Published October 21, 2004
Some preachers, like a lot of politicians, lick their index finger and hold it up to see which way the wind is blowing. They accommodate their message to suit the moral climate of their congregation. Preachers, and Christians generally, are not to be like thermometers registering the temperature of the times, but like thermostats regulating the temperature of the times.
There was a time when the pulpit would vehemently denounce strong drink as a devilish thing, a menace to society, a destroyer of the home and a wretchedness of the worst sort.
Billy Sunday, the great evangelist and revivalist of another generation, said, "The saloon is the sum of all villainies. It is worse than war or pestilence. It is the crime of crimes. It is the parent of crimes and the mother of sins. It is the appalling source of misery and crime in the land. And to license such an incarnate fiend of hell is the dirtiest low-down, damnable business on top of this old earth."
The free flow of beer, wine and liquor in our day and the proliferation of establishments that sell alcoholic beverages may be one certain proof of our need for revival.
I remember the Church Covenant my home church had adopted when I was growing up. Every member was asked to memorize it and apply it to his or her life. One passage from the covenant had to do with abstinence: "I will abstain from the sale or use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage."
Since the repeal of prohibition in 1933, more and more churches have gradually abandoned their stand for total abstinence and adopted a more moderate position toward the use of alcohol. This is a sad commentary on the church because the church, through its beliefs, teachings and preaching, is able to influence the moral values and practices of society more than any other institution.
What pastors preach from their pulpits on the subject of drinking determines to a large extent the stand their church members will take toward alcoholic beverages. Vance Havner, author and preacher, once wrote, "I'm awfully tired of hearing temperance in liquor drinking preached instead of abstinence - as a concession to the cocktail crowd in the congregation."
A majority of the 100 million drinkers in America today are churchgoers who have been taught that the Bible sanctions a moderate use of alcoholic beverages.
Unfortunately, moderate drinking has led over 18 million Americans to become immoderate drinkers, because alcohol is a habit-forming narcotic that weakens one's capacity for self-control.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction estimates the overall economic cost of alcohol abuse at nearly $200 billion annually. The use of alcoholic beverages also claims at least 100,000 lives each year according to statistics provided by a Mayo Clinic research group.
One startling fact that attracted my attention is the report from the NIAAA that indicates that those who consume alcohol actually damage their brains. Results of autopsy studies show that patients with a history of chronic alcohol consumption have smaller, lighter, more shrunken brains than nonalcoholic adults of the same age and gender.
Thomas Edison said, "I have better use for my brain than to poison it with alcohol. To put alcohol in the human brain is like putting sand in the bearings of an engine."
Baptists must not shrink from the fight against the liquor industry's attempt to liberalize the liquor laws in towns and counties across our state. Such a battle is now being fought in Tifton where Fred Evers, pastor of Northside Baptist Church, is leading the charge against the Tift County Hospitality Association's push for liquor by the drink.
Evers and other Tifton pastors have organized the Committee of Ten Thousand and mounted an anti-liquor-sales campaign for the Nov. 2 referendum on mixed-drink sales in Tifton and Tift County. Evers declares, "We are working hard and I am confident of a victory."
Similar referendums are being offered to voters in other cities and counties. God's people need to vote their values on this issue and vote for men and women who have moral clarity and principles of worth.
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