Residence Life held a forum last week about making the decision to drink alcohol after college. The forum, titled ‘This Discerning Life,’ was moderated by John Brown University chaplain Rod Reed, and featured three alumni panelists who shared their experiences with alcohol after their time at the University.
Emily Burney, one of the ResLife directors who helped organize the event, explained that the broader theme of the event is discernment.
“While the event focuses on alcohol, it isn’t about just alcohol,” she said. Burney further explained the event’s purpose of discussion and questions, saying that, while JBU tells students not to drink, “we don’t want to leave students handicapped after they graduate.”
The panelists explained their personal convictions concerning alcohol. Two of them, Cassee Haase and Brandi Cowell, do drink alcohol in moderation and the third, Jacob Moore, does not.
Haase and Cowell emphasized the importance of understanding one’s self-control, personality and reasons behind drinking.
“Check your heart’s motives,” Haase said.
She encouraged students to reflect on whether they are drinking as a form of rebellion or because alcohol is a gift from God that is meant to be enjoyed responsibly.
Students and residence life staff were quick to engage, asking questions about how to handle judgment if you abstain from alcohol consumption and whether the University’s policy prohibiting alcohol is beneficial to students.
Moore, who still does not drink, believes the University policy to be beneficial. “College is a formative time in your life,” he explained, “and this is an intentional rule.”
Moore graduated in May 2014 and was an avid ultimate Frisbee player at JBU. He continues to play the sport, and said people who drink or do recreational drugs often surround him. Instead of feeling pressured, he sees his abstinence from alcohol as a way to share his faith.
The panelists all emphasized different situational aspects that influenced whether they drank and with whom. If they had friends or family that struggled with alcohol or strongly disapproved, they tried to limit social interactions with them that involved alcohol.
They also addressed the question of why alcohol is such a hot-button issue among Christians, especially in the South. Haase said alcohol is an issue “because of our sin nature, not the alcohol itself.” He explained that it ultimately comes down to how people use alcohol. Hasse said it depends on if we treat it as something to enjoy in moderation or in excess.
He also explained that, to many Christians outside the United States, like his wife who lived in South Africa, alcohol is not an issue. He believes it is more of an issue in the American church than the international church.
Emily Barden, a resident assistant and junior majoring in family and human services, said she enjoyed the event and is glad it took place.
“I think it’s good to have open discussions about alcohol because the student body often feels like the school is withholding something from them, that it’s an injustice, but the panel showed that it doesn’t have to be a big deal,” Barden said.