All week, I’ll be posting about Lauren Winner’s new book, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis. I’m doing so because I think it’s an important book, and I hope that you all read it.
It goes without saying that this is not a Zondervan-Thomas Nelson-Baker book. I’ve had friends told to excise their manuscripts of all mention of alcohol by each of those publishers, showing that consumption of alcohol is still a stigma in evangelical circles. However, this book would not have been published by one of those houses for any number of reasons.
But even in Lauren’s more secular genre of memoirs-of-formerly-a/theistic-women-turned-professing-Christian, we don’t see this. I can’t think of Kathleen Norris ever mentioning anything alcoholic, beyond Eucharistic wine; and all of Anne Lamott’s consumption is in the past tense.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that other Christian leaders and Christian writers don’t drink — I’ve had drinks with many of them. It’s that they don’t write about it, and they don’t admit it publicly. (I cannot even tell you, for instance, the number of times that I’ve had drinks at academic meetings and youth ministry conferences with professors from evangelical colleges who have signed “lifestyle statements” committing to no alcohol use. We always have to meet at bars where they won’t bump into their colleagues.)
What’s going to be arresting to some readers is the offhanded way that Lauren talks about turning to a glass of bourbon at the end of the day to take the edge off of the pain of her divorce and of her mother’s death. Here, again, I’m with Lauren. Unlike so many of my more pietistic Christian friends, I was reared in a home where my parents and their friends drank socially — even at Bible study meetings! A good, stiff drink, or a nice bottle of wine, is how we socialize. It’s part of how we do life together.
What it’s not, is anything to be stigmatized. Another legacy of evangelical pietism that neither Lauren nor I are bound by, I’m glad that she wrote openly about her love of the occasional bourbon.