A dilemma of consumption

icon.jpgTo speak candidly about alcohol intake means I cannot censor the convicting theological discussions I have had while under the influence, the fact I was raised in an alcohol-rich environment, my experience with the norms of consumption in various countries or being a witness to the complete psychological dismantling of friends due to addiction. These things make up my history and through this lens I will speak truth to any who are struggling with addiction, men and women utterly confident in their beliefs, as well as those who scoff at the ‘weakness’ mentality of substance abuse.

Countless faces race through my head as I remember friends from high school who drank to cope with violence at home, rampant insecurities of the flesh and the loss of life. We would find ourselves in precarious positions with the police on a weekly basis, everyone laughing it off as if our blissful ignorance was a privilege we had, being adolescents and all. But while some would stand back and look upon our group as miscreant boys and girls, I could only see them as conflicted youth.

Church was never a spring of hope, for all the services belittled our pain and vilified our coping mechanism.

After an abrasive brush with the slippery slope of overindulgence, I realized; while the Christian communities had claimed they meant well, change needed to come from within our group; a hint of judgment would bring crashing down the ironclad gates that guard our hearts.

Healing came from intentional discourse, meeting individuals as equals, exactly where they were at in their life. Whether that be searching for eyes through clouds of smoke or sharing a drink with someone neck-deep in liquor, I found ways to remove the façade and strip away the walls my friends glued to their hearts. The relevance of this story is found in the fact that throughout my interactions with friends I never once mentioned their sin or looming punishment.

C.S. Lewis speaks to this idea of eliminating oppressive diction and judgment: “One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reason marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking does his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.”

When we as Christians start to press our beliefs on another, or demonize a friend’s choice to drink because we feel that God calls us to correct that path, we are doing much more harm than good. If Christians institutionalize our religion with the concept that any and all use of alcohol isfundamentally evil, we raise the risk of wrongly indoctrinating our youth and ultimately prolonging ignorance.

In Luke 7:34, Jesus himself is wrongly judged for his consumption: “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

If our convictions lead us to chastise and make assumptions, there is a fundamental flaw in our perception of tough love. It is vital for the Christian community to see the possibility of alcohol contributing to fellowship, instead of simply hindering morality.

I see alcohol playing a benevolent role in Christian community all over the Bible,” senior cinematic arts production major Brooks Malberg said. “Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine [and] this took place at a wedding, what one might call the pinnacle of Christian community.”

While there is a definite warning against gluttony of all types in the Bible, there is also a wealth of examples where alcohol is portrayed as a communal enjoyment at celebrations.

Douglas Gresham, C.S. Lewis’s stepson, challenged the Christian community in a recent interview with Christianity Today: “The problem with evangelical Christianity in America today, a large majority of you have sacrificed the essential for the sake of the trivial. You concentrate on the trivialities not smoking, not drinking, not using bad language, not dressing inappropriately in church, and so on. Jesus doesn’t give two hoots for that sort of bulls**t. If you go out and DO Christianity, you can smoke if you want, you can drink if you wantthough not to excess, in either case.”

APU’s updated code of conduct is clear on this issue, letting students know that any “indication of any participant being under the influence of alcohol … [is] subject to probable suspension or expulsion from the University.” While this position can be justified by the image APU tries to uphold for parents and donors, a public challenge for students needs to be brought to light.

After the diploma is given and the last chapel service is attended, will our students vilify those who choose to partake in alcohol consumption? Beyond the stigmatized desire for college parties and inebriated flurries of ecstasy, this is a theological issue that each intellectual at this school needs to grapple withpreferably outside the warm blanket of APU’s image-conscious value system. Take it upon yourself to find a voice in this matter; do not let any authority figure simply dictate and manipulate the beautiful intellect with which God blessed you.