On alcohol…

Beerpictures2 After a post at MonticelloLive regarding the local VFW applying for a liquor license, Mark posted about the use of alchohol in general. Rather than posting this over at his blog and taking up cyberspace there, I’ll risk the comment explosion and post it here. You’ll have to read his entry and the following comments there to understand what follows. At markverse, it was implied that some of my comments there may be presumptuous or prejudiced. I had said there:

Working on the college campus for many years obviously allowed me to see too much of the latter and to little of the former. Very few adolescents and those stuck in post-adolescence demonstrate the ability to restrain themselves from having one too many (or 10 too many). For these, I default to the law. Obey the laws that govern you. Scripture emphasizes the same. There is no argument for drinking for a 16 year-old at present. In the same light, we live in a democratic society, some segments of our country demonstrate different mores than others. Monticello has historically voted to be a dry county. Regardless of our opinion of that, if we live here, we are bound to obey the law and wishes of the majority. Should that restriction ever be changed, then we will all have more opportunity to see the impact of alcohol on small rural towns in the south (ever been to Dermott?). The current demographics of our area do not seem to be conducive to the total population holding their liquor well.

I can see how a casual reading of that may lead one to think I was implying something about the people living in our area; however, it’s a known, researched fact that alcohol and drug abuse occurs at higher rates in rural areas than in urban ones, mainly among youth. The use of the word "demographics" was in that light only – a statistical one. I made no conclusions about it. Consider the following: "On average across all age groups, residents of large metropolitan counties have the highest rate of illicit drug use (7.65 percent), followed by nonmetropolitan (5.8 percent), and completely rural counties (4.8 percent). However, the prevalence of illicit drug use among youth reveals an emergent trend-14.4 percent in rural areas, 10.4 percent in counties with small metropolitan areas, and 10.4 percent in large metropolitan areas. More specifically, growing evidence suggests that for certain substances such as alcohol, methamphetamines, and inhalants, usage rates are higher among rural youth than urban youth." It has also been shown that the likelihood of substance abuse decreases with age.

Karen VanGundy at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute did a recent study that showed:

  • Until the early 1990s, urban and rural youth typically reported drinking at the same rates. Since then, rural drinking has increased to the point that rural kids ages 12-17 are now significantly more likely than urban kids to report consuming alcohol—37 percent versus 34 percent.
  • At ages 12 to 13, rural youth are more than twice as likely as urban youth to abuse alcohol.
  • At 16 to 17 years old, 13 percent of rural kids abuse alcohol; 10 percent of urban kids do.
  • By 20 to 21, the rates have more or less equalized. (carseyinstitute.unh.edu)

VanGundy draws three overall conclusions from her research:
1. Alcohol use and abuse are part of the rural (and urban) societal norm. The adults do it; why shouldn’t we?
2. The kids are bored with “nothing else to do.”
3. Rural areas lack many of the preventive and treatment services found in urban areas. Alcar_1The report shows that states with the highest rates of alcohol abuse among youths have the greatest unmet need for alcohol treatment and these states tend also to be the most rural.

More and more colleges are attempting to address the issue head-on, as is the University of Lethbridge. However, I would point out that the argument about parts of Northwest Arkansas being the fastest growing area of the state being associated with it being dry are probably fallacious. Rogers has almost 90 private clubs that are licensed to sell alcohol, and sources say that the area is probably the wettest "dry" county in Arkansas. In addition, it’s very true there’s a lot of tax money in alcohol. "A 2004 study by the University of Arkansas looked into the economic impact of legalizing liquor sales in Benton County. It was paid for by Bill Adams’ group, and it found that the county is losing over 28 million dollars in sales each year to surrounding wet counties." (Source)

I am not against alcohol or the drinking of it. I, like Dean, have chosen to personally abstain from it in this culture in order not to offend. I’ve found I don’t offend anyone when I choose not to drink. The same can’t be said of a choice to drink for me. I also choose not to allow other’s choice to drink to offend me. It just doesn’t bother me.

In Europe, drinking is ingrained in the culture. Dynamic, evangelistic churches there don’t think twice about members who choose to drink. The biblical injunction is about drunkenness. Drunkenness is not so much about the alcohol as it is about the lack of self-control of the drinker. However, many who drink still have difficulty in determining for themselves of when they’ve had too much. I’ve never been a drinker, so I don’t understand that. I think the least we can say from Scripture about wine is that consistent use of it is not wise:

  • "Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise." (Prov 20.1) • "He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich." (Prov 21.17)
  • "Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags." (Prov 23.20-21)
  • "Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly!" (Prov 23.29-31)
  • "It is not for kings, O Lemuel – not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights." (Prov 31.4-5)
  • "Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks…" (Isaiah 5.22)
  • "Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit." (Eph 5.18)

These summarize the essence of what the Bible has to say about alcohol. As has been said in other places, the alchohol itself is not the problem. In fact, as a drink, in moderation, it should be received with gratitude and joy. The Bible says far more about our character and the choices we make than it does about things being evil. Even in the list of qualifications for leaders in the church in 1 Timothy, it simply says that deacons are not be drinkers of much wine. In other words, it’s not required for them to be teetotallers. And I don’t think anyone specifically is "grousing" (isn’t that a great word?). I said in my comment at markverse: "let’s all quit grousing." The intent of my comment there was to simply encourage all of us to make a difference rather than type about it. I appreciate the fact that so many of thinking deeply about this issue and reevaluating how we relate it to our community.

