>Eyeroll< Not This Again

young girl eye roll Somebody sent me this link and invited comments on it.

I’m going to try to reign in the snark on this one: Alcoholism is a serious problem.

People who are struggling with alcoholism (and no alcoholic is ever truly “cured” insofar as the desire to drink truly vanishes; if they’re lucky they’re in recovery) deserve help, support, and compassion (short of enabling, but that’s a different matter).

So I’m not going to rag Jamie Morgan for striving for sobriety. More power to her.

But I am going to rag on her presentation, because frankly it’s hypocritical shaming at best and openly blasphemous at worst.

She’s listed 50 points but I’m not going to enumerate them here (that’s what the jump is for).

That’s a fond tactic of many in the demagogue persuasion: Throw out a ton of spaghetti -- who cares if it’s redundant and / or nonsensical -- and try to bog your opponents down answering your trivial pursuit questions instead of addressing the real issue at hand.

Screw that noise, I’m going to the source of the contagion.

First off, let’s tackle this from a Christian perspective: She says Jesus is evil.

If the consumption of wine is in and of itself wrong, then Jesus sinned as he is cited as drinking wine in several verses in the Bible, not to mention John 2 where he turns water into wine for others to drink.

Which means, according to Ms Morgan, he wasn’t merely committing a sin himself but making it possible for, and encouraging others to sin as well!

And don’t give me that bull about Biblical wine just being “fruit juice”, there are too many Old Testament and New Testament verses to the intoxicating effects of wine to swallow that canard.

So, it’s pretty clear from various points in the Bible that it’s not the consumption of alcohol that’s wrong, but the abuse of alcohol consumption.

So her central thesis is bogus, nullifying all objections derived from it.

Now, had she limited herself to “I shouldn’t drink alcohol and I wouldn’t recommend alcohol to anyone else” then I wouldn’t be posting this.

That’s a perfectly legitimate position to take.

But it’s the shaming aspect that is what’s wrong with her message.

Shaming is what passive aggressive Christians do to try to force their standards of behavior on others. Drunk shaming, drug shaming, slut shaming, divorce shaming, political shaming, everything except shaming shaming.

It’s one of the key reasons why people are turning their backs on organized Christianity in this country.

Shaming has nothing to do with love and concern and compassion for others.

It has everything to do with power and control and feeling superior to others by judging them.

So that’s why I’m calling shenanigans on Jamie Morgan’s message, not on her efforts to remain clean and sober.

God bless you, Ms Morgan, more power to you as you strive to avoid destructive harmful behavior…

…in you.

Here are Ms Morgan’s 50 points, color coded since they’re essentially the same five topics phrased differently.

 50 reasons why Jamie Morgan doesn’t drink:

1. I can’t be sober-minded if I’m not sober.

2. Alcohol has an assignment: destruction.

3. Alcohol is a depressant. Anything that depresses should be avoided at all costs.

4. I don’t want to make my brother or sister stumble in the name of exercising my “Christian liberties.” My choice to drink could lead to someone’s demise.

5. Alcohol skews my judgment.

6. Alcohol leaves me worse, not better.

7. What I do in moderation, my children will do in excess.

8. Even the unsaved know I shouldn’t drink. Bible in one hand, beer in the other – any lost person could point this out as a confusing contradiction.

9. Alcohol doesn’t bring others closer to the Lord when they see me drinking, but farther away.

10. Alcohol doesn’t bring me closer to the Lord when I drink, but farther away.

11. I want to be fully awake and ready for the return of Christ, not drowsy, sluggish and fuzzy.

12. Show me a family that alcohol has made a positive difference in their lives. You won’t be able to.

13. I have never heard anyone say, “Wow, that gin and tonic made me feel so Christ-like!”

14. I want to avoid all appearances of evil.

15. Alcohol makes it much harder for me to practice the fruit of self-control.

16. Alcohol causes me to lose my filter.

17. Alcohol is a mind-altering, legal drug.

18. Alcohol is addictive.

19. Alcohol is a numbing agent for pain and sorrow that only Jesus can heal.

20. Many regrets are associated with alcohol. (I can give you a whole bunch!)

21. No one has ever said, “If only I had taken a drink, things wouldn’t have gotten out of control.”

22. Alcohol causes me to act in ways I normally wouldn’t.

23. Alcohol kills brain cells.

24. Alcohol is a counterfeit, and provides a false peace.

25. The Bible says that no drunkards will enter the Kingdom of God. Being drunk starts with and one drink. I don’t want to see how far outside the lines I can color when eternity is at stake.

