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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Part VI of "Why I Don't Drink"

My wife, weddings, and some thoughts on Jesus at Cana

My Wife: I love my wife. She is understandably leery of the internet and this whole "blogging thing" so I don't write extensively about my family (i.e. "our family". I write a lot about my childhood family). Because of that I'll simply say that all of us who enjoy the privilege of a good marriage are better persons because of our spouse.

In my case, she puts me in mind of the "preacher's daughter in that song from Rascal Flatts called "Dry County Girl." We both benefited from great parental role models on this topic of drinking, and I'm confident that has made our house pleasantly "dry," because let’s face it, this topic is either a source of harmony or discord in many marriages. Thanks, Honey!

Weddings: I've been to hundreds of weddings and over half of them had "drinking" at the reception. “What are you, Tom, a wedding crasher?” Hardly, but for over fifteen years I owned a successful video production business. Among many other commercial ventures, I "shot" a couple dozen events a year. They were my bread and butter. [BTW, I was not like those jerks who make a big production out of weddings. My business-card-motto was "Helping you hold the way it was," and I deliberately tried to stay out of sight. My creative, understated style was a hit at Bridal Shows and kept my calendar full. Through those stay-at-home-mom years for Julie, my second income was a God-send, but when I moved into administration, I had to let go of my business.]

I mention my wedding experience only to say that I've seen what I'm talking about. I have not seen high school drinking events. I've not seen the college drinking scene depicted in "Animal House" or "Old School"; and as a life-long non-drinker, I've never been drunk. (The only time I feel drunk is when I'm trying to read those squiggly letters on our comments pages--those babies are a real test of the trifocals!) But when it comes to seeing adults under the influence, I've encountered countless examples from "Thank you, Ma'am, but I'm married" to "No, Sir, I'm not your son, and please breathe that way as you look for him." I've even seen a few "Can somebody help this man up? He seems to have dozed off on the dance floor."

Warning: Here comes the controversial Jesus stuff! Parts I, II, and III were about my background. Hard to argue with that. Part IV was about our culture's glamorization of drinking and drunkenness. Hard not to see that. Part V was about our concerns with under-aged drinking. Hard to ignore the law. And until this point in Part VI, I've deliberately not brought up religion and particularly not the Bible.

I've avoided doing this for three reasons: First, though I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and though I base my life upon its truths... I'm not what some may call a Bible thumper and some of my readers wouldn't have read this far if I were. Second, many of my concerns are tied very specifically to current American cultural consequences and precise things like "blood alcohol content," beverage "proof," teens with cars, etc. which are not specifically addressed in the Bible's use of the word "drunkenness"; and third, I know that many of my readers who are like-minded on most topics may disagree on this subject, and I like to keep the peace on my blog. =)

It may surprise some that my views on abstinence are more fervently questioned by Christian peers who advocate my liberty to drink than by my non-religious friends who respect my choice not to. Why might that be?

For my non-religious friends, I'm guessing it's because they've seen more of what I'm talking about up close and personal, and for them, if they were to decide not to drink, they'd give an all or nothing approach a better shot of success.

For my fellow "Bible scholars," (college roommates, peers, etc. through the years) I think it's because we tend to “argue about” what the Bible does or does not specifically prohibit. The more literally a particular church or denomination adheres to the teachings of the Bible, the more offensive some find it to a have caution imposed on them that is not mandated in scripture. That’s understandable.

Though Christ Himself, called the path behind Him the narrow way," choosing to walk it is not a list of "dooz-n-don'ts." That would describe a "religion" rather than a relationship. The Pharisees were good at following the letter of the law without the spirit of its purpose. Today some call it “legalism,” a pejorative term, and no thinking person wants to be branded a "legalist." It poisons the well, and marginalizes his participation in any discussions such as this.

"Adding to" scripture is risky whether we hope to make it more rigid or more loose. For instance, some people add to the story of our Lord’s first miracle, the turning of water into wine at the wedding of Cana, and use it as a proof text for drinking and even as a license to “party hardy.” After all, they argue, that’s what Jesus would do.

