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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Drunkards: musings on 1 Corinthians 6

According to the Bible, drunkards aren't getting anywhere fast with God. Apparently, being an alcoholic is not on the list of acceptable behaviors with God. But, what--exactly--is a "drunkard?"

According to my pocket Oxford English dictionary, to be "drunk" is to be rendered incapable by alcohol. A "drunkard" then is someone who is rendered incapable habitually. This is why I love words. Because "drunk" is a verb, and "alcohol" is a noun, what God prohibits is the verb, the doing, not the being. In other words you can't "do" drunk, but you can be a "drunk." What the Bible suggests God doesn't like is not "who you are," but rather what you "do." In this case, drink to incapacity on a regular basis.

When we call someone an "alcoholic," we are naming their identity on the basis of the adjective (derived from the noun "alcohol"), and not their behavior. When we call someone a "drunkard," we are describing their behavior without tapping into their identity. Linguistically, a person could be an "alcoholic", but if they never drink they could never be a "drunkard." Conversely, you could be a "drunkard' even if you are not an alcoholic. (Although, this is hard ot imagine, as anyone who would keep drinking would seem to be both an alcoholic and a drunkard.)

Now, I know this is why most of us do not do philosophy or theology, however, we need to know what God is against here: God doesn't want us to hurt ourselves or our neighbors (asuming drunkards imperil us...and MADD and other groups attest to that), so this behavior is not condoned. No matter who does it--alcoholic or not. The prime motivation God seeks from humanity is to take care of each other and the world, as God takes care of us. The Bible assumes it's tough to take care of things if you are always drunk, that is, a "drunkard."

Now, lest we get too cocky because we do not drink to drunkard-status, remember Jesus says that the sin that wounds is not what we do, but what we are...namely, lusters of the heart...Because our identity betrays our idolatry, what we do is a bit of a shadow when it comes to sin...because the "sinning" has been done long before we "do" anything. And what regulates our behavior then is not whether it is sinful or not, but whether it helps or imperils our neighbors and ourselves or not. So a "drunkard" doesn't drive not because that is a sin, but because that imperils him or herself and their neighbors.

So as 2010 rolls by and we struggle with questions of who we are and what we do, resolutions we keep or ignore, we could do worst than to remember then to think of others rather than to obsess over who we are. As God's children, our questions of identity are never in doubt...but what we do????

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