Should Christians abstain from alcohol? The answer depends on which Christian you ask. Some denominations don’t take a stance on the issue, allowing believers to make the decision for themselves.
On one hand, Jesus’ first miracle was to turn water into wine, indicating that He was in favor of keeping the liquor flowing. On the other hand, in Ephesians 5:18 we read, “do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” So, denominations like the Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists, Nazarenes, and the Salvation Army believe Christians should abstain from alcohol. The Bible does seem to be clear that we should avoid a lifestyle of drunkenness.
Across secular America, there’s an emerging counter-culture embracing the sober lifestyle for its health benefits, and we wanted to explore this trend.
People are drinking less, especially millennials.
As cultures have shifted to place a higher value on health, there’s been a global decrease in the total number of drinkers since 2000. The World Health Organization says that the number of people who drink has dropped from 47.6% to 43%; with the biggest culture changes emerging in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Millennials, in particular, have a waning interest in consuming alcohol. Although millennial consumers aren’t sprinting away from alcohol like they did with tobacco, they are choosing to drink somewhat less. This is due in part to their general aversion to wasting money on consumables; Millennials are still shell-shocked by The Great Recession and prefer to spend money differently than older generations.
Additionally, young people may be moving towards consuming less alcohol because they’re increasing their consumption of marijuana, as the drug has become increasingly easier to access legally in the United States.
Sobriety in the public dialogue
Choosing sobriety, especially if you’ve struggled with addiction, may feel like you’re always missing out on a party. Alcohol shows up when people want to celebrate, relax, dine out, and even mourn.
Support systems are key for helping people who want alcohol but know that it’s detrimental to them. They need others around them acknowledging, “Yeah, this can be really really hard. I’m wrestling with it too.” Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous offer powerful communities to support those pursuing sobriety.
We also love Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step program born out of Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, with meetings at churches nationwide. However, the AA and/or Celebrate Recovery communities may not be the right support outlet for people who are simply interested in drinking less but are not alcoholics. Alternatively, people who identify as alcoholics may want auxiliary support outside of their 12-step meetings to help them in their recovery.
Today, there are many wonderful thought-leaders who discuss sober living in podcasts, books, and online communities. Here are a few of our favorites:
Russell Brand: Brand has been extremely vocal about his sobriety and even published a book called Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions in 2017. The book explores Alcoholic Anonymous’ philosophies, but re-frames the 12-steps in a more modern and humorous tone.
Dax Shepard: Actor Dax Shepard has been sober since 2004. He hosts the weekly hit podcast Armchair Expert, and the topic of abstaining from alcohol comes up often on the show.
Anne Lamott: Lamott is a beloved Christian author who speaks frequently about her sobriety. Her New York Times Bestseller Help Thanks Wow offers modern prayers through an authentic lens.
Nadia Bolz-Weber: Bolz-Weber rose to prominence as an edgy, counter-cultural Lutheran minister. She’s been sober since 1996 and speaks frequently about abstaining from alcohol. Check out the New York Times Bestseller Pastrix for a great introduction to her work.
The Seltzer Squad: While there are many great podcasts out there that discuss the topic of sobriety, we particularly love The Seltzer Squad’s work!
Health benefits of Sobriety
The health benefits of drinking less alcohol include a decrease in your likelihood of cardiovascular problems, cancer, strokes, and other health issues. Historically, the CDC has promoted moderate drinking recommendations (no more than two drinks daily for men; no more than one drink daily for women. However, a recent study published in The Lancet recommended even lower alcohol consumption, with men advised to reduce their consumption to one drink per day.
Drinking more than seven drinks a week begins to erode health. Furthermore, if you drink an average of two drinks a day, you’re statistically cutting your life short by six months. At 3.5 drinks a day, you’ve shaved five years off your life.
The Seventh Day Adventists have been studied for their remarkably long lifespans. This Christian denomination believes that they should treat their bodies as temples; abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and meat consumption. They believe that the more you drink, the less your body is being honored as a temple of the Holy Spirit.
While the Bible doesn’t specifically command believers to abstain from alcohol, it certainly seems that God wants us to avoid drunkenness for both spiritual and health reasons. We believe that as our culture shifts towards drinking less and celebrating people who choose sober lifestyles, we’ll all be healthier as a result.
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Read more at Is Sobriety the Next Big Health Trend?