Archive for the ‘alcohol’ Category

For years and at various workplaces, I turned down countless invitations to go have a beer with co-workers. It’s not that I considered having a beer to be sinful. The bigger deal for me was patronizing a bar – a business that I decided contributed to countless ruined lives. In my logic that I never took the time to examine, it was OK to buy beer or wine in a grocery store, but not at a bar.

Every time I said no, I projected silent judgment. In effect, I decided time after time that my personal piety was more important than developing deeper friendships with coworkers. Or, as my friend and pastor Dan puts it, “The beer was more important to me than the hand holding it.” I was setting my life apart, all right – I had no problem grasping that part of the Bible. But I’d blown right past the gospels and the stories about Jesus hanging out with tax collectors and “sinners.”

One company I worked for planned its annual Christmas party aboard a riverboat casino. Company Christmas parties tended to be boozy, smoky affairs anyway, and this one would add gambling. Here was the Evangelical’s trifecta of public sin.

My boss asked me, “Is that going to be a problem for you?”

Well, now that I thought about it, YES! I hadn’t planned to go to the party anyway, but now I would make this a problem for me. Here was my chance to take a stand, to set myself apart from the godless horde. I would piously choose not to go, and then my co-workers would feel extra guilty as they partied on Satan’s poop deck while imagining me home lighting candles or performing Gregorian chant.

But that’s not how things played out. My boss went to the party planning committee and asked if it was the best idea to hold this event in a casino. Several employees would have a problem with that, he said … though I probably was the only one who had ever said anything. 

And then, to my shock, the company decided to move its Christmas party to an American Legion hall. Now I had to go, because it was moved there on account of me. Everyone had a fairly crummy time, and there was a lot of grousing about “those people” who spoiled what would have been a way better party on the riverboat.

Let me be clear here: I have no desire to spend time on Illinois riverboat casinos. They’re bleak, windowless places, full of senior citizens “gaming” away their Social Security checks.  But look what my Christmas-party “stand” really accomplished: I got a bunch of fun-loving people to resent me and my holier-than-thou attitude.

I considered that to be martyrdom, and wore it like a badge of honor. “It’s not me they don’t like,” I reasoned. “It’s God.” When really, people didn’t see God in this at all. They only saw my pious self-righteousness and thought: What a jerk.

Again, I can hear that guy yelling at me in Wrigley Field: “Down in front!”