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To Drink or Not to Drink?

(Posted November 8, 2013)

Dr. Jim Tuten, professor of history Photography by Kelly Russo, '14

On Oct. 31, Jim Tuten, associate professor of history, gave a lecture on how alcohol is perceived within the Christian religion. Entitled "The Forbidden Cup," his talk was part of the Do-Tel Project, a group at Juniata that discusses the interaction between faith and the world we live in. Tuten discusses his lecture here:
Q: What is the Do-Tel project?

A: In my view, the Do-Tel project is nurturing for students who consider their faith very important to them and come across questions and topics, such as whether or not to drink, that they want to discuss and learn more about. This gives them the tools they need to make decisions for themselves. They normally meet over a meal and the discussion is very low key and friendly -- it's a peaceful environment. Do-Tel is an acronym for "Doing Thoughtful and Engaged Living."

Q: What will you be discussing during the Do-Tel Project, "The Forbidden Cup"?

A: The questions that they proposed to me to discuss were the divergence of views in Christianity on the consumption of alcohol. In some areas of Christianity, the divide between alcohol acceptance and alcohol as a sin viewed as a sin is very wide. Coming from South Carolina, I grew up in an evangelical background which forbade alcohol. I had this contrasting view of complete abstinence, and friends and friends of the family drinking to excess. When I came to college, the big question for me was whether or not it was acceptable for me to partake in the consumption of alcohol. I had these two models which didn't show me that there could be a middle ground. On a college campus, it is also very hard to find a middle ground, because the answer most students choose is either to abstain completely or drink to excess. In America, you find that a lot of people have a changing view on alcohol. A good example of this is the Prohibition Era. In history, we focus more on the people who were breaking this law than the people who were following it. Prohibition did lower the overall alcohol use in America, so perhaps this fact indicates that maybe Americans did drink too much.

Q: What is your personal association with alcohol?

A: I have written and done research on Madeira wine. I buy and consume it sometimes, and I would have to say that it is my favorite wine. I go through cycles in my drinking tastes. Sometimes the cycle is seasonal; in winter I would drink wines and beer, whereas in summer I prefer cocktails. I like variety.

Marlene Matula '17, Juniata Online Journalist

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.