With a smile that broadcasted a single message—no parents—one of my middle school campers ran past me with a plate mounded with bacon in one hand and a cup full of Mountain Dew, but no ice, in the other. The “no ice” was important. He had to make sure he had as much Mountain Dew as possible. The human condition passed me as the kid, likely fed organic kale and cage-free eggs his whole life, carried his greasy, processed prize to his breakfast table.
I’ve seen that same grin plastered on my friend’s faces many times during my time at college. It’s probably been on mine. It’s the grin of seeing a boundary lifted, of seeing new possibilities; it’s the scandal of getting away with something that you couldn’t before. It’s the grin that I’ve seen on many of my Union friends once they turned 21.
Union is a dry campus. While the student body largely takes the values of Union seriously, I’d estimate that about half of my friends drink. It’s not unreasonable; they are of age, after all. Furthermore, we are all free in Christ (who himself drank wine). Psalm 104 thanks God for “wine that gladdens human hearts” and Ecclesiastes 9 tells us to “drink [our] wine with a merry heart.” Furthermore, most of my friends are pretty responsible about it.¹
That being said, I still don’t drink. I’m not trying to be self-righteous here, I screw up all the time. I don’t believe that alcohol is some kind of corrupting agent that will destroy my friends. I don’t drink because Union’s handbook section II part A reads:
“The possession, use, purchase, distribution or manufacturing of alcoholic beverages on or off campus is prohibited.”
I know, it’s weird. No one reads the handbook. But when I came to school, I agreed to adhere by the guidelines set out in the handbook. I gave my word that I would try to follow the rules, and when it is in my power to be faithful to my word, I need to do it. This conviction doesn’t stem from some knight-like devotion to my honor; I’m pretty sure I’m commanded to be faithful to my word by scripture. Jesus and his brother James both say that my yes is supposed to be yes. Both accounts say that I should be consistent with my word. This consistency should be so extreme, people will believe me without any need of oaths or promises.
Additionally, in Romans 13, we are commanded by God to respect and follow the governing authorities who are set over us. How much more should we be faithful to authorities that we willingly agreed to be under?
The rule is more severe than just drinking, too. I don’t even go to parties with alcohol if I can avoid it because of the paragraph under “Community Responsibility and Accountability,” which reads: “When in the presence of a values violation, the individual has the responsibility to 1) intervene and confront the violation so the behavior stops; and/or 2) immediately leave the area where the violation is occurring and contact appropriate Union University staff members so the violation can be addressed.” I try not to be forced to snitch on my friends, so I just don’t show up.
This means I’m excluded from a lot of parties and have to turn down a lot of invitations. In fact, even writing this piece has me nervous that my friends who love to drink will feel uncomfortable talking to me about it because of this article.
I’ve gotten a variety of responses to this stance.
No one cares if you drink off campus.
Well, I’m pretty sure that if I told the university that I was drinking off campus, they would schedule a meeting with me. And even apathetic enforcers aren’t a reason to violate my word.
While I don’t try to push this on other people, I’ll agree—it’s legalistic because you gave your word that you would adhere by the “law” of the handbook. Any law is legalistic by definition.
Scripture tells us to enjoy wine.
True, but if we are to be consistent with our word, we can’t go back on that when we’d like to taste alcohol. While it is something that can be good to do, it isn’t commanded for us to do, and to refrain is not a sin.
But you’ve broken rules before.
You’re right, this is inconsistent of me; I’ll try to stop it. (This is particularly difficult with the visitation hour rule that reads, “Bedroom doors are to remain open during Visitation Hours.” It’s hard to keep the doors open all the time during visitation hours, especially when there is no member of the opposite sex in the dorm. I try my best).
Now I’ll admit. My severe stance seems pretty hard-nosed. I’m not about to point out the speck in your eye without acknowledging the log of pride that comes along with this opinion. It irks me to see people not stand by something I think they’ve signed, and that’s a source of sin for me. That’s not even mentioning the loads of other splintery sins I’m lugging around in my socket. Without Christ, I’m damned to hell and I deserve it fully. I just don’t understand why so many people I know are so desperate to justify violating their word for the sake of a taste and a buzz.
¹I should mention that I’ve also seen some of my friends drink themselves into depression, shame and pseudo-poverty. I’ve seen people ruin their lives through alcohol, but that’s a different discussion for a different day.