Now, I'll admit that I'm not a big fan of the whole WWJD merchandizing fad. I admire a person’s desire to identify with Jesus by wearing something, but I find the question flawed in one respect. I believe Jesus was the Son of God. He knew everything. He could read people's thoughts, convert prostitutes, heal the lame, give sight to the blind, raise the dead, walk on water, and yes, turn that water into wine. So I think he would be well pleased for his followers to do what he told us to do rather than everything he himself did. WWJHMD: What would Jesus have me do? May be a better question.

Setting that aside, I’ll further admit that it's silly to try to use the wedding account in John 2 as a prima facia case for or against drinking, but through the years, it has come up again and again. A while ago the country music market heard in Toby Keith's song "If I was Jesus." It's on his CD along with "I love this bar," "Whiskey Girl," and "Weed with Willie."

There's a verse in The Gospel According to Toby that would have us believe that at that wedding Jesus was a good ol' boy like the ones in his other songs. We do know that Jesus hung around with the worst of sinners whom He came to save. That's no secret, but show me this in John 2: "If I was Jesus...I'd be the guy at the party, turnin' water to wine. Yeah me and my disciples, we'd have a real good time." Some people actually defend this as an accurate portrayal of Christ’s attitude and motivation at the wedding.

Any straightforward reading of John 2, clearly indicates that Jesus was indifferent to the wine supply and did not consider it his concern. He did however know where the supply of fresh water was because his instructions to the servants required hauling more than 120 gallons of it to the large urns he used in his miracle.

I have been to the site in Cana (1997) where this wedding took place. It is not a large venue. This picture is very similar to the place local historians agree upon. We don't know the exact number of guests, but no commentary I've read suggests that 120 gallons of wine were needed to satisfy either their thirst or their celebration. It was a miracle of "bounty" not need.

The "unknown factor" is what was the alcoholic content of the wine. We know fresh-squeezed grape juice is not yet fermented. I for one love it. What I don't know is whether the people of Jesus' day like that fresh-pressed "vino" well enough to say, "You've saved the best for last." There are a few different words translated as "wine" in scripture (books and books are available on the subject) but none of the words provides a basis for knowing how its "proof" would compare to modern adult beverages and distilled spirits ranging legally from 12 to 152 proof (75% alcohol).
We know from Scripture’s many condemnations of it, that drunkenness did occur back if one drank copious amounts or very fermented grog. There's just no hint of that condition [drunkenness] at Cana before or after Jesus provided more than 120 gallons of his drink. Until we know whether "best" means most  flavorful or most potent, we can't make a valid comparison between this ancient miracle and the many 21st Century adult drinking occasions for non-pregnant guests, age 21 and up who upon leaving the event will drive Cameros not camels, Durangos not donkeys (or in Jesus's case, just walking in a straight line).
.For those who may still choose Toby Keith's take on the miracle, a few questions remain: If Jesus were drinking, and "the guy at the party...having a good ol' time," why did he seem so indifferent to his mother's initial concern? If he wanted to be guy getting the credit for keeping his buddies drinking, why did he perform the miracle so secretly? If the news of 120 gallons of "the good stuff" resulted in the kind of "fun" Toby's describes in "I Love This Bar," why is there no mention of even a hint of alcoholic influence? Why no hint that the guests and disciples were "hung over" the next day when they began their journey up the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum (implied in verse 12)? If all the guests partook of that "best wine," it certainly wasn't potent by today's standards. One other thought: If it had been potent, would Jesus have been a prude or prudent to warn any expectant mothers at the reception not to partake of his miracle wine? Or were the warnings pasted on the side of every bottle of wine today ahead of the learning curve for the Son of God? I'm just wondering...

Please forgive those silly questions. Even if we knew the answers, it would not address whether a higher standard now exists in a culture that has more unbridled blessings and liberty than any governed people in history; is it unBiblical for Christ followers to self-impose a higher standard on themselves, or their households, in a culture that has made booze one of its biggest businesses--both in production and advertising; that has spent 80 years glamorizing alcohol for viewing audiences around the world; that has far more cars per capita than any other nation or continent; that has millions more of the youngest, most inexperienced (and yes "drinking") drivers on the road than any other civilization on the planet; and that now knows the damaging effects of alcohol on the unborn child and on developing brains from birth to roughly age 25?
My concern is not with mature adults who on occasion discreetly include imperceptible amounts a "low-proof" beverage options in their private lives or family celebrations, my concern is with the more and more vocal young Christians who think the drinking scene in the ever-more prevalent after-work and weekend settings is a prudent practice and/or example to set for today's teens and twenty-somethings in this current American culture.
WWJHMD? I cannot speak for others, but I know the answer for myself, the "children" under my roof, the teens in my school, and those I hope to influence who minister to them with me.

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Blogger Josie said...

I have never seen any good come from excess drinking. It's probably the worst drug of all and has killed more people than all other drugs combined, not to mention people who have been killed by drunk people (car accidents, etc.)

Jesus used bread and wine to demonstrate our need to be spiritually nourished by him, so I think he drank wine the same as everyone else did at that time, but not to the point of drunkenness. And that's the problem, people don't know when to stop (or they can't stop). I think for most people alcohol is very destructive.

Great post!


6/4/07 12:11 PM  
Blogger Dr.John said...

There was no drinking at my reception which so upset my father that he had a seperate recveption after for his friends with drinking. Such is life. I think in this society God expects us to set an example of sobriety without becoming legalistic or self righteous. A hard task indeed.

6/4/07 6:30 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I have enjoyed all 4 posts on "Why I Don't Drink" and it has been a blessing to me. The underage drinking, drinking and driving, and drinking while pregnant are enough reasons for anyone to rethink their position on drinking.

Now on to another thing I am in awe of... moving all four parts to one section!!!!!! I am still working on the "http" thing you helped me with (I will get it right- I just need enough time to practice). Go Tom! Just save that lesson for me until the wedding is over.

And how about those fuzzy letters? Is it just our age, our eyes, or our typing? Go figure!

6/4/07 6:39 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I've never thought of the connection between this his first miracle and his last "object lesson" "Except the grape be crushed and spilled out" (just as He was for us) the image doesn't work. In this case, He bypassed the "crushing" step--wonder if that maans anything? Thanks for adding to this discussion.

Dr. John,
We had none at ours either. It was in the middle of Kansas in a "dry county" so no one expected anything, but I've been to receptions where people either complained that there was no bar or that the hosts put a "limit" on it to try to keep folks sober. I was "shooting" one wedding where the bridesmaids stole the groom, took him to a strip club, got him drunk, and he wouldn't come back to dance with his bride. The DJ had to skip the opening bridal dance. Pathetic. I'd wager to say they didn't last a year.

As I type, my wife and daughter are working on Wedding invitations on the floor. The wedding is an on-going subplot of everything else we do. I'm sure you know what I mean. As for moving posts. I guess it's sort of "cheating" the normal chronology of blogging, but I wanted to get some feedback on these thoughts that began on St. Pat's Day, and yet I don't want them on "top" for Easter, so I'll put a "redirect post here" and change the post date and poof, they go to whatever date you send them. You have to make the time of day backwards, too, if you want them to read in sequence. Likewise, I may pull a post from Ash Wednesday in February to the top for Sunday.
Thanks for reading. That was not easy with these posts.

6/4/07 9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most people don't pay a whole lot of attention to country music so I would no worry too much about this one song. I agreed with you from Part IV on, but I did not know so much new information was out there.

6/4/07 11:07 PM  
Blogger J_G said...

If someone can use alcohol for it's intended purpose of being a soothing help to life taken in moderation then I don't see a problem with that. I have seen so many lives destroyed by alcohol abuse though I choose now not to indulge. I have been sober for 18 years and I do not take even communion wine. My life started and I was given a second chance at life thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ that rescued me from the path that I was travelling on.

6/4/07 11:42 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I'm just browsing comments from previous posts. Sorry I missed these. 5-10-07

You're right about country music, but you'd be surprised by how many people (who would otherwise not like that song) endorse its misguided insinuation that if Jesus were here now he'd step into a bar and say "Drinks are on me!" This story does not support that view.

I am especially to have missed this comment for over a month. I really appreciate your sharing this testimony here. Thank you.

10/5/07 7:51 PM  

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