Pentecostal and holiness churches went against the cultural tides when they opposed cigarette smoking throughout the 20th century.
Early on, the military was promoting cigarettes. So was Congress and Hollywood, Madison Avenue and (of course) Big Tobacco. But Pentecostals held their ground — and were eventually vindicated.
Pentecostals argued that smoking was a nasty, disgusting, filthy habit (all true, of course) and that it defiled the temple of the Holy Ghost. But that isn’t why they carried the day. They won the war on tobacco because of science and the surgeon general.
Cigarettes caused cancer. Period. Game, set, match.
While Pentecostals carried the day on cigarettes, they’ve been less successful when it comes to alcohol. And in this battle, science could be their adversary instead of their ally.
Time magazine’s headline says it all: Heavy Drinkers Outlive Nondrinkers, Study Finds. Here’s a couple of paragraphs from the Time article:
“The sample of those who were studied included individuals between ages 55 and 65 who had had any kind of outpatient care in the previous three years. The 1,824 participants were followed for 20 years. One drawback of the sample: a disproportionate number, 63%, were men. Just over 69% of the never-drinkers died during the 20 years, 60% of the heavy drinkers died and only 41% of moderate drinkers died.
These are remarkable statistics. Even though heavy drinking is associated with higher risk for cirrhosis and several types of cancer (particularly cancers in the mouth and esophagus), heavy drinkers are less likely to die than people who have never drunk.”
The study flies in the face of conventional wisdom. And it seems, at first blush, to defy common sense.
But here’s my question: If future studies suggest that complete abstention from alcohol is injurious to one’s health, should Pentecostals and other anti-alcohol churches rethink their long-held position on alcohol?
Furthermore, if alcohol, in moderation, is conclusively shown to be good for one’s health (and the scientific evidence increasingly says it is), should Protestant churches re-embrace the use of wine during the Eucharist?
The use of grape juice during Communion is apparently a 19th century innovation. All of the churches with apostolic succession, as far as I know, use wine when they commemorate the Last Supper.
Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Roman Catholic, Anglican — they all have used the fermented fruit of the vine for centuries or millennia.