The dangers of alcoholism – and teetotalism

Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. – Proverbs 20:1

I grew up believing that drinking alcohol was sinful. While I realized years ago that I was wrong, Barry Cameron nonetheless provides a helpful perspective on the dangers of alcohol abuse. Many people have had their lives ruined because they could not control their desire to drink. Sadly, it is not only the alcoholics’ own lives that were left in tatters, but the lives of husbands, wives, children and even total strangers.

It is true that it is not possible to become an alcoholic without ever taking that first drink, and Christians are wise to be very aware about the dangers of alcoholism and alcohol abuse. It would be wise to never assume that drinking cannot be a problem and will always be under control. No one who has ruined his life with alcohol thought it would be the brutal master it eventually became.

Alcohol is a big part of the intense concern over campus rape. Women who are impaired can be more easily victimized, and men who are impaired may take horrible actions they would never consider if they were stone cold sober. Even when no crime is committed, fully consensual drunk sex can lead to false charges of rape.

I am a teetotaler, but the reason I do not drink alcohol is the same as the reason I do not eat grapefruit. I cannot stand the taste of it. I can almost tolerate hard lemonade but even that I can barely take more than a couple sips. I have tried a variety of alcoholic drinks and have found nothing I like.

But alcoholism is not the only danger that surrounds strong drink. Teetotalism has dangers as well – specifically the danger of pride and idolatry. It is very easy for teetotalers to think they are more holy than their neighbors because they never touch the “demon rum.” Even teetotalers who do not think drinking is sinful can be proud and arrogant over the fact they cannot be tempted by alcohol while non-sinning social drinkers can be.

This pride is idolatry – worship of self. Christians are, of course, free to refuse alcohol if they believe it is the right choice for them. What we may not do is decide that we are more holy than God. Remember, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine, and from the context of that account it is clear that it was alcoholic wine and not grape juice. We must not judge others who are not in sin and we must not believe ourselves to be superior because we have used our Christian liberty in a different way than our brother or sister in Christ.

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