Monday, April 16, 2012

Finding the Golden Ratio of Faith and Bartending, Part II

...moving right along:

By working at a bar, you are carelessly subjecting yourself to the temptation of alcohol and an environment that can ruin your Christian witness.

I do have to say, I truly resonate with this objection and always seek to be attentive when Christian brothers and sisters raise this particular concern. I welcome the accountability. At work, I am literally surrounded by booze--no, seriously, it's how the bar is set up (see pic). True, being physically surrounded by alcohol naturally presents the opportunity to drink with ease as an acceptable part of the job. Anyone in the bar industry knows the inseparable (even inevitable) link between bartending and alcoholism. It's a given. So, as a Christian, doesn't it seem utterly flippant to place myself so close to such a life dominating substance? My commendation of Christ can be instantly discredited by one stupid night of drinking. So, why even risk it?

Well, first things first. It is because of this very concern that multiple people (whom I meet with weekly) are in the know about the kind of work I do. Though at work I am sometimes surrounded by a room of people who are filled with all kinds of spirits, off-site I'm surrounded by folks filled with a Spirit (cheesy, I know) of another kind that know when and how to ask questions that keep my heart in check. There's a wide group of peeps who I sit in church with, sing with, serve with, pray with, talk Jesus with, and who know my heart well. I'm immersed in a community whom I have openly discussed and vividly portrayed things that happen at my bar, including the couple times that I've come close to crossing the line--a community that prays for me and would certainly challenge me if things got questionable. Though I certainly partake of a nice beverage most nights that I work, it is primarily because of this Christian accountability that I've been able to work for six months in this industry without ever having developed a drinking issue. Yet, there's no room to boast. It's all of grace. I'm grateful to God alone.

Second, everyone I work with explicitly knows what I'm about. When shots are raised for a "staff meeting," I've been known to "donate" my shot to a co-worker or simply pass on it altogether--unless it's a shot of Cynar (pronounced "chee-nar," which is an Italian artichoke liqueur. Dag.). We here at The First Official Officious Blog never pass on Cynar. But the majority of the time, I'm one (sometimes two) and done, and that comes straight from the biblical conviction that drunkenness is a sin (Eph. 5:18).

Overall, the temptation isn't as challenging for me as one might think. I mean, I'm at work. Though at our bar we have the freedom to enjoy a shift-drink on the clock, I sometimes don't. Don't get me wrong, I certainly love getting paid while enjoying a cold bev, no doubt. It can make work fun. But, I'm also busy at work. I want to stay focused. And, when I'm done, I'm worn and I want to go home, not stay and have a few. I personally don't drink as much as my job description might suggest. Plus, drinking gets old. As much as I love cocktails, beer, and wine (in that order), I sometimes just want a friggin' Coke...served on the rocks with a cherry. Honestly, when I think about it, the temptation is actually low. Do I drink? Yeah. Do I drink heavily? No. Does it "ruin my witness?" Hm, maybe in the mind of presumptuous Christians. But, if by grace I'm resisting temptation and faithfully avoiding to lure of drunkenness, my prayer is that I would ruin my witness no more than Jesus ruined His when he placed himself in similar contexts (Luke 7:34). My heart is that I would model modestly in such a way that my example would incite questions and gain a hearing to share that the only good thing in me is Christ--hearings of which I've gained several. If I'm walking in integrity amidst a bar and people find the gospel unattractive, then that's not on me. Unbelief and resistance to the gospel is something you can't blame on the alcohol. Genesis 3 is the better label to have in your well.

At the end of the day, I must say that I'm not recommending working at a bar to all, or even most, Christians. I'm also not suggesting that all bars are the same and/or foster the same elegant environment as the one I currently work at. My bar is a notch more cozy and fosters a culture of appreciation for a good drink, whereas other bars in town are a few notches too douchey and serve Bud Light and Jell-O shots. Furthermore, I'm not suggesting to those who struggle with the temptation to drink should invite into their lives something that could have devastating consequences. It's not for everyone, and consciences of all stripes should be honored regardless. Some people should never start drinking, period. Some should never return to drinking. Others should certainly slow down and humbly receive the heartfelt rebukes of their more modest brothers and sisters. Still, others should press on in their modest example of Christian gratitude for alcohol. Those with a caution in their consciences regarding alcohol should not presume to know the hearts of those who are free to drink in moderation, but rather allow the Lord to judge. Likewise, those who are more at liberty to drink are encouraged by scripture to lay aside the contempt that results from similarly presuming their brothers and sisters are guilty of simplistic judgment. Both should live in harmony and be willing to cast aside freedoms out of love. I work at a bar. But I'm happy to host my non-drinking brothers and sisters and serve a rocks glass with a cherry. That's how I read Romans 14.


I've got one more post in me. Next time I want to go on offense and provide my framework for why I actively appreciate the history, craft, and culture surrounding alcohol, and why even Christians who don't drink should consider doing the same. Beer, wine, and spirits can fit nicely within the context of a Christian worldview, and thus can be appreciated to the glory of God. We'll see how well that mixes. Till next round...

To be continued...