The Atlantic Northeast District Board recommends to the District Conference that the following query on alcohol be sent to the 1974 Annual Conference:
"Whereas, one of the historic affirmations of the Church of the Brethren has been 'moderation in things good and abstinence from things harmful' and since from earliest times the Brethren have understood this to include abstinence from beverage alcohol;
"Whereas, in our day a growing number of findings by scientific research in medical science and governmental agencies have documented the validity of this concern and have called alcohol our most serious drug problem;
"Whereas, the use of alcohol among our members has grown in the face of this impressive evidence;
The Atlantic Northeast District of the Church of the Brethren petitions Annual Conference to name a special committee to study ways in which individuals, local congregations and related institutions of the denomination might strengthen this historic ideal which has increasing modern relevance."
Atlantic Northeast District Board
Clifford B. Huffman, Chairman
Harold Z. Bomberger, Secretary
Action of 1973 District Conference
Passed to Annual Conference.
C. Wayne Zunkel, Moderator
Grace Hollinger, Secretary
Action of 1974 Annual Conference
The recommendation of Standing Committee, presented by Curtis Rhudy, was that the request of the query be granted and that a committee of five persons be elected to study the issues raised by the query. This was approved and the following persons were elected to this committee: A. Stauffer Curry, I. J. Musselman, Minva Reid, Charles E. Weaver, and David Wine.
1975 Report of the Committee
The Committee is pursuing its assignment by (1) conducting a survey of alcohol use among ministers, laity, and in the educational institutions of the church; (2) studying firsthand the work being done in alcoholism treatment and prevention; and (3) studying the many issues related to alcohol use based on current research in an attempt to make its report as relevant as possible. Therefore, the Committee asks for more time to complete its work. The Committee may have a verbal progress report to the 1975 Annual Conference.
A. Stauffer Curry, Chairman
I. J. Musselman
Charles E. Weaver
Action of 1975 Annual Conference: The report was presented by A. Stauffer Curry with others on the committee present. The report was adopted, which granted the committee additional time for their study. In addition the scope of the committee was enlarged to include a study of and recommendations for actions which congregations can lake to cancel advertisements of alcoholic beverages, or at least minimize the use of mass media to promote the use and sale of alcoholic beverages. In 1972, a query was adopted which assigned to the General Board the task of studying ways of "bringing to an end" the use of advertisements of alcoholic beverages, drugs and tobacco (Minutes 1972. p. 97-98). The General Board assigned this work to a task team. By this current action, this assignment is transferred from the General Board to the Study Committee, and the two persons on the General Board task team, G. William Sayers and Gary Rowe, are added to the study committee.
1976 Report of the Committee
The committee interpreted its work initially as defined by Standing Committee in its recommendation adopted by the 1974 Annual Conference, namely, "to study the issues raised by the query" on alcohol.
The 1975 Annual Conference added to the committee's assignment one given to the General Board by the 1972 Annual Conference to study "how we can best work to bring an end to the advertisements and commercials" designed to sell beer, wine, liquor, drugs, and tobacco. The content of this aspect of the report is in parts of sections (8) and (14), and all of (15).
The committee is eager for the church to know that it brought to its study a diverse background of experience as follows: an AA member—recovered alcoholic who experienced job and family disruption when an alcoholic; a moderate drinker who experienced family disruption because of alcoholism of spouse; a former alcohol abuser now an abstainer; two moderate drinkers with no alcohol problem; an abstainer who grew up in an abstinence tradition and never had occasion to change; an abstainer who grew up in that tradition and has been a vigorous abstinence-educator for much of a lifetime.
The committee considered a wide range of issues and decided upon those which it felt were most important. This breakdown is reflected in the sections which follow.
Definitions Used in This Report
For purposes of consistency of reference, the committee used the following definitions, recognizing that other definitions may be in use.
(1) The Prevalence of Alcohol Use in Society as a Whole
Authorities generally agree that at least one drinker out of 17 ultimately becomes a problem drinker. Many contend that one out of ten is a more accurate figure. It is estimated that about half, or over 100 million, of the U.S. population drinks alcohol. Gallup polls have shown that 32% of our adult population are total abstainers and 17% are infrequent drinkers. Thus not quite half (32% plus 17%, or 49%, or a few less than 100 million) are infrequent drinkers. About 8-10 million of our population are problem drinkers.
