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August 03, 2009

temperance.


Sip The Lights, originally uploaded by NatashaP.

When in doubt, ask C.S. Lewis. :)

(defining a few words for you first:

temperance: moderation or self-restraint, esp. in eating or drinking.

teetotalism: choosing abstinence from alcohol.

Mohammedanism: The Islam religion.)

“Temperance is, unfortunately, one of those words that has changed its meaning. It now usually means teetotalism. But in the days when the second Cardinal virtue was christened “Temperance”, it meant nothing of the sort. Temperance referred not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further. It is a mistake to think that Christians ought all to be teetotalers; Mohammedanism, not Christianity, is the teetotal religion. Of course it may be the duty of a particular Christian, or of any Christian, at a particular time, to abstain from strong drink, either because he is the sort of man who cannot drink at all without drinking too much, or because he is with people who are inclined to drunkenness and must not encourage them by drinking himself. But the whole point is that he is abstaining, for a good reason, from something which he does not condemn and which he likes to see other people enjoying. One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons-marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.
One great piece of mischief has been done by the modern restriction of the word Temperance to the question of drink. It helps people to forget that you can be just as intemperate about lots of other things. A man who makes his golf or his motor-bicycle the centre of his life, or a woman who devotes all her thoughts to clothes or bridge or her dog, is being just as ’intemperate’ as someone who gets drunk every evening. Of course, it does not show on the outside so easily: bridge-mania or golf-mania do not make you fall down the middle of the road. But God is not deceived by externals." -C. S. Lewis

My Response:

The meaning of “temperance” in the Christian world has turned from moderation to abstinence. This is the misunderstanding found in innumerable churches today. Even our stark founding fathers' Puritan lifestyle allowed drinking in moderation! And these people wouldn't go so far as to write poetry because it was too creative. They stuck to letters and documents so they wouldn't use strong terms to describe what could be personal 'sinful' emotions.


The Bible calls us to be ‘beyond reproach’. But the problem is that a person can always find something to reproach us for. It is only a matter of time, because we are all flawed. Maybe the way to help non-Christians understand Christianity is not to live a lifestyle of abstinence in order to show them a different life, but live the lifestyle of moderation to show them self-control, patience, goodness, and God. We do not live a different life than non-Christians: we are all humans breathing the same air. The difference is our actions, and there is nothing inherently wrong with alcohol. A non-Christian who drinks can better associate with the testimony of a young man who drinks with him and never gets out-of-hand more than a man who turns down a drink because he 'has never taken a sip'. How can a non-Christian drinker relate to that? The point is, God can use both the Christian who drinks and the Christian who has never taken a sip. But most of all, non-Christians don't need us to abstain from alcohol for proof that God is real. If they do, they have bigger problems than you can help them with. They need to understand that humans are humans; Christians are humans just like them. The only difference between me and a drunkard is that I am saved by grace.

“Temperate temperance is best; intemperate temperance injures the cause of temperance.”
–Martin Luther





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