I grew up as a follower of the Baha’i Faith. Part of that faith is that I believe that consuming alcohol is bad for the world, so I don’t do it. Not only that, when I can, I also encourage others to not drink alcohol if the situation is appropriate.
What if your livelihood depends on alcohol? I have family members who are / have been servers in licensed restaurants. Their ability to earn a decent living depends on the high cost of alcoholic beverages and the tips that go along with consumption thereof. I wish that someday they would not have to depend on that means of earning a living. But I don’t feel any need to berate them for the circumstances and choices that led them to choosing that work.
There are many people who feel that it is just fine for them to personally consume alcohol. They handle it well. Possibly – I honestly don’t know.
Here’s the interesting thing. I’ve never unfriended someone because they consume alcohol (although I did once break up with a girlfriend where excess consumption was a factor in the breakup). But I’ve had people unfriend me because I don’t consume alcohol. Not many people… but enough to know that it happens. Not only that, but I’ve lost business deals because I don’t consume alcohol. Again, not many that I can guarantee were for that reason, but some.
When is it okay for me to talk about my belief in the harmfulness of alcohol? Well, there are certainly some situations where I think it is okay:
- when I’m asked about my behaviour or beliefs,
- when I’m speaking with a peer or someone with more power / influence than I,
- when in my own judgement, sharing my beliefs would not come across as insulting or patronizing,
- when someone is asking about the expectations for the personal conduct of Baha’is in general, and
- when my listener has a choice about stopping listening (e.g. here, where you can just click away or close the tab).
So, am I judgemental when I see or hear other people drinking alcohol? I suppose it depends on what it means to be “judgemental”. Here are some situations and my mental responses:
- Stranger ordering drinks in a restaurant: I don’t notice it.
- Stranger ordering drinks in bar: I don’t go to bars.
- Business or personal acquaintance making a joke about alcohol or talking about going for a beer or the great wine they bought on the weekend: I have a tiny twinge of discomfort… like “too bad I can’t do that”. FOMO.
- Close friends or business partners who are not alcoholics (to my knowledge) talking about or drinking alcohol: I often ponder why it is a part of their lives and if there is some way I might help them eventually give it up.
- Other Baha’is talking about drinking before they became Baha’is: I’m intensely curious to learn what it is all about.
- Other Baha’is talking about drinking while they are Baha’is: this is the only situation in which I feel a moment of judgement – but I quickly suppress those thoughts and tell myself that I don’t know their situation… and that I aught not judge.
Alcohol is one of the scourges of the earth, similar to slavery/racism, materialism, promiscuity, inequality between men and women, individualism, and religious fanaticism (I might be missing some others as I write this). I can’t claim to be free from all of these perfectly myself…. but I’m self-aware enough to continue to work on improving.
Many of my Facebook friends have not hesitated to say things like “I would punch a Nazi”, about themselves. The Nazis killed approximately 6 million people in the Holocaust! Alcohol kills that many people every two years. Should I punch people who drink? Or go out and accost the purveyors of alcoholic beverages? Of course not…. But really, why not?
Because punching people doesn’t solve societal problems. Racism (and the Holocaust) are societal problems. Alcohol is a societal problem. Religious fanaticism is a societal problem. I can blame society and judge the ills of society without being judgemental about any individual’s behaviour. Not only that, I can be loving, patient and have a “sin-covering eye” for the individuals I interact with. In fact, I can choose to focus on people’s good qualities and actions. All this while still asserting that alcohol is one of the worst things for the world… on the same level as slavery.
So what does solve these kinds of problems? It starts by individuals recognizing our spiritual oneness with all the members of humanity around the globe.