a person who never drinks alcohol.
I have never had alcohol. Not a sip of beer, not a drop of wine, no liquors or spirits of any kind. I don’t even drink kombucha, man. Why? The reason has been the same as long as I’ve had the cognizance to make it: I don’t want to. Can’t it be that simple? Me, personally, I don’t want to. I have no interest in the culture of drinking or the risk of lapsing into drunkenness, even a single time. I am a follower of Jesus, and as such, I witness the spectacle of drunken, “buzzed,” and underage drinking disciples of Jesus with healthy reticence.
Even so, over the years, my aversion to alcohol has evolved in its outworking. Most folks who knew me in my late teens and early twenties can verify my belligerent, prideful critique of drinking and drinkers. I was an idiot. An idiot unwilling to withhold his very personal convictions from a world that does not share them.
More and more, teetotalism, straight edge, whatever you’d like to call it, has become increasingly alienating for someone in my world. Today, I can think of two peers of mine that are also teetotalers. I am a pastor at a very large church, and nearly all of my friends, peers, fellow pastors, and community at large are not straight edge. Not even close. Outside of that church community, none of my friends, none of my neighbors or old friends are straight edge.
(Pictured: My friends.)
In fact, not drinking has been a means by which I might ostracize myself. Many of my peers assume that, because I do not drink, I must be either biblically uneducated, afraid of culture, unwilling to contextualize, or else just a closeted fundamentalist.
Something akin to casually admitting that I believe the world is flat or that the devil scattered dinosaur bones across the world to test the faith of religious folks.
I am not, to my knowledge, any of those things. I trust the expertise of folks who explain to me the world is round, and I could not be happier about the reality of dinosaurs enjoying the world some 65+ million years ago. I can say with complete sincerity that I do not, in any way, believe that drinking is inherently wrong. I do not, in any way suspect I am somehow superior than those who drink (most, if not all of my great heroes and mentors enjoy alcoholic beverages).
I just don’t want to, personally, dang it.
I don’t drink alcohol. I won’t. Ever. No matter what. But why? If I understand that alcohol is not inherently wrong, and if I know at least a smattering of folks who have been able to enjoy the blessing of alcohol without ever lapsing into abuse (as slight as that number might be), why speak so definitively? Why not evolve with everyone else?
Because I don’t want to. I don’t have to. And I don’t need to. Alcohol affords me no luxury I do not already enjoy. It’s expensive, risky, and does not attract a single cell of my brain’s capacity to take note. I have already preoccupied myself with things that are can be expensive, that are risky blessings, and that do garner my attention.
In fact, as each and every once dedicated teetotaler and straight edge campaigner shrugs and waves goodbye, my resolve to honor my own conviction further solidifies. I don’t have to drink simply because there are many who assume I simply lack the maturity to know I “can” drink. I don’t have to drink because my friends drink, or because my mentors drink, or even because my wife does not share my conviction. In my life, my own resolve has often been a test of my innate, God-given ability to resist compromise. Even more often, it has been a means by which the devil might exploit me, pervert my identity, bolster my pride, draw out the foolish vomit of words crafted in the cesspool of my own arrogance and insecurity.
But I needn’t relinquish my resolve for its potential to be subverted. My discipline. Though it stands to corrupt me, it stands to protect, to grow, and to strengthen me. Though my inclinations display such a propensity for everything stupid, my deepest, most sincere desire is to allow my God-given resolve to be completely made over to the way of Jesus. If I can’t commit to my own convictions, what can I commit to?
I don’t have to compromise. Certainly, not drinking does not increase my value, or righteousness one iota, but I am free to honor my conviction in the face of suspicious minds and lost compatriots. I am vulnerable to all-manner of vices I choose to indulge, from entertainment, to food, to caffeine. Even so, I can choose to abstain from something that can be good in order to sidestep its dark side. So few of my Jesus-following friends have handled the gift of alcohol while sidestepping drunkenness altogether, and so few of my straight edge friends have stayed the course. I wish I knew more in both crowds, but I don’t require either group to think what I think. I just can’t fein interest in alcohol, and it’s one less thing to worry about.
One less thing.