In the past few years I have been called upon to render first aid to victims of six different automobile accidents. One accident alone involved five soldiers, three of whom were seriously injured. In each accident at least one of the drivers had been drinking. The responsibility for each accident was naturally placed upon the shoulders of those who had been drinking. But was theirs alone the responsibility?
Should not the responsibility be equally shared by the bartender who sold the drink; by the manufacturer who made it ; by the voters who legalized liquor; by the people who did not vote at all, and thus by their indifference cast a vote in favor of it? Should not the educational system of our country share some of the blame for lack of interest in teaching the students in our schools the ill effects of alcohol on the human system? And do not we, who have been chosen of God to preach the gospel, have a responsibility to make true temperance education a vital part of our evangelistic work?
"There are approximately ioo,000,000 men and women of drinking age, that is, of fifteen years and over, in the United States. Of the too,000,00o persons of drinking age, 50,000,000 use alcoholic beverages; of these, 3,000,000 become excessive drinkers ; and of these 750,000 become chronic alcoholics."By excessive drinkers we shall mean those persons who drink to an extent which exposes them to the risk of becoming compulsive drinkers and developing chronic alcoholism."—Alcohol, Science, and Society, p. 23. (A book published by the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1945, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.)
In the Yale lectures it is stated that alcoholism is a disease. As such, it is a problem for the doctor. But while the problem of the 3,000,000 alcoholics is the responsibility of the doctor and the psychologist, the problem of alcohol is the problem of society. As ministers of the gospel, who should have a strong influence in shaping the course of society, we need to study the liquor problem and use our influence in solving it.
What is the solution? As a doctor solves the problem of appendicitis by cutting out the source of the disease, so the problem of alcoholism can only be solved by removing the source. This, society can do. Legislation alone will not solve the problem of intemperance, although it is a step in the right direction. When the great experiment was tried and legalism prohibited the use of intoxicating drinks, the drinker felt that the rest of the nation was infringing upon his rights, and an alcoholic cacophony of protest arose from drinker and manufacturer alike, increasing by the year, until a confused public permitted the volume of protest to warp its judgment and influence it to allow the return of the great destroyer.
Two things were responsible, to a great extent, for the failure of the prohibition amendment. First, little or no effort was made to help the drinker to understand why it was better for him not to drink. Stress was laid on the benefits the drinker's family would receive through the money the drinker would save when he could not spend that money for liquor. Little effort was made to teach the drinker, in an intelligent way, that he was ruining his health and endangering his life. Second, after prohibition the advocates of the dry cause, content in their victory, lost interest in the cause, trusting too much to legislation to make the nation sober. Immediately after the dry victory a strong educational program should have been carried out in schools and churches, and by public lectures, teaching the people the effects of alcohol on the human system.
The churches of America, as well as the temperance societies of the country, should profit by past mistakes. It is not too late to try once again to bring about the repeal of the liquor laws. Before that is done, however, an educational program should be launched throughout the country that will give the drinker a logical, sensible reason for giving up his drink. Sentiment about the benefits to his family will not influence him. The desire for the effects of liquor, even in a moderate drinker, will have a stronger influence on him than the. needs of his family. The ministry of all churches has an important role to play in the alcohol problem. God has strongly indicted not only strong drink but the users and sellers as well. W. Albert Smith says:
"I have taken Young's Concordance and other helps, and have made a study of the Bible on the subject. It is indeed revealing! Here one finds scores of direct references, comprising one hundred and sixty-two verses of Scripture. This is more Scripture than, one will find on any of the subjects of lying, adultery, swearing, stealing. Sabbathbreaking, cheating, hypocrisy, pride, or even blasphemy."— "A Brief Summary of Bible References on the Drink Evil." (Reprinted from the Bulletin of the Alabama Temperance Alliance.)