A problem of growing concern is the increase in the use of alcohol by youth. A study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (a federal government agency) released in October, 1975, showed that drug and alcohol use are on the increase among youth. Multiple drug use, including alcohol, is a growing phenomenon among youth. Fortunately, while multiple use peaks among the 18 to 20 age bracket, it falls off in the mid-twenties, early thirties, and the forties for various drugs. This same study showed that increased use of drugs and alcohol among young people is "alarming," to use the term of Dr. Robert DuPont, Director of NIDA. One out of five 13-year-olds interviewed in these studies had used alcohol.
Studies by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA, a sister federal agency to NIDA) shows similar trends. In passing it should be noted that both NIDA and NIAAA are excellent sources of information and can be addressed at Rockwall Building, 11400 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852, and 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852, respectively. A nongovernmental agency which makes excellent studies and releases excellent materials is the Drug Abuse Council, Inc., 1828 L Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20036, a recent one being "Alcohol and Drugs at Work." Other sources of materials will be given later in this report.
(2) The Prevalence of the Problem in the Church as Seen by District Executives
Exhibit 1 shows the three pages of the Survey Form for District Executives and the four pages of the Pastors Survey Form. The 16 district executives who returned the form represented areas in which 758 pastors serve; of these 46, or 6.0%, were thought to use alcohol while the executives estimated that 701, or 92.5%, do not use alcohol. It was estimated that two had a problem with alcohol. The executives further estimated that 77% of the adults in their church areas do not use alcohol, 20.1% use alcohol, 5.6% had a problem with alcohol, and 1.9% were alcoholics.
They estimated that 69.2% of the youth in their church areas do not use alcohol, 27% do use alcohol, 9.5% have a problem with alcohol, while 1.3% are alcoholics. Nine executives thought there was an increase in adult usage, while three estimated there was no increase. Eleven estimated there was an increase of alcohol among youth, while one thought there was no increase. Nine executives estimated there was an increase of drinking among women, while three estimated no increase. Four preferred not to make an estimate.
(3) Alcohol Use in the Church as Seen by Pastors
Exhibit 1 shows the four sheets in the survey form sent to pastors of all our churches, as well as to persons in charge of churches where there were no pastors. The 272 pastors who filled in the survey forms reported there are 42,309 adults and 11,424 youth in their congregations. Thirty-five of these pastors, or 13.3%, said they use alcohol, while 228, or 86.7%, reported they do not use alcohol. These pastors estimated that 27,622, or 65.3% of their adults do not use alcohol, while 10,729, or 25.4%, use alcohol. They reported 918, or 2.2%, were problem drinkers while 294, or 0.7% were alcoholic. The number of adults who annually approached their pastor about matters related to the use of alcohol was 476, or 1.1%.
These pastors estimated the following about the 11,424 youth in their parishes: 8,050, or 70.5%, do not use alcohol while 1,419, or 12.4%, use alcohol; 372, or 3.3%, are problem drinkers, while 23, or 0.2%, are alcoholics; (1,560 not accounted for); 254, or 2.2%, approach the pastor annually about matters related to alcohol problems.
Of the pastors who filled in the forms, 79, or 30.0%, estimated an increase in adult usage over the past five years, while 149, or 56.7%, estimated no increase in usage; 73, or 27.8%, estimated an increase in usage among youth, while 151, or 57.4%, estimated no increase; 61, or 23.2%, estimated an increase among women who use alcohol, while 159, or 60.5%, estimated no increase.
One question, "Do you find alcohol acceptable or unacceptable for members of your congregation?" was answered as follows: unacceptable 73, or 27.8%; acceptable 199, or 75.7%. A number commented, however, that the question did not offer sufficient options to express their opinions, and therefore the 27.8% and 75.7% may be subject to some error.
