M. S. Thirumalai
Devastating Effects of Alcohol and Alcoholism
Consumption of intoxicating drinks and its devastating effects on reason and life has been noted in a variety of literature in all religions. Consumption of alcohol is more widespread now than in the past. The methods of production and distribution of alcoholic beverages are also more sophisticated now. Film personalities lend their names to leading brands of liquor and thus boost their sale around the globe. Drinking liquor in social gatherings has become a marked feature of the “moderns” around the world. Research is on as to how this widespread use of liquor affects children in the womb and when they are raised.
Greater the Material Prosperity Wider is the Indulgence in Spirits!
With more money in hand, the growing middle class in Asia, Africa and Latin America has become the most sought after target for the spread of the tentacles of alcohol consumption. Their modern ways of living are modeled after the portrayal of lifestyles in movies produced in Hollywood. Meanwhile, consumption of alcohol in Europe and America has spread wildly among the younger generation, in binging episodes. Residents of Educational Campuses around the world have now become the greatest market for liquor sale. Many from the poorer economic classes and traditionally ill-treated social classes and castes spend their monthly earnings in a week or so in consuming liquor. Automobile accidents caused by drunken driving kill thousands of innocent people.
We could go on listing the harmful effects of alcohol consumption on all the four corners of the world. There is no end in insight for this sad drama played out before our lives.
Desensitizing Language Use
Language use, like in some other spheres of life, is being desensitized. “Drunkard” is not any more an acceptable term for those under the incessant influence of alcohol. We now use the more respectful term “alcohol dependence.” This may be a welcome sign, we believe from a Christian perspective, as the individuals are not to be condemned and should be given a chance to redeem themselves from this evil spiritual influence.
Some Defining Features of Alcoholism
Alcoholism is defined by a few determining features: “Craving –A strong need, or urge, to drink. Loss of control — Not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun. Physical dependence — Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after stopping drinking. Tolerance–The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get ‘high.'” (http://www.campral.com/rec_symptoms.aspx). Further sub-categorization of alcoholism is also made in relevant literature.
Alcoholism Develops into a Disease
Alcoholism is described as a disease in secular literature. That it develops into a disease cannot be denied. That alcoholism can become a chronic case (lasting for a long period, or even a lifetime) cannot be denied. However, the origin and root causes of alcohol dependence must be sought after in spiritual terms. And its cure must originate from the practice of spiritual disciplines in order for the individual to be wholly healed.
How Do Missionaries Respond to the Impact of the “Spirits”?
How do missionaries respond to this situation? How does our missionary education help train the missionaries to redeem the unfortunate who are under the severe and evil hold of alcohol?
Our missionary training programs should take advantage of the large and easily available literature on the Internet on alcoholism, and understand the processes, both curative and developmental, undertaken to eradicate alcoholism by various government agencies of the nations in which the missionaries are already serving and planning to serve. The social causes and religious and spiritual explanations and support for alcohol use in various departments of life of the society and the individual must be understood. We need to impart a Bible-based theology against alcohol use and alcoholism, while pointing out the spiritual disciplines available to us for remedial processes. A seminar format of discussions in our classes will be greatly effective to deal with this issue, as this issue brings out many aspects that can be easily misunderstood and misinterpreted.
Non-Christian Religions and Substance Use
As pointed out above, world religions have condemned alcohol consumption in varying degrees: In a classical Tamil ethical work, a drunkard is likened to a dead body and the text declares that the consumption of alcohol will ruin the family for generations. In classical Sanskrit texts, an alcoholic is asked to draw the picture of a bottle of liquor on his forehead and be condemned. However, Hindu gods are also known to consume their own brand of liquor. Offer of locally made liquor to gods, as part of the ritual and sacrifice is quite common. Buddhism also speaks against alcohol consumption, but use of it is widespread in subsidiary temples Buddhists visit. Divine beings listed in Buddhism are known to consume liquor. Islam rejects it outright, but alcoholism is, nonetheless widespread in Islamic nations.
Yet, it should be noted that in almost every non-Christian religion substance use is resorted to get into a trance and experience the mystical and spiritual world.
Charge Against Christianity as Promoter of Alcohol Use
A pastime of religious preachers in the above listed world religions is to accuse Christianity and Christians as mainly responsible for the spread of alcohol consumption in non-European nations around the world. But, the fact of the matter is that in all these nations there has always been a busy alcohol industry for centuries closely associated with religious rituals, social purposes, and individual preferences.
With the introduction of modern methods of production in all spheres of economics, “niceties” and “finer elements” were introduced. In India, indigenous liquor is termed country-made liquor, and the liquor manufactured using various processes such as elaborate distilling commonly used in western nations is called Foreign-made Indian Liquor. Consumption of foreign-made Indian liquor has become the symbol of “modernization.” Similar developments are easily noticed in every country in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
There is a widespread misunderstanding of the symbols of wine and bread in Christian communion among those who have not heard the Gospel and understood the saving grace that is exhibited and recognized through these symbolic acts.
There is also some confusion in treating the consumption of alcohol for social purposes.
The Bible on Alcohol and Alcoholism
What does the Bible say? What is Scriptural and what is Cultural? These questions need to be discussed in our missionary training classes and our missionary candidates given some explicit understanding on the issues involved here.
“The scriptural position on alcohol is an emphasis on moderate use of alcohol,” says the website http://wooga.drbacchus.com/bible/alcohol.html. We would rather assert that there is no emphasis whatsoever on the use of alcohol anywhere in the Bible. We get cultural displays of moderate use of alcohol while severely condemning the excessive use of alcohol for its intoxication. The scene at Cana is not intended to preach in favor of moderate consumption of alcohol nor was the cup of Jesus mentioned in the gospels intended to encourage alcoholic consumption.
There are three instances in the life and ministry of Jesus that directly relate to wine: John 2:1-11, Luke 7:33, and Matthew 26:27, Mark 14:23, and Luke 22:17. In none of these, Jesus is portrayed to be tipsy!
Jesus Changes Water to Wine
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine. “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him. John 2:1-11
The Cup That Jesus Holds
There are three direct references to Jesus relating to wine. In each of these references, there is symbolism involved and Jesus is pointing out to fundamental truths.
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ Matthew 26:27
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. Mark 14:23
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. Luke 22:17
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. Sanctions Against Getting Drunk Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler: whoever is led astray by them is not wise (Proverbs 20:1).
Let Us Focus on Our Lord Jesus Christ
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22, 23).
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M. S. Thirumalai