As far as what started all this… the VFW, I had no real opinion about it at first. However, when I learned about those that struggle with PTSS and looked into that, I must admit that made my opinion more polarized.

Whew. Man, I’m thirsty.

On this day...

6 comments

  1. Mark W. says:
    Oh Jeff! I did suggest Nightline, so I guess it’s okay that you went all Nightline on me as well. I hope you hit “comment city” too, but everybody seems to go to sleep on the weekends. It’s always a big blog “night-night” on Saturdays and Sundays.

    Underage drinking I take to be a very different problem; related, yes, but fundamentally different. It’s a monkeywrench for sure. Underage drinking is just plain wrong–illegal, subversive, rebellious–wrong, wrong, and wrong. You could quote statistics about underage drinking all day; however, but it shouldn’t affect a decision concerning a club for people 21 and older.

    Some thinking out loud now: When it comes down to it, I guess that my base philosophical position on this (and a lot of other issues) is that of the importance of personal responsibility. It is the reponsibility of parents to control their adolescents. It is the responsibility of adults to drink responsibly. Moderation or abstention should be governed by ones conscience. Any time that public policies are enacted for the soul purpose of denying some individuals’ rights in order to control other people’s irresponsibility, you can most likely bet that I will come down against it.

    It is not the purpose of government or organized religion to coddle babies and keep them away from possible bad-decisions (my cookie jar analogy). When that happens, the population becomes immature. This is PRECISELY why dry rural towns are showing more problems with underage drinking, and it is why America in general has a higher incidence of alcoholism than we see in European countries.

    My high school participated in a student exchange program each year with a school in Germany. In their home country, those exchange students had been around alcohol throughout their lives. They were legally able to drink in their own country. They thought that American kids’ attitudes toward alcohol were stupid, and were literally embarrassed to see someone drunk. They were more mature and more intellectually developed than most of the students in the high school. In general, they were more healthy physically and mentally (they did have a serious addiction to Levi’s Jeans though).

    America’s leftist “social coddling” policies often do more long-term harm than good. That might become a good blog topic sometime, so I’ll save the Nightline depth for then. This comment is fat enough.

    As a peace offering after this cantankerous week, can I buy you a drink?…of coffee. πŸ™‚

  2. Jeff says:
    No peace offering needed! Really! I love the dialogue and exchange. I’m sorry that some folks seem to take it more personally.

    Ok… if a society should never enact laws to help idiots like us… what do you think about being required to wear a seat belt?

    Outlawing smoking in public facilities?
    Outlawing indecent exposure?
    Outlawing marijuana, cocaine and other drugs?
    Outlawing slander, libel, etc.?

    Get my drift? Where does one draw the line, according to our social coddling?

    You can’t smoke in public places, but smoking too much doesn’t impair one’s judgement, whereas drinking too much can result in drunk driving deaths, rape, violence, etc.

    Where does and how does a society draw the lines? Should there be any?

    Do you believe that man is basically good or bad? The Christian worldview says that while we are creating in the image of God and therefore have insane capabilities for beauty and creativity, we are also all willfully rebellious and therefore, “no one is righteous,” according to Romans.

    As a result, I’m not so sure that allowing everyone to be governed by their “conscience” is a wise thing. We need firmer and more pragmatic boundaries than conscience. After all, sociologists tell us that the conscience can become warped, and in some cases, non-existent.

    (Titus 1.15 tells us, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.“)

    I’m curious what you think about this…

    While no peace offering is needed, let’s call it a date at Dad’s Place this week. (Uh, and please, no one make that an issue. We know who the comment-hounds are.

  3. Mark W. says:
    A date it is! πŸ˜‰

    Being “required” to wear a seat belt is a pretty dumb law. I almost always wear mine, and I know that it is statistically safer to do so, but to make it a law and enforce it with the kind of rigor we see today…that is starting to cross the line for me. What’s next? Mandatory teeth brushing at restaurants? Will obese people go to fat-jail someday?

    Most of the things you’ve mentioned(smoking, indecent exposure, slander, etc.) are laws because they are directed at other unwilling persons – these actions infringe upon others’ rights. Drinking responsibly doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights, drunk driving does. There’s a big difference there!

    I think that the phrases “man is basically good” or “man is basically bad” don’t really reflect the situation accurately. I believe that the “knowledge of good and evil” describes a conflict within a man’s soul. Man is flawed and, therefore, unfit for the presence of God, but man also has the capability of recognizing what is good: love, pity, self-sacrifice. Don’t let the sociologists fool you – most of them who deny a conscience are atheist social constuctivists – everyone has a conscience, but not everyone chooses the good. Many choose the self. I believe that these people know what they are doing, though they work hard to rationalize their selfishness. We often try to fool ourselves into believing we are doing the good when we’re not, but we do know what the good is – without that, no one would ever recognize God.

