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The Biblical Tradition Commends Sobriety

Tobacco kills about 430,700 each year. Alcohol and alcohol-related diseases and injuries kill about 110,000 per year. Secondhand tobacco smoke kills about 50,000 every year. Aspirin and other anti-inflammatory drugs kill 7,600 each year.

Cocaine kills about 500 yearly alone, and another 2,500 in combination with another drug. Heroin kills about 400 yearly alone, and another 2,500 in combination with another drug. Adverse reactions to prescription drugs total 32,000 per year, while marijuana kills no one.

According to a 2003 Zogby poll, two of every five Americans say: “the government should treat marijuana the same way it treats alcohol: It should regulate it, control it, tax it, and only make it illegal for children.”

It makes sense to abstain from intoxication!

Collegiate excess has repercussions far beyond hangovers and missed classes, and should be of concern to members of the surrounding community.

"Binge drinking hurts not only the drinker but also others near him," says Henry Wechsler, Ph.D., a lecturer at the Harvard school of Public Health, where he was also the director of the College Alcohol Study, and author of Dying to Drink: Confronting Binge Drinking on College Campuses.

"The binge drinker disturbs the peace, through noise, vandalism and sometimes violence. Like secondhand smoke, binge drinking pollutes the environment."

"The [social] cost of alcohol is in the billions of dollars. Roughly half the total is related to what's called alcohol addiction," says Paul Gruenewald, scientific director of the Prevention Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, which is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

"The other half is related to other harms that happen to people when drinking; primarily drunk driving, drunk driving crashes, pedestrian injuries, violent assaults, and various criminal behaviors and various injuries," Gruenewald said.

"It's not a pretty picture. It's quite ugly from the public health point of view. It's a much bigger problem than crime related to illegal drugs," he added.

Alcohol, not marijuana, is the most abused drug in the United States.

As of 1983, there were an estimated eight million known alcoholics in America, with the number increasing by 450,000 every year.

One survey reported that 75 percent of all crimes and 60 percent of all divorces have drinking in their background. The National Safety Council reports 50 percent of all traffic deaths are caused by drunk drivers.

According to vegan author Dr. John MacDougall in his 1983 book, The MacDougall Plan, over seven percent of the adult population in the United States suffers from alcoholism, resulting in decreased productivity, accidents, crime, mental and physical disease and disruption of family life.

Excessive consumption of alcohol leads to liver disease, cancer, birth defects (fetal alcohol syndrome) and multiple vitamin deficiency diseases.

A report by the World Health Organization states:

"Alcohol is a poison to the nervous system. The double solubility of alcohol in water and fat enables it to invade the nerve cell. A man may become a chronic alcoholic without ever having shown symptoms of drunkenness."

The conclusion of the report is that none are immune to alcoholism and total abstinence is the only solution.

Dr. MacDougall writes that excessive consumption of caffeine leads to an elevated heart rate, irregular heart beat, increased blood pressure, frequent urination, increased gastric secretion, nervousness, irritability and insomnia.

Moreover, the body actually becomes physically addicted to caffeine. Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, drowsiness, tension and anxiety.

Again: it makes sense to abstain from intoxication!

The Prohibition of alcohol in the United States failed. Whether or not mind-altering substances should be banned in a secular democracy, or rather legal and strictly regulated or restricted, is a separate issue, subject to serious political debate.

Condemnations of alcohol and drunkenness can be found throughout the Bible. The ancient Hebrews regarded alcohol as both a blessing and a curse. God was praised because "He causes the grass to grow for the cattle and fruits and vegetables for man to cultivate that he may bring forth food from the earth. Wine to gladden the heart of man..." (Psalm 104:14-15)

On the other hand, alcohol was also an instrument of God's displeasure: "Thou hast made Thy people suffer hard things; Thou hast given us wine to drink that made us reel." (Psalm 60:3)

Wine was permitted for medicinal use. (Proverbs 31:6-7; I Timothy 5:23). At no place in the Bible is alcohol (or any other drug) explicitly forbidden. Drunkenness, or the excesses of alcohol (and presumably all other drugs) is condemned, but not the drug itself.

Complete abstinence from intoxication, however, was considered a sign of holiness. God commanded His priests to be holy and pure before worship. "Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou nor thy sons with thee, when you go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a perpetual statute for ever throughout your generations." (Leviticus 10:9)

God also established the order of the Nazarites. The Nazarites distinguished themselves by never allowing a razor to touch their head, abstaining from alcohol, and by their piety before God. "When either a man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite....he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes..." (Numbers 6:1-21)

Wine drinking was equated with sexual immorality and worshiping other gods: "Go, ye, adulteress, according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine." (Hosea 3:1) "Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart." (Hosea 4:11)

It appears that wine was never intended for kings or political leaders, because of its intoxicating effects. (Proverbs 31:4-5)

Excesses of alcohol amongst religious leaders were also denounced in biblical times: "the priest and the prophet reel with strong drink, they are confused with wine, they stagger with strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in giving judgment." (Isaiah 28:7)

According to Reverend Alvin Hart, an Episcopal priest in New York, the drinking of wine was frowned upon in biblical times. "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." (Proverbs 20:1) Intoxicating beverages were known to be habit-forming (Proverbs 23:35), resulting in violence (Proverbs 4:17) and distracting their imbibers from God (Amos 6:6).

