I am part of a denomination that takes a strong stand on the consumption of alcohol. The stand of the denomination is not moderation, but rather abstinence. It attempts to draw on human experience, scientific findings and social responsibility for justification, since obviously the Bible has nothing against non-abusive alcohol consumption.

The most interesting argument was expressed today in my 8 am class. While it is usually the case that no deep or productive thinking happens so early for me, our class took place in the cafeteria, and coffee was indeed a factor.

The argument went like this: the alcohol industry spends more per year on advertising than the United States spends on education. The alcohol industry is (at least in some way) responsible for the death of minors who consume it and then have fatal car accidents. For these reasons, alcohol as an industry is to be opposed vehemently. Our manual has more to say about alcohol than any other contemporary social issue, and much of the justification is moving toward an opposition to the industry and not necessarily the product.

But using this logic causes some problems. First of all, how are we to justify our support of the gun industry by this reasoning? However you feel about gun laws, it seems to me that we allow ourselves to emphasize personal responsibility when opposing gun control, but throw it out the window when it comes to alcohol. “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” And from the same lips we hear “Alcohol kills people.” Hypocrisy? I prefer the words of a usually less-than-funny comedian: “Guns don’t kill people. Husbands who come home early do.”

Secondly, how we can take such a “Christian” stance against the industry of alcohol but remain silent when large corporations use abusive child labor to make their product cheaply overseas? How can we object to consuming alcohol but have no moral issue with wearing Nike shoes? How can we object to the negative societal effect of Budweiser and their advertising and then turn a blind eye to the ways that Wal-Mart causes and capitalizes on the failure of small businesses?

If we would like to take a strong stance on alcohol, by means of the effects of it as an industry, we have no right to reverse the logic for products we wish to defend, or to remain silent on industries that violate human rights or subvert progressive and fair economics.


4 thoughts on “Inveighing

  1. Absolutely. It is silly the way we begin with good intentions, and yet find a way to minimize individuals (and communities) behind peculiar ideals and codes of conduct. These rules were created to protect individuals, now we use a Procrustes bed to cut individuals down to the size of our rules. It’s an unfortunate reversal that happens with so many institutions.

    I hope, especially as the Nazarene church is becoming more international, we reevaluate things like this seriously – I’m not gonna lie, I think a lot of people in Europe probably have a problem with this view on alcohol (and rightfully so). If we want to impose a rule like this over-seas, we are claiming, essentially, that only some people with certain operative principles can -and will- become Nazarene. Others must be cut down to size.

  2. I am in agreement with your father. The church of the Nazarene was built up in the time of prohibition, and it’s more of a stance against over-use in the sense that we could become a pitfall for someone struggling with the substance. It’s a reason that we don’t serve wine at communion. They don’t want US to be a pitfall for others who are struggling.

  3. Hey Kevin I agree with you on the just point. I do think, though, that we should maybe go at this issue from an experience stance. I feel as though Wesley would agree that the rules that were put in place 50-100 years ago should always be re-evaluated. Experience as a whole has changed people drink, is a social context, more often now.

    I can say that social drinking in a controlled setting should be perfectly fine. I can also say that there are many, many things that the Church should be looking at instead of drinking, and they probably are, otherwise this rule would have already changed. There are many reforms that need and will need to be made to this denominations rules but the emphasis for this denomination isn’t supposed to be the rules, it is evangelism and outreach, discipleship and teaching.

    Things like drinking rules aren’t even really known that well by most in the Church (at least from what I have seen and heard) and for the most part people will look at there experience and say that social drinking is both socially and Biblically correct (Jesus did perform a miracle using the very same substance that we are talking of).

  4. Kevin, well written response to a poorly devised argument. If you want to evaluate the reason for the church’s stance, you must look at the culture when that stance became “law” as it were. In the day of the early Nazarene church, there really was a low incidence of social drinking. Consumption of alcohol was really in social settings where the rest of the social vices took place, ie” gambling, prostitution, smoking, et al. This is where dance also ended up. The standard garden variety regulation family person didn’t really drink at all, as it was considered socially a vice. The church followed suit, as those places were where those who chose to partake went. It would be equal to a crack house by today’s standards.
    The church has done a decent enough job, at removing obstacles as social norms change, but some of the old guard holds fast, as they are more interested in the law than grace. This has more to do with the popularity contest held every four years than it does representing the thoughts and need of local churches.
    Nice job, a little thin in places, but not near as thin as their argument.

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