26. Alcohol is a waster – money, gifts and talents, destinies, etc.

27. Alcohol leads to really bad behavior. It is a factor in 50% of violent crimes.

28. Alcohol distracts and derails you from living the the victorious life for which Christ died.

29. Wisdom is the principle thing that I need to pursue at all cost; alcohol makes me stupid.

30. Alcohol has ruined many, many marriages.

31. The only influence I should be “under” is God’s.

32. The Bible tells me to be alert; alcohol delays my reaction time.

33. If I don’t start drinking, I’ll never have to stop.

34. Alcohol severely tarnishes my testimony.

35. Don’t want your teenagers to drink? Yep, same reasons apply to you.

36. God is holy; alcohol is not.

37. Alcohol and prayer don’t mix.

38. Alcohol and Bible study don’t mix.

39. Alcohol lowers my resolve to resist temptation.

40. Alcohol = Brokenness (broken lives, health, dreams, etc.)

41. When the world sees us drinking it sends the message that Jesus isn’t enough.

42. Moderate drinking? How about moderate pornography or moderate heroin use or moderate lying or moderate adultery?

43. Christians are called to live a life of total surrender and separation from the world.

44. Alcohol makes me forget. It can make me forget that I am married, that I am saved, etc.

45. “I don’t get drunk. I only have one or two drinks.” If they didn’t affect you, you would drink soda.

46. I should never look to the glass or bottle for joy which can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

47. Alcohol fills my mind with impure thoughts.

48. If it could hinder my faith walk, love walk or dishonor the lordship of Jesus Christ I need to forsake it.

49. Alcohol doesn’t help me run the race that Jesus has marked before me to finish with more accuracy. It does the polar opposite.

50. For any argument that tries to justify Christian drinking, there are at least 50 other reasons not to. The writing is on wall. It’s not God’s best for Christians to drink.

Responses:

re her personal struggle with alcoholism:

Ms Morgan is certainly entitled to speak for herself and, as a self-identified alcoholic, these points are doubtlessly true for her. However…they're not true for everyone, and they beg the question as to where the line between “sober” and “not sober” is drawn.

She reports that alcohol removes her internal filters. While I’m sure that’s true for Ms Morgan, there are plenty of us who lack filters even when we’re stone cold sober. Sometimes I am as surprised at what comes flying out of my mouth as anyone else…

But Ms Morgan undercuts her own argument here. Alcohol will never make anyone do anything. A faithful spouse will never stray no matter how drunk they are, a compassionate and forgiving person will not willfully murder anyone no matter how stoned they are, a considerate citizen will not get behind the wheel of a car while inebriated.

It may depress your self-control to the point where you will act on impulses you normally keep in check, but it won’t make you forget.

To be fair, alcohol abuse may put you in situations where you lose the ability to grant consent and then bad things can happen, but that’s not the same thing Ms Morgan is arguing.

It ain’t the alcohol that’s the problem, it’s the addictive personality / underlying desires.

Mind you, if you can’t control your alcohol consumption to the point where you start acting out on impure thoughts, you are indeed better off avoiding alcohol.

But not matter how clean and sober you are, those thoughts are still there, you’re just sitting on them.

Dealing with those thoughts and the root causes of them is a separate matter.

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re her false assumptions:

Ms Morgan assumes alcohol is only destructive, and carries no positive benefits.

Destructive how? As in fuel for V-2 rockets? Bacteria killing antiseptic?  Preservatives for food and medicine that prevent spoilage?

Kills brain cells? In excess, yes. Don’t drink to excess. If you can’t moderate your alcohol consumption, don’t drink at all.

