• Happy birthday today to daughter Scarlette, born sometime in the last millennium, in Nanjing, China.  Enjoying (most of the time) life today as a full time American mom with a two year old.
  • Heading out tomorrow for O'Fallon, Illinois for the yearly two-day winter conference with other clergy in our annual conference.

January 28, 2018
Gin and Prune Juice
I was reading about "gin" a couple days ago, while grazing on a breakfast of dry granola and coffee.  And I am now an expert on the subject.  Full disclosure: truth is, I'm only a 'book expert,' as I have very little experience with alcohol; partly because I'm a bit of an old school pastor, partly because I don't like the taste, and partly because I'm a naturally boring person to be around.  

Let me state at the outset that gin is not on the "approved beverage list" for United Methodist pastors.  In the old days, we Methodists used to take a vow of abstinence.  My grandpa was one of those old-timey preachers, and the most risqué drink he ever tried was prune juice.  According to him and grandma, "gin" was just another nasty three-letter word.

Most days I just drink water.  For special meals I'll drink an unsweetened iced tea.  And if the occasion calls for a bang and a wild party, I'll totally let go with a sparkling grape juice.
But back to my breakfast research. Gin was once known as "mother's ruin" because of all the lives it destroyed, due to addictions it caused and the poisons that were used to make it.  It does, however, evidently taste like a Christmas tree.  This is because all gin is flavored with juniper berries (from the pine tree family.)  It turns out that the average American drinks a little over a cup of gin a year.  This would be in comparison to prune juice, which the average American consumes at a rate of about half a teaspoon a year. 
( It took me an hour of internet research on obscure websites.. and half an hour of mathematical computation... and a couple wild guesses to come up with the per capita prune juice figure.)

We Americans just aren't that much in love with gin or prune juice.  We love our soda (pop if you are from the north) and guzzle more than 44 gallons a year of the carbonated beverage.  In addition, the average American annually glugs nearly 21 gallons of beer, laps up 20 gallons of milk, downs 19 gallons of coffee, slurps 12 gallons of fruit juice, sips 11 gallons of tea, and swills 3 gallons of wine.  Of course, our top drink is water.  The average person drinks 57 gallons of water a year; which is about 125 gallons a year less than we should be drinking.
But back to my breakfast research.  The English developed a big problem with gin.  Just a few years before we Americans declared our independence from them, the average person in England was drinking 2.2 gallons of gin a year.  Even children were addicted to the stuff.  It was so bad that parliament tried to restrict the fatal effects of the brew.  But that led to the "Gin Riots." The English decided that they would rather get rid of the government rather than give up their gin.  This is probably what caused the American colonists to think, "Hey, we might be able to beat these guys."  

But before we could launch the Revolutionary War with the English, the gin problem abated.  Otherwise we might have been able to gain our independence in 7 months instead of 7 years.

The solution to the gin problem was two-fold:  England got hit with a famine (which destroyed the juniper trees,) and then they got whacked again by the Methodists.  The reduction of the gin problem did not come from government regulation.  It came from those pesky Methodist preachers.  John Wesley was the foremost preacher of Methodist way back then.
Methodist preachers used to talk about societal problems.  John Wesley talked all the time about such things as slavery, drunkenness, gossip, fighting, brawling, lawsuits, false advertising, tax evasion, high interest rates, wasteful consumption, war, self-indulgence, and entertainment that demeans human dignity.

Back then, a good Methodist never got pickled on gin.  And Methodist preachers dare not even let gin get within a foot of their lips.

But today we have no such regulation.  We offer a rather tepid applause for those who abstain from alcohol.  But I will not be kicked out of the Methodist ministry today for drinking gin..unless I get really  drunk and accidentally perform a same sex marriage.  

We pastors also no longer take a vow to abstain from tobacco. Everyone agrees that the whole smoking/chewing thing is a really stupid thing to do.  But "stupid," sadly, is not on the "do not admit" list.  

And another thing that's different from the old days:  We Methodists no longer want preachers to address societal problems openly, from the pulpit, for instance...or in essays (like this one.)  Not only will it scare away potential new members, but it will also look like the preacher is dabbling in politics.  

So, in order to not offend anyone of any political party, I (a pastor) should no longer speak the truth, even though a public leader makes blatant racist comments that lead to increased violence in the land.  Folks expect me to sit and smile and nod when millions of fellow evangelical Christians applaud the moral example of a leader who appears in porn movies, tells thousands of lies in public ("truth has fallen in the public squares" Isaiah 59:14), and makes lewd comments about women.  We pastors are expected to act dumb when a national leader  abandons the sick, turns away from wounded warriors, threatens the poor, and terrorizes those who sojourn in our land.  

We sit muzzled while the Democratic party attacks Christianity and the Republicans throw Jesus of Nazareth off the cliff.

Lordy, Lordy.  Give me that old time religion. And if you'll not let me have that...well......

...if you're not going to drink your per capita annual cup of gin...may I have it?   --Mike

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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