By Mark Shaw
The newly hired head football coach at the University of Texas is Steve Sarkisian who was fired in 2015 from the University of Southern California for his excessive drinking of alcohol on the job. He sued the university for $30 million dollars but lost his lawsuit in 2018. He made an interesting argument in his lawsuit against USC claiming that they discriminated against him, “alleging that the school fired him instead of allowing him to seek treatment for alcoholism.” In summary, his argument was this: if alcoholism is a medical brain disease as it is widely claimed to be, then Steve claimed that he was fired for having a medical brain disease which was not his fault!
Is It Fair to Fire Someone for a Disordered Brain?
Nowadays, some have changed the definition slightly from a “disease” to a “disorder” but that’s only a minor shift in wording and meaning. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines it in this way: “Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of ‘alcohol use disorder’ or AUD. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.” If this is true, then how could USC fire Steve Sarkisian who had a so-called chronic relapsing brain disorder that he couldn’t control and created adverse occupational consequences? How is it fair to fire someone for their brain disease and/or disorder?
Theory: Alcoholism is a Disorder
Here’s where the theory that alcoholism is a disorder (or disease as Alcoholics Anonymous claims) breaks down: is it the person’s fault that they have a disorder and can they be held responsible for their choices? If it is simply a behavioral choice rather than a disorder/disease, then an institution can hold a person to the standard of behavioral conduct they require. But if it is a brain disorder, then it seems unfair to fire Steve Sarkisian without treatment offered first. Why not give him a chance to have medical treatment for his brain disorder during a sabbatical? That was his argument, as I understand it (admittedly, I am relying upon news sources and they are not always accurate as we all know).
Not Responsible If We Call It Disease
But the reality is that people in society really don’t think of alcoholism as a disease when it comes right down to it and they are right. I have a friend who says they can’t believe it because that’s not reality. The world we live in demands responsibility and justice so when an employee gets drunk during a football game that they are required to work, then they are responsible for that action and can be fired. That’s reality.
God Calls it Drunkenness
Alcoholism is rightly termed drunkenness in the Bible because God holds man responsible for the choices and desires he/she makes from the heart. Nowhere in Scripture does God call this choice a disease so neither can we. In fact, it made more sense to hold Steve responsible for his choices to drink alcohol excessively while on the job which impaired his ability to function well (he blamed mixing medication with the alcohol but regardless, he made the choices that led to intoxication with drugs and alcohol and no one else could be blamed for forcing him to take any of it).
I Hope Steve Stays Sober and Wins
If it sounds like I am being harsh toward Steve Sarkisian, I am not. I wish him well in his future endeavors. I hope he remains sober so he can be the person he wants to be and be successful at his new occupation. This is not an article about him but about his argument, lawsuit, and society’s approach to the problem commonly called addiction and alcoholism.
Sin or Disorder: It Can’t Be Both
In conclusion, I am simply raising the point that society cannot have it both ways and thrive. Society cannot term the biblical problem of drunkenness by a new name of alcoholism implying it is a brain disorder/disease and expect people not to take advantage of the loophole that allows them to shirk responsibilities. Either it is a disorder/disease or it’s not. Either a person is responsible or not. The Bible says the latter so I am going to choose to roll with the Word of God on this issue. Society depends upon the truth.