Pastors were asked how they handle alcohol-related problems brought to them, and replied as follows:
71 cases—personal counseling
61 cases—referred to other agencies, often AA
16 cases—point to a new life in Christ
15 cases—the pastor listens
14 cases—offers and recommends prayer
11 cases—involve the family
11 cases—make the person aware of the effects of alcohol
8 cases—make them see the need for help
5 cases—make them see alcohol as a crutch
5 cases—show acceptance and trust
5 cases—do what is best for them
4 cases—help to see why they use alcohol
4 cases—give them sermons
4 cases—talk to them
2 cases each—they won't listen anyway so why try; show the money and other costs to them; find the cause; remove temptation; be a friend; teach against the use of alcohol
1 case each—shocked and couldn't do a thing; I give my opinion; drive out demons; involve the parish; encourage abstinence; show that they have a personality problem; involve the spouse; give medical help; ask laity to help; give information; use logic and reason; show them materials.
The survey form asked what pastors thought of the form and the following answers were given:
21 replies—there is no acceptable level of drinking (one pastor suggested the committee should have used the term "non-problem" drinking)
14 replies—effort is very good
11 replies—only an estimate
10 replies—too hard to know accurately
8 replies—not an honest response
6 replies—too shallow
5 replies—one-sided toward the drinker
4 replies—words are ambiguous
2 replies each—concerned about confidentiality of replies; no need for a committee; not relevant
1 reply each—adequate; unimpressive; frustrating.
The pastors were asked what they would like to see in the report and their replies fell into the following categories:
56 replies—encourage abstinence
25 replies—make a biblical emphasis
23 replies—do not condemn those who use alcohol
20 replies—emphasize the need for more church help
19 replies—want composite report of surveys (Note: The committee attempted to do this.)
16 replies—show the effects of all drugs
13 replies—recommend actual study materials
13 replies—take a stand regardless of what stand may be
13 replies—show the extent of the problem
12 replies—give scientific data
12 replies—give moderate approach
12 replies—express a concern about grain used in alcohol production in light of need to feed the world's hungry
11 replies—show the risks of alcohol use
11 replies—show cost in welfare, crime, and broken homes
11 replies—show a good scriptural basis of abstinence
11 replies—show the effects on health
11 replies—show the power of God to help
11 replies—recommend study booklets
10 replies—show the cost and effects on stewardship
9 replies—give the case for moderation
9 replies—show "hell and sin"
9 replies—broader study to include all drugs
9 replies—show why alcohol is a problem
9 replies—emphasize education
8 replies—show alcohol use as the number one drug problem
7 replies—work to prohibit advertising of alcohol
7 replies—give a list of helping and educational agencies
7 replies—have open discussion of the issues
7 replies—show accident potentialities
7 replies—do more teaching
7 replies—show that there is no scriptural basis for abstinence
6 replies—help those who need drugs
5 replies—show why people drink
5 replies—show that drinking is the free choice of the individual
4 replies—show the change in persons by alcohol use
4 replies—show that God has the answer
3 replies—individuals alone are responsible
3 replies—show that total abstinence is no longer "in"
3 replies—show misuse versus use
2 replies—waste of time and effort to have this committee
2 replies—show why there is good and bad in alcohol use
2 replies—show Brethren history
1 reply each—label alcohol as harmful like cigarettes are labeled; emphasize use of group therapy; show why an increase in use; describe Bethany Seminary's emphasis; take away drivers' licenses of alcohol abusers; show the number of war deaths versus alcohol deaths; the employment of members in alcohol manufacture and sale.
(4) The Prevalence of the Problem as Seen by a Self-Selected Group of Annual Conference Goers
A survey form was made available on the committee exhibit table at the 1975 Annual Conference in Dayton and 156 persons filled it in. The factors that led these people to respond, while thousands of others did not, can only be guessed. They may have had a prior interest in the alcohol problem; or they may have had leisure time to browse at exhibit tables: they may have been ardent delegates who felt an obligation to participate in all phases of conference activity; they may have been abstinence or moderate drinking advocates and therefore responded.
Of the 156 respondents, 60.5% were male and 39.5% were female. Of these respondents 35, or 22.4%, said they use alcohol, while 121, or 77.6%, said they do not. Sixteen were under 18 years of age; 43 were 19-30 years of age; 35 were 31-45 years old; 48 were 46-60; 13 were 61 or older: 1, not given.
