Monday, December 12, 2005

Lack of moderation is the real sin

Adam Graham’s recent tête-à-tête with Radical Russ was truly a dandy, and was probably some of Adam’s best work yet. If you haven’t had the pleasure to see some of it, check out the link to the right for Adam Graham.

Adam did point out something in one of his responses to Russ that is quite true, and bears some further explanation on my part: Christians who are involved in the political arena do not seek to establish a theocracy, because in our country, diversity among Christians makes this practically impossible. Adam used as his example the Catholic attitude toward gambling (we tolerate it) as opposed to many evangelical sects who either see it as a vice or an outright sin. After reading Adam’s thoughts on this, I thought the Catholic position bore some further explaining, largely because I have been asked by some well-meaning friends in the past why on earth the Catholic Church seems to be so tolerant of drinking and gambling.

It may surprise some non-Christians to see me write this, but did you know that there is nothing whatsoever that is sinful about sex? That’s right, I said there is nothing the least bit sinful about sex. Sex is natural, its fun, and it feels good. God meant for it to be enjoyed, so enjoy sex…live it up.

Here’s the catch: Sex was created to be enjoyed, but like all things created by God, sex has a purpose beyond our own human enjoyment. When we reduce sex merely to something that feels good for us or gives us a momentary high, we demean not only the sex act but the person we are enjoying it with. God created sex as a means for the human race to perpetuate itself. Because of that, he intended sex, this incredibly enjoyable thing, to be enjoyed within the bond of marriage, the institution through which God intended children to be brought into the world. Because the perpetuation of humanity is so important to God, he laid down rules for the responsible use (as opposed to the irresponsible abuse) of sex.

Similarly, God gave man a mind and the ability to amuse himself with it, and man created games with which he could amuse himself. Games of chance and wager have always been among the most popular, because they appeal to our competitive instincts. “My horse is better than your horse,” “my cards are better than yours,” or “my numbers are better than yours” are all perfectly normal uses of the God-given competitive instinct. However, when we attempt to wager more than we have after it becomes obvious that our horses or cards or numbers are not better than those of our opponents, this becomes foolhardy and at that point, it does become a sin because we are abusing competition and tempting God’s intentions.

Alcohol is not sinful in itself, because we know Our Lord turned water into wine (note: it was wine, not Welch’s). Our Lord drank wine, the apostles drank wine. Even Paul advised Timothy to drink wine (note: not Welch’s) to settle his stomach. We can take heart, then, that making and/or drinking fermented or distilled beverages made from grapes, corn, wheat, rye, potatoes, or any other part of God’s food creation is a perfectly normal and God-endorsed activity. Abusing these beverages, items which God intended for our moderate and medicinal use and enjoyment, is what is sinful. When a person deliberately drinks an alcoholic beverage with the intent of giving himself or herself over to a drunken stupor, that is a sinful act. When a person drinks so much as to put themselves or others at risk, that is a sin. Having a drink (or even, in the privacy of your own home, two or three) is not sinful on its face. It is the failure to respect moderation that is the sin, not the drinking.

I have a friend who once told me that he avoids alcohol not because he believes it is sinful, but because he strongly believes that if he were to allow himself to drink even a drop, he might have a tendency toward alcoholism. If a person believes they are likely to abuse something, whether it is alcohol, or gambling, or sex…they should avoid that which they are likely to abuse, and thereby avoid falling into sin.


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