But alcohol also serves as a stress relaxant. It’s an effective tool against heart attacks.   Moderate alcohol consumption has demonstrable health benefits, extending the length and quality of one’s life. It can be used as a social lubricant, as an intellectual spur, as a fraternal bond.

Many cultures enjoy the consumption of alcohol in moderate amounts to enliven family gatherings, help ease pain and disappointment without impairing judgment, contribute to moments of bonding.

Is it absolutely necessary to such moments? No, but it can help.

Calling it “a numbing agent for pain and sorrow that only Jesus can heal” is so vague as to be nonsensical. As Ms Morgan demonstrates with her own testimony, there are people who should be careful re alcohol until they get their underlying personal problems in order. But while we as Christians should encourage everyone to seek solace in Jesus, on the other hand, whatever works, works.

Sometimes it’s better to leave a judgmental religious community and seek help among the nonjudgmental secular medical profession, because the religious community in question is a big part of the problem.

“If only I had taken a drink, things wouldn’t have gotten out of control.”

Again, Ms Morgan’s personal history is affecting her perception of how alcohol affects others. Many a person has been glad they felt relaxed enough after modest imbibing to not over react to some irritating person or situation. As cited above, it all hinges on the individual.

And there are regrets associated with anything: Professional / business decisions, schools attended / not attended, relationships maintained / dropped, etc., etc., and of course, etc.

As the Romans observed, in vino veritas.” There are just far too many examples of creative people finding their creativity enhanced, or achieving breakthroughs because alcohol (or cannabis, or other mind / mood altering compounds) has facilitated insights. The opposite is true as well; some people have destroyed their talent through alcohol abuse.

It’s not an absolute one or the other situation. It is, and always will be, a matter of how an individual responds.

And while alcohol has ruined many, many marriages so has infidelity. So has household finances. So has illness. So have special needs children. So has religion.

Again, it’s not the substance or the issue that’s the problem, but the individual’s response to same.

As an alcoholic, Ms Morgan may not be able to grasp that those without an inclination to abuse alcohol can enjoy moderate consumption. It warms, it relaxes, it lets the mind free associate more easily, it dulls harsh edges and sharpens one’s appreciation of food and company and conversation.

The vast majority of people who consume alcohol (and marijuana and drugs in general) are not abusers; they know their limits and they stay within them.

What she are doing here is attempting to shame others for her inability to control her consumption.

re her erroneous information:

“Alcohol is a mind-altering, legal drug.”

“You say that as if it were a bad thing.” -- Crow T. Robot, MST3K

Alcohol certainly has the potential to be a mood enhancing drug; it won’t change anything though it may make certain things that are suppressed now come bubbling to the surface. I’ve known hard drinkers who were the same dry as wet, I’ve known others who became more relaxed and pleasant the higher their blood alcohol content (“smilers”, we called ‘em).

To people who are at peace with themselves and with the world, alcohol will have minimum impact.

What it can affect are people who are struggling to conceal / control impulses they’d rather not demonstrate. Those people certainly should use alcohol only in moderate amounts, or avoid it altogether, unless and until they get help with their underlying problems.

As for it being a depressant, true enough. But to claim “anything that depresses should be avoided at all costs” is bull.

Depressants are absolutely vital to lots of people who are suffering from manic episodes or clinical depression or suicidal impulses or anxiety attacks or any number of other medical problems. You want to argue caution on the use of depressants, that’s one thing; not a blanket dismissal of an entire category.

Alcohol is addictive, true, but so are cigarettes. And so are any substances / behaviors / relationships that trigger dopamine and glutamate responses in the human brain.

When a person loves another person so much that they modify their behavior for the benefit of the other person, we’re likely to applaud such behavior even though the biochemical process involved is identical to harmful addictive behavior.

The problem is not that alcohol is addictive to some people but that our culture tends to view it solely as a failure of character and a “sin” instead of a treatable medical problem.

Yes, alcohol delays reaction times. So will going hungry, yet the Bible advocates fasting.

Minimizing the impact of alcohol on the lives of teens is a valid topic of concern.

