Should Christians Own Bars? Now, What About Restaurants?


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I had a rather lively discussion with some friends at work today.  There was certainly a diverse group.  There were RC’s, Jerry Falwell “Liberty Way” types, American Baptists, Episcopalians, Non-denoms; so, it seems like all persuasions were present.  Somehow, the topic of Christians or churches owning and running bars came up during lunchtime conversation.  The standard arguments were made for and against the consumption of alcohol, but the fulcrum of the conversation remained stubbornly on whether it was morally right for Christians to run establishments that served alcohol.  The line of reasoning that prevailed was the existence of a biblical injunction not to cause one’s Christian brother or sister to stumble.  If a Christian should not live life in a manner that provides an opportunity for others to sin, they reasoned, then it was morally impossible for a Christian to own and run a bar.

I was thinking about the basis of their argument, and it seemed fair.  Sure, the number of people who responsibly use alcohol vastly outnumber those that abuse it, but look at the trouble that those who abuse alcohol are actually causing for themselves and others.  If you’re unsure about the costly nature of alcohol abuse check out an article from the Mayo Clinic, here.  In fact, it is the general practice of the American Medical Association to recommend abstinence from alcohol, though some claim their “research” is biased and unscientific, here.  The point for me, however, was not to argue the minutiae of whether a Christian can drink responsibly.  The issue that stuck in my mind was that I think it is a fair argument to say that a Christian should not serve alcohol to those that abuse it.

Then a thought, an elaboration of the principle they hoped to employ in their argument, struck me.  If it is unethical for a Christian to serve alcohol to an addict, is it also unethical for a Christian to serve huge portions of unhealthy, over-priced food to an addict?  Should Christians own restaurants?

Think about it.  Is there any longer any doubt that obesity has far surpassed alcoholism as a health epidemic?  The Mayo Clinic has this to say about the obesity epidemic, here.  The CDC names heart disease as the greatest contributing factor to death in the US, here.  The American Heart Association says that obesity is one of the major contributing factors to heart disease, here.  So, is it ethical, in the midst of a nationwide obesity epidemic (see this), for a Christian to own a restaurant?

Let the fight begin.



  1. If we carried that restaurant logic to its conclusion, it would be wrong to be a grocer, a farmer or in an occupation involved in transporting and marketing food. So I cannot accept it.

    A professor said in a seminary class that the Life in the Spirit Study Bible (AG) did not sell well in Europe due to the abstinence footnotes. The solution was to rewrite those footnotes for the European edition. I would like to know what those footnotes say; I would suspect that they say “moderation.”


  2. Since just about everything in excess is evil, the Church must strive to be an example to the world of what it looks like to be a good, faithful and moderate steward of all the things with which we come into contact. When people see Christians consuming healthy food that minimizes environmental damage, and when people see Christians consuming alcohol in responsible ways, I feel like it is the very opposite of a stumbling block. So, no Christians shouldn’t own resturants or bars unless they are willing to be active example’s of godly stewardship, self-control, and love for others and creation.


    1. Since we’re on the topic of responsible Christian behavior, I had always also determined that if I ever ran a movie theater I was making it a company policy that NOBODY under the age of 17 was getting into an R – rated movie (even with their parents)


  3. If Jesus were to sneak up on us in 21st Century America, he’d more likely be found at Applebee’s on Friday night than most of our churches on Sunday morning….

    God’s idea of a good time: Deut. 14:22-29 (look it up, send it to your pastor for his input, and be sure to put it into practice!)


  4. @ Tony and Reed,

    I knew I could count on you guys to appreciate the silly nature of arguments like this. I did not make the proposal seriously in either setting. However, it is interesting to watch the dissonance it causes on people’s faces. They are faced with 1. rejecting a ridiculous argument, but having to admit the silliness of their own argument or 2. accepting a ridiculous argument in order to maintain their own.

    However, and here is where I do agree with James, the more I thought about the situation the more it dawned on me that Christians cannot afford to do ANYTHING without doing it “as unto the Lord.” After some reflection and reading your posts – I think knowingly serving alcohol to an addict is just as bad as knowingly serving unnecessarily large portions of unhealthy food to obese people at a franchised restaurant. Actually, enabling the addiction of the obese is probably more harmful (and costly) to the community in the long run.

    Incidentally, I have been blowing the horn on pastors that will marry heterosexuals at the slightest provocation (in order to keep them from “shacking up” and “living in sin”) and then decry SSU as an abomination for a long time. Are these things sacred, or are they things we do to fit in and make others feel like part of the group (or worse, to keep some out)?


  5. @Steve,

    Thanks for visiting and commenting!

    I appreciate that you were quickly able to identify the “slippery” nature of my argument. This, in part, was the point. For some reason, the morality police love to use slippery slope arguments.

    When I was attending CBC (A/G), I always appreciated Dr. Steve Badger for his approach to this kind of issue. He did a lot of work in the UK as and A/G minister and constantly had to walk the line between the community holiness expectations in the US and those of the UK. He would often say that in the end he had to quit eating pizza. Which seemed completely off topic until he followed by saying – “I just cannot imagine a nice piping hot slice of pizza without a frosty mug of delicious beer (my paraphrase, I’m sure he actually said it better)” I appreciated it, because at the end of the day he “signed the membership card,” but refused to make identifying with the (US) A/G expectations a matter of religious pride.


