Created Dec. 10, 1999 - Updated Nov. 8, 2001
PROHIBITION WAS WRONG!
Alcohol has often been disapproved by many professing a belief in the Bible. When one considers the facts it becomes puzzling as to why. Drugs are completely vilified and demonized but I am not so certain about this, either. These things are examined here in light of the Bible. Prohibition was yet another blight on the face of U.S. History and the crusades of the religiously intolerant. It was not a law of the majority, not popular, and caused great harm. By making alcohol illegal, we created an artificial market of very high prices making alcohol perhaps the most profitable item around at that time. The potentially high (extremely high) profits enticed many to pursue the production and sale of alcohol no matter what the penalty. The money was just too good. And we currently wage a holy war against drugs here in the USA so it might be profitable to examine our previous holy war against alcohol.
In the prohibition era, gangsters came into power and profit that they had never known or imagined before. They used to have to depend on stealing, prostitution, and gambling for their money but prohibition was far above these in profit and power. So organized crime became extremely rich and powerful and . . . menacing, unfortunately. Gang wars and drive by shootings are not peculiar to our time, only, as similar acts of violence started back in the 20's with prohibition. It would not have turned out this way if we had not banned booze. Liquor created a monster that has plagued our society ever more ever since.
And who, I ask, was behind the prohibition? Of course, it was religious do-gooders shoving their ways down our throats to the detriment of all society. But the real irony about this is that there was no support for their stand against alcohol in the scriptures. Wine freely flowed in Bible times and God's servants sometimes got intoxicated, yes, drunk. Let me show you a few examples.
Genesis 9:20 reads, "And Noah, a man of the ground, began and planted a vineyard. And he drank from the wine, and was drunk." Noah was certainly approved by God and yet we see him drunk. And how about Lot, Abraham's nephew? In Genesis 19:30-38, we read how Lot's two daughters did not have anyone around to marry and have offspring with as they were living in a cave in the wilderness, completely isolated. Carrying on the family was a very important tradition to them so they conspired to get their father drunk so they could have sex with him and get pregnant. So they got him very drunk, had sex, got pregnant, and later both gave birth to sons. Again we see that wine (alcohol) flowed freely among those of God.
Some will say yes, but look at the consequences of Noah and Lot. Noah was in the privacy of his own tent among his own family. He should have been safe. Ham disrespected him, though. That is not Noah's fault. It was Ham, Noah's own son, who violated that trust or at least showed a poor attitude toward his father. The same with Lot. He should have been safe with his 2 daughters. Instead, they violated that familial trust and essentially raped him. Is that his fault or his daughters? Was it the alcohol's fault or the daughters? We are always vulnerable to the betrayal of family members. There is no real guard for that, I'm afraid. Shall we start blaming children for their parents molesting them? It is ridiculous to even suggest so. So those victimized by their families should not be found fault with.
I should state here to make myself clear that where you get "drunk is important." And I am not recommending getting sloshed, either. When I say drunk, I do not mean to the point of vomiting or passing out. If you're at home in safety and security among your own family, then there shouldn't be a problem. Getting drunk in public is another matter altogether. Women have passed out somewhere like at a party, only to be raped in their unconsciousness. Drinking and driving would make one blood guilty under God's law. Bad conduct and fights could erupt. At a bar, one might become overly susceptible to temptation. There is a time and place for everything according to Ecclesiastes so one does have to be very particular about the situation they are in if one is going to indulge. Lot and Noah should have been all right in the privacy of their own homes. Unfortunately, it was not the case.
Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding celebration (John 2). The Director of the feast, tasting the new wine, remarked to the bridegroom: "Everyone else serves his good wine first, and his poorer wine after people have drunk deeply, but you have kept back your good wine till now!" [An American Translation - Smith and Goodspeed]. You see, people would be more discerning of wine's taste when they were sober and after drinking some and becoming affected by the wine, they would be less discerning or concerned about the taste. So give them the best first and the lesser later. And we have Jesus contributing to their "getting intoxicated."
Jesus also shared wine with his disciples at "the Last Supper" as it has come to be known. He drank with them at other times as well. In fact, religious leaders, known as the Pharisees, accused Jesus of being a glutton and a drunkard. So it is likely that Jesus at least partook of wine to some degree though it is likely that the Pharisees could have been easily guilty of exaggeration in regards to the amount. Wine is a very common item in the scriptures as it was throughout the ancient world. Paul recommended it to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23 for medicinal purposes.
Some religious folk of our time insist that what is called wine in the Gospels is actually grape juice. But it is the word that is always used to name wine and the Bible describes people getting drunk from it so it could hardly be just grape juice. It was real, potentially intoxicating wine, not grape juice. There is no foundation for that in the Bible.
The Bible does speak against habitual or constant drunkenness (drunkards) in places such as 1 Corinthians 5:11. It condemns drunken bouts and revelries in Paul's letters of the New Testament. But getting drunk on a rare occasion is not expressly forbidden in the Mosaic Law. God's servants sometimes reached such a state of intoxication. I think it safe to say that drinking to the point of vomiting would certainly be wrong. After all, vomiting is a result of alcohol poisoning which could threaten one's life. Passing out is also a reaction to alcohol poisoning. These are extremes and I believe that is what the Bible condemns, along with getting fairly intoxicated every day which will do serious damage to the liver.
