This might be another one of those columns that could get me potentially bounced from the Southern Baptist faith, but I continue nevertheless.
Growing up, I participated in the Bible Drill program, a competition-based activity for children in which Bible verses were memorized, along with the order of the books of the Bible, for the purposes of a game show-like presentation of said knowledge at various churches around the area.
Memorizing random facts has always been a delight to me, even at an early age, so this was right up my alley.
While my memory fades with each passing year, a few gobbets have always remained with me.
Proverbs 20:1 was on our list in the fifth grade, burned into my brain the minute I saw it on that little piece of paper.
“Wine is a mocker and beer is a brawler. Whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”
Fifth grade Cliff took these words to literally mean anyone who chose to drink any alcohol at all must be some sort of mental case and a bum devoid of any redeemable human traits. 10-year-olds can be very absolutist.
25-year-old Cliff, with his beard, English major and fondness for dessert wines and infused vodkas – well – he’s not quite so sure as young Cliff was.
Now, one wants to look to the second sentence and begin to parse it out.
I don’t pretend to be any kind of Biblical scholar, but I don’t see any outright condemnation of alcohol in that text.
It simply seems to say those “led astray” are not wise. In other words, moderation and forbearance are key.
A glass of wine should be reasonably acceptable; a few bottles is right out.
Having the occasional drink is not the unforgivable sin some would have you believe it is; drinking to get drunk every time, however, is abhorrent and a sign you should probably seek help and treatment.
But, this is my interpretation. It’s a guess based on a short textual analysis, and I wouldn’t put much faith in me. I try not to, at least.
Some of you may hold to that prohibitionist approach. That’s your right.
If you choose to teetotal, I applaud your choice, but it’s your choice. You not drinking doesn’t mean you get to sit in condemnation of everyone who does, however.
Judgement can only truly come from someone we’re all familiar with, and I think it’s best we leave that sort of thing to Him, don’t you?