by Mike Harding
There once was a time when most conservative Christians, especially fundamentalist Christians, were strongly negative about beverage consumption of alcohol. Today, those attitudes are under pressure for change.
Surveys show that a staggering 64 percent of Protestant lay persons socially drink alcoholic beverages. Nationally, about 60 percent of the USA population drinks alcohol recreationally (July 2007 Gallup Poll of 18 year-old and above protestant laity in the USA).
Methodists were some of the first proponents of complete abstinence in the mid-1700’s. Southern Baptists have had a record of abstinence dating back to pro-abstinence resolutions as early as 1896 and as recent as 2006.
Why the sudden change? Broader social acceptance of drinking, a lack of preaching and teaching on the subject, the secularization of the church, and an increase of independence among adult church members have all contributed to the toleration of the social use of alcohol consumption among Protestant church members. For Christian pastors and churches, this means an increased counseling burden and an increase of social problems within the church itself.
The societal cost of drinking has risen to $184 billion per year and is a factor in as many as 105,000 deaths annually in the USA. In a recent USA Today/HBO poll, 20 percent of Americans said that they “had an immediate relative who at some point had been addicted to alcohol or drugs.” According to the same source, each addict negatively affects at least four to five people on a regular basis. Alcohol is commonly referred in the drug trafficking community as the “gateway drug.”
As Bible-believing Christians, how should we respond to this ongoing problem in our society? How should we deal with increasing pressure on our people and our churches for tolerance of alcohol consumption?
Over the next weeks we will publish a series of articles by Pastor Mike Harding in answer to these questions.
Mike Harding is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Troy, Michigan and a member of the FBFI Executive Board.
This article is excerpted from a single, longer piece by pastor Harding. Proclaim & Defend will make the original article available in pdf format when our serialization is complete.