Lauren Winner’s Bourbon


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.

In spite of what I’ve already mentioned — divorce, loneliness, and antidepressants — there will be nothing more arresting to some readers than the way in which Lauren speaks of her use of alcohol.

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.

  • http://www.andycornett.com Andy Cornett

    Tony,

    I’ve owed you a drink ever since you published Postmodern Youth Ministry. If I ever bump into you, I’m buying! And hear, hear! to your comments above.
    Andy

  • Scot Miller

    How does that old joke go? The difference between Evangelicals and Episcopalians is that Episcopalians will say hello to each other when they meet in the liquor store…

  • Phil Miller

    I grew up in a teetotaling household, and indeed a teetotaling denomination (the AoG). Even though I went to a large state school known as a party school, I didn’t have my first beer until I was 32. I served on staff as a campus pastor and, well, drinking really was pretty much out of the question in that position. I really never had any desire to do it. It wasn’t until after I parted ways with the church I was at that i actually decided I should at least taste beer at some point in my life.

    I now drink occasionally – mainly microbrews. Sometimes wine, but not a whole lot. I will have a few drinks when I go out professionally, but I don’t think I’ve ever really had more than three on any given evening. For me it’s more of a take it or leave type of thing. I think growing up people gave the impression that once one drop touched my lips I’d have an uncontrollable urge to drink. That’s obviously not true, but I think that type of thinking is why the evangelical publishing industry is the way it is concerning alcohol.

    I will say this, though, perhaps because I did spend a long time in an environment where I got to see the negative effects of alcohol, I have a hard time out and out celebrating it. I’ve been around plenty of people who feel they have to drink to have a good time, and to me, that’s even more dangerous than being a teetotaler.

  • CJ

    It’s odd to me that folks are still hung up on social drinking.

    Even odder is that drinking is, to some, worth compromising their integrity over. If having a beer with your friends is so important that you will break a covenant you agreed to sign (the professors you mention) and sneak around in the shadows hoping to not be found out….then I would submit it has too strong a hold on your life.

    We are free in Christ to drink….not sure we are free in Christ to lie about it.

  • Frank

    I used to drink a lot. Now i think it’s a better choice not to drink. You never know if someone you are with struggles with it and I do not want in any way to let my drinking be a misconstrued encouragement. Everything is permissible not everything is beneficial and do not do anything to cause a weaker person to stumble.

    If we truly love others we will all be more careful with substances that can and do cause great damage even if they are “permissible.” It seems we should be less concerned about what we can do and more concerned with whether we should do.

  • SuperStar

    Funny, I didn’t have my first beer or glass of wine until I went to a solidly evangelical seminary. I just made it part of my master of divinity degree. And I enjoy beer and wine now more than ever.

  • ME

    When you compare European alcohol culture to American alcohol culture it’s clear how messed up and destructive our culture is. We don’t need to abstain and sign documents against consumption but there is merit in trying to change our national culture towards alcohol.

    I see it brought up all the time how the Bible was written in a different context than ours. That applies in this case too. When Jesus was drinking wine it may not have been as bad for individuals as our current culture has made it.

  • Marshall

    (I cannot even tell you, for instance, the number of times … meet at bars where they won’t bump into their colleagues.)

    There you are, the Law makes hypocrites of everybody. I have to say, really, I don’t get it. They’re not actually fooling anybody.

  • http://kowkabchobel.com/ledgerlockblog/ Lock

    Again, as if she is being (or you are being) persecuted by evangelicals. Tony you are not an evangelical, so again, why are you sticking your finger in their chest?

    Emergents wont admit to smoking doobies. Can you admit to smoking doobies, Tony?

    Emergents are free to drink, but can’t smoke them doobies. For the love of God, why can’t a publish let me admit that I fire up some home grown to take the edge off. What’s up with the prohibition against the doobiage?

    • Dustin

      Lock, your comments often switch on my “blinding rage” button, and push me towards a premature stroke. I’m a lurk here and I’ve wanted to say something to you about it for months. There, I said something to you about it.

  • Kristen

    I have no objection to social drinking. At all. I have on occasion settled down to a quiet time with my Bible and a glass of red wine. One of my parents will regularly enjoy a (singular) drink. The other has no objection to the practice but personally does not care for the taste. No problem.

    But this seems different: “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.” That strikes me as different than enjoying a glass of bourbon after dinner.

    And this is seriously not okay: “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.”

    It makes no difference to me if people drink in moderation or decide it isn’t their cup of tea (so to speak). But to agree publicly that you will uphold the standards of a community and then routinely slip around the back … that seems to be a huge problem, and in light of THAT the solution should not be “well the problem is with the rule, get rid of the rule!”


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