by Jim Powers
If you spend much time on the internet on message boards or in comment sections on media websites, or follow Twitter, you will see a common response questioning the seriousness of a poster’s opinion, “Are you drunk?” The obvious accusation is that no one would say such a dumb thing if they were sober. It’s an insult.
Clearly in modern parlance, most people define the word “sober” as not intoxicated with alcohol or various drugs. But that isn’t the original meaning of the word. The original meaning is of someone with a thoughtful character, who is marked by moderation of thought, not being driven by extreme emotion or prejudice against ideas.
For those who study the New Testament, we see this original meaning in both Romans 12:3 and Titus 2:12, both books attributed to the Apostle Paul, where different tenses of the Greek word σωφρόνως (sóphronós) are used to convey a sense of moderation, sobriety. In Romans, the word is translated (NIV) as “sober.” In Titus, it is translated “self-control.” People who are not subject to flights of fancy or unconsidered outbursts.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Romans 12:3 (NIV)
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say, “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age,” Titus 2:11-12 (NIV)
Whether in modern English or New Testament Greek, King James or New International Version translations, a sober person is a person who carefully considers why he believes what he believes, is not easily influenced by the flavor of the day opinion, interacts with others seriously and consistently. They, in other words, live their lives consistent with their presuppositions.
You don’t have to spend much time interacting politically with people online to figure out that sobriety in its original meaning is rare these days. And that lack of seriousness is incredibly dangerous in modern times.
Name calling and ad hominem attacks achieve nothing but to increase the divisiveness that has split this country apart. The willingness of people to uncritically accept any kind of nonsense that supports their bias without sober consideration is moving us towards civil war. The lack of any kind of consensus that has made the U.S. effectively ungovernable means we have a serious problem and need serious, sober people if there is any hope of survival as a country.
To quote President Andrew Shepherd in the movie The American President, “We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people…”