Of the users, 18 drank 1-2 glasses per week and 12 said they used 2-3 glasses per week; the rest did not respond. Twelve of the users said they drank beer; 12 drank wine; 3 drank hard liquor: 1 drank wine and hard liquor, while 3 drank beer and wine.
The replies to the question, "With whom do you most often drink?" were: friends, 21; spouses, 5; parents. 3: relatives, 1; alone, 1. To the question, "Where?" the replies were: home, 22; parties, 8: restaurants, 4.
The question, "How many of your friends do not use alcohol?" was answered as follows: 1 to 2, 5 replies; few do not drink, 29 replies; half do not drink, 19 replies: majority do not drink, 60 replies; none do not drink, 1 reply; all do not drink, 5 replies.
The question, "How many of your friends do use alcohol?" was answered as follows: 1 to 2, 8 replies; few use alcohol, 51; half use alcohol, 19 replies; majority use alcohol, 33; none use alcohol, 6 replies; all use alcohol, 5 replies.
Three persons said alcohol use created a problem for them; 55 replied that alcohol use did not create a problem for them.
Fifty-three said alcohol use by friends created a problem for them: 71 replied that alcohol use by friends did not create a problem for them.
The types of problems created by friends' use are as follows (some responders gave more than one): anti-social behavior, 29; drinking and driving, 19; personality change, 17; trouble with family and friends, 13; sickness, 9; problem at school, 9; problem in job, 8; others, 4.
Two persons worried at some time that they had a problem; 44 did not. No one ever sought another's help about their drinking. Nineteen had alcoholics in the family; 94 did not.
On the question what they would like to see in the report the replies were as follows: recommend abstinence position, 21; encourage General Board to develop curriculum materials on the subject, 8; leave it to the individual, 8; bring in health factors, 7; bring in problem of advertising, 7; show that Christ can help, 6; make a biblical emphasis, 6; take definite stance one way or the other, 5; emphasize importance of treatment, 5; be non-judgmental and helpful, 4; show the amount of consumption in the church, 4; emphasize importance of teaching youth, 3; show why people drink, 3; don't support businesses that support alcohol in any way, 2; emphasize responsible use, 2; need information on first drink, 1; encompass tobacco, speed, etc., 1; raise children how to drink, 1; show that alcohol is prescribed by physicians, 1; take a stand for moderation, 1; keep in mind non-Brethren traditions, 1; do not allow a drinker into the Church of the Brethren, 1; emphasize control legislation, 1; show ways to counteract, 1; give sources of information, 1: show past positions of the church, 1; show social effects, 1; study use in colleges, 1; show economic factors, 1.
Thirteen thought the survey form was "great," 4 thought it was slanted toward user.
(5) The Prevalence of the Problem as Seen by up to 100 Randomly Selected Upper Classmen in Each of Our Seven Educational Institutions
A total of 378 students, 187 men and 191 women, filled in the survey form; 310 or 78% used alcohol while 87 or 22% did not drink.
These students' grades generally fell into the normal distribution curve with 47 in the 2.00 to 2.49 range, 101 in the 2.50 to 2.99 range; 134 in the 3.00 to 3.49; and 78 in the 3.50 to 4.00 range.
The greatest number, 175, were 21 years of age; 131 were 22 years old; 25 were 23 years old; 33 were over 23; while 20 were younger than 21.
Of those who drank, 86 did so rarely; 98 once per week; 81, 2 to 3 times per week; 24 drank 4 to 5 times per week; while 9 drank more often.
On the question of how much they drank at a time, 86 drank 1 to 2 glasses; 111, 2 to 3 glasses; 44 drank 4 to 5 glasses; 39 drank more; 4 reported drinking varying amounts.
On the kinds of drink, 158 drank beer; 49 drank wine; 69 drank hard liquor; 33, beer and hard liquor: 13, wine and hard liquor; and 7 drank beer and wine.
On the question of with whom they drank, the responses were as follows: with friends, 240; with relatives, 20; and with spouses, 9.
On the question of where students drank, the replies are as follows: in restaurants, 35; at bars, 79; at home, 121; at parties, 149; in cars, 5; at school, 31.
An interesting set of replies was given to the question at what age students took their first drink: under 12 years of age, 71; 12 to 15, 86; 16 to 18 years old, 54; 19, 26; 20, 16; 21 years of age, 7; 22, 1; older, 1.
