Saddened to hear of thenews of Edward Schillebeeckx’s passing. Schillebeeckx’s was one of the great voices in recent years, a true scholar and gentle prophet of reform. Here’s what he had to say twenty years ago: ‘My concern is that the further we move away in history from Vatican II, the more some people begin to interpret unity as uniformity. They seem to want to go back to the monolithic church which must form a bulwark on the one hand against communism and on the other hand against the Western liberal consumer society. I think that above all in the West, with its pluralist society, such an ideal of a monolith church is out of date and runs into a blind alley. And there is the danger that in that case, people with that ideal before their eyes will begin to force the church in the direction of a ghetto church, a church of the little flock, the holy remnant. But though the church is not of this world, it is of men and women. Men and women who are believing subjects of the church’. This mature voice once stated, in God Is New Each Moment, that ecumenism means ‘that we have to bear in mind the great Christian tradition that can be found in all the Christian churches – the Catholica, which does not in itself coincide with the empirical phenomenon of the Roman Catholic Church … In that sense, my work is, I think, a valid contribution to the unity of the church, in which there may be all kinds of differences, but in which the one Church community recognizes itself in the other communities and they recognize themselves in it’ (p. 74).
Beer is good for the community. Beer reduced inhibitions and nowhere are people more inhibited than in church. Congregants want at least one chair between them and the person next them. Even better if they get the entire pew to themselves. With a few pints down them, on the other hand, that invisible wall, that awkward space is all but gone. People will start laughing together, they will start crying together. They will even hug! Paul’s “holy kiss” might once again become commonplace, and not a relic of the Bible sped through by embarrassed readers-aloud. In addition to strengthening the ties between those already in the local church, the stranger will be welcomed with open arms, both his presence and his strange thoughts. Which leads me to the second point.
Beer is good for the church’s communal theological inquiry. Here again alcohol’s inhibition reduction is beneficial. Imagine if people actually asked what was on their mind and weren’t afraid of embarrassing themselves because they weren’t among the chosen few in the front five pews, because they didn’t know the jargon or didn’t worry about having the Bible quoted at them. Imagine if people actually voiced those fleeting thoughts, objections and ideas. Theology would then, at last, actually be done in the church and by the church. Dogmatics, you could say, would finally become church dogmatics. Beer would not only have people doing theology and doing it more freely, but would strengthen people’s ties to the church while simultaneously opening the doors to new ideas from outside the church. (Maybe that’s why church leaders are against alcohol!)
Beer is good for the worship. Have you ever heard drunk people sing? Of course you have! It’s about 80% of what drunk people do. They don’t do it well, no – but they do it with sincerity! With vocal chords and emotional capabilities lubricated by some good brew, the church’s worship would be amazing. It would be loud, brash, unashamed and totally in keeping with that unruly Holy Spirit. Liturgy would be shouted back at the minister. Hymns and choruses would sung on top of lungs along to bands unafraid to actually jam. And I can’t imagine what would happen in charismatic churches with all their tongue speaking and other pneumatalogical craziness.
Beer is good for moral reflection. If you’re like 90% of Evangelicals, you’ve been taught that beer is bad. Consuming of alcohol is something that heathens and liberals do. But look at it this way: Drinking a beer is a physical manifestation of you re-evaluating your morals, of you thinking through, maybe for the first time, how you act out your faith. And it will be an entry into wider reflection, a small, very fun step in the direction of the examined life. And in light of the points raised previously, you’ll do it with your friends and you’ll have a great time.
Keeping with the morals, beer supports Christian brothers and sisters. Or, more specifically, brothers. Some of the best beers in the world, Trappist beers in particular, are made by monks in Belgium and Holland. Trappist monastics brew this heavenly ales in order to keep their communities afloat and to support charitable causes. By buying Trappist beer you not only get some of the best tasting beer you’ll ever try, but you’ll also keep some of your brothers in Christ in their special monastic service.
Beer will introduce you to the finer things in life. Not all beer will do this, granted, but if you do take my advice and buy some Trappist beer you will be introduced to a fascinating world of subtle flavours that will titillate your taste buds and satisfy your soul. Now, I’m not suggesting hedonism for it’s own vacuous sake. I’m suggesting that enjoying God’s gifts can be a worshipful activity and experience. Slowly savouring a glass of fine beer will inspire deep gratitude to the Lord for the blessings he has bestowed upon you, your ability to enjoy them and for existence itself. Fine beer will further introduce you to other tasty beverages like wine, whiskey, brandy and the like. Which means even more thanksgiving. This thanksgiving is great in solitude, but fantastic communally, with brothers and sisters in the church. Imagine a service of beer tasting. No, imagine the Eucharist with gourmet beer. Beautiful!