THE BIBLE ON ALCOHOL
(Investigator 116, 2007 Sept)
IMPACTWho has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?Robinson & Lawler (1977) wrote, "For about 9 million Americans chronic alcoholism severely affects health, job security, and family life."
Those who linger late over wine, and who keep trying mixed wines.
Do not look at it when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.
At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder.
Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind utter perverse things…
(The Bible, Proverbs 23:29-35)
Pulse magazine (August 16, 1985) reported that, worldwide, alcohol abuse cost $100 billion per year, about 1/10 the cost of the arms race! In America 10,000,000 problem drinkers cost the economy $19 billion in lost production plus $14 billion in other costs.
The 20th century produced about 300,000,000 problem drinkers and alcoholics worldwide.
Society long associated excessive drinking with manliness:Hard drinking was endemic in eighteenth century society… Manliness required you to be a three-bottle a day man. Drink was built into the fabric of social life; it played a part in nearly every public and private ceremony, commercial bargain and craft ritual. (Berridge 2004)The macho image of heavy drinking took a dive when Luks & Barbato (1989) showed it can lead to impotence, reduced testosterone, and female characteristics such as breast growth:
[In the 1980s] it was nothing for friends to boast of their drunken exploits. (Hodge 2004)They [Luks & Barbato] say it is ironic that in many cultures it is considered manly to drink, and that the first drinks in adolescence are viewed as one of the "rites of passage" to manhood, whereas in fact, heavy drinking can lead to feminisation. (Sunday Mail December 17, 1989, p. 31)
PROBLEMS OF EXCESS
Kessel and Walton (1965) cited a study comparing families with alcoholic fathers with non-alcoholic families. Divorce or separation was 28% vs 4%. Children who teachers considered "problem children" were 48% vs 10%.
Also, in 44% of fatal road accidents during Britain’s 1964 Christmas period at least one person concerned had consum-ed alcohol. (pp 66-67) The suicide rate for male alcoholics admitted to a London psychiatric hospital was 86 times as high as the rate in the general London population. (p. 164)
In 1974 Time magazine cited studies showing that:In Australia in 1979 alcohol was associated with:
The liver becomes less efficient after several weeks of 3-4 drinks per night. Regular heavy drinking weakens appetite leading to malnutrition. It’s also linked to heart and brain damage. Excessive alcohol reduces the production and activity of white blood cells, hence lowers resistance to harmful bacteria. 10% of alcoholics develop a cirrhosis-damaged liver, which cannot produce bile (necessary to digest fats). 50% of fatal road accidents; 20% of hospital admissions; 73% of violent crime; 40% of adult drownings; 45% of poisonings; 66% of household and industrial accidents; 40% of divorces; 20% of baby bashing. (Hicks 1979)
Hodge (2004) reported: "Binge drinking is one of our most intractable and expensive health issues, costing $7.6 billion a year in lost production, absenteeism, injuries, death and disease."
Pengelley (2007) reported: "231,705 children, aged 12 or less (13.2 per cent), live with an adult binge drinker. 40,272 (2.3 per cent) live with a daily cannabis user."
The Advertiser reported: "…breast cancer is about 50 p.c. more likely to develop in women consuming three to nine alcoholic drinks a week than in those who drink little or none." (November 10, 1987, p.33)
In Russia drinking "alcohol not meant for consumption such as eau de colognes and antiseptics" caused 43% of male deaths in the 25-54 age-range. (The Weekend Australian June 16-17, 2007, p. 16)
Let us live honorably…not in revelling and drunkenness… (Romans 13:13)
The intention behind biblical counsel is longer life, better health, sound mind, and peaceful relationships:
For they [God’s words of wisdom] are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. (Proverbs 4:22)
Drunkenness promotes the opposite to "life" and "healing".
The Bible does not directly discuss other drugs, but the same principles would apply. If it damages relationships, ruins health or promotes crime then its use should be stopped.
Kelton (1998) reported: "Of a sample group of drug users surveyed for the study, half admitted committing a crime within the past four weeks."
Tobacco has over 4,000 chemicals, many dangerous. Smokers age faster and have higher rates of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Brown (1994) reported: "Tobacco kills one smoker in two."