It should be noted that modern health professionals consider drinking everyday (as little as 1 glass of wine or a bottle of beer) to quite possibly be a problem - defining one who does so, an alcoholic. The Bible does not speak against that type of drinking at all. It seems to only condemn heavy constant drinking and intoxication; extreme behavior. Note Proverbs 23:20 - "Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags." [New International Version]. You might say they become skid row bums.
Let that scripture be balanced with this one from Proverbs 31:4-7 - "It is not for kings, O Lemuel, not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what the law decrees, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more." [New International Version]
It doesn't seem like the tone of Proverbs 31 is completely prohibitory, does it? It is food for thought if nothing else. When one considers the rather relaxed position that the scriptures take in regards to alcohol, one might start to question the total stand against drugs that nearly all Christians assume. While one should not become a slave to any substance (read addiction), it does not absolutely forbid the occasional consumption of inebriating drinks or other substances. I would go so far as to state that a Christian could occasionally enjoy consuming various herbs and other substances gathered from various plants for their pleasant effect, just as such is allowed from wine in the Bible.
But let us not confuse the sap of a poppy plant from that of highly refined and processed heroin or Coca leaves from that of concentrated purified crack cocaine. Taking refined processed concentrated drugs may be asking for trouble if even using them just one time results in physical harm, addiction, or out of control behavior for that would have the Bible's condemnation.
Concentrated drugs are very potent so care has to be taken. But occasional use of some "refined-purified" drugs may still be able to be used. Those against drugs have often made ridiculous or exaggerated if not outright false claims in regards to drugs. Their credibility is not good. But if left in their original unrefined plant form and used in moderation, plant derived substances may not present anymore harm than being a little inebriated by alcohol which is permitted in the scriptures (tolerated, at least) or stimulated by caffeine from coffee.
I am not condemning concentrated or isolated drugs or other substances, either. Some things in isolated form, like vitamins and other health nutrients, are better as they can be consumed for their benefit while eliminating more harmful components that would also end up being consumed in a whole plant compound. As with all things, caution should be carefully employed in dealing with "drugs" or other refined products. Some are good and some are not so good.
I am also not recommending or even suggesting or encouraging that one can or should "do drugs." I am arguing that one should be able to decide for himself whether it is permissible or forbidden by scripture. It would not be unreasonable if he concluded that there was no more harm in ingesting some substances than getting a little intoxicated with alcohol on occasion. He would just want to make sure he was in a safe secure environment if he intended to become strongly affected.
The Bible says in Genesis 1:29 - "And God said, Behold, I have given you every plant seeding seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is the fruit of a tree seeding seed - it shall be food for you." [Jay Green's Literal Translation].
Coca leaves, poppies, hemp; they are all plants that may serve some medicinal use and maybe some permissible pleasure once in a while as well. It is something to consider. Most people do not condemn coffee which stimulates or chocolate as well. Kava is a root taken to relax and available in many health stores. There are other mood altering foods like these and almost no one thinks twice about taking these. There are even amino acids (the components of protein) that can significantly affect the function of the brain and alter mood.
Yes, this is an extremely radical view in opposition to how nearly all other religions view drugs. But if one cares to examine the scriptures without prejudice to carefully to see if what he believes really has the backing of the Bible, I believe that person may have to conclude that it is not clearly and out rightly condemned. In fact, drugs are not mentioned at all. I am basing their regulation on how liquor is regulated in the Bible. And remember that Paul counseled Christians not to judge each other about what was right to eat (Romans 14).
Paul best illustrates differences in understanding in Romans 14. It is here that our individual accountability to God is stressed as well as judging each other and our differences of understanding and practice. I will start with verse 10 from the New International Version.
"10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: 'As surely as I live, says the Lord, Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.' So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God."
What Paul is saying here is that we will only have to account for ourselves and not anyone else. Christians should not be judging each other in matters of conscience and individual understanding such as whether something is proper to eat or not. God does the judging. Only God! So Paul continues in verse 13.
"14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean."
What Paul makes clear here is that nothing in regards to food (among other things) is unclean unless your thinking makes it so. If you think it is then it is. If you think it not then it is not. Paul then sums up the matter in verse 22.
"14:22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin."
So will other Christians let you make you own judgement about drugs? Ha ha! Not likely! But you will observe that one thing is certain. Alcohol was permitted and used, at times to great degrees by God's people. Jesus, himself, drank wine.
But in the early part of this century we had Christians carrying on a great campaign to forbid the production, sale, and consumption of any and all alcohol. This is an extreme stand, It is not supported by the Bible! It was enforced upon all society, and it caused more harm than the abuse of alcohol did when it was legal. And it did not stop the drinking of alcohol at all. It was a failure in every way and forbidding it was a denial of the Constitutional rights of every living citizen of that time.
