by Rev. Fr. Paulose V V, Toronto, Canada
If there is a third world war, it is going to be for water. The availability of drinking water is drastically depleting from the earth. Most of the diseases are connected with the water consumed by people. Good drinking water is the prime priority of almost all the governments. But the world is preoccupied and licensed with the most harmful drug – Alcohol, for its commercial benefit of employment and taxes. It’s a common sight to see people lined up (with military discipline) in front of all the drug shops. The religious centers are becoming empty pews, but drugs shops are full and overflowing.
David Nutt, who leads the chair in Neuropsychopharmacology along with his colleagues at London’s Imperial College, published the result of their scientific study about the bad impact of different drugs in the medical journal ‘Lancet’. According to the study, Alcohol is more harmful than heroin, crack, cocaine, ecstasy, LSD or tobacco to an individual, and the society. Mr. George, a friend and one of the best English teachers in Chennai, who used to argue the benefits of drinks, eventually became addicted to alcohol and died at the prime of his life. One of my uncles, a big landlord who spent most of the time in the liquor shops had to sell most of his property to meet his drinking expenses. I have firsthand experience in my extended families and the church members, on the pathetic conditions of the people addicted to drinking – their health conditions, the shame and financial loss attached with the consumption of this drug.
Serving alcohol to the guests in all kinds of parties and events, is the in-thing now, even at the time of funerals. The spirit of the number of spiritual gimmicks, the feeders for the fight and processions comes from the boost of the booze. What was considered a taboo before has now become the norm. Now-a-days, you will hardly see people with juices/beverage drinks at a party. Kerala, a tiny state in India with the largest Christian population of more than 10 million, which is a quarter of the total population in the state, has the highest alcohol consumption in India. A good chunk of the drug shops are owned and operated by Christians. The Christian belt areas, like Chalakuddy, consume the highest amount of alcohol. It was here that the great social reformer, Sri Narayana Guru preached that alcohol is a poison and that it should not be made, sold, or consumed. Bible conventions, over flowing church attendance, exclusive 24 hours Christian channels, online/twitter and face book evangelization do not seem to have an impact on drug users. Ironically, the numbers are increasing. Is the Christian media in any way responsible for actually making drinking seem normal? Is it the lack of people’s awareness of the bad effects of alcohol? Are the Christians churches also responsible for the proliferation of wine shops and its consumers?
Scientific study says that alcohol is the most dangerous drug affecting the users (health issues, dependency, mental impairment, loss of tangibles such as jobs, loss of relationships, injury etc) and on the people and society they interact with (crime, degradation of local government, family strains, and wider issues such as economic cost). Alcohol is a drug that has widespread effects on the body and the effects vary from person to person. Statistics show that 80% of high school kids have tried alcohol. Alcohol actually interferes with a person’s perceptions of reality and the ability to make good decisions.
The short term effects are:
Distorted vision, hearing and co-ordination, altered perception and emotions, impaired judgement leading to accidents, drowsiness, bad breath, hangover, and other risky behaviors like unsafe sex and drug use.
The long term effects are:
Cirrhosis and cancer of the liver, loss of appetite, serious vitamin deficiencies, stomach ailments, heart and central nervous system damage, memory loss, an increased risk of impotency and high risk of over- dosing.
Knowledge alone can save people from this bad habit and we need to educate them. It would be a good idea to also include the harmful effects of alcohol in the curriculum of schools, colleges and universities. Intellectuals should ward of drug sponsors’ so called scientific studies and their influence on the policy makers. If tobacco can be banned in a number of countries in the name of health issues, then why not alcohol, the most harmful drug in the world? Some countries have capital punishment for carrying other drugs but not alcohol. Alcohol should be permitted only on medical grounds and strictly prohibited otherwise.
The Bible out rightly disapproves drinking and it is considered a sin to do so. There are some verses with positive connotations that are based on those times, culture, circumstances and context. That should not be taken for granted as permission. “Drunkenness and wild parties are sins to stop people to enter in the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). “Drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God”
(1 Corinthians 6:10). “Who has anguish? Who has sorrow? Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining? Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has blood shot eyes? It is the one who spends long hours in taverns, trying out new drinks. Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. For the end it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like viper, you will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things. You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast. And you will say, “They hit me, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t even know it when they beat me up. When will I wake up so I can look for another drink?” (Proverbs 23:29-35).
The Bible says, “you are the temple of God and the spirit of God lives in you. God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy. And you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Then, why do we take this poisonous drink and contaminate our bodies? If we are Christians following the Bible, then why do we drink? Of course, there are certain Christian communities, like Mennonites, who follow the Bible and do not drink. They preach the Bible and practice it too. There is a flow of drinks in the churches undermining the spiritual vitality of Christian people. The majority of the people in the Syrian community consume alcohol and this is a fact. We are losing a good number of our faithful flocks to some Pentecostal groups, and some becomes cynics due to the humbug drinking behavior of some church leaders and the front runners. Almost all the housewives and children despise the drinking character of their husbands and fathers. Are we helpless? I don’t think so. If there is will, there is a way. The real big question is who will bell the cat?
Action has to be initiated at the grass root level. Priests should have the freedom to not serve any spiritual sacraments to boozers. Wives and children should have the freedom and financial/physical security to close the doors to the wayward and intoxicated men in their homes. The syllabus of Sunday schools should be revamped, giving more emphasis (Life lessons - how to live) on moral lessons based on the Bible, science and our glorious traditions. Those who are employed with the alcohol industry should be compensated and given alternative jobs and training. Before we advise and begin any anti-drinking campaigns, our house (the Church) should be set right first. Let us trust in God, pray and fast, rise and act. Otherwise, the poison of drink will kill all of us.
“Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life” (Revelation 22:17). “One who is thirsty may come to me …. Rivers of living water will flow from his heart” (John7:37, 38). The Church has the responsibility of providing good drinking water for the people – worldly and spiritual, not alcohol and colas.
God's Own Country
Kerala has now become almost a mint of monetary monsters and pent of political puppets. Deep de-forestation has brought about the draining of the once swollen rivers. The gutter roads are becoming ghastly death traps and drinking water pipe lines are just turned out to be cesspools.
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