wine

Have most Protestants in the United States gone soft on drinking alcohol?

Have most Protestants in the United States gone soft on drinking alcohol?

THE QUESTION:

What do today’s U.S. Protestants believe about the use of alcoholic beverages? Have attitudes softened?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

Yes, without question. And there’s been a bit of soul-searching about this in America’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. Its press service reports ongoing concern especially about teen alcohol abuse has increased somewhat since recent Senate testimony about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Catholic prep school experience.

Further, just afterward USA Today reported a study showing from 2007 to 2017 U.S. deaths attributed to alcohol increased 35 percent, and 67 percent among women (while teen deaths declined 16 percent). These fatalities well outnumber those from opioid overdoses that have roused such public concern.

Not so long ago, total abstinence predominated among many or most Protestants, who effectively mandated this for clergy and expected the same from lay members. (Other faith groups such as Muslims and Mormons elevate abstinence into a divine commandment.)

In a 2007 survey of Southern Baptists, only 3 percent of pastors and 29 percent of lay members said they drink alcoholic beverages. This survey showed that across other U.S. Protestant denominations 25 percent of pastors and 42 percent of lay members said they drink.

A 2016 Barna Group poll showed 60 percent of adults who are active churchgoers (both Protestants and Catholics) said they drink, compared with 67 percent for the over-all U.S. population. Among evangelicals there was a nearly even split with 46 percent who drink. (Barna defines “evangelicals” by conservative beliefs, not the loose self-identification political polls use.) Only 2 percent of evangelicals admitted they sometimes over-indulge.

Otherwise, Barna found, regular churchgoers consume smaller amounts on average than others. Asked why they don’t drink, 10 percent of abstainers acknowledged it’s because they are addicts in recovery. Notably, 41 percent of the population said alcohol causes trouble for their families.

The Bible does not teach total abstinence, and says wine can be a blessing (Psalm 104:15) and helpful medicine (Proverbs 31:6 or 1 Timothy 5:23).

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Wine? Juice? Water? Wheat bread? What should be served at Holy Eucharist?

Wine? Juice? Water? Wheat bread? What should be served at Holy Eucharist?

GORDON’S QUESTION:

Why do some Christians use (unfermented) grape juice or leavened bread in Communion since what was on the table at the Last Supper was almost certainly unleavened bread and fermented wine?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

The Bible records that on the night of Jesus’ arrest he blessed and distributed bread saying “take; this is my body,”  and shared a cup saying “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” He concluded with “do this in remembrance of me,” and billions of Christians have done just that across the centuries in rites known as Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, Mass, Holy Eucharist or Divine Liturgy.

Historians assume that, yes, Jesus’ “Last Supper” would have consisted of commonplace fermented wine, not fresh and non-alcoholic grape juice, and bread without leavening since this occurred during Jewish Passover. Modern Christians differ on the elements they serve, as we’ll see, but there’s a limit. Believers were offended by a TV ad produced for the 2011 Super Bowl (but never aired) with a pastor boosting church attendance by providing sacramental Doritos and Pepsi.

Roman Catholic canon law is precise about using the literal elements from the Last Supper at daily Masses.

Please respect our Commenting Policy