Reconciling alcohol at a Christian school

May 12, 2014 | 11 a.m.

Changing the stigma surrounding alcohol at Bethel is necessary

Opinion | Jillian Schmid

reconciling-alcohol

Clarion copy editor Jillian Schmid was called in to Student Life after taking this picture on a cruise over Spring Break. The drink was a virgin Miami Vice.

No doubt by now in your college experience you have met two kinds of people—those who drink alcohol and those who don’t. Let’s face it, we all can distinguish the rule-followers from the rule-breakers—the ones who spend their Friday nights in the library doing homework that’s due in two weeks and their counterparts who litter apartments with red solo cups and decorate carpets with vomit.

One of the most refreshing things about Bethel, for many of us, is that it remains a dry campus for the most part. We can’t be naïve enough to believe that drinking doesn’t happen, but generally, you have to go searching for a party if you want to find alcohol. For many of us -- at least in my case -- that’s what we wanted in order to counteract the high school drinking scene.

I worry, however, that many Bethel students have an unrealistic view of alcohol—that alcohol is some creation of the devil that can only be spoken about in hushed tones, and if you drink it, you might as well break all other rules of the covenant. This spring, I learned just how paranoid about alcohol our school can be.

This March, my parents took me on a Caribbean cruise as an early graduation gift of sorts. On the first day aboard the ship, my mom ordered me a virgin Miami Vice to celebrate the start of our vacation. Thinking it would be a fun to brag to my friends back home about the 80-degree weather, I posted a picture of me drinking the Miami Vice in the sun. It never crossed my mind that one of my Facebook “friends” would tell Student Life I was drinking and breaking the covenant.

Needless to say, I came back to Minnesota to find an email stating that I had to meet with Student Life about an “incident involving alcohol” over spring break. After an hour-long meeting during which I explained myself and the non-alcoholic drink, I was encouraged to take the picture off Facebook and be mindful of what I posted from now on, because it reflects the entire Bethel community.

While I understand their concerns, it bothered me that Bethel could be so quick to cast judgments and believe accusations, and it bothered me that the person who told on me didn’t even bother to ask me before reporting it. I took offense, personally, because anyone who knows me knows that my grandparents were killed by drunk drivers a couple of years ago, and it has made me wary of alcohol.

I’m concerned that the Bethel bubble has created people who are naïve about the real world—that they will leave Bethel and unrealistically expect to be surrounded by Christians who uphold the same values and abstain from the same things. Additionally, I know students who followed the rules while they were here, and as soon as graduation rolled around, they went crazy downtown every night because it was bottled up inside for so long. Both types are concerning.

I understand why Bethel chooses to remain a dry campus—it puts them at less risk and is easier than trying to put certain parameters on drinking. I also agree with the Christian viewpoint that drunkenness is a sin, and we shouldn’t condone it on that basis alone. I don’t, however, see alcohol as a completely negative thing. In almost every culture, alcohol is a way to bring people together and have a good time, while knowing how to handle it and exercising self-control. I worry that by making it out to be such a terrible thing, the community only makes people abuse it that much more once they get out.

I challenge Bethel students to have conversations about alcohol—to come to a mature understanding that whether we like it or not, alcohol is a part of this world. Let me be clear: in no way am I encouraging students to go out and drink, or arguing that the covenant should be changed, but I believe that in moderation, alcohol can be a way of ministering to people and growing in community together.

After all, Jesus and His disciples drank wine.

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