It surprises some of my fellow former-Christian Scientists that while I have left the Mother Church, and no longer follow (or believe) in the teachings of Ms. Eddy, I continue to refrain from imbibing alcohol. I don’t drink wine, beer, or cocktails. I don’t enjoy vodka, tequila, or spirits. I’ve had a few sips in the past: mulled wine at a Christmas fair, a polite sip of wine, fruity liquor over ice cream, hard cider. I’ve gotten tipsier than I care to admit to (that was the hard cider), but I’ve never gotten totally and completely wasted. I plan to keep it that way.
People used to question why I abstained from imbibing alcohol, Christian Science has very little to do with why I don’t drink. I have the usual answer, of “I don’t enjoy it” — which is true, I don’t enjoy how I feel (my stomach gets queasy). If pressed hard enough, they may hear about the relationships I’ve seen damaged by excessive alcohol consumption, or the ex-boyfriend who thought nothing of consuming a box of beer (I think there are 32 in a large box) in a weekend and drunk-dialing late into the night. They may hear about the poem that was read every spring over the intercom of my high school — often before Spring Break, or Prom. (2)
If pushed hard enough, I firmly tell them that I prefer not to drink, and that is my decision. I do, however, enjoy cooking with wine — most of the alcohol burns off and the flavor is much better than the usual substitute of chicken broth (for white) or beef broth (for red). I do fall back on a handy list of substitutions from time to time as I don’t regularly stock Grand Marnier in my cabinets, but a bottle of $5 dry white wine has taken up residence in my fridge – it is cheaper than cooking wine, tastes better, and doesn’t grow things the way the box of organic chicken broth does after being ignored a little too long. (3) I also have some beer (for bread making) and an aged bottle of vodka (I don’t remember why anymore).
I started dabbling with alcohol in cooking before I “left” Christian Science, it started with beer in bread — a few tablespoons. I didn’t understand what the “big deal” was, I could only find one reference to “alcohol” (it was the root word in alcoholic) in Science and Health. (4) In Chapter XII, Christian Science Practice p. 406:28–407:1 Ms. Eddy decrees
The depraved appetite for alcoholic drinks, tobacco, tea, coffee, opium, is destroyed only by Mind’s mastery of the body. This normal control is gained through divine strength and understanding. There is no enjoyment in getting drunk, in becoming a fool or an object of loathing; but there is a very sharp remembrance of it, a suffering inconceivably terrible to man’s self-respect. Puffing the obnoxious fumes of tobacco, or chewing a leaf naturally attractive to no creature except a loathsome worm, is at least disgusting.
I have mixed feelings on this one: I don’t think coffee and tea should be lumped with opium. I agree, one should not drink to excess (and if one is going to be driving one should abstain, or find a designated driver). I was not going to drink the beer, I was making bread, no one was going to get drunk or become “a fool, or object of loathing.” I also find smoking revolting, but I’ve not take up the habit since leaving Christian Science. It is interesting that Ms. Eddy refers to “alcoholic drinks” and not wine specifically, as she goes on to define WINE in the Glossary on p. 598:17
WINE. Inspiration; understanding. Error; fornication; temptation; passion.
In addition to the mention in the Glossary, wine is mentioned nine other times, on pages 32:3, 32:20, 33:27–33:27, 35:19, 52:29–53:1, 65:1, 114:12, 281:27–282:1, and 321:19–322:1. Chapter II, Atonement And Eucharist contains the most references to wine in the context of sacrament. (5) It is my understanding that Christian Scientists celebrate the “sacraments” of “baptism” and “communion” twice a year – when the Bible Lesson on “Sacrament” comes around. (6) Christian Science “sacrament” excludes the material elements of water, bread, and wine. Baptism (another “sacrament” in more traditional churches) occurs when the person is “submerged in Spirit.”(7) I’m not going to pretend to understand the theology and logic behind Ms. Eddy’s actions, but I do know many of my “Christian” friends were confused that I had never been baptized with water.