The Advertiser reported: "Every day, 50 Australians die from smoking-related illnesses." (November 19, 2005, p. 18)
Until the 1970s many argued that heavy drinkers are such by nature. Their genes make them crave alcohol; therefore they are not responsible.
Now the works of the flesh are plain: … drunkenness, carousing and the like…
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:19-23)
The Bible, however, states:
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. (Proverbs 20:1)
If heavy drinking or abstaining is a matter of "wisdom" — an attribute that can be learned — then it’s also a matter of choice.
A representative from the [British] Council of Alcohol said in a 1974 radio interview:
I’d like to get rid of one of the fallacies of alcoholism. A majority of the work in the past on alcohol by psychiatrists and psycholo-gists indicated that maybe the alcoholic had some gross personality disorder, neurosis or psychosis as the basis of his alcoholism. Our work leads us to believe, and the work of others incidentally, that in fact the reverse is true, that the alcoholic personality manifesting psychosis and neurosis is in fact caused as a result of the alcoholism. The results that we can achieve in reformatory work show that two thirds of those who suffer from alcoholism can recover.
Harvard psychiatrist Dr George Vaillant authored The Natural History of Alcoholism: Causes, Patterns, and Paths to Recovery — discussed in Time magazine by Jane O’Rielly (1983).
This landmark study started in 1940 and followed the lives of 200 Harvard graduates and 400 working class men. By observ-ing the stages by which 26 graduates and 110 blue-collar workers became alcoholics the study investigated how this happened.
Vaillant concluded, "There is a genetic contribution, the rest of it is due to maladaptive life-style…"
Therefore, going down that path and becoming an alcoholic is a succession of decisions.
However, recovery is possible:
He [Vaillant] also argues persuasively that it is not only essential, but possible, for alcoholics to regain control of their lives… [Alcoholism is] a disease that is highly treatable but, like diabetes, requires a great deal of responsibility from the patient. (O’Rielly p. 49)
CRIME AND ACCIDENTS
In Western legal systems criminals intoxicated while committing crimes often got lighter sentences or even no sentence.
For example, a drunk driver of an unregistered car hit a cyclist, and kept driving with the victim wedged under the car. The killer’s defence was that he was too drunk to remember. The manslaughter charge was downgraded in a plea bargain to causing death by dangerous driving.
It’s common knowledge that alcohol promotes poor judgment, weakens inhibitions and slows reflexes. Therefore the decision to enter such a state is the drunk’s responsibility and should not be an excuse for crime. Permitting intoxication as an excuse "justifies" the drunk, is inconsistent with equality before the law, and increases the number of victims.
The Bible teaches:
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD. (Proverbs 17:15)
Some politicians now agree:
Opposition Leader Mike Rann announced yesterday the "drunk defence" — considered a loophole under present legislation — would be scrapped if Labor came to power…Modern law is catching up to the Bible!
He added: "South Australians don’t think it’s acceptable for someone to be able to say they shouldn’t be held responsible for the crimes they committed because they got themselves drunk or took drugs. (Haran 2002)
WINE AND HEALTH
Many things bad for health in quantity are good in moderation:
You…bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the human heart. (Psalm 104:14-15)
Wine gladdens life. (Ecclesiastes 10:19)
No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. (I Timothy 5:23)
Jesus’ first "sign" was to convert water in six stone jars to wine. (John 2)
By the 1970s science established that wine (particularly red) kills many harmful bacteria and some viruses. The Good Samaritan of Jesus’ parable therefore took the medically correct action toward a man who was mugged and "half dead". He: "bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine…" (Luke 10:34)
Johnson (1991) writes:
For 2,000 years of medical and surgical history it was the universal and unique antiseptic. Wounds were bathed with it; water made safe to drink. (p. 40)
Wine is also good for the heart. A 1974 study of 464 patients by Dr A. L. Klatsby of Guys Hospital in London found a correlation between alcohol consumption and fewer heart attacks.
