I Have Never Hit My Wife (and why that surprises certain people)

I have never hit my wife.  I have never even threatened to hit my wife.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever had the desire to hit my wife.  Even when she unashamedly criticizes my impeccable driving skills (in the interest of full disclosure, I am a much worse backseat driver than she is).  Now that we have that out of the way…..
Based on what I was taught, that is a rare thing.  Why? Because I drink alcohol.  And I was taught that alcohol turns the nicest men into raging terrors just about 100% of the time.  As far as church was concerned, I never heard a story in a sermon or a Sunday School lesson about alcohol that did not involve a man beating his wife and children.  I started to develop the idea that alcohol was like a magic potion that created monsters and left nothing but destruction in its path.
However, without even going to the Bible, I have a big problem with this thinking.  Namely, alcohol is not to blame.  But this is the kind of teaching that you get when people who have never had a drop of alcohol in their lives teach other people who have never had a drop of alcohol in their lives about how dangerous even drinking one drop of alcohol is.
There are many great academic articles out there on alcohol and the Bible, so I don’t feel the need to get extremely deep here.  But I will stray just a bit from my typical post format to dig a little deeper into exactly what it was that changed my mind about drinking.

Does the Bible teach that drinking alcohol is intrinsically wrong?

No.  It does not.
Of the 31, 103 verses (give or take a few) in the Bible, NOT ONE of them teaches that the act of drinking alcohol is wrong.  The closest that the Bible comes is to say that there are boundaries for consumption of alcohol.  Eph 5:18 – ‘do not get drunk with wine.’

Are there Bible verses that warn against the effects of alcohol?

Yes.  There are many.
The book of proverbs contains many verses that detail what effects too much alcohol can have from making someone look foolish to memory loss and many things in between.  It even goes so far as to say that being deceived by the effects of alcohol is unwise.  But still, it does not say that we should abstain from drinking alcohol.

Are there Bible verses that encourage or allow alcohol consumption?

Yes.  There are.
In regards to taking the annual journey to the temple, God says that if you are coming from far away and you won’t be able to finish the trip, you should stop where you are and buy whatever you heart desires including wine and strong drink (liquor) to have a roadside feast to the Lord (Deut 14:24-26).
At a marriage celebration Jesus turned water into wine.  In the IFB I was taught that the wine mentioned in this story was not fermented.  This in spite of the fact that the word that ‘wine’ is translated from is the same root word used in other passages of the Bible where the context is obviously referencing alcoholic wine.  Just for the record, there is ZERO support for that argument.
And of course, Paul admonished Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake.
There are a few places that the Bible allows drinking without explicitly stating it.  For example, when listing the code that the priest had to adhere to while performing their duties in the temple, abstaining from all alcohol consumption is mentioned.  But there is nothing stating that they could not drink when they were not performing their duties.  And when Paul rebuked the Christians who were getting drunk at the observation of the Lord’s supper, he did not tell them not to drink at all.  He merely rebuked them for drinking too much.

Is there a period in history in which Christians drank alcohol?

Yes! Absolutely.
Up until the temperance movement started, it was not uncommon at all for Christians to have alcohol as part of their normal lives.  Ask Martin Luther.

Did Jesus drink alcohol or condone the use of alcohol?

Yes.  There is no denying this at all.
Even if you don’t infer that He drank alcohol from the accusations against Him of being a drunkard, it is impossible to deny that he drank alcohol during the last supper in the upper room.
After considering all of this, I had to come to the conclusion that everything I had been taught about alcohol was really someone’s preference and not a biblical standard.  If you choose not to drink, I support your decision 100%.  However, it is irresponsible, misguided and dangerous to create a doctrine from the Bible that alcohol consumption is sinful.
Cheers!
What was your experience with alcohol like in the IFB and has your position changed since you left?
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About Techrolle

Former Fundamentalist. Current member of the human population. Future cranky black man. View all posts by Techrolle

11 responses to “I Have Never Hit My Wife (and why that surprises certain people)

  • Mike

    Dan,

    Great article! I love reading your stuff. Great thoughts. Just one more thought – in the ancient world, alcohol was seen as a great gift from God (or more often the gods) because it was life preserving. The tannins in wine in particular had the ability to purify water that was not safe to drink. Beer and wine both were much safer to drink that water in the ancient world.

