Does Jack Daniels help the poor?
When I was a student at Christ for the Nations, Freda Lindsay, (the institute’s co-founder) would address the students at the beginning of each semester with a simple challenge. On January 1st, read three chapters of the Bible every day and five on Sunday and, by the end of the year, you will have read the Bible straight through. Like a responsible leader of a Bible School, Freda challenged her students to read the Bible straight through every year for the rest of their lives.
Although I’ve been reading the Bible from cover to cover since I was about 14, I have found Mom Lindsay’s (that’s what CFNI students affecionately call her) plan to be simple and very effective, which is why I have been on the Mom Lindsay plan for about 8 years now. Unlike a lot of my colleages, I do not underline in my Bible. The reason for this is because I don’t want to limit myself to the things that stood out for me in previous years. I would rather have the same verses, or perhaps new verses, jump out at me in a fresh and new way every year.
In light of my year and a half long journey working on the film Holy Wars with director Stephen Marshall, today’s reading took on an added significance as I read this word of wisdom from King Lemuel’s mother in the Book of Proverbs chapter 31 verses 4-5:
Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
I am not a drinker, nor do I plan on starting any time soon. On the other hand, neither am I a theological teetotaler. Even though I’ve never heard a pastor preach on this verse (and neither have I ever seen inner-city pastors giving whiskey to the homeless) I’m guessing that, with the exception of a few ultra-conservative pastors, the majority of evangelical pastors, whether charismatic or non-charismatic would agree with the statement that drinking in and of itself is not a sin, but drunkenness is. I always find it humorous when I read the Apostle Paul’s advice to the Corinthian Christians getting drunk on communion. The great Apostle’s advice is basically “If you want to drink. Drink at home.” (author’s paraphrase of I Corinthians 11:21-22) In light of a few curious verses like this one,and the fact that our Lord and Savior actually turned water into whine at a wedding ceremony, there is sound hermeneutical grounds for this conclusion.
Here is the problem I am dealing with. If you go to one of the many Muslim countries in the world that has a Christian minority and ask an ordinary Muslim on the street what he thinks of when he thinks of the word Christian, the likely response will be. “Oh, that’s easy. Christians are the ones that drink.” This is not a statement of judgment on Christians living as minorities in Muslims countries. In fact, I can hardly blame them. I imagine if I were forced to live in deplorable conditions because of my religious status, I might get a little tipsy too after an overbearing work day.
The deeper question I am thinking about is this. Since I am a Christian committed to the integrity of Scripture, I am obligated to view Christian morality as superior to Islamic morality. This makes sense. If it were otherwise, I would be a Muslim. It also means I have to defend the Christian standard of morality, which in this case, prefers moderation over abstinence.
This is not a moot issue. What few realize is that behind the more visible causes many attribute to the rise of radical Islam (such as the presence of U.S. troops in Muslim lands, the oppression of the Palestinians, Western economic imperialism, the U.S.’s support of corrupt dictators in Muslim lands), there is a fundamental belief among Muslim societies that their culture and way of life is superior to that of the West. The argument is that Christianity, although it preaches love and peace, isn’t able to produce a just and orderly society because Jesus did not give a comprehensive system of government to regulate every aspect of life as did Muhammed.
The common Christian response is that societies can only change if hearts change. The Muslim response is well that’s all good and nice, but just look at your society. On an individual level, the Christian case is a solid one. We all know self-righteous people who think they are better than everyone else simply because they follow a list of do’s and don’ts. This is also evident in Muslim societies. Nobody likes a Pharisee, including many Muslims. On an individual level, if we are comparing grace with legalism, grace wins.
The problem comes when we look at the question of Christian morality (which applies very well on an individual level) and apply it to society. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. My question I would like to present to my readers is this: How do we make the case that societies rooted in Christian morality are morally superior than societies rooted in Islamic morality? Or should we try to make this case at all?