On the question of where the first drink was taken, the replies follow: home, 164; friends' homes, 39; restaurants, 6; car, 10; parties, 24; high school, 4; camp, 5; college, 29; church, 1; other places, 30. To the question with whom the first drink was taken, 167 said with friends, 151 with family, and with dates, 8.
On the question of how many friends do not use alcohol, 54 said 1 or 2 of their friends do not drink; 153 said only a few of their friends do not drink; 29 said half of their friends do not drink; 42 said a majority of their friends do not drink; one said all their friends are nondrinkers, while 70 said none of their friends are nonusers.
On the question of how many friends do use alcohol, 8 said 12 friends do; 114 said all their friends are users; 30 said half their friends are users; 42 said a majority of their friends are users; 1 said none of his friends are users.
Sixty-two said alcohol created a problem for them, while 294 said it did not create a problem.
One hundred forty-eight said some friend's use created problems, while 213 said their friends' use does not create problems for them.
When asked to check the types of problems created, the following tally was made; trouble with family and friends, 33; problem on the job, 13; antisocial behavior, 52; problem at school, 25; personality change, 39; drinking/driving problems, 50; other problems, 18.
Twenty students said they had worried if they had a problem, while 325 never had such a worry; 8 had sought another's help, while 325 had not. Thirty-three reported an alcoholic in the family, while 320 had no alcoholics in the family; 52 students want further information, while 286 do not.
On the matter of whether student drinking had increased since they began college (usually over the past 3 years), 163 estimated it had increased; 11 estimated a decrease; 189 thought there was no change.
On women's drinking, 188 thought there was an increase, while 9 thought there was a decrease and 163 thought there was no change.
On the matter of faculty drinking, 59 thought there was an increase, 3 thought a decrease, and 178 thought there was no change.
The religious affiliation of those responding was given as follows: Brethren, 91; Methodist, 58; Presbyterian, 38; Catholic, 34; First Christian, 24; Christian, 24; Lutheran, 18: Baptist, 11; Episcopalian, 10; Church of Christ, 7; Mennonite, 4; Apostolic, 3; Agnostic, 3: Buddhist, 2; "God," 1; Islam, 1; Jewish, 1; Church of Man, 1; Adventist, 1; Communist, 1; none, 29.
The extent of drinking reported by Brethren versus non-Brethren was not studied except for one group of over 80 students. Among the Brethren, 72.7% drank while 27.3% did not drink. Of the non-Brethren, 78.3% drank, while 21.7% did not drink. Obviously, the extent of difference between the two groups was not large.
(6) The Nature and Causes of Alcohol Use and Abuse
A continuing debate among treatment specialists and others is whether alcohol abuse and alcoholism is a disease. The best answer the committee has found is that it is a disease but, unlike most other diseases, it is at least partly under the control of the patient. Ruth Fox, a well-known worker in the field, is reported to have told her alcoholic clients, "You have a disease, but isn't it wonderful, it's under your control." The degree of control or motivation to be cured varies greatly from person to person.
The tendency to depression, including feelings of inadequacy, among many people—most at some time in life—is a factor in drinking. People seek ways of avoiding the agony of depression and drinking is one of the means they try. Some say there is a genetic factor underlying the drink habit in certain persons; some apparently inherited trait can be a factor in others. A physiological or metabolic cause-factor seems to exist in some persons; the body reacts in such a way as to lead to a continuing desire to drink once the habit is begun. The debate continues whether or not there is a simple addictive personality type. Evidence is that there is no simple addictive personality but that causes of drinking are quite complex.
Many persons simply enjoy the elation and euphoria—sense of well-being—which comes from drinking, especially if done in social groups. Some ethnic groups seem to pass on drinking customs from generation to generation. It can be almost an insult not to accept a drink of wine when visiting in certain ethnic homes—a situation faced by at least one committee member. The drinking customs of other ethnic groups such as the Irish. French. Jews, and others are repeatedly referred to in the scientific literature on alcohol use.
Unfavorable childhood environment in the home can be a major factor leading to drink. Poor environment in the community such as life in the ghettos and/or slums can be a major factor.