    I do disagree with you on one point though. It is not at all true that fundamentalist have no evidence that the wine of the ancient world was not fermented. The pastor said it, that is concrete proof of the universal and absolute truth of the matter. : )

    • Dan

      Great point! Now that you mention it, I once heard a fundy pastor mention this from the pulpit. His justification was that even though they drank real alcohol back then, they HAD to do it for safety sake. Now that we have clean water, it is no longer allowed.

      Gotta love it.

  • Damien T Garofalo

    When I was a fundamentalist, I was convinced that consuming a drop of alcohol was sinful. I knew people who wouldn’t even by Listerine in case they accidentally swallowed some. I never went that far. However, before Bible college, I worked as a busboy in a bar/restaurant. One of my duties was to fill the bar and tap the kegs. One time, the pressure on a keg of Coor’s Lite wasn’t fully gone and I took the cap off too quickly, and it exploded in my face. I ran upstairs to the bathroom to spit it out and wash my mouth of any trace of the devil’s brew.

    I think I’ve traveled the same trajectory most have coming out of the IFB. Once I realized my position was biblically and historically indefensible, I took a moderate approach wherein I said it was ok to drink in moderation but it’s even wiser to be abstinent, in light of today’s society and its relationship to alcohol. Then, my position became more tolerable to drinking and I didn’t see abstinence as the wiser choice, but merely a choice I had personally followed. Now, I see the gift of God in alcohol and am hoping that more Protestants would at least use wine for communion (and many are!).

    Since I was abstinent for so long, and since I just haven’t developed a habit of drinking, it’s been tough getting acclimated to the test of fermented drink. I have wine from time to time, but overall I’m indifferent at this point.

  • M.E. Anders

    Relevant topic for those of us who left the IFB. It took me a few years before I was comfortable around people drinking alcohol. I still clung to the IFB’s dogma that it was “of the devil” and would lead to wife beating.

    Every Saturday, we were taken out on bus routes to see poverty stricken children with abusive parents. On our way home, we would get lectures about “that’s what happens when you drink alcohol.”

    Though I personally do not consume alcohol for health reasons, I have no issue with other people consuming it in moderation.

  • clay921

    Thanks for writing this. I like the fact that you are very concise and give very brief yet strong arguments for alcohol. On that note I think I’ll go home and have a Sam Adams! :-)

  • denelian

    i’m new here – long road from the blog “No Longer Quivering” – but i have to say, you’ve managed to condense arguments that i’ve spent hours on down to a neat, 3 minute speech. that’s very cool.

    i don’t drink – a combo of personal choice, genetic fear [i'm half Cherokee, and a good 2/3 of that side of the family are alcoholics. or drug addicts. or both] and medical issues. i *have* drunk, before i was forced to take pain meds [it's take the meds and be able to function, however poorly, or don't take the meds and be incapable of even getting off the bed.]
    also, i dislike being drunk ["it's no fun being drunk; ask a glass of water".]
    but i enjoy being around buzzed people, who are being silly – MUCH better entertainment than watching TV!

    there aren’t many things that i consider “sinful” in and of themselves. the people who get drunk and beat their spouses and/or children are using the alcohol to excuse their abuse.

    i’m not technically Christian [too many of my beliefs make a certain segment of Christianity explode] though i do believe in and follow Christ. i’ve never seen the harm in most things, done in moderation [there are, of course, exceptions - especially many "street" drugs that can addict with 3 or fewer uses, that are impure and deadly dangerous. note that pot isn't one of these - it's non-addictive, and i've never heard of a person getting stoned and beating anyone. i'm deathly allergic to pot, much to my doctor's dismay. anyway]

    and i feel that the teachings of fundamentalists against alcohol tend to be *extremely* counter-productive, especially amongst teens. i’ve mentored teens for 15 years, and the fundamentalist, or former-fundamentalist, teens are the hardest to work with. not because they’re bad kids, but because of the false paradigm that’s been created for them. the all-or-nothing mindset, that leaves NO room for Grace, let alone mistakes!
    the absolute *worse* ever was a girl, 7 or so years ago, who [somehow!] was allowed to attend a prom. she went with the boy she was “courting” [i won't say anything about THAT]. they didn’t know the punch had been spiked until they’d both had some.
    neither got drunk – they reported that the punch was spiked, and immediately called the girl’s parents to pick them up. they were completely honest about what happened.
    i saw the girl once a week [scheduled visites; i often saw her more often] but the next week’s visit was canceled by her parents. they should have canceled the NEXT’S week visit, as well, because the bruises were still visible.

