Shot To Death In Our Former Home - Another Alcohol Tragedy!
Over the years I have had some remarkable experiences. Another happened just a few days ago on New Year’s Day 2014.
The first home we bought in 1980
Carolyn and I set out on an “Old Haunts” excursion to visit the places in Southern California where we met, where we dated, the apartment we lived in after getting married and the first home we owned.
We had a blast. We could hardly stop giggling when we reenacted our first kiss on the portico of the La Mirada Civic Center.
When we got to the first house that Carolyn’s parents helped us buy, we were in for a shock. We lived in that house about a year before setting off to begin church planting. The house looked about the same from the outside. But as we were taking a “selfie” photo a friendly neighbor across the street yelled “Can I take the picture for you?” We said “sure, thanks.”
After we introduced ourselves, we explained that we were the first owners of the home and came to take a nostalgic visit. Then he asked if we knew what had happened in the home just a few weeks before. We answered, “Something happened?”
He said, “A guy living in the home with his girlfriend was threatening to kill himself with a knife. He was an alcoholic. Someone called the police, and when they arrived he charged them with the knife. The police shot and killed him. If you could go inside you would see the bullet holes in the walls.”
We were dumbfounded. Here was our love nest, with many wonderful memories, now the site of a horrible tragedy.
You can read about the incident HERE
and from the LA Times HERE
You can watch a TV news report about it HERE
It was still normally a very peaceful neighborhood. The neighbor said the victim seemed like a nice guy.
What a shock.
As Carolyn walked on the footpath nearby and pondered this experience, we thought about the unlikeliness of our first home being the site of such a horrible incident. We also thought how we hadn’t visited the home in 34 years and how we just happened to come by soon after that tragedy and just happened to meet a neighbor who told us what had occurred.
Was God telling us something? Was there a lesson here to learn or share?
As I considered and prayed about these questions, I thought about the contrast between our approach to alcohol, versus this man’s alcoholism and resulting death.
While he caused his own tragedy, I considered the multitudes of totally innocent victims of other’s alcohol use, including those in our family:
Our sister-in-law Donna Williams’ father was killed in a head-on collision caused by a drunk driver. It was a horrific tragedy for him, his wife, his children, other family and friends.
My grandfather had a drinking problem. The result was the abuse and molestation of his children and grandchildren, and the resulting lifelong scars.
The grief, sorrow, tragedy, and pain caused by alcohol are unimaginable. Volume upon volume could be written of the terrible stories of domestic violence, vehicular manslaughter, molestation, physical abuse, fetal alcohol syndrome, murder, crime, and on and on.
Various websites give a few of the tragic statistics:
“There are roughly 80,000 deaths that are related to alcohol abuse every year, making it the third highest cause of death in the U.S.”“Every day in America, another 28 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.” “In 2011, 226 children were killed in drunk driving crashes. Of those, 122 (54% percent) were riding with the drunk driver.”
Certainly it is the abuse of alcohol that causes the problems. But what alcoholic starts with the intention of becoming an alcoholic? What tragedy brought on via alcohol starts with a desire to commit vehicular manslaughter, to poison a fetus, or to abuse a loved one?
Of course everyone says, “That won’t happen to me.” But there is only one surefire way to be absolutely sure it doesn’t happen.
So, at the risk of seeming terribly old-fashioned, unsophisticated, judgmental or majoring-on-a-minor, let me share my personal conviction and practice: I believe the wisest approach in our day is to simply avoid alcohol.
I believe God wanted me to use this occasion to explain my abstinence from alcohol.
Along with the terrible human tragedies, here are some other reasons I practice abstinence:
By avoiding alcohol, I avoid putting myself in a position of vulnerability or shame. I don’t have to worry that I might do something embarrassing, foolish or tragic by having “a little too much to drink.” Scripture says to “Run from temptations” (2 Timothy 2:22a CEV).
By avoiding alcohol I help reinforce abstinence for those who might struggle with alcoholism or problem drinking.By avoiding alcohol I escape the potential of finding out I can’t handle it. Do I have an addictive personality like my grandfather? I sure don’t want to find out the hard way!By avoiding alcohol I avoid empty calories that could help develop a “beer belly!”By avoiding alcohol I believe I set the best example for my children and others. “Some of you say, ‘We can do whatever we want to!’ But I tell you that not everything may be good or helpful. We should think about others and not about ourselves” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24 CEV).
Is drinking alcohol a sin? Not necessarily. Christians have freedom to drink alcohol in moderation, but not to get drunk (see Ephesians 5:18) and not to be a stumbling block to others (see Romans 14:21).
Being a stumbling block happens when, by our example, we encourage someone to engage in a practice which is harmful to their spiritual walk (see 1 Corinthians 10:23-33).
But while drinking alcohol is not necessarily a sin, I believe the wisest approach is abstinence.
Whether you agree or disagree, I would love to hear your perspective—you can comment below.
NOTE: If you are interested in reading more from a balanced biblical Christian perspective, I suggest reading this article on GotQuestions.org and other articles on this excellent website. One of the interesting points there explains that in Bible times before modern sanitation, drinking wine was helpful and perhaps often necessary because it was far less likely to be contaminated by bacteria, and other impurities. Also, in Bible times wine was fermented, but not necessarily to the level that alcohol is today.