No Other Gods Before Me

May 9, 2011

A friend noticed this about my posts: “You often start with an apology,” she said. She’s probably right. I don’t pretend to be an expert on prayer or the Gospel or anything else. When I write I’m usually thinking out loud. Sometimes I don’t know what’s swirling around in my mind until I put it in words on paper. Words on paper or a computer screen help me to organize my thoughts. Maybe that’s strange for someone who is always floundering for words in prayer.

So here is another open session of my thoughts. When I was a kid, I memorized the Ten Commandments at age 8. The meaning of the first commandment seemed obvious. “That shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 KJV) We didn’t worship any other god in my house but the one true God, so how hard was that?  But the subtleties of the first commandment became the discussion of  many a Sunday School class.

People in our church didn’t use alcohol because they thought it was a violation of the first commandment. Alcohol was a false god. It was a black and white issue. All drinking was bad. There was no such thing as appropriate alcohol consumption. I’ve seen enough addiction in my life to know that alcohol can be a god for some people. Service to that god can ruin their lives and wreak havoc on the lives of their families and friends. I have also seen people who can drink without detriment to their life and work. They don’t get drunk, act stupid, or get mean. I too have enjoyed a glass or two of wine in my time without ill effect. (The church of my adulthood does not have the same prohibitions as the church of my childhood.)

But  now I’m going to wax a little prudish.  In spite of people not getting drunk or not being alcoholic, there still seems to be a bit of spirits worship going on in the culture. I go to few parties or events where alcohol is not the centerpiece. A party without booze is almost unimaginable for many. My first experience of this was in college. There was more than one guy who wouldn’t date me because I didn’t drink: “How can she be any fun?” It’s tough to be a non-drinker in a social world—even an occasional non-drinker. If I choose not to drink on a particular day, I’m lucky to find an interesting alternative on the drink table  besides bottled water or a diet soda.  I know some recovering alcoholics who always bring their own non-alcoholic beverage to events because they have had the same experience.

I’m not finished with my ruminations on the first commandment, because I’m interested in knowing what I really worship– where I spend my energy, my time, my money, my allegiance–be it alcohol, food, my cellphone, or endless games of Scrabble.  More later….

Here are some resources for serious concerns about alcohol use:
AA Alcoholics Anonymous–“Alcoholics Anonymous® is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.”

Al-Anon–a fellowship of men and women who “provide strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers”