Friday, August 23, 2013

The pint, the pipe and the cross...

G.K. Chesterton once quipped: "In Catholicism, the pint, the pipe and the Cross can all fit together."

Earlier this week, our home town of Oxford (a great and progressive town in lots of ways) finally realized that the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed in 1933 and decided to allow the sale of cold beer in the city. Yes, seriously... that just happened this past Tuesday.

Believe it or not, responsible alcohol consumption (by adults of legal age, mind you) is actually still a bone of contention for many in our state. I don't know of any groups or individuals advocating for underage drinking or for drunken idiocy. But some folks actually have a problem with a middle-aged man enjoying a glass of beer with his steak. Why? I can't say that I completely understand that viewpoint, but it is, as they say, something a lot of folks around here take in with mother's milk.

Catholics (and really Christians as a whole), though, have never had a problem with responsible alcohol consumption, per se. I think that C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, does a great job of explaining the traditional Catholic Christian mindset towards this issue:

It is a mistake to think that Christians ought all to be teetotalers…. Of course it may be the duty of a particular Christian, or of any Christian, at a particular time, to abstain from strong drink, either because he is the sort of man who cannot drink at all without drinking too much, or because he is with people who are inclined to drunkenness and must not encourage them by drinking himself. But the whole point is that he is abstaining, for a good reason, from something which he does not condemn and which he likes to see other people enjoying. 

One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting everyone else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons—marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.

Lewis brings up a vitally important point: abstaining from "strong drink" when necessary (and for some folks, that might be always) is virtuous. But a line is crossed when "[someone] cannot give up a thing himself without wanting everyone else to give it up."

We'll leave the topic, then, with a story from CNS about the recent one year anniversary of the brewery operated by the Benedictine monks of Subasio, Italy. These monks are following in an ancient tradition of monastery-based brewing (one that stretches back to the fifth century), and they seem to be completely in line, too, with the thoughts of St. Arnold of Metz who once remarked: "It is by man's sweat and God's love that beer came into the world."

It's a cool story, and a timely one for us Oxonians. Enjoy: