Recently, I again stopped consuming alcohol – yet, not out of direct conviction from or devotion to God. Rather, I took a position at a Christian college with a “holiness” background. This college required me to promise to abstain from alcohol. This time I was not shocked, but still disappointed, when I was informed that not all faculty follow through with this promise.
Based on these experiences, I am skeptical of fellow Christians who claim that there is no place for alcohol or that abstinence is the "higher" road. Further, an honest reading of the New Testament should convince one that Jesus and Paul likely consumed small amounts of alcohol.
It is my experience that the sin of deception and hypocrisy - so often associated with a theology of abstinence - is missing in these discussions.
I think you've touched on one of the larger issues around this discussion. In my experience, which includes attendance at a couple of Christian institutions of higher learning and employment at a couple of Christian ministries, I too have seen the same dynamics you've described. We were all pledged to abstain completely. I know any institution has a right to make it's rules, but many of these institutions are making rules for behavior that are not scriptural. So unfortunately, students, employees, etc. begin to adopt a don't ask, don't tell policy and do not honor the pledge. Further, some of these institutions are doggedly holding onto holiness "traditions" that were never scriptural, but they won't let them go. I had one instructor years ago say we know some of our rules are not scriptural, but they are our rules-abide by them if you want to stay here. So the institutions themselves are holding standards they know are not scriptural, in some cases.
As for people who do not honor the pledges, I think that is a separate question. Is it a question of integrity, honesty or simply using one's own judgment on these private matters? I guess the simple point I am making is that an un-biblical standard of behavior imposed on an employee or student, in itself, has a tendency to contribute to hypocrisy or avoidance of the pledge. Again though, not saying it's okay to avoid the pledge, but there is also some level of hypocrisy or blindness at Christian institutions that hold tradition over the scripture. In your case, I would not lose my good job over a beer, but it's sad that it could could come down to that in some places.
To quote a brother above but to a different end than he probably intended:
Colossians 2:20 If then you have died with Christ to material ways of looking at things and have escaped from the world’s crude and elemental notions and teachings of externalism, why do you live as if you still belong to the world? [Why do you submit to rules and regulations?—such as]
21 Do not handle [this], Do not taste [that], Do not even touch [them],
22 Referring to things all of which perish with being used. To do this is to follow human precepts and doctrines.[Isa. 29:13.]
23 Such [practices] have indeed the outward appearance [that popularly passes] for wisdom, in promoting self-imposed rigor of devotion and delight in self-humiliation and severity of discipline of the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh (the lower nature). [Instead, they do not honor God but serve only to indulge the flesh.]