If Alcohol is Evil, Then Rapists Are Innocent

And Brock Turner's father was right.

On January 18, 2015, alcohol assaulted an unconscious, 22-year-old woman with the intent to rape.

By now, everyone should know that's not true. Brock Turner, a former Stanford University student and competitive swimmer, was the young man convicted on three counts of sexual offense. However, according Brock's father, his son is not ultimately responsible.

In a letter to the presiding judge, Dan Turner wrote of his son, "it's clear that Brock was desperately trying to fit in at Stanford and fell into the culture of alcohol consumption and partying." The higher education boogeyman strikes again.

Evangelicalism may be one of the few vestiges of Prohibition culture left, but they're not the only ones who like to blame alcohol for society's woes. Most people, Christians and non-Christians alike, will talk about how it lowers their inhibitions.

They'll share all of their crazy, drunken stories of things they would have never done otherwise or how they'd still be married, employed or happy if not for alcohol. It's technically a drug, so just as a DUI implies, you're under the influence of something besides yourself.

Translation: alcohol makes you do things you don't want to do. And if you still haven't caught the implication, that means you're not responsible for what you do when you're inebriated.

Of course, no one will admit to that last part because we all understand that alcoholism is a very real problem we enter into voluntarily. We're still responsible for the crimes we commit while under the influence because we willingly sacrifice our resolve to this evil temptress. But that doesn't mean we wanted to do the things we did. We may have chosen alcohol, but the alcohol chose the crime.

That's the thesis of Dan Turner's letter: Brock succumbed to alcohol, and alcohol tried to rape that girl. Brock isn't a sex offender; he's a confused kid who got pressured into a culture of substance abuse. Therefore, he should be prosecuted on the latter, not the former.

It's not surprising to hear non-Christians defending the inherent goodness of people, but it's absolutely maddening when Christians fall for this kind of cowardice. By blaming alcohol for our poor choices, we're claiming that the evil committed couldn't possibly originate from us.

One problem: alcohol is an inanimate substance. It lacks both sentience and a will. Calling alcohol evil makes as much sense as calling a rock evil. You can kill a person with a rock, but picking up a rock won't make you want to kill someone. You will only kill someone with that rock if you want to.

Alcohol is no different. It's a drug, not a split-personality potion. It may relax you, but it can't put ideas in your head. So congratulations, those stupid things you do are all yours. You may be living in self-denial until that third drink, but all the things you do while drunk are things you already wanted to do, whether you want to accept that or not.

Thus, if alcohol doesn't implant crazy or evil thoughts in your head, then it doesn't weaken your resolve either. It can't make you want to do something any more or less than you already do. Doing dumb stuff while drunk means you not only like doing dumb things, you're weak-minded and gullible. You're just looking for an excuse to be dumb--a moral placebo to take and a scapegoat to blame.

No wonder Christians jumped on board. We like to blame objects for our sins more than anyone. Rock music, movies, dancing, gambling, smoking, all of these things have been disparaged by the church as dangerous and worthy of avoiding. All of them make us unholy.

But holiness isn't defined by the things we don't do. Or as Jesus said, the things that go into us aren't what defile us but rather the things that come out. He even said that our hearts are the source of all manner of evil. In other words, it originates with you and me, not alcohol or tobacco or whatever shade of selfishness your excuses take.

Likewise, the Bible never tells us to avoid alcohol or even to avoid getting drunk. It says to avoid drunkenness because such an undisciplined lifestyle distracts us from doing the things that do make us holy, like helping the needy and pursuing justice.

Alcoholism is not compatible with Christianity but neither is avoiding alcohol for fear of its influence. Such a mindset acquits rapists of their actions and abdicates us of responsibility. The worst of humanity is not found in the benign devices of this world, but within each and every one of us. Unless you want to believe that Brock Turner is innocent.

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