Nolan Burch’s parents sent him off to college last fall like so many other freshmen. A new student at West Virginia University with the world in front of him. Like most parents I’m sure they were looking forward to Thanksgiving break where they could talk about school life, his new friends, classes and all of that stuff.
Unfortunately, Mr. and Mrs. Burch would never experience that joy, in fact they would bury their son a week before Thanksgiving. Nolan was one of 20 pledges to a fraternity that furnished (illegally) each pledge with liquor and required them to consume it. For Nolan, it was too much. He died of alcohol poisoning. His blood-alcohol content was over 6 times the legal limit for drunk driving – .493. I can’t imagine their grief!
I have questions. Why do we tolerate this? Why do we as a culture seem to view this kind of activity as a rite of passage? Who is responsible for this?
What can we do?
First, let me say that we need to wake up to the destructive and deadly consequences of alcohol abuse. We all need to wake up. The bartender or waitress who doesn’t dare let an intoxicated patron walk out of the establishment whatever grief they must endure. The friend who tells his friend, “Enough.” Parents who teach their children that alcohol consumption is against the law until they reach legal age, and even then, it is not a solution to their problems. Nobody makes better decisions when they are intoxicated.
I heard a radio personality say that “drinking is a part of the college experience.” Why? Why do we accept that? Considering that the majority of undergraduate college students are underage, why are we so casual about alcohol use by underage college students?
Who is responsible for this? Certainly, Nolan has personal responsibility in this. It saddens me that he thought he needed to do this to be accepted by this fraternity. That he wasn’t strong enough to say, “No.” But he is not alone. Somebody furnished him the alcohol that led to his death, and I think that person should be charged with manslaughter. The fraternity as well needs to face stiff penalties for its conduct as well. This behavior will continue, and every year we will hear of more college students dying of alcohol poisoning until we have decided that this doesn’t have to be a part of the college experience.
What can we do? What I have come to understand in my 51 years of life and as a student of the Bible is that regulating behavior only goes so far. The change must come from the heart. If we trust God to fill us with His Spirit, we eliminate the desire to get drunk. If seek God to make us complete, we won’t need alcohol to fill the empty places inside. If we trust God to provide us with all that we need, we won’t need to look for friendships in the wrong places. And finally, if we believe that Christ has come to give us life to the fullest, then we will not settle for anything counterfeit.
First, we must strive to live our lives with hearts fully surrendered to God, then we can share with others the greatness of a life lived for God.
Just my thoughts.
In His Grip,