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Interesting Facts About Alcohol

I’ve said little about the whole alcohol controversy in the SBC. Truth be told, I don’t care about alcohol. To me, alcohol is a) just something else to drink, b) something to use to clean Grace’s belly button before it falls off. I don’t think alcohol is: sinful, “dee-muhn likker,” harmful to one’s testimony, or any of the other objections brought to it by legalists and those who (like me) were taught these things traditionally. You can’t show any of these things from the Bible nor experience without making God a liar and Jesus a sinner.

What you can show — from both the Bible and experience — is that the abuse of alcohol (drunkenness and its results; i.e. drunk driving, binge drinking, physical and emotional abuse resulting from drunkenness, etc.) is a flat-out sin.

Furthermore, while I am decidedly not a teetotaler, nor am I a “drinker.” Ever since tasting my first alcoholic drink in college, I have rarely (if at all) partaken when it was available. If beer and wine disappeared from the earth, I wouldn’t miss it. Though we made beer and wine available at my wedding reception (for the in-laws, Catholics all), neither I nor my wife imbibed outside of the champagne toast. Give me a choice between a Coke and a Sam Adams, 9 times out of 10 (if not 10 out of 10) I’m going to pick the Coke. My wife is regularly teased by her brothers about her lack of drinking at family get-togethers, even more so now that she’s married to a Baptist. You can ask my in-laws, they’ll tell you the same thing. By the way, if the choice was between beer and sweet tea, the tea would win, every time. 😉

That being said, Mr. Frank “Centuri0n” Turk does some research, and uncovers some interesting statistics about alcohol. He cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (a government agency) as reporting the following:

– 61% of American adults drank alcohol in the last year where stats are available (2004); that means roughly 183 million Americans drank alcohol that year.

– 32% of those had 5 or more drinks on at least one day; that means roughly 59 million Americans abused alcohol at least once in 2004.

– 21,081 alcohol-related deaths were reported in the same year, including all deaths from alcoholic liver disease. That equals 0.035% of all -abusers-, and 0.0115% of all -users-. Converted to deaths per 100,000, that’s 11.5 deaths per 100,000 users, and 35 deaths per 100,000 abusers. This, btw, is the worst-case scenario as I will openly admit that some alcohol-related deaths are to people who are victims of others’ abuse.

– CDC records also indicate that in the U.S. in 2005, the number of deaths by accident/unintentional causes in the general population was 37.7 per 100,000. Deaths by cancer in the general population in the same year were 185.8 per 100,000. Deaths by heart disease were 217 per 100,000 in the general population.

Mr. Turk concludes from this information:

– To spell that out as clearly as possible, someone who is abusing alcohol has the same likelihood of dying by accident as by alcohol-related circumstances; he is 5 times more likely to die by cancer than by alcohol-related circumstances; he is almost 6 times more likely to die from heart disease than by alcohol-related circumstances.

– The average alcohol user is 3 times more likely to die by accident than through alcohol-related circumstances, 16 times more likely to die from cancer than through alcohol-related circumstances, and almost 20 times more likely to die from heart disease than through alcohol-related circumstances.

– For the record, 59,664 people died from the flu in the same year — 2.8 times as many as died from alcohol-related circumstances.

Here’s what I’m not saying: I’m not saying that any of these deaths are not tragic: they are all tragic and take a toll on real families. What I am actually outlining here is that the moral argument against alcohol use has to take into account that more people die by accident than from alcohol-related circumstances annually; far more people die from the flu than from alcohol-related circumstances.

Let’s keep that in mind as we advance toward the discussion of the moral ills of all alcohol abuse.

I’m not the “average” alcohol user (since I almost never drink), yet I am more likely to die than the “average” user. That is, there is no chance someone who has 1 drink a day is more likely to die because of drinking than I, who does not drink. Interesting.

If we as a convention are going to tackle health-related issues and make resolutions against them, we need to get off the anti-alcohol bandwagon and tackle the REAL issue facing the convention: obesity.

Myself included, Christians these days are too fat to have any credibility. Until we tackle the real health problem our convention faces (the one that can cause all these diseases –cancer, heart disease, etc.– that kill more than alcohol), we have no business being dumb about beer. I call on all Southern Baptists — indeed, all believers — to join me and my wife by walking every day and working to eat healthy. Those of us who are interested might want to join me again by turning that walking into running after a month or so.

UPDATE: Mr. Turk elaborates:

The entire -point- of Baptist cooperation is -not- health and welfare: it’s the Gospel, and saving people from an eternity in hell.

Nobody gets saved if everyone is sober, skinny, tobacco-free and still in their actual sins rather than their man-made sins. What if we made a resolution at the convention that the Gospel is the power to save, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile, and that the SBC would only take action related to being the hands and feet of the Gospel?

It is an immense waste of time, effort and a harm to the Gospel to beat people up over things which are not even sins but are in fact merely a matter of culture and taste. The -vast- majority of people in the US drink responsibly and ever -temperately-, if we can use that term here without manning the portcullis. Why demand that all of them stop drinking because of the hadnful who, frankly, have a problem that needs a bigger solution than the hard scowls of people who don’t even know how to open a beer bottle?

Before you object, I didn’t know how to open the champagne bottle at my own wedding. We had to get my brother-in-law to do it! Those words from Mr. Turk apply directly to me just as they might to you.

  1. Steve
    April 26, 2008 at 6:22 am

    I live in a society where according tothe Australian bereau of statistics 1/4 people drink to a dangerous level each week.
    Mr. turk’s statistics do not take intpo account those hwo die at an earlier age than necessary through heart attack, cancer and other diseases of which alcohol use is a contributing factor.
    In our country Alcohol caused death rates between 1990-97, were consistently higher for males than for females. In 1997, out of 3,290 deaths caused by risky levels of drinking, 70% were male and due mainly to liver cirrhosis, road injuries, stroke, suicide or alcohol dependence and 30% were female, due mainly to stroke and alcoholic liver cirrhosis.
    In 1997, older people (aged 40-70 years) were more likely to die from chronic conditions, related to long term alcohol misuse, and younger people (aged 15-29 years) from acute conditions related to bouts of intoxication.
    (quoted directly from http://www.alcohol.gov.au/)

    It is these older people’s deaths that are not taken into account within Mr. Turk’s statistics.
    A local funeral director told me recently of deaths under the age of 70 years of qge, 50% have as the cause of death on the death certificate, “alcohol related causes”.
    In other words, the recognised cause of early disease through chronic conditions is alcohol related.

  2. May 3, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Steve, your objections are not as relevant to this particular discussion because these are statistics for Americans, not Australians. Furthermore, Mr. Turk actually does concede alcohol-related deaths, and the statistics include alcohol-related deaths, which further undermine your objections.

  1. February 22, 2008 at 11:11 am
  2. May 23, 2008 at 2:03 pm

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