The Bible says, " is treacherous; the arrogant man shall not abide... woe unto him that giveth his neighbor drink." (Habbakuk 2:5,15) And: "Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without course? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine, those who try mixed wine. Do not look at wine 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." (Proverbs 23:29-32)

John the Baptist never touched alcohol. Jesus told the multitudes: "John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine..." (Luke 7:33) Jesus warned his disciples: "Be on your guard," he warned, "so that your hearts are not overloaded with carousing, drunkenness, and worldly vigilant and pray unceasingly." (Luke 21:34-36) Referring to Proverbs 23:20, Jesus condemned one who "eats and drinks with the drunken." (Matthew 24:49; Luke 12:45)

Peter linked alcoholic excesses to the gentile practices of idolatry and sexual immorality. "For we have spent enough of our past in doing the will of the gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties and abominable idolatries." (I Peter 4:3)

Paul did not forbid wine. Instead, he advocated moderation. Wine is to be taken sparingly, if at all.

"A bishop then, must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous." (I Timothy 3:2-3)

"Likewise, deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money." (I Timothy 3:2-3,8) For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled." (Titus 1:7-8)

"It was divinely proclaimed," insisted the early church father Tertullian, "'Wine and strong liquor shall you not drink, you and your sons after you.' Now this prohibition of drink is essentially connected with the vegetable diet. Thus, where abstinence from wine is required by the Deity, or is vowed by man, there, too, may be understood suppression of gross feeding, for as is the eating, so is the drinking.

"It is not consistent with truth that a man should sacrifice half of his stomach only to God--that he should be sober in drinking, but intemperate in eating. Your belly is your God, your liver is your temple, your paunch is your altar, the cook is your priest, and the fat steam is your Holy Spirit; the seasonings and the sauces are your chrisms, and your belchings are your prophesizing..."

St. Basil (AD 320-79) taught, "The steam of meat darkens the light of the spirit. One can hardly have virtue if one enjoys meat meals and feasts...In the earthly paradise, there was no wine, no one sacrificed animals, and no one ate meat. Wine was only invented after the Deluge...

"With simple living, well being increases in the household, animals are in safety, there is no shedding of blood, nor putting animals to death. The knife of the cook is needless, for the table is spread only with the fruits that nature gives, and with them they are content."

St. Jerome (AD 340-420) wrote to a monk in Milan who had abandoned vegetarianism:

"As to the argument that in God's second blessing (Genesis 9:3) permission was given to eat flesh--a permission not given in the first blessing (Genesis 1:29)--let him know that just as permission to put away a wife was, according to the words of the Saviour, not given from the beginning, but was granted to the human race by Moses because of the hardness of our hearts (Matthew 19:1-12), so also in like manner the eating of flesh was unknown until the Flood, but after the Flood, just as quails were given to the people when they murmured in the desert, so have sinews and the offensiveness been given to our teeth.

"The Apostle, writing to the Ephesians, teaches us that God had purposed that in the fullness of time he would restore all things, and would draw to their beginning, even to Christ Jesus, all things that are in heaven or that are on earth. Whence also, the Saviour Himself in the Apocalypse of John says, 'I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.' From the beginning of human nature, we neither fed upon flesh nor did we put away our wives, nor were our foreskins taken away from us for a sign. We kept on this course until we arrived at the Flood.

"But after the Flood, together with the giving of the Law, which no man could fulfill, the eating of flesh was brought in, and the putting away of wives was conceded to hardness of heart...But now that Christ has come in the end of time, and has turned back Omega to Alpha...neither is it permitted to us to put away our wives, nor are we circumcised, nor do we eat flesh."

St. Jerome was responsible for the Vulgate, or Latin version of the Bible, still in use today. He felt a vegetarian diet was best for those devoted to the pursuit of wisdom. He once wrote that he was not a follower of Pythagoras or Empodocles "who do not eat any living creature," but concluded, "And so I too say to you: if you wish to be perfect, it is good not to drink wine and eat flesh."

"Thanks be to God!" wrote John Wesley, founder of Methodism, to the Bishop of London in 1747. "Since the time I gave up the use of flesh-meats and wine, I have been delivered from all physical ills." Wesley was a vegetarian for spiritual reasons as well. He based his vegetarianism on the Biblical prophecies concerning the Kingdom of Peace, where "on the new earth, no creature will kill, or hurt, or give pain to any other." He further taught that animals "shall receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings."

Wesley's teachings placed an emphasis on inner religion and the effect of the Holy Spirit upon the consciousness of such followers. Wesley taught that animals will attain heaven: in the "general deliverance" from the evils of this world, animals would be given "vigor, strength and a far higher degree than they ever enjoyed."

Wesley urged parents to educate their children about compassion towards animals. He wrote: "I am persuaded you are not insensible of the pain given to every Christian, every humane heart, by those savage diversions, bull-baiting, cock-fighting, horse-racing, and hunting."

The Bible Christian Church was a 19th century movement teaching vegetarianism, abstinence from wine, and compassion for animals. The church began in England in 1800, requiring all its members to take vows of abstinence from meat and wine. One of its first converts, William Metcalfe (1788-1862), immigrated to Philadelphia in 1817 with forty-one followers to establish a church in America. Metcalfe cited numerous biblical references to support his thesis that humans were meant to follow a vegetarian diet for reasons of health and compassion for animals.

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