Alcohol Free Lent

February 20, 2014

What Are You Giving Up for Lent? I’m giving up donuts for Lent.  That’s not very difficult since I rarely eat donuts and what you give up for Lent should at least be somewhat uncomfortable.  Methodists historically have not observed a Lenten practice.   “Lent observance for Methodists was not very common until recently.  Shrove Tuesday pancake suppers have become common.  We know that “as an Anglican John Wesley might recognize the observance”. 
The observance of Lent would mean giving up, or not using something, that is at least slightly distressing for 40 days this year from Ash Wednesday, March 5, to Easter Sunday, April 19.  Try limiting in home computer time, not watching the news, giving up caffeine, or donuts during this time. 
Four years ago, the United Methodist Church’s Board of Church and Society (GBCS) asked its members to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages for Lent.  That would mean not drinking any alcohol for the Lenten period Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday.  That’s abstaining from alcohol for 40 days and, and at the end of 40 days, contributing the money saved to an alcohol or drug treatment program, a sort of “Spirit Fund” if you will. 
The Rev. James Howell, a Methodist pastor from North Carolina, did just that and asked his congregants to join him in the fast.  Then Secretary of GBCS, Jim Winkler, allowed as we should “not worry; this is not an attempt by the UMC to renew the fight for Prohibition.”  Howell, just wants us to call attention to our use of alcohol (and other drugs), look at the messages our society sends about alcohol and what we are doing that contributes to the overwhelming use of alcohol especially for our teens and young adults.
Howell believes alcohol is mixed with happiness in our society.  A society which he feels “drinks too much.” From our family celebrations, to the after work “I know I can relax after my nightly beer,” to some use of alcohol for self-medication of pain, physical or emotional. 
We should be asking ourselves how we market alcohol, the numbers of “driving under the influence” citations we have, and the deadly results that can occur.  Or more appropriately, how we help our youth make low risk choices and understand the consequences of high risk choices.  Is increased legislation the way to exercise guardianship over the potential results of high risk choices or should we consider how alcohol is marketed at sporting events?
An alcohol free lent can help us measure the weight we give to alcohol in our society.  We can choose to give up something we are passionate about for 40 days.  Maybe we would do well not to give up donuts, but give up that which can potentially cause so many other problems for 40 days and let the donuts be the only health hazard we need to give up next year.
Rosie Bachand
California-Nevada Conference Addiction/Recovery/Health Coordinator