A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
6th July 2007
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Hypocrisy is never far from the human heart. It is so easy to make rules for other people. It is so easy to blame others. It is so easy to deceive ourselves about our contribution to other people's problems.
To accept Australian attitudes to alcohol is to imbibe the spirit of hypocrisy. Our commitment to our own pleasure is absolute. Our commitment to helping the weak, protecting the innocent, even stopping the mayhem caused by alcohol is minimal. We will make rules for other people. Rules that will not inconvenience us, interfere with our pleasure or cost us money.
Alcohol is not bad, nor is drinking it evil. God created all good things for us to receive with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4). God made wine to gladden the heart of man (Psalm 104:15). Strong drink can anaesthetise against our bitter misery (Proverbs 31:6-7).
However the Australian culture of alcohol consumption is an appalling abuse of God's good gift.
This week a columnist in the Sydney Morning Herald wrote:
A paper prepared by the NSW Parliamentary Library Research Service for the 2003 NSW summit on alcohol abuse outlines the costs: alcohol played a role in 50 per cent of cases of domestic violence and sexual violence, 37 per cent of road injuries, 44 per cent of injuries resulting from fire, 47 per cent of assaults and 16 per cent of child abuse cases. It was a factor in more than one-third of homicides. More than 3600 people were dying each year from alcohol use and about 72,000 were hospitalised. The last time it was calculated at the end of the 1990s, alcohol misuse cost the community $7.5 billion a year.
If she were a Christian, especially a Christian minister, her views would have been dismissed as those of a wowser. But she is a journalist and so can tell us the truth. That is part of the hypocritical way that we deal with alcohol.
Take a simple example of the interest that was taken in our new Police Commissioner. The facts that he is a Christian and that he did not drink were brought out in nearly every interview, as if he was somehow possibly not up to the job. If he drank alcohol, nothing would be said. If he were known to have got drunk, nothing would have been said. But that he was a teetotaller, made headlines.
Our society is too compromised by secularism to address the issue. Driven by the atheistic philosophy of materialism there is nothing more socially sacred than economic prosperity. Driven by the commitment to individualism and pleasure seeking there is nothing more personally sacred than my right to enjoy. An industry that makes huge profits making individuals happy has the recipe for being sacrosanct. No criticism is allowed.
Did you notice this week's hypocrisy in the world of Rugby Union? It was the sad tale of one of our test stars. He got drunk after the recent win against the All Blacks. He was so drunk that he failed to turn up on time for training. When he finally arrived he was still over the safe driving limit. So he was suspended for two matches and fined $20,000 by the Australian Rugby Union.
It looks like a sporting body teaching responsible drinking. But the game of Rugby is owned by the advertising industry. And one of the chief products they advertise is alcohol. The test series is “named” after a brand of rum. A brand of alcohol is stencilled onto the grass of the stadium so that it is impossible to watch the game without seeing their advertisement.
The advertisers aim to develop a close association between rugby and drinking. Every time a try is scored another glass of beer appears on the TV screen. Each time there is a break in the game a beer ad comes onto the screens. One of their most frequently aired beer ads prominently uses the very footballer they have now disciplined!
The linking of football, masculinity and alcohol consumption is their compelling message. Why then punish the man who imbibes the message that you have spent millions of dollars creating? It is a bit rich to spend so much money, time and effort to promote alcohol and then punish a man for believing the message.
But this sad tale of Rugby hypocrisy is just typical of our cultures inability to face our problems.
Even democracy and government fail us. The alcohol industry has been able to buy our politicians just like they have bought our football codes. Our politicians are too drunk with the power that the alcohol industry has given them to address the alcohol induced problems of society. They all know it exists but they just hope it will go away.
Unfortunately the problems have not gone away but are growing. The fairly Draconian actions the Federal Government has had to take in the Northern Territory shows how far things have to deteriorate before any action will be taken. The problems are not restricted to the Northern Territory or to our indigenous citizens. But I would not hold my breath waiting for any government actions anywhere else.