One of the most famous miracles in the Bible was when Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana. When the wine at the party ran dry, at his mother’s request young Jesus made a lot of wine (and he made the good stuff). From the teetotling temperance movement to the sacramental nature of communion wine, alcohol and faith have an interesting relationship. But after a couple-month celebration of thanks, the birth of Christ, and the arrival of a new year, many observe this month as Sober January.
I was 6 years old, growing up in Cleveland. It was Christmas Eve. The traditional Slovak dinner was ready on the stove — mushroom soup and pierogies. My mom, my younger brother, and I were waiting for my dad to get home so we could eat.
The waiting part was no surprise.
My dad was an alcoholic. During the Korean War, he enlisted and was assigned to a paratrooper unit. He was wounded during a mission. My mom said the experience changed him. He brought some demons home with him.
Clerics in Kenya are backing a presidential decree banning homemade brews, largely blamed for a recent spate of deaths in the East African nation.
The homemade alcoholic drinks, popularly dubbed chang’aa (“kill me quick”) or Kumi Kumi (ten-ten shillings), are popular with the poor, who cannot afford commercially brewed bottled beer, which is heavily taxed.
Until recently, most Kenyan homemade brews were safe and were consumed at traditional parties, but unscrupulous brewers in the last few years have been introducing industrial chemicals such as methanol to make the drinks stronger and to quicken the brewing process, turning the drinks into poisons.
Here’s a sampling from some of the nation's denominations:
1. SOUTHERN BAPTISTS
The Southern Baptist Convention has passed more than 50 resolutions about the “deleterious effects of consuming alcohol,” said Roger S. Oldham, spokesman for the convention’s Executive Committee. The most recent resolution, passed in 2006, urged that “no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages.”
“In instances where a pastor may need treatment for substance abuse, he or his church would seek services in the same way other members of their communities would,” Oldham said.
2. ROMAN CATHOLICS
Some of you might be downright shocked to know that many clergy have to undergo a three-day battery of psych tests as part of the ordination process. If a significant issue is discovered, say, addiction or something else (perhaps the main reason these tests have become required), one's ordination process can be slowed down or halted all together. When I was going through the process, I too went through these evaluations.
The result? I have "a fragile sense of self."
What does this really mean? Well, I'm an alcoholic. It's true. I've spoken about it as part of my faith journey (read: testimony; yes, I have a testimony). I don't wave it around like some flag, but I'm not shy about telling people. And I have certainly told the congregations and other organizations I have served about my history with addiction.
Keeping this stuff secret, for me, is poisonous.
At any rate, there it was, "a fragile sense of self" on my evaluation. This caused everyone to pause. The ordination committee had a ton of questions for me. They did the obligatory background check (this is perfunctory; everyone gets one). They checked my references, etc. They did their due diligence to make sure, as best as anyone could, that I was not going to fall off the wagon.
Of course. No one can promise that. Not really.
We love a redemption story.
The profound appeal of rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-riches or the fall-from-grace-followed-by-a-spectacular-comeback is about as ingrained in our American psyche (and soul) as rooting for the underdog, generosity to those in distress, and second chances.