  6. Christians should not own bars or restaurants, they should give the beer and food away! 😉

    I like Shawn’s comments on Pastors, hetromarriage and SSU’s. It needs to be focused on more.


  7. A literal interpretation:

    Christians should not eat bananas. We all know the drastic consequences of a improperly discarded peel.


  8. Well porn is the most popular thing on the internet, so I would guess we shouldn’t have computers or internet servers.

    Indeed this blog is costing me countless hours that I should be devoting to my wife and children.

    Car dealers do you know the number of people killed in cars. And well used car dealer it goes without saying.

    Divorce court lawyers- check that just lawyers – enough said

    And I agree about restaurants as well. The amount of salt in the menus which leads to heart problems. Wait we need to tax that to pay for the debt so that’s good.

    Christian rock is bad for your hearing.

    As far as I know we are judge by what we free chose to do, not by what someone else “made” us stumble upon.

    So as my 6th grade priest told me.

    Maintain custody of your eyes young man and you’ll lead a good life.

    So with that good night.


  9. Back when I was a good Evangelical I appreciated this little article by conservative NT scholar Daniel Wallace.

    I have little patience with these kind of prot gnostic problems. “Silly” really is the best description.

    That said… the logic continued above (not owning restaurants or anything else), is not entirely silly, because it seems to me pretty close to the Anabaptist view of the church vs. the world. It has nothing to do with “causing people to stumble,” but with the way the Christian community exists against the world. Being influenced by Hauerwas and Yoder I can hardly discount such a view totally, even if it is totally wrong.


  10. Sam,

    It is a good article. I have a high appreciation for Dr. Wallace. In fact, I have spent some time reviewing some of his work on, here.

    I have had to spend quite a bit of time praying and learning how to interact with people that offer such obscurantist interpretations of Scripture myself. I have never had a problem with anyone saying, “God has called me to (x)” but I cannot abide by the mentality that believes everyone else must also live by said calling.

    Finally, I also cannot quite shake the counter-cultural nature of these arguments either. This is why I really appreciate the comments that readers of this thread have made. Though, I would caution you about going the Anabaptist route. You do remember what happened when the Anabaptists set themselves up as counter-cultural don’t you? All of the other Protestants used their little theocracies as a tool for torturing and murdering them.


  11. Wallace is an enigma for me. On the one hand he is a standout textual critic and when he’s dissecting a specific passage he can be a rather capable biblical theologian. But that last paper is an example of god awful exegesis. Any idiot with a Strong’s Concordance can find all the passages which deal with alcohol, and any idiot can say that some are “negative,” some “neutral” and some “positive.” But the move from “list-exegesis” to “application,” let alone Scriptural truth, is so unimaginative and unconvincing. I thought that essay just terrible.


  12. Tony,

    You said:

    “But the move from “list-exegesis” to “application,” let alone Scriptural truth, is so unimaginative and unconvincing. I thought that essay just terrible.”

    Perhaps you are forgetting just how difficult it is to bring a teetotaler to an admission that the Bible speaks neutrally AND positively about alcohol? I don’t necessarily disagree with your assessment within a particular context, but if this is directed at fundamentalists, I imagine it has already been far too imaginative for their tastes. I am, of course, just speculating.


  13. I understand what you’re saying Shawn. I simply think that the style of exegesis in Dr. Wallace’s essay was a barely veiled nod to a “verbal plenary inspiration” type of theology of Scripture. Since “every part” of Scripture is inspired, “biblical” theology consists of searching out every instance of a theme or word, performing a grand synthesis, and…whamo! “This” is what the bible says about this topic.

    I repeat: Just awful


  14. Tony, that’s correct. Thus my statement: that essay was helpful to me when I was a good Evangelical/fundamentalist. It was, perhaps contrary to its own intentions, one crack among many in the vast edifice of modern bibliolatry.


  15. I caught that Sam, I’m sure that you are above reproach with respect to a catholic theology of Scripture. No Church, no Scripture nor Scriptural “meaning.”


  16. Incidentally, this is precisely the difficulty with having these kinds of conversations with fundies. They are really protecting their bibliology with their arguments, and not necessarily their position on alcohol et al


  17. No Church, no Scripture nor Scriptural “meaning.”

    Right. But there’s an equally problematic tendency, most present among soi-disant “Anglo-Catholics,” to take exactly the same “list-exegesis” approach to Tradition. E.g., let’s list what all the fathers say about it (usually stopping as some totally arbitrary mark, such as 1054), and then, voilà!, “This is the catholic position.” But the whole point of the Tradition is that it’s living — the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church — and so desiccated “tradition” is no more valuable than desiccated Scripture. This is the problem, by the way, that led me to an explicitly “papalist” position. It doesn’t do that for everyone, obviously… I guess the point is that you have to make room for the Spirit (and in my view that Spiritual guidance is in some sense guarded and recognized — if not exactly provided — through the apostolic succession) so that exegesis doesn’t become mere archeology.


    1. Sam,

      Good point certainly. Though on my part this is what led to my support for the college of bishops! I think we are under a necessary burden to reconcile with Rome but I still don’t support the extent to which the papacy has expanded. That, though, seems like a conversation for another day!


  18. Shawn I think you nailed it on both counts here.

    “I have never had a problem with anyone saying, “God has called me to (x)” but I cannot abide by the mentality that believes everyone else must also live by said calling…..They are really protecting their bibliology with their arguments, and not necessarily their position on alcohol et al”


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