THEOLOGY OF LIBERATION: IN THE SPIRIT
(It differs profoundly from the ideas justify the use of violence in the struggle for social and political freedom by appealing to the Gospel popular in some parts of Latin America).
Freedom from Addictions
As Christians, we struggle with various issues pertaining to human freedom, also our inner freedom. The lifestyle promoted in the Light-Life Movement is one of the means supporting our pursuit of freedom.
Contemporary people are characterized by the desire for effortless success. That is the reason for submitting to the temptation to use psychoactive substances that can easily affect the human psyche. They are used to manipulate oneself and other people. Besides, these substances are highly addictive. Addictions strip a person of their dignity. They also cause self-destruction: the destruction of a person’s spirituality and health, both physical and mental. Consequently, such substances destroy interpersonal relationships and the social environment.
That is why the Light-Life Movement environment is characterized by a total elimination from the personal and communal life of not only (what is obvious) drugs and tobacco but also alcohol. All the participants of the Light-Life Movement, children, young people, adults, families, priests, and consecrated persons, are encouraged to follow this style of living. Even though smoking may still be accepted in some cultures, it is harmful not only for the smokers themselves but also for those around them. Besides, it almost always takes the form of addiction which limits human freedom.
In the Light-Life Movement, young people are brought up to a consciously accepted total abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. In this way, a climate of security in the personal development of a young person is created, and a healthy peer environment is built. This finds confirmation in biology, psychology, and developmental pedagogy. A young person must learn how to solve their personal and social problems without alcohol. They also need clear-cut models of living in freedom from anything that destroys human dignity.
As for adults, the usage of small portions of alcohol is a prevalent custom. In many societies, also Christian ones, it is not only accepted but also treated as an element of building social relationships.
However, alcohol abuse, often leading to physical, psychological, and social addiction, has always been present in history. In modern times, the intense pace of life and the wide availability of alcohol, including strong alcohol, caused the widespread phenomenon of alcohol abuse. This phenomenon is observed among both the rich and the poor, men and women, and the age of people abusing alcohol is getting lower and lower. Paradoxically, most damage (car accidents, fetal alcohol syndrome, disastrous decisions) is caused by harmfully drinking people, of whom only a part are addicted. Therefore, also adult people must learn how to solve personal and social problems without alcohol.
Christian responsibility creates the desire to not only help the addicted people but also to raise the young generation to be sober in their present life and adulthood. The most efficient, the simplest, and the widely available solution (or remedy) is the voluntary decision to abstain from alcohol. In this way, the addicted people, who can preserve sobriety provided they keep total abstinence from alcohol use, gain spiritual and moral support. On the other hand, young people receive life models to follow: the proof that having a happy life without any artificial chemical stimulation is possible.
Experience proves that in the atmosphere of joy in the Holy Spirit, there is no space for artificial and illusory sources of joy like alcohol and other drugs. St. Paul urges us: “And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another [in] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” (Eph 5:18–20). Christians, motivated by evangelical love for the “weak brothers” (see 1 Cor 8:9–13), make the sacrifice of voluntary abstinence from liquor. This sacrifice not only has the value of a supernatural expiation act but is also a real contribution to the struggle with the custom and drinking culture. Moreover, it is a real help for the weak; we help them to get themselves free from external and internal coercion to drink.
The abuse of alcohol has become a lifestyle for many. The only way to oppose that lifestyle is to establish life customs and traditions in which alcohol is not a vital element. Voluntary abstinence from alcohol is the means to achieve that, “through voluntary abstinence of many to sobriety of all.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that Scripture and the Church Fathers insist above all on three special works of love (CCC 1434, Mt 6:2–18; cf. Mt 17:21; Mk 9:29; Lk 9:37–43): 1) fasting, i.e., abstaining from a thing that is morally permitted or indifferent, with the religious motivation; 2) prayer; 3) almsgiving, which is offering someone not what I have in abundance but what that person needs. Almsgiving in the form of voluntary abstinence from alcohol is a sign of solidarity with the young people who need life models. It is also an instrument for offering support to addicted people. Because of the incurability of the alcoholic disease, they may return to sobriety provided they keep total abstinence from alcohol use to the end of their lives. “Now is the time for a new ‘creativity’ in charity, not only by ensuring that help is effective but also by ‘getting close’ to those who suffer, so that the hand that helps is seen not as a humiliating handout but as a sharing between brothers and sisters.” (John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 50).
The lifestyle offered by the Light-Life Movement, based on voluntary abstinence from alcohol motivated pedagogically and in solidarity with the addicted, creates a life environment of free people also in other areas. The ability to establish relationships and friendships and deal with one’s emotions without alcohol becomes a school of living in truth in many areas of life. That is why the implementation of the conscious and voluntary decision to abstain from alcohol use is a school of temperance that offers protection not only from drugs but also from behavioral addictions (pornography, gambling, social media, computer games, television, advertising, compulsive shopping, etc.).
Therefore, the minimum requirement is eliminating alcohol and cigarettes (also electronic) from communal life during the oasis retreats and all Movement’s meetings later on. Total abstinence from alcohol use is a requirement, first of all, for those who work directly with young people, i.e., the priests-moderators, and animators. However, all the members of the Movement should engage in creating such an environment. That is the attitude to which we grow up through the formation in the Light-Life Movement.
Translated by Agata Jankowiak
Fr. Piotr Kulbacki, Ph.D., is a professor at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, and the Chairperson of the Commission for Theological Program of the Light-Life Movement.
This article in included in the textbook for the New life Oasis Retreat of the first level, part A.