By Lewis Willis
I saw it five days before New Year’s Eve. I guess it appeared that early so that everyone’s vision and thinking were clear enough to consider the message. It was a full-page warning with large red and blue headlines that appeared in the public interest in the Akron Beacon Journal (12/27/84). The cost for the statement was underwritten by a large number of businesses and civic organizations in the area. Its purpose was to persuade readers of the dangers associated with drinking and driving. it stated Ohio’s laws and penalties if convicted of driving while intoxicated and listed what it takes for various people to become intoxicated.
It seems that almost daily we are hearing of new organizations being founded to combat the sin of alcoholism and the harm that drunks do to innocent people. Radio and television public service announcements try to alert people to the dangers of this serious national problem. It seems to me that it might help if churches would address this matter and speak out against those who engage in this senselessness. For some reason, I doubt that most religious organizations will join the campaign against drunkenness. They promote too many activities within their churches where alcohol is served (often for profit) to ever speak out against it.
I recently saw some figures published by the U.S. Treasury Department back in 1971 reporting that Americans consumed 381 million gallons of liquor that year. That was an increase of only 11 million gallons over 1970! If our friends and neighbors continued to increase their consumption by that amount each year, today Americans are consuming 535 million gallons of liquor each year! Back then there were 6 1/2 million confirmed alcoholicsm this country. The latest figure I saw is that there are about 10 million today. This evil is systematically destroying this country in which we live.
As more and more people are victimized by this device of the devil, many more people are becoming casual or social drinkers, en route to the pits of alcoholism. As most everything that happens around us ultimately affects the church, it should not come as a shock that some church members are social drinkers. And, the church has remained largely silent about the sin! As homosexuals have climbed out of their closets within our society, social drinkers within the church are gaining more courage and are trying to climb out of the closets to help lead each generation farther away from God. In my files I have an editorial from Truth Magazine (Vol. 7, No. 18) reporting on the 1973 “Preacher’s Workshop” at Abilene Christians College in, which a trustee of the liberal magazine Mission openly defended social drinking. In private discussions, our brethren are more inclined to try to defend the practice of social drinking than they used to be.
Most religions consistently condemn drunkenness. The testimony of the Scriptures is too great to be denied. Many passages could be cited: 1 Corinthians 5:11; 6: 10; 11:21; 1 Thessalonians 5:7; Romans 13:13; Luke 21:34 – all condemn drunkenness. Perhaps the clearest condemnation of all is found in Galatians 5:21ff, where Paul listed drunkenness in a catalog of sins he called the “works of the flesh.” He said those who do such things “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” With this information, we have confidently condemned, drunkenness. However, I am persuaded we have overlooked an important passage. Some have said those passages condemn excessive drinking – not the social drink. The other passage to be considered is Ephesians 5:18 – “and be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. An interesting word is used by Paul in this passage. It is the Greek word methuskesthe, 2nd person plural, present, imperative, passive form of the root word methusko. Thayer, Robinson and Bagster consistently define the word “to make drunk, to get drunk, or to grow drunk (an inceptive verb, marking the process of . . . ), to become intoxicated” (p. 341). The clear import of the definition of the term is that we are not to engage ourselves in the process which will make us drunk.
Like other things, drunken comes in stages or by degrees. An honest person will have to admit that drunkenness comes by degree and is the result of the accumulation of alcohol in one’s body. Some parallels would be growing weak, becoming tired or getting sleepy. One is not just suddenly weak, tired or sleepy. He has been engaged in that process that causes him to become weak, etc. In like manner, a man is not just suddenly drunk. He becomes drunk when he has engaged in the process that makes a person drunk, And, it is the process which is condemned by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:18.
How much liquor starts the process? The answer is the veryfirst drop. That means that the social drinker has sinned with his casual drink. Most State and Federal agencies are going on public record in affirming as much. The American Medical Association has been publishing for a number of years a documentary entitled, “Physician’s Guide For Determining Driver Limitation.” State Troopers distribute it readily. The copy I have was given to me by a Texas State Trooper several years ago when I was researching this subject., The AMA said, “Laboratory studies show, for example, thatjudgment, visual perception and tolerance, to glare begin to be impaired at blood alcohol levels as low as .035 percent and that definite impairment of muscular performance and reaction time exists at levels of .05 percent. These imparied functions are indicative of persent drunkenness.” In other words, when a person starts drinking he loses his ability to think, see and move in reaction to the things going on about him and this is why he ends up killing so many people when he is trying to drive. The state says you are legally drunk at 10 percent or high.
For instance, to get there, the state of Ohio presents these statistics. If you weigh 140 pounds and you drink one 12-ounce beer, your ability to think and see is impaired, according to the American Medical Association. If in an hour that 140 pound person drinks two 12-ounce beers, the AMA says that his muscles don’t perform as they normally would and so he cannot react normally to danger. Three beers in an hour brings this person to .08 percent blood alcohol content and four beers in an hour brings him to .11 percent he is drunk and on his way to jail if he is caught by police.
If Paul knew what he was talking about when he forbade engagement in the process of getting drunk, the American Medical Association and State Regulatory Agencies have given us evidence confirming that social drinking is drunkenness. I was just thinkin’, the brother who says a couple of beers makes him feel good is confessing his sinfulness. He is just becoming drunk and does not have the “judgment” to perceive what is happening to himself.