The committee senses there are congregations in our Brotherhood where social drinking is on the increase chiefly as a matter of emulating the drinking habits of the community as a whole.
Through the centuries social drinking has been a part of the life of many people and cultures, although there have always been subcultures and even major cultural groups which have practiced abstinence.
In dealing with alcohol abusers and alcoholics, churchmen should be aware of the many causes. They should also be aware of the many manifestations of alcohol problems, such as the instant alcoholic who becomes addicted in a short period of time; the abuser who develops a problem gradually over decades; the worker who does quite well on his job but is a problem drinker at night and weekends; the periodic binge type who several times a year incapacitates himself; the user who drinks regularly over a lifetime without any apparent harmful effects.
(7) The Consequences and Effects of Alcohol Use and Abuse
One committee member is a recovered alcoholic and gave dramatic testimony to the devastating effects of alcohol abuse. The member testifies that alcohol, being a depressant 'and narcotic, causes the user to experience a depressed state leading to ever increasing depression with extreme feelings of remorse, guilt, inadequacy, and unworthiness.
The use of alcohol creates strain in all family relationships leading to alienation of spouse and even possible divorce. The strain in relationships extends beyond the family with irrational behavior in all real relationships with neighbors, at work, in citizenship responsibilities, and the like.
Alcohol abuse reduces the sense of responsibility because of loss of judgment. It squelches all spiritual and ethical growth of the addicted. It can cause mental breakdown and protracted mental lapses. It causes personal financial crises because of expenditures for alcohol and because of wage and job loss. This member's experience and contribution to the committee was invaluable.
One of the most dangerous aspects of alcohol use is highway accidents. It is variously estimated that 30 to 40% of car accidents are alcohol related. Fifty percent of the annual 50,000 car accident deaths annually are alcohol related. Half of all murders are alcohol related, either the victim or the criminal. One fourth of all suicides are alcohol related. Alcohol abusers are more than 7 times more likely to be separated or divorced. Even the casual or social drinker becomes a life-threatening danger when driving. And the admonition, "If you drink don't drive," is not viable because most drinkers deny, when under the influence, that they are threats on the highway. To the committee, this is one of the most dangerous situations growing out of alcohol use, with thousands of lives sacrificed needlessly on the highway.
The physical effects of alcohol are seen in many parts of the body. Details cannot be given here, but researchers have isolated damage to brain tissues, heart and blood vessel tissues, the liver, stomach, intestines, muscles, and other parts of the body. Liver damage, often reversible in early stages if the patient stops drinking, is perhaps the most serious physical disorder and often is the direct cause of death. Alcohol has much more serious physical complications than morphine, heroin, cocaine, and other drugs.
It is estimated that there are 9,000,000 problem drinkers in the United States, with 100.000 added annually. These are persons who often maintain jobs, have home life of a sort, function in society with some adequacy, but still are sources of great trouble with wife and family, employers, colleagues, and, of course, most of all, to themselves.
The total deterioration of the Skid Row or Bowery-type alcoholic is well known. Families, jobs, and controls seem to be gone. Many seek inpatient care in hospitals to flee momentarily the discomfort of street life, often to return to street life after some days of treatment and rest. The near-total deterioration is seen in alcoholics who regularly frequent outpatient clinics. With many, life is a constant round of going from treatment center to treatment center to receive food, clothing, and medical care. While some move on to control of the problem, the vast majority simply continue the cycle of treatment and regression.
The disruption of the family of alcohol abusers is well known. Divorce of abusers is very high, even though the abusers can work at their jobs after a fashion.
Large corporations have alcoholism treatment centers on the premises. If otherwise good workers are made inefficient by alcohol use, they are given help by the company or agency.
The progression from social or moderate drinking should be recognized by pastors and others. Often a person becomes a problem drinker or alcoholic only after 10, 20, or 30 years of alcohol use. The progression often is manifest as follows: (1) the user becomes more and more intoxicated after regular cocktail parties; (2) he or she stays after the others leave the business luncheon for an extra drink; (3) the user drinks alone; (4) heavy drinking at night, or over weekends; (5) leaving of home by his wife or children, or being forced out of his home; (6) change in mood over a long time, not just after one party; (7) deterioration of energy, efficiency, and general morale; (8) loss of a job is an end result of the progression to a full-grown case of alcoholism.