Wine is mentioned a second time in Chapter 2, on p. 52:29–53:1, as the Pharisees criticize Jesus for being a “friend of publicans and sinners” Ms. Eddy jumps to Jesus’ defense stating “The latter accusation was true, but not in their meaning. Jesus was no ascetic. He did not fast as did the Baptist’s disciples; yet there never lived a man so far removed from appetites and passions as the Nazarene. He rebuked sinners pointedly and unflinchingly, because he was their friend; hence the cup he drank.”
On p. 65:1 in Chapter 3, Marriage Ms. Eddy hopes that “Christ, Truth, be present at every bridal altar to turn the water into wine and to give to human life an inspiration by which man’s spiritual and eternal existence may be discerned.” I see this as similar to the passage in Chapter X, Science Of Being (p. 321:19–322:1) where Ms. Eddy cites Jesus’ turning the water into wine as a demonstration of the power of Mind. By this logic, I suppose if you’re capable of turning water into wine, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass or two. My Sunday School teachers often attempted to justify Jesus’ decision to change the water into wine by saying that “water wasn’t always safe to drink” — when I argued that Jesus’ could’ve headed them if they fell ill, the topic was usually changed, and quickly.
The final references to wine (other than the Glossary) are in Chapter VI, Science, Theology, Medicine (114:12) and Chapter X, Science Of Being (281:27–282:1), both allude to pouring new wine into old bottles. The message in Ch. VI:
in expressing the new tongue we must sometimes recur to the old and imperfect, and the new wine of the Spirit has to be poured into the old bottles of the letter.
stands in contrast to the message in Ch. X,
Divine Science does not put new wine into old bottles, Soul into matter, nor the infinite into the finite. Our false views of matter perish as we grasp the facts of Spirit.
A search for old wine/new bottles turned up a parable about new wine into old wineskins, even with my years of Sunday School attendance I don’t remember this one being mentioned — perhaps because it was about wine, or because I didn’t go around reading the New Testament for fun (8).
Ms. Eddy seems to want to have her wine two ways, as she states in her Glossary definition wine can be “inspiration” and “understanding” but too much of it leads to “error; fornication; temptation; passion” (what’s wrong with passion? Oh right, distracts from God). Allegorical wine is fine — abstract wine as a symbol of Divine Science is acceptable, but the imbibing of the juice of crushed fermented grapes? That is acknowledging, and therefore empowering, the material, which leads to error, and error (fornication, temptation and passion), distract from God, which leads to death.
I find the Christian Scientists perpetual preoccupation with alcohol far more damaging than the occasional glass of wine itself. They claim that matter has no power over them they go out of their way to give it power — this is most apparent in situations regarding hospitality and culinary endeavors: they balk at a glass of wine offered as a gesture of hospitality, wrinkle their nose at liqueur over ice cream (or send it back and request it without the offending topping), and make a show of declining something cooked in a white wine sauce. If you didn’t know better you’d think all Christian Scientists were recovering alcoholics and the tiniest sip would send them headlong into a dionysian trance.
As I mentioned before, I don’t drink, but I have no problem emptying half a bottle of wine over a turkey breast to braise it for a holiday meal — I would like to add it was the most amazingly moist and flavorful turkey ever, even my Christian Science in-laws said so — and then looked aghast when I told them what I’d done, to their credit, they continued to eat, but did not go back for seconds. If you choose to imbibe alcohol, please do so responsibly, if you choose not to, that is your choice, but don’t hide behind Ms. Eddy’s bogus logic to back up your reasoning.
- Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) The Last Supper https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJxKtOwgLdw
- I know, it “distracts” from one’s “relationship with God” (as does sex, drugs, idolatry — which could be anything from being “materialistic” to worshiping a golden calf)
- Ch. 2, Atonement & Eucharist 32:3, 32:20, 33:27–33:27, 35:19, 52:29–53:1
- An example of the weekly Bible Lesson on Sacrament from December 11, 1898 http://christian-science-csd.info/christian_science/biblelessons/christian-science-bible-lessons/0011.html
- http://www.lcms.org/ Lutheran Pamphlet on Christian Science
- I may touch on the old wine/new bottles parable in the future. The parable can be found here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Wine_into_Old_Wineskins
Passages from Science and Health via http://lineoflight.com/