It's January 1 as I write this—the day after New Year's Eve.
The holiday brings to mind many things, but two things will stand out for this article. First, New Year's Eve is one of the biggest drinking nights of the year. Second, it's not a secret that some of those people are, or will be, alcoholics.
An old joke is that alcoholics (or the Irish, as I first heard the joke from my Irish grandfather) call New Year's Eve, "Amateur's Night."
In light of those realities, it seems like a good moment to share some thoughts on alcoholism.
Changing Views of Alcohol among Evangelicals
It appears that views of alcohol are changing among some evangelicals. Probably more people took notice of this when Moody changed its alcohol policy, but it's broader than that. I've had conversations about it with Wesleyans in Canada, Baptists in Texas, and Pentecostals in Oklahoma—all of them see a shift in attitude.
Now, many conservative evangelicals have been moderationists for a long time—so an anti-alcohol sentiment is not universal among evangelicals. Sometimes observers will see "Northern Evangelicalism" as moderationist, with "Southern Evangelicalism" being abstentionists, and there is a good amount of truth in that geographic reality. However, it is still a bit more complicated since Wesleyans, for example, are concentrated up North, and you cannot be a covenant member of a Wesleyan church if you use alcohol as a beverage.
It's not a secret that I don't drink beverage alcohol. Part of that comes from a heritage of alcoholism that inspires this post. I've seen it up close and know alcoholism's destructive power—yet, many evangelicals have not. But, more evangelicals may be exposed to the destructiveness of alcoholism if acceptance grows.
Obviously, I do think that this post would not be needed if everyone shared my view. However, they don't. So, in this post, my purpose is to point to a side effect of a growing acceptance of alcohol, and no one should disagree with the importance of this topic (unless you don't believe in alcoholism).
We'll Need to Talk More about Alcoholism
After I read this article, 5 Uncomfortable Issues the Church Needs to Start Talking About, inRELEVANT Magazine, I was more convinced that it needed to be written. In it, Zach Perkins explained:
At AA meetings and therapy sessions, talking about addiction makes sense, but for some reason, it's not a topic most church people want to hear about. Certain addictions are definitely more socially acceptable to talk about than others. For example, it's OK to bug Frank about his smoking, but John's alcoholism is more hush-hush.
And yes, in many churches, a person's addictions can become fodder for gossip. However, if the Church were to first approach one another as family, then addicts in the Church might feel safer to be vulnerable about their struggles. Often, they just need to be loved and feel safe enough to know they can expose this part of themselves in a community where the addiction isn't crushing them every second.
A Friend's Story
So, I recently was in a conversation with an old friend of mine. We've known one another for a long time, and I knew of his journey.
Over the years, he changed his view on alcohol, moving from an abstentionist position to a more moderationist one. But, he found that, like a consistent percentage of people who intend to drink in moderation, he could not. He would later call that "alcoholism."
Some studies show that 30% of Americans will struggle with alcohol in some way. That does not mean they are all alcoholics, but there are real issues to be addressed. And, if more evangelicals are going to accept beverage alcohol, we are going to need to have this conversation more frequently. (Even if the views don't change, there are still many secret alcoholics—so let's have the conversation either way.)
So, here is an interview with an anonymous evangelical pastor who is a recovering