The First Rule Of The Circus

“You are responsible for your own rigging.”`.`.`.`.`.`.`.`.`.`.`.`.`.`.`.`.`.`.(via Penn Jillette)

So I was sent this link and when I first looked at it I thought I could see what the author was getting at, but I also thought he was way of course.

In a nutshell: Christians shouldn’t drink alcohol in front of people who have a personal problem with alcohol.

On the one hand, there’s common sense courtesy: If you know somebody’s trying to get off the sauce, you’d have to be a dick of Mort Weisinger-era Superman proportions to drink in front of them.

Supermans Girlfriend Lois Lane no79But context is everything, and while it would be deliberately rude & cruel to invite to dinner somebody trying to dry out then guzzle wine in front of them, savoring every last drop while they sit there going through the shakes…

…on the other hand if you’re both at a wedding and the time comes to toast the happy couple, there’s nothing illegal, immoral, unethical, fattening, or rude with you sipping champagne while they down a Fresca.

AA members would tell you that it’s the responsibility of the drunk[1] to avoid alcohol under any circumstances, and so there’s no moral obligation on any one else’s part to avoid alcohol for the drunk’s sake, and in fact one is not necessarily doing drunks a favor by treating them with kid gloves instead of letting them handle reality head on.

AA is really big on handling reality head on.

But that’s not what the author of this piece was getting at, and it certainly wasn’t what Paul was alluding to in the verses cited.

Paul was writing about a very specific real world situation that had larger moral, ethical, and spiritual concerns: Pagan temples would receive prime livestock for sacrifice; after the obligatory ritual slaughter and dismemberment a few pieces would be burned on the altar while the rest would either go into the priests’ larder or be sold out the backdoor to raise cash for the temple.[2]  This meant somebody was going to get a real good bargain on fresh meat.

One group of Christians thought it was a sin to purchase such meat:  In their eyes it was the same as making a direct donation to the temple since the money paid for the pagan sacrifice would end up in the temple’s coffers.

The other group of Christians thought:  Hey, paganism is just idle superstition[3], somebody’s going to buy the meat anyway, I’ve got a family to feed, why not?

Why not, indeed? Paul wondered, and signed off on meat buying out the back door of the temple with two important caveats:  First, the Christians who had no moral qualms about buying such meat were not to do so in a manner that would cause their weaker brothers & sisters in Christ to sin.  Now, at first blush this seems that Paul is saying not to eat pagan meat in a manner that would tempt those other Christians to eat temple meat against their moral scruples, but that’s not his point.  Rather, Paul was concerned that weaker Christians seeing other Christians with stronger faith eating pagan meat would undermine their faith in the church and thus in the teachings of Christ.  The actual meat eating was not the problem, it was seeing others do something with impunity that one held was a sin for one’s self that would cause the weaker brother or sister to doubt the validity of Christ’s message as a whole. Second, while it was right and proper and good for the Christian who held that buying and eating pagan sacrificial meat was a sin for them to avoid buying and eating such meat, it was not their place to judge, restrict, or hamper those who had more confidence in their salvation and could approach the matter more pragmatically.  In other words, if it bothers you, don’t you do it, and trust God to sort it all out with the person who does.[4]

So bottom line:  At first read I was in agreement that well-mannered people should be considerate of others and not deliberately taunt or provoke them even if it is the other person’s choice & responsibility on how they will react.

But then the little light, it came on…

The article really has nothing to do with how Christians should behave around those with weaknesses, much less with actually helping alcoholics or anyone else with an addiction problem.

Rather, it’s a concern trolling of Christians to shame them into behavior that the author thinks they should do.

He is, it appears, passing judgment -- however passively -- on his brothers & sisters, in hopes of controlling them through guilt.

...gotcha, okay, now we're clear...




[1]  Their own term for themselves.

[2]  Don’t look so shocked; this is the way all temples were run back in antiquity, and the OT Book of Leviticus gives precise instructions on how this was to be done among the Israelites.

[3]  "Idol" superstition, get it?  Get it?

[4]  AA would agree that there are certain people who Just Can Not Drink because once they start they will lose all control and start acting out in a destructive manner; AA will do everything it can to help those people to voluntarily refrain from drinking but they will not compel those who can moderate their liquor consumption from enjoying it as they see fit.

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