As I begin writing this blog entry I remember a very humorous television session. I think it was on the Ellen Degenerate show. There was a live call with a 90 something old lady and out of the blue (live) she said, “Well Ellen, I love Jesus but I love beer too.” It put people into stitches, me included. But hey, there is some seriousness to her lament
I will be writing many words about beer and the makers of beer. It will likely be 20,000 words or more and I hope you will stay with me. I hope you will be as intrigued as I.
This began as a thought to write about Arthur Guinness and how he used his beer brewing business for the cause of Christ in Ireland. Once I get into the Guiness story you may want to consider it a primer on a best selling book by Stephen Mansfield, “The search for God and Guinness.” Before I do that I must give you some background on the history of beer and it’s relation to Christianity. I think you will be surprised and amazed. If not anything else you will be the benefactor of a wonderful history lesson.
My disclaimer is this: Do not use my writing as an excuse to become intoxicated and drunken with beer or wine. I am not providing any justification or permission to drink. Drunkenness is sinful and bad for society as a whole. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;” (Ephesians 5:18) My purpose is to open the eyes of everyone to a great story of how God uses the wealth of men and the things of men for his purpose. “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” (1 Corinthians 1:27) If you stay with me until the end you will see this clearly.
If you have followed my blog you already know I am not stranger to controversial issues. So it shouldn’t surprise you I am taking this one on. I read Christian magazines and blogs continuously and often the subject of drinking comes up. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen writers take on the question of whether or not Christians should be drinking alcoholic beverages. It is not my purpose to take on that particular question today. I will give you my opinion however, regarding the subject of beer and then move on with my topic.
I do not believe it is a sin to have a pint of stout (beer) once in awhile with your meal at a restaurant or at home with your family. I do believe it is a sin to over indulge in it and become drunk. I believe drunkenness is a sin and that is what the Bible addresses. “Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:10) I can point to over 100 verses within God’s word on this subject and all point to abuse and drunkenness. With that said, my position is that if you have trouble with self control then you should definitely abstain and avoid it at all cost. As a friend of mine says, “I am weak-willed and easily led.” If that’s you then be forewarned and do not partake. Secondly as a Christian, I would never do anything to cause a brother to stumble. What that means is to never have anything present or be doing anything among any brethren that could cause them to sin. We want to be sure we are of the same mind. “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” (Romans 14:21)
So just to be clear, it is not the beer that is the problem. It is the abuse that is the problem. I can’t put it into any better perspective than one of our great reformers and forefathers that also drank beer. Martin Luther wrote, “Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?” Yes, Martin Luther had a love of beer too. I won’t bother to call for a vote among men as to whether to abolish the beer and wine or to abolish the women. It might be a close vote.
Let’s begin the history trail of beer. You might be stunned, as I was to find that beer played a humongous role throughout the centuries within Christianity.
Let’s start with the Pilgrims and the Mayflower back in 1621 when they landed at Plymouth. They were standing guard because they knew natives were watching them. It must have been unbelievable to them when one native walked out of the woods and approached them. The native was almost naked with just a small loin cloth covering his private parts as he shouted “Welcome!” in clear English. They must have been even more surprised when this native asked them if they have any beer. Wow! He asked for beer! That’s right, you won”t find it in the grade school textbooks that one of the first of communications with this native was about beer. But it was. You can find it yourself within, ‘Mourt’s Relation’ and ‘Of Plymouth Plantation’ which are two primary sources for information on the story of the Pilgrims. So don’t just take my word for it. The native’s name was Samoset and he mastered the English language traveling with English ships up and down the coast of New England. Not only did he learn the language but he also developed a keen taste for English beer. When the Mayflower left the shores of England John Alden saw to it that it was loaded heavy with more than enough beer to make the trip. As it turned out the supply was running low when they landed and to them it was a dangerous threat. For the Pilgrims beer was more than a refreshing drink on a hot day. They believed it had great medicinal quality and like most people then were afraid to drink the water and instead drank beer. It was believed all the water was unsafe but beer was pure and healthy. They didn’t understand yet that the boiling of the beer along with the alcohol that kills the germs was what made it consumable and could also do the same for water.♦
We need to keep in mind that the Pilgrims represented Godly people. They risked their lives for religious freedom. The risk they took which caused death and sickness hardly explained enough was a religious and spiritual, not a political agenda; moral and theological principles were involved, and from their perspective, there could be no compromise. That is why they boarded the Mayflower.
Visiting the first paragraph of the Mayflower Pact we see, “In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwriten, by the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britaine, Franc, and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc.”
These were godly men that were also committed to beer production and consumption.
Join me for the next segment on the beer story among Christians. You will be glad you followed along… To jump to part 2 just click the glass of beer…
May your day be filled with God’s blessing,
♦ Stephen Mansfield, In Search for God and Guinness (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009) p 4-5.