Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Finding the Golden Ratio of Faith and Bartending

In the world of cocktails, there is a helpful little mixing ratio known as the Golden Ratio. This small little "secret of the pros" refers generally to the art of mixing a cocktail with the proper proportions of spirits and syrup/juice to create a well-balanced, smooth, and enjoyable libation. You want all the ingredients to be measured in such a way that folks can appreciate your mad mixology skills, recognize all the layers that are happening in your drink, and of course, express that appreciation by making it rain on your tip jar. The Golden Ratio is nice to know.

With certain situations, I think life calls for thinking in terms of a Golden Ratio as well. See, I work at a cocktail bar, and a fabulous one at that (at least according to GQ). I mostly host, but I also cocktail, and am currently training to tend bar. I love it. No, I really love it. Now, this would normally be fine, with no second guesses or raised eyebrows. But, there's only one small ingredient, if you will, that throws into question my own mixology-of-life skills: I am a Christian.

Yep, I'm a Christian, and I work--no, I love working at a bar (this bar, actually, pictured left: see the rest of the album here). Yep, a real bar filled with real booze that leads to real vomiting. And when I say I'm a Christian, I don't mean a closet believer who occasionally shows signs of maybe liking church. Though I've never been the guy who wears his faith on his sleeve (nor will I ever be), for clarification purposes only, let me openly confess: I'm a legitimate, church going, Bible reading, praying, singing, seminary trained, small-group leading, spiritual gifts desiring, theology loving, Calvinistic (all 5 succulent points), complementarian, Dispensationist mocking, missional lover of Jesus, who by grace alone rests by faith alone in the perfect gospel of Christ alone for the forgiveness of my sins, past, present, and future. But, don't get me wrong, being disproportionately filled with that kind of Spirit can also cause folks to vomit.

Having said that, I feel the need to write this post because I've been asked by various people on various occasions how working at a bar and being a Christian can be properly mixed. This fun interaction often happens when I'm asked what brought me from Texas to Louisville, because it was certainly not the football. I answer that the reason I moved was to get my Master of Divinity in Christian Ministry, or as I normally say, "to go to grad school for a Masters in theology." More times than not, I get a, "Wait, and you work at a bar?!" Yep, I work at a bar, and not, God help us, because Jesus turned water into wine. I work at a bar because it fits nicely into my theology of worship--but, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Allow me address a few common ideas that I think underlie people's initial hesitation to accept "saloon Christianity" before I get to what I think drives my love for what I do.

Common Objections:

By working at a bar, you support drunkenness, contribute to alcoholism, and condone promiscuity in general.

This is probably the most common Christian objection. It's controversial enough for Christians to admit we occasionally go to bars, much less, work at them. Since believers, including myself, discourage drunkenness, and along with the rest of our culture, mourn the devastating affects of alcoholism and drunk driving, the idea of a Christian bartender can seem incongruous with the biblical values of temperance and sobriety. Also, bars are closely associated with other vices like hooking up, affairs, drug use, fighting, and so forth. So, does working in the bar industry positively support these things?

Of course not.

Now, let me say that yes, by working at a bar, I support the business of alcohol consumption in much the same one would support food consumption at a restaurant. I encourage people come to my place of employment because it gives me a paycheck. Furthermore, I support my bar as an establishment where people can come an freely enjoy a drink, connect with friends, listen to live jazz, and unwind from a busy day. When people come in, I want them to drink booze because drinking booze is, well, extremely fun. But, that doesn't mean I want them to get blitzed or partake of anything else that could be morally questionable. I heartily support their enjoyment of not only a good drink, but also a good bar experience overall. I want folks to leave and go tell their friends. I want guests to leave with a better appreciation of a cocktail or beer or wine, and partly because I've aided in that process. I want people have a conviction about the drink they order, and not the kind that involves handcuffs and community service. Have I seen affairs develop at the bar I work? Yep, right in front of me. Have I seen drug use? You bet. Do people get hammered? Yep, and I am happy to call them a cab. But, I don't support any of these immoral choices people make, even if they are made under the influence of a cocktail that I made them. I make you a drink. You make your decisions from there.

Still tracking?

At the end of the day, there's often a double standard at work when it comes to this "guilt-by-association" mentality. Don't get me wrong, there are certainly some establishments that Christians simply cannot work for without compromising their values--an adult bookstore, for example. Duh. But, not everything is as clear of a deal breaker as a porn shop, though some may think so. Consider: Any one tried raising an objection to a Christian visiting, much less working at a movie theater, an establishment that not only displays actions and ideas that openly shoot the deuces (or something worse) to Jesus, but also powerfully shapes a cultural attitude of acceptance regarding those actions? What about a regular bookstore? Should Christians avoid employment at Barnes & Noble for fear that they positively support the production of, for example, the New Age section? Let's not get into attending secular universities that have profs (who's salary we pay with our tuition) who are boldly anti-Christian. There's hardly a more powerful platform for value/worldview formation than through movies, books, and universities--worldviews that are far more intoxicating than a few cocktails. Is it fair judgement to suggest that a Christian who attends, much less works at any of these establishments positively supports the immorality, whether in deed or thought, that can and does result from the consumption of movies and books and education? No more so than to suggest that a Christian who works at a bar supports drunkenness or the promiscuity that sometimes accompanies it. At the end of the day, it is impossible for a Christian to work, much less function, in the real world for an establishment that isn't in some way associated with some form of godlessness. Unless one is ready to boycott...everything (except Chic-fil-A) it may be better to first reevaluate if, by frequenting or working for a business, one is always in support of any and everything that establishment is associated with.

Put that in your cobbler and shake it...

To be continued...