Sunday, June 25, 2006

Say It With Me: "Non-Binding Resolution"

I won't belabor the point... but simply say that my denomination has once again passed a resolution with the best of intentions that, instead of actually helping deal with the problem at hand, will simply cause ill-will and confusion. And, if that isn't enough, the dang thing isn't based in the whole teaching of the Bible. Sigh.

I'm referring to the resolution passed last week at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting that expressed "our total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages." (There's more to it than that... you can read the text of the resolution
here.)

Before I continue, some important facts about me:

  • I don't drink.
  • Never have.
  • I have to be careful about wearing my non-drinking choice as a badge of pride - because I have ZERO interest in alcohol and/or drugs. They have never been a temptation for me... so, I need to refrain from bragging about my incredible self-control when I simply have no interest in chugging a beer or sipping a cabernet.
  • I'm the pastor of a Southern Baptist church (despite our non-Southern Baptist-y name)... and historically Southern Baptist churches have been anti-alcohol.

With those facts in mind, I want to respectfully (or not-so-respectfully) register my profound irritation at the resolution. Some other folks have done an excellent job of explaining why... if you want detailed analysis & carefully thought out arguments, you should check out these blogs:

OTOH, if you want my inadequately thought out gut reaction, here it is.

  • I've experienced a bunch of people blowing their lives up with alcohol: family, friends, congregation members & youth I worked with. It feels like you're watching a car crash in slow motion.
  • Those experiences have reinforced my personal choice not to drink... and my desire that others choose wisely in this potentially dangerous area.
  • I wish it said "Don't drink alcohol" in the Bible (preferably in bold red letters), but it doesn't.
  • It does clearly say "Being drunk is just about as smart as putting your head in a commercial blender and setting it on puree." (OK, it doesn't actually say it that way... I'm paraphrasing.)
  • So, if there is no "don't drink" passage in Scripture, the resolution against "alcohol use" is, at best, Biblically problematic.
  • At worst, it's like Satan figured out yet another way to talk followers of Christ into ignoring parts of the Scripture so as best to tick off & alienate people who desperately need to understand the grace available from the Guy who turned water into wine.
  • And yes, I spent a lot of time using the "don't cause a brother to stumble" argument when I was in youth ministry... and it has some application to this question, but it doesn't magically turn the wine back into water.

Simply put: I think the best way to avoid being drunk (clearly a sin, according to the Bible) is not to drink. I choose not to drink but I can not fault those who do on the basis of Scripture. Alcohol abuse is a horrific problem and we who follow Jesus should do everything in our power to stop it. But, to quote Martin Luther, "Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”

A final note: the Southern Baptist Convention is organized a bit differently than many other well-known Christian churches - rather than policy & theology coming from the top down (from a synod, executive office, Vatican, whatever), in Southern Baptist life this bubbles from the bottom up. Each local church is autonomous: they hire their own staff, own their facilities, and choose voluntarily to participate in the convention.

Which means that resolutions from the convention are "non-binding"... in other words, they are strongly suggested but not "law" for SBC churches.

I can't tell you how much I love the words "non-binding resolution" when stuff like this comes down the pipeline.

4 comments:

la llorona said...

while I don't necessarily agree with the resolution that the SBC proposed I do like they at least clearly state their position on the subject. My family drinks, including my parents and grandmothers. My family, with the exception of my older brother and his family, is religious and attends services regularly. I think what irritates me about my church is that drinking is considered "taboo" though a lot of people do it. I know that there are several people at my church who drink but they don't talk about it. I guess just the whole two-faced thing bugs me. Given that I have never been that concerned with others opinion of me if anyone from my church asked me I would say that yes I do drink but I don't get drunk. If pushed further I would admit that I used to get drunk when I was younger but gave up that lifestyle years ago. While I agree that the SBC is going about the issue in the wrong way it's good they at least state their preference.

mark aka pastor guy said...

llorona,

You're correct - it's a good thing for us as a convention, as local churches, & as individuals to stand up for what we believe. What we have to be careful about is making sure that the positions we advocate are Biblical.

The SBC has a long history of passing and/or debating resolutions that have great "motivation" (previous example: supporting 'traditional' marriage) that go about it totally backwards (boycott Disney because of their support of homosexuals). What we communicated loud & clear to the world around us was that "the SBC doesn't like gay people."

Again, that wasn't our purpose - but that was the effect. I'm concerned that the same thing is/will happen here.

Hypocrisy stinks... but it's a lot easier to end up there when legalism is the primary way we determine how much we love Jesus.

Chris Lewis said...

Great post, Mark. Another reason I joined the Catholic Church - we get to drink!! Just kidding, I would never join for that reason. But, the concept of social drinking is somethign I was introduced to as I met my wife's family, and I realized I had been so conditioned to think alcohol is evil that I found myself "judging" several of her family members. Then it occurred to me that it was truly a social thing for them, and they were not drinking to excess. At that time, I thought I was a sola-scriptura kind of guy, and there sure wasn't anything in Scripture against what they were doing...'course I am not a sola scriptura guy anymore, but that's another story.

Then there's the whole pesky thing about Jesus turning water to wine, and then later changing the substance of wine to his body, blood, soul and divinity, and the whole way in which the Passion mirrors the Passover feast. We are shown that wine has a place in the sacraments. Come right down to it, He commands us to "do this in remembrance" of Him.

michelle g said...

Not being a Southern Baptist, but a church of Christ girl, I have to agree completely with your post, Mark. I have had beverages of an adult sort, but I have never been drunk. Have never found anything that tasted good enough to me to drink enough of to bother to try to get drunk. Jesus turned water into the "good wine", so it was not watered down grape juice, either. This resolution is "non-binding", and a great reference for people to use as a guideline. The Bible said that alcohol (wine) could be used as medicine for your stomach, and we have examples that wine was either "new" (like grape juice) or "old" (like aged in a bottle in a cellar). Water was scarce in the desert, and not clean in ancient times. Much like in modern-day Mexico, where a traveler needs to drink only recognized bottled beverages like Coke, there was not much else to drink.

I know people who would revert to alcohol addiction if they get even a small thimble full in their system. Addiction is a terrible thing. But to bind this kind of fear on good Christians seems a little overboard. Seems also redundant. The Bible should be the first reference on any such subject. Your comments on the SBC's actions and attitudes toward the sanctity of marriage reflect your love for God's people, and all people, and show that you will be responsible in the way you choose to share the resolution.