Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Over at Stuff Christians Like today, Jon Acuff is remixing one of his previous posts on the topic of subtly finding out if others drink beer, too. It's a humorous look at the awkwardness that exists when two Christians with potentially differing views about the morality of alcohol consumption try to discern each other's beliefs without revealing their own.

I left the following comment on his post:

Jon, this issue is just one of many flavors of a general problem with the Church called "justincasion". Not to be confused with "justification" (remember "just as if I'd never sinned"?), justincasion ("just in case I ever sin") is quite the opposite. Its symptoms include blurred vision, inaccurate depth perception, paranoia, and an odd fascination with sidewalk chalk. To best learn how to identify a person (or organization) suffering from justincasion, let's look at an example. Say, alcohol consumption.

Two people -- one with justification, one with justincasion -- read the same Bible. They both see the same texts prohibiting drunkenness, both read about Jesus turning water into wine, etc. Now, the person with justification recognizes the value of what these scriptures offer: the freedom to drink what he wants so long as he keeps his head, the freedom to celebrate (rather than stifle) important cultural gatherings such as weddings, protection from the consequences of bad decisions made with judgment impaired by alcohol, etc. To the justified person, the law exists to give freedom, not to restrict it.

Enter the justincased guy. The minute he sees words like "not" or "never" in the text, his paranoia kicks in. He begins to sweat the definitions of words such as "drunk" and "wine" and ... "and". While still a little woozy from this sudden onset of Heavenly pressure and the threat of eternal damnation, he does the only thing he knows how to do -- he reaches for his sidewalk chalk. He eyeballs (as best as he can in this state) a "safe zone distance" from the forbidden thing, doubles the distance "just in case", and then draws a circle at that radius around this particular evil on the ground. That line is never, ever, to be crossed. All must remain outside the circle.

Of course, the problem with said circles is that, once you've drawn one around each and every sin in the Book, you find there really isn't all that much of the Earth left not in one of those circles. Getting from one place to another requires carefully planning and often some quite complex acrobatics to avoid falling inside one of the circles and (of course) certain death. The law becomes a burden, causing these people to spend all their time looking down at the ground and the circles instead of looking up to their God.

In fairness to some, there was an important freedom I neglected to mention that is available to the justified person: the freedom to avoid drink altogether for any personal, non-judgmental reason that seems fit to him. This includes abstaining in the presence of others who don't understand the other freedoms, or avoiding things which he from past experience knows leads him into temptations he cannot resist. When in doubt, our relationships with each other should be of far more concern than our relationship with the bottle.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's funny how defensive people can become on this issue. Really, shouldn't it be a non issue? So, I may not drink, but you may.. okay, fine. I have a friend who was so bothered by me not ordering a drink, she would always make comments about me being the one who would save her. She labeled me a legalist. I finally told her that I was suicidal a year ago and have extreme anxiety, take meds to keep me well, and this really wasn't any of her business... but alcohol and anxiety meds don't mix.