    he father beat the holy **** out of her for the “sin” of drinking, forced her to call off her “courtship” and cut off all communication with the boy, and grounded her for 6 months. [the ONLY reason she was allowed to see me was because CPS had mandated it. i should have called CPS after THIS incident, but she begged me not to, and... i suck. sigh]

    these kids did *everything* correctly. but that “one drop” was enough.
    and the worst of it is, her father? drinks. often. he was drunk when he beat her. part of the reason the normal “beating on the behind” escalated into “actual beating including a black eye and more” is because [i quote her father] she “had the unmitigated gall” to point out to her father that HE was drunk but SHE was not, because she recognized that it was alcohol and didn’t drink anymore.

    so what lesson did these two kids learn?
    they learned to NOT be honest with their parents about potentially dangerous situations [they called her parents because the people they rode with were drunk, and neither kid knew how to drive.] they learned to sneak around. they learned that their parents could not be trusted, and they learned that doing the right thing will get them punished *more* than doing the wrong thing.

    she asked me why she shouldn’t have just gone ahead and gotten drunk – that way she would have punished for something she actually DID.
    and some months later, she DID get drunk, at a friend’s house where she was “studying” – i.e. a clandestine party. with her former boyfriend [i don't know what you call individuals in a courtship? former courter?]. they did NOT have sex, but only because he passed out. then another person at the party – drunker than she was – tried to drive her home.
    thankfully, no one was badly hurt. until later, of course, when her father beat her again. at which point [over her protests] i *DID* call CPS, showed them pictures, told them what i knew.
    she was emancipated at 17, and all of her younger siblings were farmed out to other family members… and she still struggles with alcohol to this day.

    teaching MODERATION would work so much better. these kids have no defenses against reality. it’s terrifying – and i know that there are families who have retreated MUCH further from the real world, who only home-school and home-church.

    the problem wasn’t alcohol [in the beginning] – it was her father’s abuse, her mother’s negligence and the “a single drop is the same as being a drunk” mindset. it LED to her problem with alcohol, because to her, a single beer is EXACTLY THE SAME as an entire bottle of Jack. same sin, same price, so why not take as much as she can, since it’s the same punishment either way?

    it broke my heart then, breaks it now. and terrifies me on behalf of all the kids being raised this way.

    as a side note, if it isn’t fermented, it isn’t wine.

  • Culture + Politics

    [...] My teenage best friend was constantly trying to assert his heterosexuality. Not only could he not date (taking away the “I have a girlfriend” excuse), he couldn’t spend time alone with female friends, return the playful glances of his coworkers, or have a crush on a movie star. He therefore plunged headlong into identifying as a “nerd” whose intellect left no time for girls. The truth was that his family had forbidden him to court until he finished college. While in college, perceiving visual assaults on all sides, he locked himself in his room for almost the entirety of a six-week study abroad program in France. The reason? There were girls there, drinking. [...]

  • How the Modesty Doctrine Hurts Men, Too

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  • heatherjanes

    I grew up going to a nondenominational church and we drank at church once. We had Messianic Jews there for a Passover dinner and everybody was acting like they were celebrities. The Jews poured wine into those tiny glasses normally reserved for grape juice and nobody dared tell them no. I accidentally got one and took a sip. I was 8, so I gave it to my Mom and she drank it. Kinda hilarious to think back on, really.

    As for me, I grew up Quiverfull in New Orleans of all places, so drinking culture found me at around age 17. I navigated my way through it with relatively few mishaps and in fact, I’m sipping on a small tumbler of SoCo and ice right now. Crazy to think it is quite possible to have one or two drinks, enjoy it, and then continue on as a responsible human being. I have never hit anybody while drunk either. Sober, now that’s another story…

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