This could lead a thinking person to wonder about the wisdom of the so-called "war on drugs" currently being waged in vain. It costs plenty, it stops nothing, and there is doubt about its supposed moral quality or lack of it. But it certainly does create a lucrative market for those who distribute and sell drugs. It creates fantastic sums of money and power. Power leads to corruption. Money leads to power and violence is always the result. Lots of money begets lots of violence. It already has and will only get worse. Like prohibition, the huge profits encourage many to take the huge risks that could cost them their lives or land them in prison.
It calls to my mind a comment Jesus made in Luke 16:8 - "For the sons of this age are more prudent (read sensible) than the sons of light themselves are in their generation." [Jay Green's Literal Translation].
Jesus said this in reference to an illustration of a slave who had tried to make friends with other businesses who had an account with his master by lowering their debts to his master. He was doing this because he was being "fired" by his master as his master was unhappy with the slave's work. When his master had seen the slave's clever though devious behavior, the master decided to keep the slave as he might yet be useful to his master for his "practical wisdom" (some might call it Machiavellian or political wisdom). Jesus encouraged his followers to use their money in behalf of God to win His favor as it was the obviously practical thing to do.
The "sons of this age" could be very practical about money matters where as the "sons of light" tended to be a little too "moral," perhaps, to see the practicality of certain actions. I don't believe Jesus was encouraging deviant behavior but was telling followers to be smart and practical in their affairs . . .which brings us to the war on drugs and the late war on alcohol.
These wars were and are, costly, ineffective, and harmful to society for the crime, violence, and corruption brought about, as well as overcrowded courts and prisons. Legitimizing them would make them a taxable commodity which would help our taxation debt and revenues. Of course, if they were completely legal like all other plants in your garden, then they wouldn't be worth anything. But at least we wouldn't have all the crime and wasted law enforcement resources wasted trying to stop them. But so called "morality" (mock morality) gets in the way of practical beneficial policies that would lighten the loads of all society. Instead we have to bear the load of those who do not have an uncontested position of morality but try to enforce it upon the rest of us, anyway. And they are not even in the majority, but they do have big mouths.
It is also quite possible that "Organized Crime" would also like to keep drugs illegal since they are so profitable. And they are certainly capable of influencing politicians to keep the status quo. And there are allegations that even the government has been and continues to be involved in the drug trade. If that were so, it might also explain even more why drugs will likely stay illegal and very profitable.
But who are the "moral" majority big mouths who insisted that drugs are wicked, horrible, and demonic? The same as always, the religious element of intolerant prohibitors. They will not allow each individual to decide for themselves what is moral or not. Their morals must be ours. But I say we are all adults and should be able to make choices for ourselves about would to eat or drink. God gives us this right and the Constitution of the United States of America also gave us this right although current laws do not.
What have we learned? Eating or drinking, regardless of what it is, is not really regulated in the Bible. We have to regulate ourselves like big boys and girls. And intoxication was not unknown among God's faithful servants.
Secondly, Christians have no business involving themselves in political causes for the most part. They certainly have no right to enforce their moral views on society, especially when those views are not clearly and obviously supported by the scriptures. Doing so, often does more harm than good to themselves and all society. Christians profit most when they stay out of the government's affairs for the most part and concentrate on their relationship with God. For more on this see the articles "Neutrality" and "Tolerance and Individual Belief."
The last consideration and perhaps the greatest in harmony with Rom. 14 and expounded upon in 1 Cor. 10.
1 Corinthians 10:23 - Revised Standard Version: 23 "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For "the earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.
We need not question something's origins. We know an idol is nothing. But notice what Paul says just a few lines back from what I just quoted. 1 Corinthians 10:18:
10:18 Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons.
Now Paul says:
10:28 (But if some one says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then out of consideration for the man who informed you, and for conscience' sake--29 I mean his conscience, not yours--do not eat it.).
Other people may not understand what we do so we can not assume they understand. And if someone deliberately makes an unclean association with something then we would avoid it. But then Paul asks in the opposing person's perspective:
10:29 For why should my liberty be determined by another man's scruples? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please all men in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
Paul's basic answer was, in 33, that we seek the others advantage and that this is what he does by example for the Corinthians and others to imitate.
Although we have freedom to eat whatever we want and not be judged for it by God, we must consider what will happen to other Christians if they observe our bold attitude toward alcohol or drugs. They may not understand the freedom we rightfully have and be stumbled. Then we would have to answer to God, not for eating, but for having no concern for our brothers. Caring is an absolute Christian mandate that can not be bypassed. Love or lack of it is what we shall ultimately be judged on by God.
No matter what we do or what we seek, the most important thing for any Christian to keep in mind is . . . You must love your neighbor as you would yourself! Never forget it! Call it the "prime directive" if you happen to be a Star Trek fan.
But we also have the option of imparting greater understanding to our brothers by sharing these things from the Bible so that we will not be so hindered in our pursuits and options. Something to think about!
Remaining Neutral Toward Governments
Tolerance & Individual Belief
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