The day I idealogically fell off the teetotaling wagon probably sparked the first flames of my eventual complete separation from Fundamentalism. Because once you wake up from one part of the brainwashing, you start to be able to identify other parts...
It happened while was attending another institution of higher learning getting a degree beyond my Fundy University bachelor's degree. (Though I suppose it could be argued that if I were a woman getting an advanced degree in a secular university, I wasn't that big of a Fundy, but that's another post.) I was offered an alcoholic beverage by a friend at a study session. I piously proclaimed, "I'm a Christian, I don't drink" - echoing the words of a Fundamentalist evangelist I heard once who bragged of his testimony to his Marine buddies using those very words while holding a glass of milk.
However, the resemblance of my story to his ended there.
Rather than respecting my firm stand for the Lord, and being impressed with my devotion... well...
That was probably the one response I never expected. He LAUGHED! And not scornfully either - he actually thought I was joking. Then he said, "Christians are the biggest drinkers in the world. Irish Catholics, anyone?"
And, you might also be surprised to learn, he wasn't the least bit interested in my protestations that Catholics "weren't real Christians." He followed with something about the fact that Jesus drank wine.
Praise God, I was stunned into enough honesty to realize that abstaining from alcohol wasn't the amazing testimony to unbelievers I had been taught it was. It was actually a stumbling block. And maybe, just maybe... he was right.
Exit #1 off the Fundy turnpike. No wonder Fundamentalists hammer this issue so hard.
I occasionally, guiltily, tried some wine after that point at family gatherings, but my conscience wasn't freed on the subject of alcohol until I listened to a lecture about the medical benefits of wine in heart disease and high blood pressure. A half glass of wine for women/full glass of wine for men daily is strongly recommended by cardiologists. Huh. That seemed to fit under the medicinal use of alcohol that even hardcore Fundamentalists had to admit to.
But that was just wine, not any alcoholic beverage. And I still wasn't completely sure that "new wine" wasn't really grape juice, hesitated to say that Christ himself drank wine, and stuttered when asked if drinking wine was intrinsically a sin.
You see, in Fundamentalism, especially in the Baptist kind, alcohol of any sort is strictly prohibited. Even taking NyQuil or cooking with it could be frowned on in the right circles. I had been indoctrinated that drinking alcohol is not, under any circumstances, something a Good Christian would do. It is somehow assumed that any alcohol consumption leads immediately to drunkenness, so even drinking in moderation is a Bad Testimony - and being seen purchasing it is the Worst Testimony Possible even if you're just using it for a Jerry Baker gardening recipe.
Since this is one of the prime evils a person can ever engage in, there are a lot of mental gymnastics and twisting of Scripture to fit this relatively recent human tradition. Sermons and even entire books are devoted to attempting to prove that the "wine" in Christ's first public miracle and at the Last Supper was just grape juice. Anyone who says otherwise is a godless compromising liberal only interested in indulging his taste for demon drink.
But last week, something was pointed out to me that makes the translational arguments irrelevant. And the reason is so shockingly simple that I feel like an idiot for not realizing it sooner.
The wedding at Cana occurred just before Passover. Go read the Gospel account - it's there. It is clearly stated that a few days after the wedding, Christ went up to Jerusalem for Passover. The Last Supper was also celebrated at Passover.
When is Passover?
Sometime in the spring. Around April.
When is the grape harvest?
Fall. The grape harvest is in full swing here, and it's September.
And here's where the absurdity really becomes apparent. There is no possible way to have fresh, unfermented grape juice in the spring 2000 years ago. None. Grapes aren't ripe then. They ripened 6 or more months prior. No refrigeration then, no canning, no pasteurization. No Wal-Mart with cases of Welch's available at all seasons.
It doesn't matter what your preconceived translational bias is. Wine is wine, not grape juice. New wine is wine, not grape juice.
I hadn't even been aware that subtle doubts still lingered until this blew them all away.
So this year, I really, really enjoyed the local wine festival. No, I didn't get drunk. Yes, I think Christ approved. I received the wine with thankfulness and I celebrated His first miracle by enjoying it.