In a recent blog, religion commentator Martin Marty discussed the news reports that the evangelical Moody Bible Institute has dropped its long-time ban on drinking of wine by faculty members and staff.
One of the apocryphal accounts he shared, related to this story, was that Swedish Christians like to joke about “an aged and pious church member,” a constant Jesus-quoter and critic of all wine-drinking on the part of her fellow church members, who said that if her church started serving wine instead of grape juice at communion, she would have to leave it.
“Why?” she was asked. “After all, Jesus drank wine.”
So she replied, “You know, that’s the one thing about Jesus that I never liked!”
Marty’s take on religion vs. culture
It seems that Marty is suggesting that the Moody decision, and others like it, are a sign that the faith is beginning to question the role that our popular culture plays in so-called moral rules and regulations – including some of the hottest issues today like abortion, same-sex marriage, married priests, the ordination of women, etc.
To put things in perspective, the sort of prohibitions that Moody and company are now considering changing were never God-given commandments at all—simply man-made, artificial, arbitrary human laws that have more to do with our own fears, hang-ups, and superstitions than any actual religious “righteousness.”
What’s more, if anyone should question the political or gender correctness of the above statement, it needs to be pointed out that “man-made” is right on the money, since it’s very unlikely that women would have come up with the same rules that men did.
Imagine if the Pope were a woman – would we have the same bans on married clergy or female priests?
While one can certainly argue that the faith sometimes is influenced too much by popular culture, resulting in some pretty dim-witted moves over the centuries (remember the German churches that were so afraid of Hitler that they went along with the Nazi movement? – Or the initial reluctance on the part of the U.S. and others to get involved in this conflict?), there is some truth to the criticism that the church needs to get more of a backbone, and come out strongly on things that really do matter.
Instead of quibbling over alcohol, let’s get down to the tough issues like standing up against human rights violations, or reversing the rape of our earth’s environment by greedy businesspeople.