Are You Free to NOT Drink?

Brett McCracken is one of the original team of bloggers for ConversantLife.com. His newest book, Gray Matters (Baker Books), examines some of the hot-button gray matters of Christian cultural consumption. In this excerpt, Brett explores the matter of alcohol.

I went to an evangelical Christian college that did not permit the consumption of alcohol. I grew up in a household and a conservative church culture–Midwest to boot–where drinking was out of the question and seen as bereft of goodness. I’m the child of an American evangelicalism that has had a decidedly contentious (to put it mildly) relationship with alcohol (see Christians and Alcohol: A Timeline”).

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The Line

One question I often get asked is: where is the line for being a Christian or not? 

You’d be surprised at how often I get asked that question.

Some people focus on a specific point and time for a decision to follow Christ. I certainly think that any decision of that magnitude should be the watershed in your history….and a hard to forget. But for some, they don’t really remember that “point”. For some it’s more gradual.

One seminary professor put it this way: “Everyone has to cross the Mississippi River to be a follower. You’re either on one side or the other. But the Mississippi River is narrower at some points than at other points. Some step over. Others ride a boat.”

I agree.

But the real problem today is that few actually knows what constitutes the “Mississippi River” of faith. Few know where the line lies. So here’s a simple way to remember:

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A Brief History of Christians Loving the Poor

I have been rather surprised at times by the push back of some people when phrases like ‘social justice’ and ‘social change’ are used in reference to Christians. Commentators on Fox News have warned against social justice rhetoric, while some noted evangelical leaders warn against deed ministry that seems separate from a ministry of preaching and proclamation. These may be good warnings per se, but let’s not swing from one extreme to another so readily without at least appreciating the Biblical and historical context that has been truly impactful. There is something to be said for outloving your neighbor.

In this vein, scholar and author John Dickson summarizes well the impact Christians can have culturally and historically through loving the poor and those in need well: John Dickson - Early Christian Charity
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Confessions of a Worldwide Spiritual Mutt

Recently, someone asked me to outline my faith journey. In a sense, I am grateful for the question because usually it’s asked in a static manner such as ‘when did you ask Jesus in your heart?’ to which I don’t honestly remember (which disappoints those anticipating a time and date).  The idea of an outline, though, smacks of highlights and turning points and those are things I do actually remember. Yet, as I reflected on my own outline, I kind of smiled at how this was also going to be a bit difficult for some to swallow. But, I took a deep breath anyway and said something akin to the following:

Growing up outside the church, I was sort of turned on to the sacred elements prior to knowing what they meant. I loved reading the Bible, but I also devoured Greek mythology, poetry, and all kinds of stories with a point.

I Can't Think Of A Better Word, Sorry

In a world where Christians, in the name of holiness, arrogantly distance themselves from everything "secular"......and like the Pharisees, can't figure out what it means to be "in" the world but not "of" it........

In a world where Christians, in the name of holiness, arrogantly stand back and bash non-Christians for living like, well, non-Christians......

We need to check these actions and attitudes with the scriptures.  I have a word I sometimes use to describe this type of activity.  But I want to warn you, this could be bad.  I only use this word in conversations where people know my heart and theological convictions.  Posting it publicly like this could get me in trouble.  I don't mean to be rash by using this word, but I honestly cannot think of one that better describes this type of activity by the very people that are supposed to be following the example of Christ.

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Rethinking "Celebrity"

I mentioned in a previous blog about the pursuit of fame and fortune that drove me in my younger days.  In what I now refer to as “my rock and roll dream,” the long-term plan was to work as an engineer by day and a musician by night, writing and recording my material while getting exposure and experience in the local club scene.  It would only be a matter of time until I would record the killer demo, move down to LA, recruit some monster musicians, and launch my career.  From there, it would simply be a short limo trip to fame and fortune.

Of course, that didn’t happen, for a lot of reasons—talent, marketability, maturity, circumstance, and the Small Still Voice that invited me into a better way of life.

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Meeting Urgent Needs - no strings attached

On Saturday we put on a free clinic for under-insured people.   There were over 1000 people that showed up.  Appointments started at 8am, but the line began way before that!  When we opened the doors, the energy was amazing!  So fun to be able to bring a hot cup of coffee to these people and just hear why they came.  We had to completely transform a high school to make everything happen (picture of one of 3 dental rooms on right), but by doing so we were able to offer:

  • Medical examinations (including X-rays and free prescriptions)
  • Dental Work (cleaning, extractions, fillings – also included X-rays)
  • Vision Testing (including free eye glasses to anyone in need)
  • Podiatry (foot care)
  • Immunizations (gave out over 600 shots)
  • Lunch (hamburgers, hot dogs, turkey sandwiches, pizza)
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Thinking About Global Poverty While In Church

Any effort to end poverty will take significant human resources and an adequate strategy to engage people to not only seek change, but become change agents. As a faith based non-profit with Christian convictions, the Bible guides our strategy to mobilize people and the Bible is a book primarily about relationships. The Bible itself says much on stewardship, but clearly it is not an economics text. The Bible has much to say about mobilizing people, but clearly it’s not an HR manual.

So, at the core of mobilizing people is the gospel itself as the key motivator. People mobilized by guilt or gratitude will not last as we are flawed human beings and our guilt often paralyzes us and our gratitude ebbs and flows. This document is meant to spur on a discussion about how we mobilize people that is gospel centered and that effectively erects a small army to end poverty worldwide.

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What I Didn't Learn About Manhood From Esquire

[This originally appeared on the Mars Hill Church blog]

I was originally assigned the task of looking at advice on how to be a man from a men’s magazine. Problem is, there wasn't any.

Esquire's June/July 2010 issue was called How to Be a Man. Appropriate. With a title that declarative and a tagline of “Man at His Best,” I was anxious to comb through it to see what they had to say about manhood. With a base circulation of 700,000 and competition like GQ, Maxim, and Details, Esquire is arguably one of the largest and most influential men’s magazines in the world. They've got to know what they're talking about, right? Esquire’s website describes their audience as "the affluent and successful man." Should be exactly what I'm shooting for here.

With Irony As Our Guide

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Reframing "The Creativity Crisis"


The most recent edition of Newsweek Magazine is bannered with the title, "The Creativity Crisis."  The feature article describes a scientifically measured decline in the collective CQ (creativity quotient) of American children and adults.  According to the article, "With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling."

The article goes on to describe the necessity of human creativity, an "undisputed" need that goes far beyond the artistic connection—it affects our ability to sustain economic growth, to deliver health care, to even bring peace to Afghanistan.  Creativity is a valued attribute, and yet, the United States' collective creativity is declining.
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