Ronan has a fun post on Non-alcoholic beer
over at BCC, and a comments thread that turns toward evil vs. the appearance of evil.
We're told to avoid the appearance of evil. I think it's even scriptoral
have shared stories about others being embarrassed or uptight about not drinking even non-alcoholic versions of beverages that usually contain alcohol -- because of the trace amounts, yes, but more importantly, because the appearance
is evil.Ronan suggests
that the WoW is such a "very powerful, even defining symbol of our membership," and that's why we fret over maintaining it and appearing to maintain it so much.
And yet, I have to wonder: is drinking alcohol the most evil thing that we could be doing, that we're so circumspect in trying to avoid looking like we're doing it?
If it is, then I'm guilty of breaking that rule -- I refuse to drink any sort of root beer or ginger ale out of a can. I require a glass bottle. It tastes better that way. My Henry Weinhardt's or Capt'n Eli's root beer comes in brown; my Reed's ginger beer comes in a green that more-than-vaguely reminds one of a Heineken. And those drinks are strictly non-alcoholic.
When I went to parties in college, I'd carry along a bottle or two of my favorite appearance-of-evil drink so that I didn't look like a complete tool, avoiding drinking when everyone else was getting drunk. When we went to bars, I'd order a virgin something-or-other, and inevitably finish long before everyone else. I only bemoaned the fact that the only non-alcoholic thing you can order in a bar is beer or girly drinks; what I wouldn't have given for the appearance of hard liquor!
More seriously: it amuses (confuses?) me when people get so worked up over what we imbibe. Or worse, about what it looks like we're imbibing when we're actually in the clear.
Which leads to the question: why is it anyone else's business? The stories related in the comments of Ronan's post are not of the doer being embarrassed, but of someone else being embarrassed for them. It's another tool for judgment, is what it is. Another guilt factor to lay on the shoulders of those already trying to do their best as they strive, impossibly, to become even more perfect.
Within the social network of the Church, avoiding giving the appearance of evil can damage your reputation. Rumors such as "Oh, she
spent a few hours alone at her boyfriend's apartment!" can perpetuate a rumor that both impinges on your reputation and
contributes to the ward busy-bodies worrying about your salvation and situation instead of their own. Even if all you did was sit in separate chairs and watch the animated Book of Mormon movies. If that's all you did, then why worry about the appearance? How does it harm you
if the busy-bodies think crazy things? Unless...unless!...the bishop will be more inclined to believe them than you when you answer "Yes, I keep the law of chastity" during that interview.
But that'd just be messed up.
So, help me out here: what's a more compelling circumstance for "avoiding the appearance of evil"? Is it avoiding holding a gun to someone's head without intending to shoot? Avoiding being in a car alone with a man who's not your husband? Avoiding spending the night at your boyfriend's house -- even if you sleep on the couch? Or is avoiding drinking beverages that look/smell/taste like beer but have no alcoholic content the be-all end-all?
Paul tells us we should do it. Is strengthening the faith of others in us, or serving as a pristine example, the best reason we have to do it? If so, I have to ask: what's in it for me?