On Death, Red Lipstick, And My Affection For Communion Wine, Part III

Originally, this post and the two that precede it were supposed to be one post. I forgot that I am, in fact, very long winded and thus the three parts to this post are split over three different posts. For the previous posts, you can go here and here.

Part Three: Tony Jones wrote a blog post about Evangelicals and their disapproval of alcohol. Like most things Tony writes, it made me think.

Just a side note: Tony and I go to the same church, and I still haven’t gotten up the courage to introduce myself to him. He’s just so…awesome, and one of my superheroes, and I can’t just walk up and say “Hi, I’m Denika. I think you’re awesome and you’re one of my superheroes.” So, if you ever go to Solomon’s Porch, I’ll be the one hyperventilating and freaking out because one of my superheroes is right. freaking. there.

Tony, if you’re reading this (which I sincerely doubt), I’m sorry if that’s creepy.

Anyway.

I grew up Lutheran, and my church used kosher wine for Holy Communion. My pastors often went out for drinks with one another–one of them was even a bartender. The concept of Christians drinking was not at all foreign to me. The only restriction that was given was that all things were to be enjoyed in moderation.

That seemed simple enough, and it didn’t contradict what I read in the Bible.

Now, when I went to school (at a Baptist university), I was informed that alcohol is wrong and we should never let a drop of it touch our lips. This went so far that the school covenant, which, if you wanted to go to that school, you had to sign whether you agreed with it or not, banned students–even those over 21–from consuming or even possessing alcohol during the school year. One of my friends actually got written up because she had an unopened bottle of Bailey’s in the trunk of her car, which was a gift for her 21st birthday.

And for a while, I believed this. I decided that I would never drink, not even once I was old enough, because it was somehow wrong. I didn’t have solid theological or even moral backing for this. There was no concept of “drinking in moderation” or just having the occasional drink every once in a while. You either abstained from drinking and were therefore holy, or you were a drunkard and were going to Hell.

When my now-husband and I got engaged (at my ripe old age of seventeen), my mind began to change. We were discussing our wedding and whether or not we wanted to have  alcohol at it, and we got into an argument about alcohol as a whole. I stated that I didn’t even want to have it in our home, and even less at our wedding. I still find this funny because he’s the one who grew up Baptist, and I was Lutheran. He wanted to know what was so wrong about alcohol.

I really didn’t have a good answer.

He’s so much smarter than me. Bastard.

(Love you honey (: )

So he began to change my mind. When we decided to do Communion at our wedding, things got more interesting. See, my tradition uses kosher wine and unleavened bread for Communion. This is important to me, for no other reason than it is a sacrament, and thus a ritual, which makes the elements significant, and get off my back, I like my one tradition. When we informed his parents that we would be doing communion in this way, they, being good Baptists, decided they simply wouldn’t take Communion.

Awesome.

(Don’t worry, we ended up having a chalice of white grape juice too.)

At that point, I became an all-out advocate for Christians drinking. I wanted to break down the so-called “piety” that my school held so tightly because it simply seemed nonsensical to me. I had conversations with fellow students and with professors about this, and we all agreed that it was pointless.

The thing that got me, though, is that I no longer felt comfortable partaking in communion at my school. They would do it occasionally in chapel with grape juice and white bread. I just couldn’t reconcile that with the need I felt to hold to my tradition and my ritual, to keep Communion a sacrament. I felt like an outsider because my tradition was not only seen as invalid, but sinful.

Both I and my university had decided that the other side was wrong. This isn’t how we should do things.

Fast forward to a few months ago. My husband and I started going to Solomon’s Porch. That community is great for many reasons, but perhaps the best being that they form the practices and the beliefs of the community around its members. Instead of telling you what they believe and saying that, to be a part of that community, you have to agree, they ask what you believe and work to incorporate your unique theology into the community as a whole. One way this gets fleshed out is in their Communion. They have multiple stations throughout the gathering area, some with grape juice, others with wine, even one station with a common cup. They make it possible for all believers–however they celebrate this ritual–to do it as they wish, as a community.

It’s a beautiful thing. And it’s something we all need to start doing.

If you have friends who don’t drink because of their beliefs, ask them why. Make sure they know the reasons behind their decision. If you have friends who drink, ask the same questions. Try to understand their beliefs. And make sure to understand yours, too. We don’t need to wage wars for or against alcohol use in the Church–we just need to understand each other.

Now, if I can just get the Porch to start offering matzoh and temple wine…

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