(8) Alcohol Use in Relation to Other Drugs
At one time alcohol problems were considered to be quite separate from problems of other drugs. Recent studies show that use of alcohol can be related to the use of caffeine, nicotine, barbiturates, amphetamines, tranquilizers, aspirin, marijuana, LSD, opiates, and others. The committee feels that any study of the alcohol problem should be related to a study of other drugs.
Treatment facilities for heroin addiction find that alcohol use is often a complication in what is known as mixed addiction. There seems to be a growing pattern of multiple drug use, including alcohol.
It is generally recognized that alcohol is the number one drug problem. The following comparison is based on a study by the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. This Commission says that alcohol dependence is without question the most serious drug problem in this country today.
|Percentage of People Surveyed Reporting Use Within Past 7 Days|
|Proprietary, sedatives, tranquilizers, stimulants||6%||7%|
|LSD, other hallucinogens||4.8%||4.6%|
|Glue, other inhalants||6.4%||2.1%|
Michael Houlihan, federal official, says: "Alcohol is involved in more than one third of the nation's gunshot accidents, more than one half of drownings, and more than one third of the auto accidents."
For some reason legislators become more concerned about most other drugs than about the alcohol problem.
(9) The Phenomenon of Denial Is Unique in the Alcohol Problem
A very unique aspect of alcohol use is that of "denial." While the public as a whole becomes very much concerned about heroin use, cocaine abuse, and abuse of other drugs, the same public denies the inherent risks and dangers of alcohol use. Legislatures and Congress enact laws against use and possession of most drugs, but deny the need for any legislation related to the most serious of all drug problems, that of alcohol use.
Social drinkers and moderate drinkers also deny that alcohol use can involve risks of becoming problem drinkers. Problem drinkers deny the risk of alcoholism. And according to a recovered alcoholic, a catastrophic or desperate situation is usually the only situation which will help an alcoholic to see that he has a problem and accept the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, the counseling services of the pastor, and the like.
(10) The Alcohol Problem in the Total Context of Christian Ethics
The committee is well aware that the problem of alcohol abuse is only one of many social problems which should be of concern to the churches. A long-standing criticism by some Christian social ethics leaders is that "temperance" and "peace" are too often emphasized by the church to the exclusion of other major social problems.
The committee is eager to suggest that the church should give as much attention to many other problems as to the alcohol problem.
A major problem is that of hunger, with large portions of the world's population never being adequately fed. This problem is even compounded by the use of much grain—an estimated 52.9 million bushels of corn, 84.1 million bushels of barley, 11.9 million bushels of rice, 3.1 million bushels of rye, 2.7 billion pounds of soybeans—for the manufacture of alcohol in the United States.
The committee is aware of the problem of overpopulation related to the hunger problem.
The committee is aware of the problem of discrimination against minorities, the problem of poverty, the problem of unemployment, the problem of wasted resources and alienation in an affluent society. The committee urges the church to take significant action on all these problems just as on the alcohol problem.
If the church is concerned with affirming the sacred value of human life and if it calls the people of God to authenticity, then our concern ought to be compassionately directed to those who suffer, free of inhibiting judgments and insensitive condemnations.
Another major concern is financial stewardship. Americans now spend over $30 billion a year for alcoholic beverages; the costs and hazards and damages from drinking are estimated to run approximately $25 billion. Total annual medical costs per year are now about $112 billion, and since drunkenness, illnesses, and accidents caused by heavy drinking are now usually covered by insurance, the nondrinker is paying more for these costs than the drinker.
(11) The Scriptures and Alcohol Use
How does the Bible address itself to the question of drinking alcoholic beverages? One finds the writers of the Bible making mention that wine is a real part of God's creation. Psalm 104:15 suggests that wine is a gift of God "to gladden the heart of man." Deuteronomy 32:14 points out that wine is one of the blessings God provides in giving Israel the land of Canaan. Jesus himself provided wine at the wedding at Cana; and used it (for example in the institution of the Last Supper).