As noted above, in many cultures there is no problem with people drinking in moderation; among those cultures it’s not unexpected or exceptionally alarming if teens experiment to excess on occasion.

Yes, it can lead to harmful, dangerous behavior, but teens will do harmful, dangerous things anyway.

Go on YouTube and look up videos of Iranian and Arab street racers. No drunks there.

However, in the United States it has been noted that people who have a problem with alcohol (or with drugs) tend to get their exposure to the same at an early age, typically around ages 12-14.

The question is whether early exposure to alcohol shapes their still forming brains to seek out more of the same, or if their brains are already pre-disposed to alcohol abuse and they’re unconsciously looking for something to fulfill that desire, or perhaps a combination of both and / or other factors.

Bottom line, by rough rule of thumb, the later one waits to begin consuming alcohol, the less likely one is to become an abuser.

But there are lots of teens and young adults who go through years of excessive alcohol consumption then just…grow up. They cut way back on what they consume, sometimes stopping altogether.

It keeps coming back to this: Each individual’s response will be unique to them.

But keeping pre-teens and young teens away from alcohol is probably a good idea.

We can start by not making it attractive as a forbidden fruit.

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her misapplied theology:

If a Christian knows a person is struggling with alcohol, or is at a vulnerable point in their spiritual growth, then it would indeed be wrong for that Christian to deliberately and knowingly consume alcohol in front of them.

It would be wrong to smoke a cigarette if nicotine was their problem, or munch on a candy bar if they had an eating disorder, or hug someone if they’re struggling with sexual issues.

But we are not responsible for other people’s choices. We are to encourage, we are to set as good an example as possible in our daily lives, we are to share, we are to remove as many stumbling blocks as we can, but we are never to assume the responsibility for choices others make.

In the parable of the seeds, Jesus didn’t berate the farmer for not checking on each and every individual seed to make sure it was going to sprout.

If we pattern our behavior on what might possibly affect others in a negative manner, we would retreat into a cave in the woods and eat nuts and berries, because there is absolutely no human behavior that some other human won’t take umbrage at.

(Such as me with this post. Should Ms Moragn not have posted it because of that?)

Ms Morgan wants to be fully awake and ready for the return of Christ, not drowsy, sluggish and fuzzy.

Good for her! I hope I’m not caught sitting on the toilet, but Christ will return when he returns.

She cites the Apostle Paul’s admonition that no drunkards will enter the Kingdom of God.

A drunkard in this case is someone who abuses alcohol on a regular basis, and to the point where it adversely affects others as well; in modern parlance, an alcoholic. And I’ll agree with that point: Alcoholism to that degree is not conducive to a Christ-like life.

But again, it is not the consumption of alcohol that is the problem but the unwillingness of the abuser to recognize and deal with the problem. And one can replace alcohol with any number of other items and still have the end result.

Advocate self-control? By all means, yes. Recommend avoiding things that could contribute to addictive behavior in people susceptible to same? Absolutely. Shame others by creating standards for them to live up to? No.

If anything can, you should forsake that as well.

That could include your local church. Don’t think that just because a bunch of people are singing hymns and reading scripture that they are honoring the Lord.

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her personal beliefs:

“The only influence I should be ‘under’ is God’s.”

Fair enough. Go for it.

But millions, perhaps billions of people can consume alcohol without losing control or failing to feel God’s continued influence.

“Alcohol doesn’t bring others closer to the Lord when they see me drinking, but farther away.”

Really? You’re that special, Ms Morgan?

I mean, if someone is advocating temperance while boozing it up, yeah; people will look at them and blow them off.

But Ms Morgan thinks people can’t witness and offer effective testimony over a meal with wine, or having a beer at the beach with friends, or enjoying single malt scotch in a bar.

It’s not what we say or do, Ms Morgan, that affects our testimony: It’s the relationship we have with the persons we’re witnessing to. There are people with grievous personal faults and shortcomings who nonetheless can provide an effective witness because they have the respect and trust of the person they’re witnessing to.

Remember the woman at the well? Jesus used her just the way she was to spread the Good News; he didn’t make her beg forgiveness and atone for her sins and get married to her shack-up honey before doing so.

