Whenever I explain to people that I am straight edge, I often get a blank stare in return or, even worse, one of those clearly confused “Ohhhh, ok, cool!” responses. So I’ll just explain up front: I will never smoke anything, I will never do drugs, and I will never drink alcohol. It’s a lifestyle decision. That is straight edge.
Often, when I have explained this to people, they think that straight edge is a religious commitment, but this is far from the truth. Many straight edge people are also atheists. Straight edge has never been religious; it’s simply about keeping your body clear of harmful substances. Similarly, I don’t have a problem with Christians drinking in moderation. I just choose not to do it myself. I would never judge somebody for smoking or doing drugs, although if asked, I’d advise them not to, because of the obvious health risks involved.
But for many straight edge devotees, the lifestyle becomes more than just a lifestyle; it borders on a religion. And as good as straight edge is for your body and your mind, it can be dangerous for Christians spiritually, if taken to this extreme.
I speak from experience. In my early years, I was far more proud of claiming edge than I was of Jesus. I thought it was my strength of will and my character that allowed me to be better than the weak-willed people who succumbed to substances that would alter their mental state. I hated stoners, partiers, smokers. I made arguments as to why they didn’t deserve healthcare for their various maladies. Why should a smoker receive treatment for lung cancer? Why should an alcoholic receive treatment for liver diseases? They brought it on themselves, let them suffer the consequences.
Somehow, God allowed me to see that my lifestyle didn’t come from my strength of will or my character. It came from dumb luck (or, more likely, His divine providence). I wasn’t very popular in high school, so I never hung out with the cool kids, and I never partied. By the time college arrived, I had never been drunk before. I had never smoked a cigarette, and as for drugs, I had never even seen them in person. So I decided I might as well keep a good thing going.
I didn’t become straight edge because I was a good person. I became straight edge because it was convenient; just as convenient as drinking or smoking is to other people.
Most of us are products of our circumstances, for better or worse. In Luke 6:37, when Jesus tells us “Do not judge, or you yourself will be judged,” I imagine that this is what he had in mind. I didn’t believe that alcoholics deserved treatment for their livers? Then I didn’t deserve treatment for my shoulder after I had destroyed it playing basketball. After all, I knew the risks when I began playing. By my own logic, shouldn’t I suffer the consequences?
I remain straight edge, and I have no plans of breaking. I still enjoy the community that straight edge offers, as well as the health benefits that are a direct result. I still prefer to stay sober around friends and do things that don’t involve parties. But somewhere along the way, I realized that my lifestyle has nothing to do with personal strength. My lifestyle, like any other lifestyle, is a matter of my circumstances and a choice. My personal choice. A choice that I am proud of, to be sure, but not one to which I should bow down.