The Deadly Drug Some Christians Crave
Two stories recently came across my news feed that caused me concern.
Story #1: “The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) announced its 20th consecutive record-breaking year, with fiscal year 2018 gross sales topping $984.8 million, up $43.6 million over the previous year. During the same time frame ABC retail sales grew 4.5 percent and sales to restaurants climbed 4 percent” (InsideNOVA website, 8/22/18).
HOORAY!! VIRGINIANS ARE DRINKING MORE ALCOHOL!! And why is this good news?
The article continues: “Virginia ABC transferred earnings to the state totaling $178.6 million, an increase of $7.4 million over the previous year. Virginia ABC is planning to build a new central office and warehouse that will support continued store growth to meet consumer needs.”
YAHOO!! MORE TAX MONEY INTO STATE COFFERS!!
And there you have it: Euphoria over rising alcohol sales so that the state can rake in more tax money – while having to spend billions of dollars to deal with crime, accidents, medical care, detox programs, homelessness, juvenile delinquency and other social and moral blight that comes from drinking alcohol.
“But wait,” says the alcohol advocate, “you’re not accounting for the health benefits of drinking alcohol. Studies have shown that moderate alcoholic intake can help keep your heart healthy. The Bible only condemns drunkenness.”
Which leads to …
Story#2: “Alcohol is killing more people globally than we originally thought, according to a new study. The study, published in … the Lancet, found that alcohol, such as beer and wine, is a leading risk factor for death and disease, associated with 2.8 million deaths each year and the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disability globally in 2016.
“(The study) found drinking alcohol was associated with nearly one in 10 deaths of people ages 15 to 49 years old … Researchers found that the ‘burden’ of alcohol consumption was worse than previously reported. They called for more regulations around alcohol use and said there is no amount of alcohol that is healthy. ‘Previous studies have found a protective effect of alcohol on some conditions, but we found that the combined health risks associated with alcohol increase with any amount of alcohol,’ said lead author Max Griswold of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington (emp. jj).
“Griswold said the research showed the links between drinking alcohol and the risk of cancer, injuries and infectious diseases are greater than the protective effects of alcohol linked to heart disease in women. ‘The widely held view of the health benefits of alcohol needs revising, particularly as improved methods and analyses continue to shed light on how much alcohol contributes to global death and disability’” (Ashley May, USA TODAY Network 8/24/18, emp. jj).
It is troubling that humanity continues to consume alcohol to the poverty, crime, disease and death of untold millions, but I am not so naïve as to think that this scourge will ever be eliminated. What troubles me more is the growing number of my fellow Christians who not only drink alcohol but advocate it. I personally think that many Christians are finding that they really like alcohol. For whatever reason – the taste, “buzz,” relaxation, lowered inhibitions, social acceptance, air of “sophistication” – social drinking seems to be on the rise among brethren (my personal opinion based solely on anecdotal observation).
The main argument to justify drinking alcohol moderately in social or recreational contexts is “I’m not getting drunk.” All agree that the Bible condemns drunkenness and that inebriated people are prone to harmful, sinful and injurious actions (cf. Gn 9:20-24; 19:32-36; Pr 23:29-35; 1 Cor 6:10; Gal 5:21; etc.).
But think a moment. Does prohibition of an extreme (i.e., drunkenness) necessarily justify lesser participation (consuming a drug that impairs mentally and physically even in lesser amounts [verified by blood alcohol testing])? When Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said … ‘You shall not commit adultery …’” He didn’t stop there. He clarified the seventh commandment further: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:27-28). In other words, the prohibition against adultery included the prohibition of the lesser actions that lead to adultery.
Peter explicitly says this when he condemns both drunkenness and drinking parties (1 Pet 4:3). On this latter term Hamilton asserts: “This does not necessarily involve excess … but is … ‘a drinking bout, the banquet.’ The cocktail parties … of some segments of contemporary society fit perfectly in this classification …”. The world, it seems, cannot have a wedding, a party, a graduation, a victory celebration, a home-improvement show, etc. without “adult beverages” flowing. The ubiquity of alcohol creates a favorable social norm that belies the carnage – and the resultant angst and hand-wringing – which inevitably follows. I confess that I am unable to see any legitimate rationale for a Christian to support this.
We are ultimately fighting a battle of three wills: submitting our stubborn will to God’s benevolent will with Satan’s destructive will working against us. Whatever undermines our self-control (a fruit of the Spirit – Gal 5:23), whatever dissolves inhibitions (which alcohol does), whatever drug runs the risk of dependency and addiction (which alcohol obviously does), whatever introduces danger to our children and sets a compromising example for them ought to be avoided like the plague. These things can all occur while indulging in alcohol behind closed doors.
Why the growing love affair with alcohol when there are tens of thousands of non-alcoholic drinking options to satisfy our taste buds and slake our thirst? Frankly, because some like its effects in spite of the copious evidence of its evil nature. And this enslavement to a preference is perhaps the biggest reason for a Christian to question the role alcohol in their life.