Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Church Matters

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Church Matters

Article excerpt

Byline: By Francis Wood

A time to drink?

a readerasks me to write something about the church and temperance. It's a bit like asking a vegetarian to open a new steak house but as binge drinking is in the news again, here goes. Monsignor Ronald Knox was once asked what was the biggest problem with alcohol and he replied, "finding a corkscrew."

We're probably amused by stories of Victorian temperance meetings. In the musical Guys and Dolls, a mission group approaches some gamblers who are the worse for drink. They sing, "Follow the fold and stray no more. Put down the bottle and we'll say no more."

We need to remind ourselves alcoholism was once, and still is, a disease. In the 19th Century, signing the pledge and total abstinence were preached by the church as a result of the horrors of excess and the gin palaces. There you could get "drunk for a penny, dead drunk for two pence with clean straw for nothing."

Temperance means restraint in accordance with reason. With prudence, fortitude and justice, it counts as one of the cardinal virtues. To spell it out more clearly, it means what the advertisement for shaving soap used to say, "not too little, not too much, but just right."

As Christians, we believe life is to be lived to the glory of God and if we live solely in the pursuit of happiness, like the end of the rainbow, we shall never get there. During Lent, we deny ourselves certain pleasures but that doesn't mean all pleasures are wrong. They are good and we can give them a suitable place in our lives but not be ruled by them.

So where does that leave the church today? Should there be a revival of temperance campaigns? The worst thing would be to condemn all drink as wrong, but remember for some people alcohol is a poison and should not be entertained.

The rest of us need to pursue temperance, recognising what the old teacher, Ecclesiastes, said: "For everything under heaven there is a season and a time: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. …

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