    Well…those are some initial, chaotic, perhaps problematic beliefs, but they were what came to mind reading your question.

    Off to get Ang now!

  4. TJ says:
    It’s easy to come across judgmental about an issue such as this. I’ll attempt to NOT do that. Even though, somehow I came across to some as being offensive by offering an answer to a question posed by another commentator on Monticello Live, my point was not to cram my beliefs about drinking alcohol down the throats of others, or to keep our nation’s heroes from making their own decision of having a bar in their establishment – it was clearly to say that I didn’t think it was wise to have a bar in that location.

    Jeff, you’ve stated some things that are close enough to what I’d say on the subject of alcohol, that it wouldn’t do much to re-iterate these things. My thoughts about drinking alcohol are somewhat different but not enough different to totally disagree.

    Obviously by now, everyone knows that I don’t drink. Even when I wasn’t living for the Lord, I didn’t drink. Hate the stuff – wine to me smells like spoiled grape juice, and beer looks like horse pee, etc.

    In regards to other believers drinking (sipping saints?): I wonder what purpose drinking alcohol serves in the life of a Christian, and would urge any Christian to carefully weigh what I’m trying to say. Shouldn’t a Christian easily be able to do without drinking alcohol? Shouldn’t we try to separate ourselves from this to testify that we are no longer conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds so we can prove what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2)? Drinking isn’t the only area of change, of course – this just happens to be the subject on the table right now. I’ve never understood the concept of allowing the otherwise lower moral standards of society dillute the standards of a believer. Just because something is welcomed in society, does it mean we should weaken our standards to seem more accepting? I don’t really see scriptural support or example for that. Yet I see in Biblical instances (the vows of a Nazarite, the guidelines for a Bishop in I Timothy) where when someone is called to a higher place in leadership, example or devotion to God, that wine was to be abstained from. If we are the light of the world, I believe that we should set higher moral standards by living them and not making any apologies or showing any shame for those standards. Again, this isn’t to come down as judgmental on Mark or any other believer who feels there is no reason not to drink. We all must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, and I know I have issues of my own that I have to focus more on than on whether or not Mark drinks a glass of wine.

    Should we condemn people for drinking? NO! Jesus Himself didn’t come into the world to condemn the world (john 3:17), and we know that if anyone has the right to condemn, it’s Him. We need to be examples of Christ’s love to the world. Engaging one by simply saying “drinking is wrong – end of story” won’t work. However, I believe it’s important to find out why a person is drinking. Many times (not all, so don’t jump on me here), the answer is because they need to escape pressures, or they are needing to loosen up, or to have a good time. The response to that should be to allow the Holy Spirit to use the discussion as an opportunity to point someone to Christ as being the answer they are desiring to an earthly substance to give.

    Again, this is not an effort to be judgmental or to recruit others to believe like me, but an attempt to share where I’m coming from on this very touchy subject.

  5. TJ says:
    Now can we talk about something else – like how good God is?
  6. Jeff says:
    God is indeed good! I agree with you TJ, and that will be a post forthcoming.

    But in fact, God’s goodness has a lot of relevance here as well. God is good regardless of our convoluted reasonings and rationalities. God is good in spite of alcohol abuse. God is good. Period. It is because God is good and that He desires us to reflect His character to this world that we must also decide the best ways of reflecting His goodness.

    Mark, I brought up sociologists as a “even they recognize” type of proof. It’s biblically true that our consciences can be corrupted, seared, burned and unfit to direct us. Our minds can be blinded by the enemy. Logically, we cannot see our way out of situations.

    That is why we must depend and rely upon revealed truth – truth external to ourselves and our feelings, truth external even to our own experiences.

    You said, “…man also has the capability of recognizing what is good: love, pity, self-sacrifice… I believe that these people know what they are doing, though they work hard to rationalize their selfishness.”

    I’m just not confident that scripture paints a picture that men have the capability of recognizing what is good. Even if we do, it’s plain that we consistently turn away from it. See Romans 3.12

    No nation can be run or last if left up to the wishy-washiness of men’s consciences. We cannot depend on people to choose wisely. That’s why there are laws for our own protection. If the highest authority in a democratic society is subject to them. We have a system of checks and balances even at the highest levels because absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    If we allow men’s consciences to ultimately dictate their decisions for right and wrong apart from law, we have no foundation to stand upon. What’s right to you may not be right to me… and so on.

    It is exactly because so many people choose self that we must pass laws for each other’s protections. At some point, people in our area felt it wise to restrict the availability of alcohol in our area. They apparently felt that if left to themselves, people would make wrong decisions about the substance.

    Strange.

    Seatbelts. Dry counties. Levi jeans.

    God is still good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge