Intoxication is common today. Alcoholic beverages are ubiquitous. Advertisements during sporting events seem predominated by the likes of Budweiser, Miller, Coors, and Dos Equis. It may seem like everyone drinks booze in some form. The church has, for the most part, argued against the consumption of alcoholic substances but recently I observed an exchange between a longtime member of the Lord’s church and some other brethren in which he argued that occasional imbibing is acceptable. While admiring his courage, I find error in his reasoning. I thought it wise to reduce my thoughts to a brief article on the subject.
We need to define some things. This has nothing to do with medicinal alcohol. Alcohol is a fairly common ingredient in some medicines and had a place in ancient medicinal practices. Second, this is not about what is lawful in your jurisdiction. Remember the old saw that what is legal is not necessarily right. Third, this is about any recreational drink that contains alcohol and has the potential to cause any level of intoxication. Finally, intoxication is any level of reduced mental or emotional functioning, observed or latent, caused or enhanced by the beverage in question.
Alcohol Is Not Necessary
Certain products are required for human life. Water and air come to mind as products that a person cannot survive without. Alcohol is not in that category. The point is that to consume alcohol is a voluntary choice made by the imbiber. We can add that for some; booze can become so addictive that the individual is unable to function without it.
It is possible to do extreme harm to the body with necessary items. Overeating and gluttony arise from the profligate consumption of necessary items. Even water can be consumed in such quantities as to cause profound neurologic disorders and death. But alcohol is an unnecessary addition which can and should be avoided.
Early Intoxication Is Not Obvious
Christians agree that drunkenness is sinful. Warnings are evident from Deuteronomy 21:20, Luke 21:34, Romans 13:13 and, of course, Galatians 5:21. However many social drinkers insist that they do not drink to the point of intoxication. They do not become drunk. When pressed for an explanation of drunkenness they assert that they do not slur their words nor stagger as they walk. These are subjective and later signs of drunkenness.
Alcohol has the insidious ability to induce a sense of well-being long before subjective symptoms occur. One of the earliest symptoms of intoxication, occurring at very low blood alcohol levels, is euphoria. This sense of well-being masks the reality of the intoxication. Such early and masked intoxication is so dangerous that Federal Aviation Regulations prohibit commercial pilots from flying within 8 hours of consuming “any alcoholic beverage.” Some operators follow the rule of 12 hours from bottle to throttle. Why? Because even slight ingestion of alcohol can have profound effects.
Alcohol Blunts Judgement
We know the horrors of drunk driving. We have seen that intoxication is involved in many crimes. But we miss the role played in smaller, almost imperceptible troubles of life.
Upon ingestion, alcohol is broken down into a central nervous system depressant. At high enough levels it will slow breathing until the person dies. At lower levels, it slows normal responses and assaults those parts of the brain responsible for judgment and self-control. Some non-religious people abstain from any use of alcohol for this very reason.
So how does this blunting present itself? Perhaps the drinker is not sensitive to the needs of his spouse or children. Perhaps he responds too harshly to some comment. Maybe he becomes a tad too friendly with a co-worker. He may not actually do anything he shouldn’t, but he has surely moved in a dangerous direction. Is a beer or a quick glass of wine so important that we would risk offending our spouse or child?