Portugal has taught me much. For starters, I have become a drinker. Not an alcoholic, mind you. But virtually every day, there is a meal or a get-together that involves either wine or alcohol. It's just the culture here.
And I will say that I enjoy the brew. It's kind of frustrating to me that back in the Midwest, I was raised with the understanding, "Don't smoke, drink, or chew, and don't go with girls that do." I heard that quote many times. I fully understand the reasoning behind such a desire (the argument is what good can come from any of the above?), and I will not argue that such items can produce harmful results.
My frustration comes in the fact that these are the only items highlighted. Why not sugar? Why not fat? Why not Big Macs? Why not fried foods? As long as we don't drink, we are fine. But let's go out to eat and have a 3000-calorie meal. Or let's sit down and watch a television show as a family that portrays sex with no consequences, cussing, murder as if it's a snack, and insert your other favorite non-good thing to do here.
I was raised in a family where drinking was taboo. You just don't do those types of things. After all, we are Christians. And Christians don't drink. No mention of the fact that wine was common in Scripture. I had to learn those facts on my own. So I would find myself in Boston with a group of Christians at a bar, and I would order tea. Or pop. That was the first time, though, when I realized that maybe the Midwest wasn't as "cut and dry" as we thought we were.
I will admit that I enjoy drinking wine. And beer. And frankly, I have no problems in saying that. As a youth minister for six years, I would never touch alcohol. Actually, no alcohol ever touched my lips until I was 24 years old!!! It's hard to believe, but it's true. Outside of mouthwash, I didn't drink. After all, I was a Christian. And Christian's don't drink. Or is it can't? I'm not sure.
But even as a youth minister, I would wonder if I was doing more harm than good. The more I studied, the more I learned that it was a Midwest idea. Christians on the East Coast drank. Christians in Europe drank. Christians in California drank. And then I even learned that, lo and behold!, Christians in central Illinois drank. Could it be?!
So back to the more harm than good...I would question if it was better for me to say no to alcohol completely...or to model what drinking wisely looks like. In other words, when I turned 21 (and let me insert that I will never support students under 21 drinking due to the national law), would it not be better for me to drink but to drink well?
Let me put it this way. We teach our students not to have sex before marriage. Sex is powerful, it has consequences, it is made to be a bond between a man and a woman, it can be abused without mature understanding, etc. But let me ask you how many people you know that decide to put off sex on their marriage night?! "Sorry, honey, but we have to remember that we are teaching kids. And if we have sex, then they might, too. Let's hold off..."
Is it not better to be a husband and wife who enjoy sex? Who show how to have sex within marriage?! Who appreciate beauty, the complexity, the simplicity, of sex?*** (***These are all things that I assume to be true....haha!!!). And who wait to have sex until after they are married? Wouldn't it be foolish to never have sex after married?!
So my question is this...just how different is drinking? It has consequences. It is a dangerous thing in excess. It can be abused. It has a time and a place. (Insert the word "sex" and see if these aren't also true).
I drink often here. Have I been drunk? Nope. And I will never encourage drunkenness, either, as I believe (and can point to Scriptures) that it is dangerous and not healthy for a person. But I have probably averaged at least a drink a day here. Wine and beer.
Just today I had two glasses of beer over German futbol. And we had a great time! Last night I had a couple of beers over a campfire. And we had a great time!
Could I have drank pop? Or tea? Or water? Sure. Was it necessary? Not at all.
The Midwest is a beautiful place to live, and I am thankful for my heritage. But I will continue to question some of my upbringing. Just because something can be dangerous doesn't mean you run away from it. Fire is destructive, but we would be fools to never use it to cook, to heat, to see.
And about the other "vices" that the Midwest doesn't address? The topic of obesity has come up far too many times here. As a whole, Europe is much skinnier than America. Just today I was talking to a guy about "Supersize Me." He is a bit on the chunkier side, yet he said he felt tiny in America! And he said he is fat here!
But we never talk about food in churches. I can't ever think of a single sermon or talk on over-eating. Drinking? Yup. Smoking? Of course! Sex? Almost weekly! Eating? Let's do it after youth group!
I wonder if we shouldn't start spending some time looking at other things. We are often quick to judge when we ourselves are slaves of our own masters. See what Scripture has to say about eating. About gluttony. About living in excess while the aliens, widows, and poor are all around us.
Just some thoughts I've had. And if you're ever up for talking more about them, let's grab a drink or two and discuss!
(Your thoughts would greatly be appreciated on this one! Leave a comment, and let's discuss!)
Ok, I'm going to completely shift gears here!!!
(I will also mention here that today is a very special...but unique day. Last night we had a campfire here. It turns out that it's a great time to hang out with people! Campfires are as perfect in Portugal as anywhere else! There is just something about people gathering around a campfire.
Well, anyway, we didn't really need a campfire, as the moon as out. And its almost full...it lit up the entire countryside. Absolutely beautiful. Well, about a couple hours into the campfire, some more people come from out of the woods...I love this place! I start talking to one of the ladies...
She is petite...dark black hair...seldom combed and rather coarse...and the sides of her head at her temples are shaved. She is a pleasant 45 years old...an attractive woman! And I talk with her for a while...she is an absolute delight. I talk about my trip, and she makes some interesting comments.
"Oh, that's great...yeah, you have to line yourself up with the cosmic forces." I think I nodded...
I shared some more, and she made another comment that kind of threw me off. When asked if she wanted a glass of wine or a bottle of beer, she asked for water. It's the most pure, she says.
Well, we talk some more, and then the fact that tomorrow (now today!) is going to be the full moon comes up...
"Yes, I am very excited! I'm a witch..."
And with that, the Midwest boy is again in new and fascinating worlds. And, frankly, I was not at all surprised. It all made sense now. She carried with her a different set of beliefs, of values, of living. It just resonated from her. Softly. Yet fully. But she wasn't what I would picture if I was asked to think of a witch! She was cute...enjoyable...and pleasant.
I wanted so desperately to ask her what she was going to do tomorrow night, but I just didn't feel like it was right to do that. I did learn that she will be doing witchcraft on a local beach, though...
And, honestly, some part of me is eager to see exactly what that means. But the better part of me is very believing that demons and Satan are very real. And I really believe that Satan will be very present on that beach tomorrow night.
I don't even know how to deal with such things! But I just thought I would share. No answers. No conclusions. Just another dose of reality.)
2007-09-26 17:41:38 GMT