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20160917_081455Sometimes, just sometimes, before I offer a whisky review, I need to take an extra minute to hammer out a few details. There’s one particular “something” that rears its ugly head here at Angelsportion more so than I would prefer. I’m always ready to deal with it, even though I’m also so very bored beyond belief by it.

I suppose I could come at it from the following angle…

When things are going along pretty well, remember, there will always be those predatory few waiting in the wings to thin the herd of enthusiasm.

First, and understandably, I’ve been in celebration mode for a few weeks now. Two more of my books were recently released into print—Ten Ways to Kill a Pastor, and perhaps of more interest to my readers here, The Angels’ Portion Volume II. With both pieces, it’s exciting when you pour into something for so long and then turn it over to others in order that it might finally return to you in print. Again, I’ve been riding a little higher knowing that I can move on to another project and, God willing, do it all again. It’s something that brings me joy.

Second, things are relatively peaceful in the congregation right now. There’s always a struggle brewing somewhere, but right now, things are reasonably calm, and for that, I am thankful.

Third, very soon I’ll have the distinct privilege of giving a paper at a conference on religious liberty alongside a few highly respected speakers, one of which is someone I greatly admire—Dinesh D’Souza. That makes me smile.

Fourth and finally, Jen and I found time for a date night. Mind you, we ordered a pizza and then kicked the kids out of the living room so we could watch “Captain America: Civil War” by ourselves, but hey, that’s pretty good for us.

So, in short, things have been moving along pretty positively around here.

And then I read two of the harshest and most attacking comments I’ve ever received here at Angelsportion. One came by way of Facebook messenger and the other as a comment through the blog.

Well, I shouldn’t say that I read them. The one that came through the blog was so brutish that I only made it through the first few sentences before simply deleting it. I’ve learned my lesson with messages like that. There’s no use in taking it all in, and I knew that if I continued reading I might end up calling up my Chicago family members and putting a hit out on the person. The one sent by way of Facebook Messenger tricked me, though. I can handle criticism. Truly, I can. And this one started off objectively and somewhat measured. But then it opened up full throttle with some pretty colorful phraseology highlighted by a few very intense adjectives.

Both arrived on different days in the same week. And while you’ll never know the content of these venomous harangues (because I promise you that these people will never—never—get by with my approval), both deserve my public commentary.

So, here’s what I’m pondering.

The singular spirit of both comments has one of its feet in the unfortunate grave of Pietism and the other in the sepulcher of popular spirituality. Now, I don’t need to go into a full definition of either because if you’ve been around here long enough, you already know what I’m talking about, and you know that I already expect a few useless flesh-sacks with gelatinous innards to come along and aim such ignorant criticism my way. I get my fair share of it. But still, even as visitors find that they disagree with me on certain topics, their comments are most often constructive and a conversation can be had and a genuine friendship is born.

Yes, I will continue to field the questions from folks who genuinely want to know how it is that a pastor can write about such things with careful appreciation, but for those experts in internet-assembled theology who are trying to pick a fight, I will simply say the following and then bring this to an end…

Well, forget what I was going to say. Go ahead and strap yourself in. We need some base honesty right about now.

If the Biblically illiterate fools who want to accuse a pastor of being a “hypocrite” or say things like “I don’t see Jesus in you, but the devil” just because he writes about whisky—if these folks would just read their Bibles—not talk about what they think is in the Bible—but actually read it… and on approach of the Holy Writ, if they would have in mind to read it exegetically (which means to take from the text what’s actually there—basic hermeneutics) instead of eisegetically (carrying your pre-formed opinions to the text and imposing them so that it renders what you desire), doing this, they would discover a great many things they didn’t know before. For starters, and for example, they would find places where guys like Saint Paul—yeah, the inspired Apostle—distinguishes between stronger and weaker brethren. They would eventually come across various texts in which he instructs the stronger brothers never to impose upon the weaker ones something that sears their consciences—which is the accusation sometimes leveled against me.

But the last I knew, this blog was never imposed upon anyone. You are not required to visit my site. You have a choice to visit it.

But either way, don’t let that be the last word from Paul. Keep going and you’ll behold him spending no insignificant time making sure the stronger brothers never let the weaker ones have the final say when it comes to judging what is actually Godly and what isn’t. In fact, Paul thoroughly explains in Romans 14 that the one who eats everything shouldn’t look down on the one who doesn’t, and the one who doesn’t, shouldn’t condemn the one who does because that man is just as acceptable to God.

So, Paul is pointing out that God sets the standard by His Word. Pietism doesn’t do that. Pietism sets the standards of godliness from current contexts of cultural miseries. When Pietism was formally born (17th century), it laid rather flatly (and with a staying permanence) that because drunkenness is a possibility, drinking alcohol is ungodly. It never took into account that the Word of God actually commends the consumption of alcohol, sometimes even requiring or at least prescribing it. In fact, this happens in both the Old and New Testaments—the same two Testaments that also talk about not abusing it because drunkenness is a sin. Pietism, by default, just doesn’t set its platform nor assess its teachings by way of the Word. It skips right over important facts… like that time Jesus actually changed water into wine in John 2 so that a particular wedding couple would avoid embarrassment.

