantiation think the wine is actually the blood of Christ so perhaps that doesn’t count. But Protestants don’t accept transubstantiation so the wine is merely symbolic and therefore just wine. What makes that acceptable but beer is inappropriate? Especially when you consider that it may well have been a mis-translation that Jesus turned water into beer instead of wine. If the same mis-translation continued through the last supper, perhaps Christians today would wash down the body of Christ with beer instead of red wine.

Is it the amount? According to the press release, many respondents made “the distinction that it should be done in moderation and not to get drunk” and also found it “acceptable unless abused or causes someone else to sin.” The release also mused that “[w]hile an occasional drink might have some health benefits, too much can cause health problems. The risk of becoming addicted to it should be considered by those who are tempted.” But that’s true of anything. Too much of almost anything can be bad for you. Certainly extremism of any stripe leads to much unpleasantness. But the stereotypical frat boy mentality of drink ’till you puke is not seriously advocated by any organization that I know of, so who are they targeting. Is there any group — pro or con — that doesn’t think drinking in moderation is the way to go? So again I have to ask — rhetorically at least — why ChristiaNet is going out of their way to paint a picture in which a majority of Christians are against drinking beer? Virtually all of the Christians I know love the stuff and have no problem whatsoever with it.

Many neo-prohibitionist groups seem to have strong ties to extremist religious groups, so is ChristiaNet among them and that what’s going on here? Sadly, I have only questions and no answers. But it creeps me out more than a little to see the holiday of Christmas being used as a time to call into question whether a third of the world’s population has a problem with my beverage of choice. And worse still, using such flimsy statistics as support for their agenda, whatever it truly turns out to be.

But tomorrow (later today, really) my kids — Porter and Alice — will wake me way too early, excited to see what Santa brought them. I’ll have on my traditional Celebration Ale t-shirt I’ve worn every Christmas morning for over ten years. This is Porter’s fifth Christmas and the first one where he’s truly excited about it and is learning the traditions that define us as a nation. He delighted in picking out the perfect tree, stringing the lights, and hanging the ornaments. He insisted we hang a wreath on the front door of our new house. For the last month, one of the books we’ve been reading at bedtime is Are You Grumpy, Santa? and as a result we had to bake chocolate chip cookies to leave out for Santa. When his grandmother said we only had sugar cookies he informed her that they would make Santa grumpy. Needless to say, there were freshly baked chocolate chip cookies left out for Santa’s butt next to the tree. I say “were” because my sister-in-law and I just ate them — leaving a few crumbs behind on the plate — to keep the illusion alive. After we open the presents there will be a feast and I’ll have a few different holiday beers. And I’ll try to figure out why on one of my favorite days of the year, drinking a beer is so wrong. Why do I feel like my ability to enjoy a good beer is constantly under attack? Why can’t we all just say Merry Christmas, share a yuletide brew and get along? I’ll even start the ball rolling.

Happy Holidays, Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Men (and Women). Beery Christmas everyone.

Comments

  1. Dan Todd says

    why is beer under attack? They’ve already managed to destroy the celebratory cigar and shamed all smokers so now it is time to go after another vice. Once they’re done with our alcohol it’ll be time to go after trans-fats with greater vigor than they’ve mustered so far. It’s just a matter of trying to wipe out as many things enjoyed by others as possible. I wish the news weren’t so dreary on this, our greatest national holiday.

  2. Martyn Cornell says

    The links between beer and Christianity go back at least 1600 years or more -
    St Patrick had his own brewer
    St Brigit turned bathwater into beer for thirsty travellers
    Monasteries across Northern Europe brewed their own beer (and some still do, of course)
    Abbess Hildegard, the first person to write about hops in beer, wrote that beer was more healthy for you than water
    … and those are just the ones I can think of without looking anything up …

  3. casey long says

    as a christian who loves a great beer, likes a good beer, and will drink a bad beer christianet and others like them
    should remember JUDGE NOT LEST YE BE JUDGED! thank you God for beer!

  4. Jason says

    I’m enjoying a Bell’s Lager as I read this. The Evangelical Christian Church has thrown out the baby with the dirty bath water. If you don’t have the fruit of self control maybe you should not drink. I know my limit and stop there.

  5. says

    I started home brewing beer and some w/only herbs. I had a real problem with this. Quilty for sure. Got over it. I started a brewers club 9 mos. ago. Now have 97 members including christians. men and women. I am 73 nect month and the churched lied to me for 26 yrs till I found out the health benifits of moderate beer/wine consumption.
    homebrewer7@gmail.com

  6. Jerry Dodson says

    Jay,
    Too many Christians are way out of line on their views of beverage alcohol. Apparently they have never read Deut 14:27. As a Presbyterian pastor, I enjoy all sorts of beers and wines. I have many pastor friends who enjoy a good cigar or a pipe; I just never acquired a taste for them, but I enjoy the atmosphere they create (no pun intended.) The Bible never condemns moderate consumption of beverage alcohol; it condemns drunkenness. Too many Christians equate use with abuse. It makes me very angry that
    a) Christians are ignorant of what the Bible says about beverage alcohol, never having studied the subject for themselves but simply regurgitating the misinformation handed down from their elders
    b) I have to constantly defend my enjoyment of beverage alcohol to so many Christians. I have all the relevant passages from Scripture down pat.

    Keep up the good fight!

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