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No. 16: The Evangelical Cocaine Lobby

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 16
August, 1990
Copyright 1990, Biblical Horizons

A year of so ago, my wife and I were invited to a Christian school in order to preview a film on drug abuse that was going to be shown to our children. One of the children in this film turned out, of course, to be using drugs. This child’s mother was shown drinking martinis. During the question & answer session, we were asked if parents who drink produce kids who use drugs. The group immediately agreed that the answer was yes. Discretion being the better part of valor, I kept my mouth shut.

Now has just arrived the September 1990 issue of Keeping in Touch, a newsletter for parents from the editors of Campus Life magazine. The lead article is "Substance Abuse: Not Just a Teen Problem." The article begins by making the same point the film made: parents who drink produce kids who dope. The article cites a study that supposedly proves this to be the case. The third paragraph summarizes the viewpoint of the editors of Campus Life this way: "Although 47% of adults surveyed are current users of alcohol and 20% smoke cigarettes, only 3% expressed interest in learning how to control their own drug use."

Whoa! Simply using alchohol and tobacco is the same as drug use? The writers babble on: "What was it that Jesus said about the plank in your own eye? It’s clear that if we as adults are going to deal with youth substance abuse, we must deal with our own substance abuse patterns first."

In other words, alcohol and tobacco are drugs, just as cocaine and marijuana are.

The idea that alcohol and tobacco are drugs in the same sense as LSD, crack, opium, and heroin, originated in the Cocaine Lobby. Those who want drugs legalized have every reason to associate them with such legal substances as wine, cigars, and catsup. Once the distinction between these things has been blurred, the Cocaine Lobby can then argue for legalization, on the grounds that if alcohol and tobacco are permissible, so are "other drugs."

True to form, the evangelicals now come traipsing along behind the liberals. In the nineteenth century, liberals (unitarians) attacked alcohol as something evil, and then the evangelicals got in line, eventually removing wine from the Lord’s Supper. In the "scholarly" realm, a generation after liberals invented the "framework hypothesis" to get rid of the six days of Genesis 1, this idea has become entrenched in evangelical circles. Now we see the evangelicals parroting the line invented by the dopeheads of the Cocaine Lobby.

Now, it is doubtless true that parents who are snobbish and materialistic tend to produce children who are the same way. Parents who are thieves tend to produce children who are thieves. Parents who are rebels against authority tend to produce children who are rebels against authority. And parents who are drunkards can produce children who are drunkards, or who use other materials to achieve the same effect.

(At the same time, however, many people with drunken parents become teetotalers. In fact, the major cause of teetotaling is parents or near relatives who are drunkards.)

What does the Bible say? First of all, it says that wine cheers both God and man (Judges 9:13). God enjoys wine. That makes God a substance abuser, I suppose?

Second, it says that at the feasts of the Lord the people were to spend their tithe money on "wine or strong drink" and then "make merry before the Lord" (Deuteronomy 14:26). This makes God a dope-pusher, I suppose, since God encouraged the Israelites to drink, and we all know that parents who drink produce kids who crack.

Third, Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. He made six huge (man-sized) waterpots full of it. The people had already drunk some, and Jesus gave them a bunch more. I suppose that this means Jesus was encouraging drunkenness, and since alcohol is a drug, Jesus was encourage drug abuse!

Fourth, and here we can stop, Jesus put wine in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus pushed wine on His people, and that makes Him the greatest dope-pusher of all time. We all know that a life of drunkenness starts with that first sip (of communion wine), and that parents who drink produce kids who snort coke.

It should be fairly obvious that this line of argument is implicitly blasphemous. The Bible does not condemn the proper use of alcohol, which includes a medicinal use (getting people stoned drunk before performing surgery; Proverbs 31:6), a use for festivity and celebration (which would involve getting a little high, but not becoming drunk), a use for social camaraderie (Matthew 11:19), and a use in religious worship (the Lord’s Supper).

Forbidding the moderate use of alcohol is also implicitly demonic, as 1 Timothy 4:1-3 shows: "In later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons . . . men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth." Since the Bible teaches clearly that wine and strong drink are appropriate for Christians to use in moderation, those who forbid such use, or who seek to associate it with dope addiction, have fallen (unwittingly, we trust) into advocating demonic ideas.

It is not wrong to abstain, but it is wrong to advocate abstention. If we choose to abstain, for whatever reason, let us be clear about this: We are abstaining (fasting) from something that is good, not from something that is bad.

What about children? Sometimes we hear people say that they will not go to a movie or read a book or do anything that they would not want their children to do. This is a very foolish attitude. There are all kinds of things that it is appropriate for adults to deal with, which we would not want our children to have to encounter. Would you refuse to go to war, or to go to work, or to visit someone in prison, just because you would not want your children to do so?

Similarly, Christian parents should make it clear to children that there is a line of demarcation between children and adults. Some things that are perfectly all right for adults to handle, such as the moderate use of tobacco and alcohol, may be inappropriate for children. At the very least, it is up to parents to decide when and how much of such things their children may have (as in communion wine in the Lord’s Supper). The Bible age for adulthood is not 18 but 20 (Numbers 1:3). Until that time, children are not free to make completely independent judgments.

Biblically speaking, it should be clear that setting an example of moderate drinking is very healthy for children. I am not impressed with statistics that indicate that pagan parents who drink produce pagan children who use dope. I am quite confident that a careful study will show that if a child grows up in a serious Christian church, with wine at the Lord’s Supper and with parents who use wine and other strong drinks moderately and properly, he will not be oriented toward "substance abuse." The history of Christianity shows that this is the case.

Consider, moreover, the impact on a young person when he or she is told that alcohol is a drug, and drinking alcohol is the same as drug abuse. The child then reasons that since his parents drink, it is okay for him to use drugs. The Christian teacher or youthworker says that both drugs and alcohol are bad. The child figures that since is it all right for his parents to be "bad" with alcohol, it cannot be too dangerous for him to be "bad" with drugs. After all, such social drinking does not seem to have any bad effects. So, the child reasons, drugs don’t really have bad effects either. In fact, of course, alcohol in small amounts is good for you, while drugs are dangerous in any amount.

The kind of teaching promulgated by these Evangelicals (a) contradicts the teaching of the Bible, (b) undermines the authority of parents, and (c) encourages children to use drugs.

Are Christian kids getting into drugs? I don’t think that children reared in strong Christian homes and churches very often go into drugs, but I have no problem believing that "evangelical" children are attracted by them. Evangelicalism focuses on emotion instead of doctrine and obedience. Worship is "do what feels good" (mindless "praise choruses") in Evangelicalism. If Evangelical kids are going into drugs, the Evangelicals might take a good look at their churches. Are they teaching God’s law as law, as something to be obeyed unquestioningly? Are they singing (or better, chanting) the psalms, all of them, in worship? Do they discipline (excommunicating where necessary) people who are in open sin? Are they communicating to their children that Christianity is a serious thing, and that God is a consuming fire?

It is no surprise that a "sweetness and niceness" religion, like modern Evangelicalism, produces kids who wander off into drugs and sex. Genuine, authentic, tough, Biblical Christianity, however, is something else altogether.

Finally, the praise of wine in the Bible indicates that this is a career field that is pleasing to God. The production, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages should be in the hands of Christians, for then we can control it. Israel was the great wine producing nation of the ancient world.

For further reading, I recommend two relatively short but powerful and well-balanced books: Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Christian and Alcoholic Beverages: A Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986); and G. I. Williamson, Wine and the Bible and the Church (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Pub. Co., 1976). Both of these studies are very valuable, and I cannot recommend them too highly to those who want further study of this important issue.