He gave them wine. One more time… The Son of God, the Creator of the Cosmos in human flesh, gave them wine.

And don’t forget what Jesus said in Mark 7 (vv. 18-23). That’s that one rather inconvenient place where Jesus harps on the Pharisees for accusing His disciples of unclean eating practices. And by the way, take notice of His introduction: “Are you so dull?” and then the final analysis which reads, “In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.”

For crying out loud! Look at Saint Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23. “Drink some wine,” Paul urges the young pastor. But… wait… Oh, my! I don’t see Jesus in Saint Paul here. The Apostle must be writing the inspired texts of Scripture by the hand of the devil.


Hopefully you’re still with me, here. No? Oh, I know. Now you’re digging into your Biblicism bag. You’re about to tell me that the Bible only speaks of wine and says nothing of whisky so therefore only wine is acceptable. Um, okay. It doesn’t talk about cars, either, so I guess you decadent Pietists driving around in your four-wheeled-petrol-powered-sin-boxes had better stop taunting God and cut that out. And while you’re at it, you’d better stop using your hair dryers, telephones, computers, Keurig coffee makers, button shirts and ties, post-it notes, lug nuts, basketballs, campers, post offices, snow mobiles, toilet paper, and so on. None of these are noted in the Bible and all of them have just as much potential for sinful usage as a bottle of The Balvenie. Trust me. I’ve known the sinful mind to be rather creative.

And while you’re pondering all of this, let me make one more suggestion. And this one will probably sting the most.

It’s amazing what can be learned by going to church. Maybe try going more than once every twenty-eight weeks. But not to one of those churches that has the whole “church/culture” thing all mixed up already. No wonder you can’t figure out what’s Godly and what isn’t. Get out of that church that does all it can to be hip and indistinguishable from the world around it. Seek out a church that when you walk into it, you know without a doubt that you’ve left the popular culture behind and are in a completely different world… kinda like the Bible says in about a thousand different places  the “church” should be. If you walk in and feel as though a Nickelback concert venue has nothing on your house of worship, then you’re missing the whole point of worship completely and you’re very near the wrong end of what is most likely a spiritual meatgrinder. It’s taking in souls by stamping the label “Christian” on anything and everything that sounds spiritual enough to keep you in the theater seating in order to pay the massive mortgage on the twenty million dollar franchised—yes, franchised—building complete with a worship model and everything—designed by a hipster marketer who thinks your church should be called anything but “church” because that word is offensive and doesn’t sell.

“Hey, guys, we need a cool name for our new church.”

“Don’t say that word, Bob.”

“Oh yeah, sorry.”

“I forgive you, brother.”

“Great. Thanks. So, I was thinkin’, how about we call ourselves ‘The Vibe,’ or some other name that is completely out of stride with the universal church of all ages—something that is just as snazzy, hip, and fuzzily useless as the 10-step message we plan to disseminate inside?”

When these are the folks lining up to offer criticism at Angelsportion, as long as you are willing to have a collegial conversation, we’re cool. If not, then seriously, don’t bother. Instead, take your thoughts, jot them on the napkin you swiped from the coffee bar in your church’s narthex, put the napkin into your pants pocket, and then run your pants through the laundry. For the most part, the washing machine will do what it is designed to do—clean soiled things.

In the meantime, if you do decide to deposit them at Angelsportion, I’ll do what I did in this most recent assault. I‘ll delete them. And then I’ll go to my cabinet and take out a whisky—but not just any whisky—one that was gifted by a Christian friend. Like the Speyside Cooperage 10-year-old.

This particular whisky was acquired in Scotland by a good friend who picked it out just for me, and it is one that I will hold near and dear until it is emptied of its ambered happiness.

The nose of this delightful edition tagged by a less-than-spectacular label is distinctly wine-like—merlot, I’d say—with hints of cherry and chocolate.

A slight swig presents the cherries as sour, but not unpleasant, and each is a crisp morsel dipped in vanilla and lightly powdered with what seems like minced walnuts. There’s an extremely distant hint of smoke. And when I say “distant,” I mean it. It’s the tiniest reference to a peat fire burning five miles away from where you are standing.

20160917_090031The finish, like the nose, is wine-like. Except it is no longer a merlot. It keeps a sweetness about it while giving over spoonful of oaky tannins. And although I am by no means a connoisseur of wine, I’d say it was awfully reminiscent of a particular bottle I’ve kept on hand around here—the Anciano Gran Reserva 2000 Valdepeñas—which is made from black Tempranillo grapes and aged for ten years.

I wish I could say that you can run right out and pick up a bottle, but as I understand, it is only available for sale at the cooperage. Too bad, because it would seem that more and more these days do we all need an “anti-haters” antidote—one given in loving kindness from someone who wants to remind you that the dark days are easily brightened with a good dram and a therapeutically catechetical diatribe of one’s own.