What is it about Baptists in particular that makes them so damned anti-everything, and beer in particular? Much of the rest of the Christian world seems perfectly able to turn the cheek and be tolerant of their fellow man, even if they don’t see the world quite the same way. I know many, many Christians who not only have no issue with the moderate consumption of alcohol, but even partake of it themselves with no concern whatsoever of being damned to hell for all time. Of course, there are so many different strains of Baptist thought that it’s as difficult to generalize what exactly they believe. If they can’t even agree on what to believe, I have a hard time being told what I should think by any one of them.
|At monasteries throughout the Middle Ages, monks perfected the art of brewing beer in perfect harmony with their religion. They still do so today in at least the seven official Trappist Monasteries (six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands), along with many more unofficial ones. Some of the best beer in the world is made by these monks. And they’ve been doing so happily for centuries longer than the Baptist Church even existed. Obviously, Baptists can believe anything they wish to, but what I really want them to stop doing is telling everyone else what to think and believe, especially when they need look no further than other Christian groups to see that not everyone agrees that alcohol is the evil they believe it to be.
Case in point is an opinion hit piece by the Reverend Jim Sickmeyer, Pastor of the Worthington Baptist Temple in Minnesota. His letter complaining that ‘God & Beer’ article should not have been printed was published in today’s Worthington Daily Globe. It was sent to me by Tomme Arthur of The Lost Abbey, who takes some of the brunt in Sickmeyer’s opinion piece. Thanks Tomme. Keep an eye on his blog, too, as he’s assured me he’ll also be addressing it there. He’s also sent a letter to the editor in Worthington, too.
While I’m not 100% sure, I believe the article Sickmeyer is objecting to must be Finding God At A Beer Festival by AP Religion Correspondent Eric Gorski. It was picked up and syndicated fairly widely the week after GABF. I wrote about it, as well, because it was a great example of Christianity not taking itself too seriously and having some fun with beer and religion, something Sickmeyer either missed completely or was unable to grasp.
He starts his rant presuming he wasn’t the only one “appalled” by the article and even calls The Lost Abbey a “blasphemous business.” He probably wasn’t the “only” one, but the number is most likely far fewer than he might hope. If you know Tomme Arthur, co-owner and brewmaster of Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey, then you also know he’s a good Catholic, husband and father. He’s not exactly a poster boy for evil. Sickmeyer goes on to cite Bible verses that supposedly “show God’s attitude toward alcohol” and claims he “could go on with many more verses” showing God hates alcohol.
Well, guess what, you could find just as many verses that show support and/or tolerance for drinking in the Bible. That’s the great thing about the Bible, you can find support for virtually any idea. Alcohol is mentioned almost 250 times, and by far its use is most often mentioned as being “accepted as [a] normal part of culture” (58 times). Twenty-seven times it’s “called a blessing from God.” By contrast, only 17 times are warnings offered against abusing it. But even then, the warnings are about abusing it, not abstaining completely. For a full list, check out Daniel Whitfield’s Alcohol and the Bible, which includes a full listing of References to Alcohol in the Bible. Being able to point out one or two that supports Sickmeyer’s narrow view of alcohol is a fool’s game. It proves nothing except his own personal bias and interpretation.
He goes on to cite the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, saying that “over 100,000 deaths occur each year due to alcohol.” That statistic is just plain wrong. In 2006, “there were 13,470 fatalities in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver.” That’s assuming you even accept that statistic, which I don’t. I don’t want to suggest that we should take drinking and driving lightly or not discourage it, but inflating a statistic by nearly 750% does his cause no favors, and in fact shows he’s not above lying (a violation of the 8th Commandment) to push his agenda. He follows up that false stat with the following. “I’m sure God is not happy about that. Isn’t it amazing how alcohol brings out the hypocrisy in society?” Yes, it is quite amazing, and what’s more amazing is how it shows itself in such unexpected places.
He ends by voicing his appreciation that the newspaper has in the past taken a “fairly unbiased approach” in its religion section, but finding the offending article “over the top” and believes it should never have been published. I can only conclude that by “unbiased,” he means in agreement with his own views. He does say he “welcome[s] hearing from anyone who agrees or disagrees with me for that matter.”
|But his conclusion is a little “over the top” for my tastes — and I suspect for Tomme, too — as he calls on Tomme Arthur and the gang from the Lost Abbey to “repent before its too late.” Yeah, I think it’s always a good idea to attack and threaten someone’s immortal soul as a means of trying to win them over to your way of thinking. That’s the very definition of self-righteous: “confident of one’s own righteousness, esp. when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others.” I don’t even think he’s speaking for a majority of Christians, and possibly not even for other Baptists. His church appears to be an independent and not affiliated with any of the several Baptist associations of churches.
Obviously a letter to the editor is merely one man’s opinion, and people should be free to voice their beliefs. But by characterizing it as from his Baptist church and citing Biblical authority and expertise, I think it rises above mere opinion. He’s basically trying to make the case that God himself is against Tomme Arthur, The Lost Abbey and even beer itself, as he presumes to speak for God. That kind of rhetoric is best left in the pulpit, at least in my opinion. But then I respect the separation of church and state. Plus our founding fathers liked a good beer from time to time and saw little contradiction in it. I’m with them.