D.C. Wine Week: Should Christians Enjoy the Wine?

The inaugural D.C. Wine Week draws to a close this Saturday with an official “Wine Down” at D.C.’s One Lounge. Started on Oct. 15, it offers a celebration of wine, winemaking and local vine culture. It also offers a chance to discuss the role of alcohol in Christian households.

“D.C. has the highest consumption rate of wine in the U.S.,” said Alex Evans, the director of education for Arlington’s Washington Wine Academy. “Wine is way more than an alcoholic beverage. It’s a unifier and a common thread between cultures and histories.”

Evans said her organization educates District residents about wine and its role in cuisine and culture. As such, she said her workplace was immediately enthusiastic to help establish an annual wine event with similar goals like D.C. Wine Week. The education center thus hosted a Wine Week event last night by providing samplings of local vintages.

“Education opens the door to understanding,” Evans said. “The more people learn about wine, the more people appreciate about it.”

The issue of alcohol consumption remains a divisive one in the Christian community. John MacArthur, the prominent pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif. who has a doctorate in theology, recently criticized Christians who drink alcohol in an August blog titled “Beer, Bohemianism, and True Christian Liberty.”

“The ravages of alcoholism and drug abuse in our culture are too well known, and no symbol of sin’s bondage is more seductive or oppressive than booze,” he said. “But sober-minded self-control and maturity are virtues commanded and commended by scripture; these are not manmade rules or legalistic standards.”

Conversely, Pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church famously defended alcohol consumption among Christians in his 2004 book, The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out without Selling Out. In it, Driscoll declared alcohol was a valuable tool for socializing with non-believers and introducing them to Christ in a secular environment.

“To love our neighbors, we must meet them in their culture,” he said of Christians who drank socially. “To love our neighbors, we must call them to repent of sin and be transformed by Jesus. Reformission is not about abstention; it is about redemption.”

Evans said she understands why some Christians avoid alcohol given the Bible’s stance on drunkenness as a sin. She said her organization and events like D.C. Wine Week discourages intoxication among wine connoisseurs. All the same, she said Christians should recall alcohol’s involvement in their heritage regardless of whether or not they abstain.

“Jesus turned water into wine,” she said. “Wine is part of Christian history and belief.”

MacArthur’s blog counters that wine was a necessary evil during biblical times for health reasons.

“The risk of amoebae and parasites in drinking water could be significantly reduced or eliminated by mixing the water with a little wine (1 Timothy 5:23),” he said. “The result was a greatly diluted wine that had virtually no potential for making anyone drunk, and purified tap water and refrigeration have made even that use of wine unnecessary today.”

Evans said she encourages people unfamiliar with or skeptical of wine to give it a second chance if their beliefs allow it. After all, she said, D.C. Wine Week isn’t done yet.

“I think the organizers have done an excellent job,” she said of the event. “We’re here to make wine more pleasant for people. If it scares people or they don’t understand it, that’s OK. They should understand that it can bring out a lot of smiles among friends.”