She says she wants to avoid all appearances of evil.

Good for her!

She should start by refraining from judging and shaming others.

If she’s arguing for a monastic life, that’s fine, too. She should renounce all her worldly goods.

And don’t try to shame others.

Alcohol consumption is mentioned favorably in the Bible. Jesus miraculously made wine for a wedding. He drank with sinners.

Abusing alcohol is the problem; alcohol in moderation is not.

Ms Morgan has a personal problem with her own alcohol abuse. I credit her for admitting her problem, and honor her courage for being open with others about it.

But her problem is not other people’s problems, and it’s not her place to judge what is / is not right for others by attempting to shame them into behaving the way she wants them to behave.

Ms Morgan, that just ain’t Christian…

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Addenum:

I want to address a very specific point she made in #42, lumping consumption of alcohol with a variety of other things she considers “sinful”.

There are Christians who have hissy fits if they see a woman wearing short sleeves; they literally consider the Sears catalog to be a work of pornography on par with Hustler magazine.

Heroin was created to wean people off morphine. After the Civil War, doctors used to prescribe morphine for every ailment (not to mention laudanum, frequently used to quiet colicky kids, and codeine, a favorite for cough suppressants). Most people could and would cut their morphine use once their medical need was resolved, but a significant number of people became addicted to opiates.

To help those people handle that addiction, heroin was invented. Morphine and other opiate addicts would purchase a dose of heroin for mere pennies at their local drug store, administer enough to satisfy their immediate craving, then go on to have normal, productive lives.

Until the Women’s Christian Temperance Union came along.

In addition to passing Prohibition -- which, incidentally, elevated the Mafia from small local gangs that preyed solely on the Italian-American community to an international cartel that bribed police, judges, and governments on three continents -- the WCTU also advocated and in 1925 got laws banning the sale of heroin for any reason.

In effect, they legislated thousands of narcotics addicts “cured” and, if said addicts tried to satisfy their addiction, branded them criminals.

Since the job of any addict is to satisfy their addiction (which is why decriminalization is so important; it removes the need to hide one’s addiction and makes it far easier to seek and receive treatment), those “cured” addicts went to illegal sources to obtain their fixes.

And the drug dealers who supplied their drugs would get the addicts to expand the market by offering them their own drugs for free if they recruit new customers.

Why do you think they call it “pushing drugs”?

As for lying, we’re only enjoined to “not bear false witness” by the Bible.

That means lying by commission or omission to pervert justice and either cause harm to befall an innocent person or a guilty person to escape justice.

If you’re hiding Anne Frank and family in your attic and the Nazis knock on your door and ask if there are any Jews around, you are to lie absolutely right to their face: “No, no Jews around here.”

It a three year old hands you a crayon scrawl and asks if you like it, you are to smile and lie and tell them it’s beautiful, not a piece of crap.

Adultery is the betrayal of a spouse. That’s bad. But don’t you judge what other couples are comfortable with in their relationships. Some of those people have better lives and happier marriages than most Christians (based on divorce statistics).

There is only one (1) sin:

Indifference to the unjust suffering of others.

Period. Full stop.

An alcoholic who places their alcohol consumption ahead of their responsibilities to their family, their friends, their business associates, and the safety of society at large is committing a sin: They are indifferent to the suffering of others through no fault of their own.

And it is a valid argument to say a solitary drunk who gets plastered at home is sinning insofar as they are divorcing themselves from relationships with others, and that leads to indifference to the unjust suffering of others.

Indifference to the unjust suffering of others leads to justification of murder, robbery, betrayal, and perversion of justice for our own benefit -- and that’s four of the Ten Commandments right there (five if you count wanting what isn’t yours as an umbrella for the first four).

We can seek justice, and demand people be held accountable for the harm they have caused, without being unjust in the process.

That’s why we have laws that strive for objectivity, to view the facts of a case as objectively as possible to determine the best resolution.

Passing laws and proclaiming edicts to force others to comply to what makes us feel good about ourselves is not and never has been just.

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