“In so far as drinking is really a sin it is not because drinking is wild, but because drinking is tame; not in so far as it is anarchy, but in so far as it is slavery.
Probably the worst way to drink is to drink medicinally. Certainly the safest way to drink is to drink carelessly; that is, without caring much for anything, and especially not caring for the drink. In such things to be careless is to be sane: for neither drunkards nor Moslems can be careless about drink.” G. K. Chesterton, Wine when it is Red.
Chesterton gets it exactly right where both our culture-of-excess and the puritans get it so very wrong. Pop-culture has become a slave to drink. Puritans are enslaved by their reaction to it.
Our temptation as Christians, then, is to engage in moderation. All things in moderation, they say. Yet most things that we are to be moderate in were not meant to be moderated. Not directly anyway.
It’s like the fool in love worrying about the looking foolish part. Or a married couple setting up a specific number of times for relations each month. Or, upon hearing exciting news, moderating exactly how high you will jump. The very moderation of the thing spoils the heart of it. The mechanics of life begin to spoil the spirit of it.
The common wisdom to “drink responsibly” really reads like a prescription. Feeling stressed? Need to unwind? Take 6 beers, some water before bed and a Tylenol in the morning. Do not mix with liquor. Just make sure you do so responsibly. This is the worst kind of drinking. An abuse of the drink. Not because it is too wild, but because it is too tame. Not because it is careless, but because it is too careful. Not because it is anarchy, but because it is slavery.
Some rules for drinking:
“The sound rule in the matter would appear to be like many other sound rules – a paradox. Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. Never drink when you are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum; but drink when you would be happy without it, and you will be like the laughing peasant of Italy. Never drink because you need it, for this is rational drinking, and the way to death and hell. But drink because you do not need it, for this is irrational drinking, and the ancient health of the world.” – G. K. Chesterton
He also said “We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them.” But we should drink them (because we do not need them)…and we should most certainly do so with good company and glad hearts.
The virtue of temperance is surely the key. But such temperance is not practiced in the excess of license, nor is it promoted in the restriction of a measured cup. It lives in the fulfillment of the legitimate desires of a healthy, disciplined soul set free to live as it should. Set free to live carelessly.