Such a revealing statement should leave no doubt in the mind ' of any minister regarding the place of temperance in his ministry. Certainly, every Seventh-day Adventist minister should be active in the cause of temperance. We could build up much good will among ministers of other denominations if we would unite more often with them in temperance education. By doing this, much prejudice would be broken down.
My own experience in this matter has convinced me of its value in establishing better relations with other ministers. On one occasion the Ministerial Association in a certain town was advocating the teaching of the Bible in the public schools. At the last moment three Adventist ministers learned of the plan and appeared before the city council to protest. The protests were too late, and the Ministerial Association made some uncomplimentary remarks about Adventists and their queer, narrow views. About a year and a half later a local option campaign was launched by the same Ministerial Association. We offered our services to them. It was our privilege to work very closely with them for more than a month. The new relationship entirely changed their attitude toward Adventists. It was my privilege to speak in many of the churches in that town during the campaign. The ministers and people were loud in their praises of Adventists, and a much better understanding and feeling has existed since. Mrs. E. G. White did not hestitate to unite with other organizations in temperance work (see Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 274), and has made it clear that we should follow such a course "so far as we can do so without compromise." (Gospel Workers, p. 385.)
Seventh-day Adventist ministers should find a definite place in their evangelistic meetings for one or more temperance lectures. Such lectures, when properly given, can influence souls in the study of the Bible. In the Testimonies there is some counsel worth heeding:
"When temperance is presented as a part of the gospel, many will see their need of reform, They will see the evil of intoxicating liquors, and that total abstinence is the only platform on which God's people can conscientiously stand. As this instruction is , given, the people will become interested in other lines of Bible study."—Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 75.
"In our work more attention should be given to the temperance reform. . . . Those ministers . . . who do not make personal appeals to the people are remiss in their duty. They fail of doing the work which God has appointed them."—Ibid., vol. 6, p. iio.
"Every true reform has its place in the work of the gospel and tends to the uplifting of the soul to a new and nobler life. Especially does the temperance reform demand the support of Christian workers. They should call attention to this work, and make it a living issue."—Ministry of Healing, p. 171.
With these instructions clearly given in the Spirit of prophecy, it would seem that the time has come for the ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to take its rightful place as leaders in temperance reform. Careful study should be given to the best methods of presenting temperance as a Christian doctrine essential to salvation. Up-to-date facts and statistics concerning the liquor business should be gathered and wisely presented. The source of such facts and statistics should be given. It should be made clear that we are pointing out the evils of a business that will bring unhappiness, and sometimes tragedy, into the home. Never should any derogatory remarks be made concerning those who are engaged in the liquor business.
The value of visual education should not be overlooked in presenting the temperance problem in evangelical meetings. I have frequently climaxed my temperance lecture by showing the film Liquor as a Doctor Sees It, and it has never failed to leave a good impression upon the audience.* State universities and business concerns which make a practice of renting films usually have other temperance films.
Not only should temperance be clearly presented in evangelistic meetings, but it should also be presented from time to time in our churches. The one program a year as outlined by the General Conference Temperance Department is not enough. It would not be out of place to organize a temperance society in every church, with a regular monthly meeting. During this meeting a study of every phase of the liquor problem should be carried on, preferably by the pastor. Doctors and other speakers could be invited to speak from time to time. Temperance literature should be purchased and distributed regularly by the temperance Society.
People will be convinced of our interest in the cause of temperance only by the amount of effort we put forth to propagate its value to the individual. We need to be more practical in our efforts to help those who drink. It is not enough just to talk about the evils of alcohol. We must show a personal interest in the drinker. Sometimes drinkers attend our evangelistic meetings and want help. Some of our believers are unfortunate enough to be married to one who drinks. We should visit with these unfortunate people and pray with them often. Most drinkers need moral and spiritual backbone. This the gospel minister should be able to help the drinker develop.
Our responsibility to the liquor problem does not end with our labors for the adult. In the next article we shall discuss the liquor problem and youth.