Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Keep your Guard Up

Someone asked me after yesterday’s service if preaching on alcoholism from Proverbs 23 was difficult to do, especially given it was Super Bowl Sunday, a day when (by some estimates) enough suds to fill 493 Olympic Size swimming pools will be consumed. The timing, in my mind, couldn’t have been better.

When I was a kid, my uncle was the fire chief in the city. Sometimes we would visit him at work, and on occasion, the fire bell would go off. I remember how startling, how unnerving the sound was. It was designed to be. Men were suddenly made aware of a danger, and they moved with a sense of urgency. When I read about the effects drinking is having on our culture, the same sort of bells go off. Consider some present stats: 80% of college students drink, and half of them binge drink; this year, there will be some 97,000 alcohol-related sexual assaults on campuses; and 1825 students will die from alcoholic related injuries. This is just the tip of the iceberg. In the broader culture, alcohol is one of the leading causes of rape, domestic violence, and highway deaths. Alcoholism is the third largest health problem, and one of the leading causes of suicide. 

Most of us have been personally impacted. I’ve seen my fair share of friends stagger and make fools of themselves after one too many drinks. I’ve had my fill of alcohol spills at sporting events by obnoxious fans who have had too much. I will also never forget when my best friend, Patrick, a big brother of sort, wrapped his car around a telephone pole and died after one late night at a bar.

As I noted yesterday, it’s not that I believe the text calls for avoiding parties and taking a legalistic stance against drinking. Jesus seemed to like parties, and He made certain the wine shortage was remedied at Cana. When I lived in Europe, no one would have raised an eyebrow if I drank a Heineken at the church potluck. It was part of Dutch culture. But I do wonder if we have relaxed our guard, aided by a present culture and its messaging.

Take yesterday’s super bowl ads. Anheuser-Busch again won USA Today’s Ad Meter ranking of all the ads by a consumer panel. In the Budweiser “Lost Dog” ad, a puppy gets lost, but makes it back home after being saved from a wolf by his pals, the Budweiser Clydesdales. This was a sequel to the “Puppy Love” commercial that won last year’s Ad Meter and Bud used the same strategy to build buzz. To quote from USA Today: “It was a heart tugger, says Ad Meter panelist Kelly VonDrehle. “I have my own little dog, and seeing the Clydesdales save that sweet, precious little angel brought a slight tear to my eye.” VonDrehle works in marketing communications at Texas A&M University in College Station (the school that gave us Johnny Manziel, who entered rehab yesterday).

I liked the ad myself, but I can’t help but ask, “Why are the best “feel good” commercials made by beer companies?”  Is there subtle message intended to say that they are there as our protectors? Really? Where are the alarms?

Or take the latest Time magazine. One of the editors writes a back page column, “Why It’s So Hard to Talk to Our Daughters About Campus Rape.” Like many moms today, she deals with the fears of seeing her 17 year old go off to a campus university where “drunken sex” is a huge part of culture. But her warnings seem as tepid and muted as a Budweiser ad. Her counsel is to be brave and take risks. Have women who will have your back at parties, and have their backs. Create a female posse of sort. Trust your gut if it feels wrong. And when it comes to sex, have “just for fun” sex.

It all sounds so good, so homey—and so wrong. Where is the reality? Who’s the real wolf in the ad?  How many young women (and men) live by their guts and make really bad choices? There is a far better guide than feelings—better even than our own rationality, but most are inclined to ignore God’s counsel. And when has sex, outside of a lifelong commitment to one person, within the bounds of a marital union, ever ended up being really fun?

Seems like a far more important article might be written, entitled—“Why it’s So Necessary to Talk to Our Daughters (and Sons) About the Realities of Alcohol, Rape, and Sex.” If our guard remains down, we may be part of the` disturbing stats that are reported today.

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