MacMillan (1980) reported:
Physicians at the Medical Research Council epidemiology unit studied the effect of several diet elements on health in 18 major countries, including the United States.Maury (1977) listed dozens of ailments alleviated by various wines. The Sunday Mail reported that wine "may help prevent the deterioration of reasoning and other cognitive skills as one grows older." (August 8, 1993, p. 17)
"The principal finding is a strong and specific relationship between greater alcohol consumption and a decrease in deaths from ischemic (blocked artery) heart disease," said Dr A. S. St Leger, who led the study…
Beer and hard liquor do not have the same protective effects as wine, Dr Leger said.
Watts (1999) says: "After decades of controversy, it looks as if a little booze really is good for us."
Although drunkenness weakens male sexual performance, regular moderate drinking "cut the risk of impotence…erectile dysfunction, by a statistically significant 15 per cent." (The Weekend Australian, July 7-8, 2007, p. 3)
Recent research concludes that two standard drinks of alcohol (15-29g) per day is associated with lower risk of heart attack than heavy drinking or no drinking. (Archives of Internal Medicine 2006, 166:2145-2150)
However, if drinking wine is for any reason a bad example — e.g. if a reformed alcoholic is present — then that is again reason to abstain:
…it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. (Romans 14:21)
Pregnant women who drink wine may harm their unborn child. (Gorman 2006)
Cresswell (2007) reports that a pregnant woman ingesting five or more standard drinks in one sitting could give the fetus: "…fetal alcohol syndrome, which results in abnormal facial features, growth deficiencies and central nervous system problems such as difficulties with learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision and hearing."
In 1784 American physician Benjamin Rush warned that drinking liquor risked one’s physical and moral health. C.W. Hufeland in Berlin and T. Trotter in Britain made similar claims.
As a result American Presbyterians passed resolutions against "intemperance" in 1811-1812. In 1836 the American Temperance Society endorsed complete abstinence from non-medicinal alcohol and convinced legislators in some states to ban liquor.
"Temperance" became a social and political movement in Britain about 1850-1900. It moved from advocating moderation to prohibition and was backed by Christian denominations that oppose all consumption of alcohol. The USA enforced Prohibition in the 1920s. Prohibition failed because it transferred production and distribution of alcohol to criminals.
Do not get drunk with wine… (Ephesians 5:18)
Drunkards hurt themselves and their families and wrongly so.
The cultural promotion of heavy drinking as "macho" contradicted science which revealed heavy drinking as dangerous.
Legislators who assumed drunkenness is genetic and passed laws that exonerated people who committed crime under intoxication, acted contrary to science and were "an abomination to the LORD".
Temperance organizations that opposed all alcoholic drinks were against the Bible too, because in moderation "Wine gladdens life.".
The middle ground, as in The Bible, was correct all along.
Bagnall, D. The Bulletin , September 9, 2003, pp 20-26.
Behr, E. 1997 Prohibition , BBC.
Berridge, V. 2004 History Today, Volume 54 (5) May, pp 18-20.
Borsay, P. BBC History , July 2005, pp 44-48.
Brown, P. 1994 New Scientist , October 15, p. 4.
Cresswell, A. The Weekend Australian, January 27-28, 2007, p.10.
Gorman, C. 2006 Time , June 5, 2006, p. 63.
Haran, P. 2002 Sunday Mail, January 6, p. 2.
Heinz, A. Scientific American Mind, April/May, 2006, pp 56-61.
Hicks, R. The Weekend Australian, May 26-27, 1979, p. 13.
Hodge, A. The Australian , December 9, 2004, p. 14.
Johnson, H. 1991 The Story of Wine, Mandarin.
Kessek, N. and Walton, H. 1965 Alcoholism, Penguin.
Luks, A. and Barbato, J 1989 You Are What You Drink.
Macmillan, S. Sunday Mail , September 2, 1979.
Maury, E. A. 1977 Wine Is The Best Medicine, Sheed, Andrews & McMeel.
O’Rielly, J. Time , April 25, 1983, pp 48-49.
Pengelley, J. The Advertiser , May 21, 2007, p. 9.
Robinson, C. H. & Lawler, M. R 1977 Normal and Therapeutic Nutrition, 15th edition, Macmillan, p. 520.
Watts, G. New Scientist , November 27, 1999, pp 84-88.
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