If you grew up in what is simply called The South — the U.S. southern states — it’s possible that various tobacco products for smoking and chewing were part of life, even among fellow Christians. For the rest of us, it’s more likely that tobacco and Christian faith did not mix, with the exception of what I call Christianity’s ‘smoking section,’ the Christian Reformed Church.
This topic came up on the weekend I was listening to episode #13 of The Happy Rant podcast, where one of their topics was the relationship that Reformed people seem to have with it.
Ted Kluck mentioned that he had coauthored a book on the subject for a boutique publishing company he operates, Gut Check Press. While continuing to listen, I checked out the book description:
You knew it would happen eventually. You knew the guys who brought you Kinda Christianity and Younger, Restlesser, Reformeder would someday deliver the comprehensive guide-to-slash-celebration-of cigar and pipe smoking for the discerning Christian. Well that day is here.What will you find behind that handsome cover? Lots of essays, quotes, interviews, humor, insight, instruction, meditations, reflection on cigar and pipe culture, and a basic primer on the fine art of smoking. Ever wonder . . .
- how to pick a humidor?
- which member of the Newsboys makes and sells high-end pipes on the side? (We’ve got an interview with him!)
- which Puritan wrote a poetic sermon that uses smoking to illustrate the Gospel?
- which Reformed theology icon wished he had taken up cigars?
- what your favorite classic movies and novels would have been like if the main character was replaced by Cigar Aficionado editor James Suckling?
You’ll learn all this, plus what different cigar brands say about the smoker, the difference between a Claro and a Maduro, the best places to enjoy a smoke to the glory of God on any given day, and much, much more.
Recognizing that the book was semi-serious, I simply posted the link to Twitter with the single line, “I am not making this book up.”
Immediately, I got a response that basically said, “So…?”
I wrote back, “Enjoying tobacco to the glory of God ought to strike some as, at the very least, a bit of a curiosity.” And I meant that; I thought the cover would make a great graphic for Wednesday’s links, though the book is not new.
This brought this response, “It would strike some that way, yes. It didn’t seem to bother Spurgeon, until a local tobacconist used his name in ads.”
But then, we had a much longer discussion as a family about this. The key verse was obviously I Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.“
I think this is where the dividing line occurs. To southern state Americans, tobacco is just another agricultural product for consumption. The idea that the verse is talking about food and drink would include tobacco products, whereas my non-South friends would want to immediately exclude it.
This then led to a discussion of Romans 14. Verses 2-4 read, “One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” and in verse 14 Paul continues, “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.”
Then there’s the question of new information. We now are aware of the carcinogenic properties of tobacco. Surely that’s a game changer, right?
Anyway, I invite you to check out the podcast, read the book description, and play the home version of this discussion.