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We'd Rather You Sin at Home


May 13 2014
Christian parents and the drinking-age debate.

A new law in Colorado that makes it legal for 18-year-olds to smoke marijuana although they still can't buy alcohol, has some cultural critics once again taking shots at the national drinking limit.

Last month, Time ran a piece by Camille Paglia, questioning whether the limit was saving lives or pushing kids deeper into secretive binge drinking.

Our society has argued over the minimum legal drinking age at 21 for the past three decades, ever since Congress passed a law penalizing states whose cutoffs were any lower. The debate's not expected to reach a head anytime soon, even if Republicans take up the issue.

However, for those Christians who do drink alcohol, would a lower drinking age be a good thing? Supporters consider the proposal a win for modeling morally responsible drinking while kids are still at home. Opponents say it's a loss for teens already being tempted by the plethora of contraband booze.

As teen binge drinking incidents continue to hit the headlines, the secular world is struggling to respond. It's not just a public safety issue, but a moral issue for parents of teenagers. Most forbid it, but some offer a sip of a drink or even turn a blind eye to parties with booze in their basements.

Hundreds of studies enumorate the risks and negative effects of underage drinking: drunk driving deaths, impaired brain development, and binge drinking. As Mothers Against Drunk Driving points out, the 21-year-old limit is one of the most heavily researched pieces of legislation out there. However, as much truth as we have, it doesn't account for the reality that teenagers drink anyway. Teen drinking accounts for 11 percent of total alcohol consumption. As Christians, we know that the truth is never enough to stop sin. It takes humility and Jesus.

Knowing the risks, parents want to teach kids to "drink responsibly," avoiding drunk driving, alcoholism, and alcohol poisoning. One approach praises the European way, where kids supposedly learn to drink in moderation from their parents. While they do have far fewer drunk driving incidents, some say European youth statistically drink more often. Still, supporters of a lower drinking age like Paglia stand by the idea that if youth were given more experience with alcohol at home, they'd learn to be less reckless:

Learning how to drink responsibly is a basic lesson in growing up — as it is in wine-drinking France or in Germany, with its family-oriented beer gardens and festivals. Wine was built into my own Italian-American upbringing, where children were given sips of my grandfather's homemade wine. This civilized practice descends from antiquity.

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