The Drug of ChoiceYou do not have to be around young people for very long in this country before you hear someone talking about what they call their "drug of choice." I hear my students debating ecstasy versus marijuana, and then I hear comics on TV bringing large numbers of people to laughter by telling jokes about things that people have done while under the influence of drugs. There is even a popular movie that centers around the amazing stupidity of people in doing things that do not make sense, and in many cases it is a drug that has provided them with the lack of judgment to attempt something that is clearly self destructive. In spite of all of this, the drug of choice for America as a whole and the drug that is the most destructive recreational drug ever known continues to be alcohol. Every time I refer to alcohol as a drug, I get a few nasty letters from people who do not feel that alcohol falls into that category since it was used in biblical times. Comparisons between the use of alcohol in the Bible and its use today are totally invalid. In the first place, potable water was generally not available in biblical times, and alcohol was used in small percentages to make the water fit to drink. In addition to this practical use, we need to understand that because distillation was not known in biblical times, the percentage of alcohol in their beverages was far below most drinks that are used in our society today as a social lubricant or for binge drinking. It was not impossible to get drunk in biblical times, but it required an all-out effort. On the day of Pentecost when the apostles were accused of being drunk, Peter refuted the charge by pointing out it was too early in the day to have reached that stage of inebriation. Today, with 200-proof drinks available, the situation is much different.
Like a lot of problems in today's society, the Church seems to be incapable of making a meaningful response to the problem of alcohol, especially in young people. This is the most destructive drug known to man and we continue to be unable to respond to the problems it brings and even deny the problem exists. Alcohol kills 6.5 times more young people in the United States than all other illicit drugs combined. There are 10 million drinkers between the ages of 12 and 20 in the United States today. Recent research by the National Institutes of Health shows that the brain is not fully developed until about the age of 21, and research by Duke University has shown conclusively that alcohol causes irreparable damage to adolescent brains. Teen drinkers suffer a 10% reduction in the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for many types of learning and memory) over their non drinking peers. A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that people drinking regularly before the age of 14 are more than three times as likely to experience diagnosable alcohol dependance as those that began drinking at 21 or older. Half of all European countries have teenage intoxication rates that exceed those in the United States (Driven, Fall 2001, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, page 24-25).
When Christians attempt to justify things like drinking and when they participate in this destructive agent and argue that moderation is all that has to be observed, they weaken any power teens might have to resist the destructive elements of the culture in which they live. Christian adults need to set the example by abstaining from "any appearance of evil." If we do not wish to see our young people put themselves in compromising situations, then we need to make sure we do not put ourselves in such situations. To attempt to find loop holes in the teachings of Christ that permit the drinking of alcoholic beverages is to send a message to teens that it does not matter how close you get to evil, as long as you do not actually completely submit to evil. We can never change the world until we show the world how to live successfully.
Perhaps the most compelling approach to this problem in the Bible is in Paul's discussion in 1 Corinthians 8 concerning the eating of meat offered to idols. The lesson is given to mature Christians in clear terms in this passage. Paul points out that even the meat offered to idols does not mean anything (verses 4-5) but that he as a person trying to be a positive influence for Christ would not eat the meat because doing so may damage someone who is immature in their faith. When someone says to me "well I don't see what is wrong with .." I know that they are not understanding the message Paul is giving in this passage. Whether what we participate in is wrong or right is not the only issue. What is also a major issue for mature Christians is how our involvement in the activity being described will affect others. How can we be "the light of the world" if there is nothing about our behavior and habits that shows we have anything unique to offer the world?
I have had exuberant college students tell me that they were "high on Jesus." I am not sure that I always know what they mean by the statement, but we should show as Christians that Jesus is our choice, and that no chemical substitute for Christ will be allowed to damage our influence or cause us to engage in conduct that will be a negative influence upon those around us.
--John N. Clayton
Back to Contents Does God Exist?, SepOct03.