Drinking: A chaplain’s perspective

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Capt.) Paul Joyner
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Chaplain
In my experience, when the topic of drinking alcohol comes up, people are generally surprised that I say, "The Bible doesn't say you can't drink alcohol. It says you can't get drunk."

Admittedly, some people don't understand how you can drink alcohol and not get drunk, and get hung up on the notion of what constitutes being "drunk." They think they are the author of the definition, not civil governing authorities. Although the definition of "drunk" in the Bible may seem ambiguous, the legal definition of "intoxicated" is certainly not ambiguous in either civil or military laws.

As a former civilian police officer, most of the people I put in jail for being drunk in public or driving under the influence fervently objected to their accused "drunken" status. They either didn't agree with my assessment of their inebriated state - didn't believe they were drunk - or thought they could drink more before they were actually drunk.

Knowing that alcohol impairs the ability to perform tasks and impairs judgment causes problems on many different levels. These individuals usually saw themselves as "victims" having done nothing wrong, although without exception they were found guilty in a court of law of the crime of DUI or Drunk in Public/Public Disorderly Conduct.

As a chaplain, the motives behind what I do are centered on pleasing God with all I do, think and say. I can't do that perfectly, but nonetheless, it has to be my dominant motive. That being said, if I interpret the Bible to say you can drink alcohol but can't get drunk, the question becomes, "How do I drink alcohol without getting drunk?"

Stated differently, "How do I honor God when I drink alcohol?"

From my perspective, when we obey and submit to the legal authorities placed over us, it pleases God. Our parents were that legal authority when we were younger. As adults, it is the civil authorities. As servicemembers, it is both the civil and military authorities. As we obey and submit to the laws of our host nation and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, I believe we please and honor God.

How you personally define "drunk" matters not. What matters is how the legal authorities define it. I realize some people don't care much about God, and others don't believe in any form of a god. I respect that.

As a military member and citizen of a civilized society, even if you have no religious background or any faith preference, adherence to laws is an expectation of citizenship.

As guests in this country, we are called to conduct ourselves in a manner consistent with being a guest. Violating the laws of this country or the UCMJ because of alcohol not only discredits the individual, but also tarnishes the professional image Airmen everywhere must uphold.

I am confident that without civilized people submitting willfully to governing authorities we would not have an effective military, nor would we ever know peace in our world.

I know of only one way to live - through my desire to please God with all I do. In my distant past I tried in various ways, all unsuccessful, to drink alcohol without getting drunk. I could never figure out how to do one without having the other as the result.

I decided years ago to seek God and honor Him with all my life. Since then, I have found that drinking alcohol in any amount, adds no value to life.

If you're at the point in your own life where alcohol seems to add problems - trust me - you don't need alcohol to enjoy life. As my father used to say, "Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do."