Do you want to know how to get a whisky into a pastor’s conference filled with flaming teetotalers?
Stop by the refreshment table. Ask for an unsweetened iced tea. Next, proceed to the hotel’s restaurant bar just around the corner from the conference room. Order up a clean two fingers’ worth of whatever stirs your fancy. Drink half while enjoying the company of a kindly bartender, explaining how you’re feeling somewhat apart from most in attendance at the event. Finally, dump the rest of your whisky into the iced tea before returning to the conference room.
Pietists be damned.
For the record, I was an outcast the moment I walked in. I wear a clerical collar. It’s the uniform of my office. I just didn’t fit in among the ocean tide of forty to sixty-year-olds in skinny jeans and surfer hairdos. The stares were unconcealed, ultimately announcing my alien presence by asking, “So, uh, bro, uh, are you here for the pastors’ conference and stuff?”
“Yes, bro,” was my reply before taking a much larger-than-normal gulp from my iced tea. Actually, I nearly replied, “Oh, there’s a conference? I was called in to perform an exorcism on the hotel. Management says it’s haunted. Have you seen the movie ‘The Shining’? Yeah, that kind of haunted.”
The point: I might as well try to dull the discomfort with a nerve-soothing dram. In this case, I wrestled between the Oban 14 and The Balvenie 21, both delightful editions adorning the bar’s shelf. Considering the context, I chose the Oban—an extraordinary whisky I know for a fact the angels enjoy in the heavenly realms while observing human foolishness.
The truth be told between us, I wish I’d brought a flask of Nirasaki’s Shunka Shuto Japanese blended whisky. It’s not the grandest whisky I’ve ever consumed, but it is a delightful sipper. By no means expensive, had the bottle been confiscated by the TSA, I’d be able to cope. Had it made its way through to my destination, after what I’ve experienced so far, I think it would’ve matched the tenor of my experience.
I’m a conservative, liturgical Lutheran—someone who holds to the historic rites and ceremonies of the Church throughout the ages. I find value in tradition and believe creeds are preservatives for truth. I’ve been sitting in a banquet room filled with hundreds of non-denominational pastors, all trying to outdo one another with the latest in hipster prattlings that mock such things. So much for ecumenism. If only from a human perspective, it’s like being the only English speaker in a room filled with people speaking Japanese—which would make a rock glass half-filled with something from the orient feel right. At least I could say I was trying to assimilate.
A wafting of the Shunka Shuto’s roasted vanilla beans and fresh plums would all but certify the whisky’s suitability for such a moment. A sip—one offering cinnamoned plums and a touch of oakiness—would stir a spirit of tolerance, the kind that can endure small talk conversations about the shallowest of theological things. Its medium finish of soured barrel wood might help one to keep smiling politely no matter the presenters’ jabs at men like me.
Well, whatever. When I get home, I’ll pour myself a glass of the Shunka Shuto. Of course, before doing so, I’ll pray. First, I’ll thank the Lord for bringing me home safely. Next, and as always, I’ll rejoice in the existence of pietists. The less they prefer whisky, the more there will be for the rest of us who know better.