Thursday, July 1, 2010

Drink Responsibly?

Living in the land of the forever young, I try to avoid being a curmudgeon, i.e. a cantankerous person. Occasionally, however, someone needs to play the role.

As we move toward the 4th of July, I am wrestling with a sermon for Sunday. I fill a symbolic role in a local congregation, Senior Minister, in addition to my role at MIT. Once a month or so I preach. The challenge on the 4th is to say something that will be heard beyond the music of the Pops and the bluster of the day. In my hometown on the northshore one small church has opted for a Patriotic Hymn Sing. I think I know what they mean, but my cantankerous side bristles a bit. But this is not about my sermon. Nor is it my sermon.

Drunk drivers on the holidays we celebrate get our attention. Drunk driving anytime leads to tragedy as we were reminded recently in the aftermath of the defeat of the US in the World Cup. Those who sell alcohol ask us to drink responsibly. I'd like to believe they mean it. The current Bud-Light campaign makes me wonder if they really do. The end of the world? Grab a six pack and party away. The Declaration of Independence? It is better with Bud.

We at MIT know what a real concern drinking responsibly is for young adults. How do we teach moderation and self-control when we also wish to encourage passion and creativity? For Budweiser bad decisions lead to passion, some good laughs and sell more beer. Their concern, like other corporate entities of late, seems to be with the bottom line.

Here in Boston we also hear a lot about the Sam Adams Brewery and their desire to craft beer that teases the palate and complements the season. On Saturday night when I have hard conversations with small groups of students with large amounts of beer, they are not drinking Sam Adams. I think I know why. Selling a beer that complements food does not have the cachet of diminished inhibitions.

It is time to ask Budweiser if they really want to be the Goldman-Sachs of the beer industry.

Robert M. Randolph
Chaplain to the Institute