Here's a brief discussion of the second assertion. an excerpt:
Dr. M. claimed that the wine used for the Passover seder was actually grape juice, not the fermented stuff at all. "Welch's makes grape juice--the Israelites made grape juice." (He actually said that.) "The Jews could eat only the unleavened bread, and it would have been inconsistent for them to indulge in drink containing leavening," i.e., the yeast-leavened wine. Nope. That was grape juice. Not wine.
While it may be like shooting fish in a barrel to argue against ("Welch's makes grape juice--the Israelites made grape juice"), the larger point is that in certain cases when it comes to modern practices with the potential to be destructive (which sex and alcohol certainly do) there has risen this extreme avoidance movement that says that any partaking at all is sinful. We inherit part of it from our Puritan roots when a woman showing her ankle was scandalous. Anything with even the possibilitiy of 'being a stumbling block' was threatening to one's purity.
Sex not to be enjoyed? Read Song of Solomon. Alcohol not to be imbibed? Psalm 104 celebrates God's gift of wine to gladden the human heart. I'm having a harder time thinking of an acceptance of dancing. I'm a crappy dancer, so I'm not looking too hard for that one.
Now, there is healthy partaking and unhealthy partaking. There is pleasure and there are truly stumbling blocks. A glass or two of cabernet with dinner is different than an all-night bender. Pleasure with someone you truly love and to whom you are truly committed is different than an emotionless one-nighter. Dancing...I got nothing. Similarly, setting a beer or a Playboy in front of an addict (and we can even speak of Playboy as destructive in and of itself) is a stumbling block.
What I'm really questioning here, though, is the extremism that dictates that there is no joy to be found in these things. Christians cannot and should not enjoy sex, even with their spouse. It is for baby-making and nothing more. Christians cannot and should not drink. It is for the godless heathen bar scene only. Christians cannot and should not dance...I'm still not coming up with anything here. Why'd I include this?
There is such a strong reaction to any and all pleasure in some parts of the Christian community that any sort of endorfin release means that one is turning his/her heart away from Jesus. This is the same Jesus who went to parties all the time, who even spoke of the kingdom of God as a great feast. Hanging onto one's purity of heart has become for some a white-knuckle grip. Any loosening up and you're on the fast track to sitting on a hot coal.
I was going to get into the balance that should be struck between enjoying life and our responsibility as disciples, but that's not really the point of this entry. The point is coming back from the extreme for there to be any hope of balance in the first place. So I'll leave it at that.