My father once said that the movement of culture, in particular Christian culture, is analogous to a pendulum. It swings back and forth from left to right, from conservative to liberal, legalistic to licentious, maybe even from Republican to Democrat. It would be too naive and a bit ignorant to generalize for the whole world, but at least in American Christianity (and this too may be a broad generalization), there seems to be a swing from the overly pharisaic to mis-defining Christian liberty. One area this seems evident is in the drinking culture of Christians. The once frowned upon activity of imbibing booze seems to have become a hip thing to do, almost to the extent that if you choose not to, you are automatically labeled legalistic without consideration of one’s personal experience and conviction. A friend writes a thought provoking post (Akin on Alcohol Abstinence) on the specific issue that has elicited in myself a tinge of wrongful suspicion of possible legalism. And this fad toward the left is no different in Christian political involvement. Carl Trueman comments in Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative:
Most of us have come across those evangelicals who, in reaction to the Religous Right, like to parade the fact they vote Democratic in a kind of schoolboyish “Aren’t I naughty?” kind of way. It’s often an empty gesture, a kind of theological vegetarianism; vegetarians do something that costs them nothing, but my, oh my, does it not make them feel morally superior to the rest of us. So many of the evangelical intelligentsia have bought the concerns of the New Left, with its nebulous and psychologized notions of oppression, which allow for many a “right on” gesture that costs them nothing.
How many of us (i.e. evangelicals) have voted for Obama because it was the new thing to do, the hip thing to do, the “contra Bush” thing to do, the “right on” thing to do? One may justify oneself with the few political issues one knows, but lets face it, many of us are not that politically savvy.
This seems to be the case with Christian drinking (and you can throw in any other legalistic issues). We do it because it’s the hip thing to do, the cool thing to do, and the “contra legalistic” thing to do, under the in vogue banner of Christian liberty without even being able to explain what those two words really mean.
So will it take another pendulum swing to change our culture (to a wrong place we’ve already been), or will we actually find a heavier anchor, something more foundational, that tethers the swinging? My suggestion is, we, evangelicals, begin with the true meaning of Christian freedom, the meaning that has more to do with binding oneself than one may realize.