There are also Biblical writings which point to the dangers of the abuse of alcohol. "Wine," says the book of Proverbs, "is a mocker" (20:1) and can be a source of woe, sorrows, and strange visions (23:29-35). The New Testament warns against drunkenness and drunken orgies (Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 5:11: 6:10; Gal. 5:21; 1 Peter 4:3; 1 Tim. 3:3,8; Titus 1:7). "Do not get drunk with wine" is the mandate of Ephesians 5:18. We are urged to live responsible lives (Eph. 5:15-16), to live worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Phil. 1:27), and to present our "bodies as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God" (Rom. 12:1).
While the Bible does not make a specific plea for abstinence, it is recognized as an appropriate religious response. Provisions are made for anyone who wants to "separate himself to the Lord" (Num. 6:2) with the Nazarite vows which include a vow of abstinence from wine and strong drink (Num. 6:1-8). Note, also, the situation of the Rechabites in Jeremiah 35. John the Baptist represents the abstinence position in the New Testament (Luke 1:15) and his position is given equal approval with the more liberal stance of Jesus (Luke 7:33-35).
The above should be looked at in relation to another issue which faced Paul—that of eating or not eating meat. By reading Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 and 10:23-33 we get a picture of this issue.
We discover that Paul comes down most strongly against those who use their freedom in Christ in a way that could cause a brother or sister to stumble. The stumbling in Paul's case was that some people might understand the action of eating meat as encouraging a tolerance of idolatry. We do not know just how widely and seriously this was a temptation in that day. However, we do know rather precisely—even statistically—how widely and inevitably the use of beverage alcohol causes very serious stumbling in our day. The counsel of Paul, then, would seem to say very clearly that any action on our part suggesting approval of the use of beverage alcohol is contributing to the destruction of the weak man, the brother for whom Christ died.
In summary, the Bible does recognize wine as a part of God's creation BUT the Bible:
(12) The Brethren Heritage and Alcohol Use
Members of the Church of the Brethren have repeatedly spoken the words "moderation in all things; abstinence from harmful things." The church's task has been, throughout its history, to determine what things are then harmful. Several verses of scripture have guided Brethren in their convictions concerning alcoholic beverages. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, We are God's temple and have the obligation to keep ourselves in top shape. Romans 6:12 calls for an individual to respond through clean, moral living. Romans 2:12, Do not be squeezed into the mold of the world.
An early formal statement on alcohol was given in an Annual Conference statement of 1781 taking a position of being against the distilling of alcoholic beverages. Little formal action was taken until the 1948 Conference, which especially spoke out against the advertising of alcoholic beverages and asked that other denominations join in that effort. Four years later, in 1952, a formal statement on alcohol was adopted which called alcohol one of America's greatest problems. Not only was it America's problem but it was also a problem in the Church of the Brethren. This statement asked Brethren to heed Christian principles of clean, moral living, being faithful stewards, and of recognizing Jesus Christ as the final answer. Two of the more important conclusions of this report asked that the church (1) be a preventive agency and (2) be an agency for rehabilitation and conversion of alcohol users. The 1966 Personal Ethics Paper once again touched on alcohol use. This paper acknowledged many of the harmful effects of alcohol use but came short of taking any position of the church.
It is also important to observe past queries of the church which do not directly relate to alcohol but which closely parallel the query on alcohol. The church has stated repeatedly its peace position and its emphasis on a pacifist stand as being most consistent with New Testament teachings. In light of this, however, the church has opened its arms in acceptance and love to those who held to a different interpretation. Such also has been the case with other issues such as life stewardship, funerals, and abortion, in recent years.
Other areas which have had their effects on Brethren and their heritage are simple living, the communion cup, a distinctive life-style, temperance movements, family/church education, educational institutions, and radical discipleship.
(13) The Church Serves Families and Youth Affected by the Alcohol Problem
Two aspects of the alcohol problem are the effects upon families and the effects upon youth. Quite significantly these are two areas in which the total church, through its General Board, has maintained ministries across the years.
It seems that these two ministries would by the very nature of the alcohol problem give themselves to situations faced by families and by youth—not only in alcohol but drugs and tobacco as well.
The dynamics of the family life of abusers can be very complex, and cannot be described fully here. The use of alcohol by teenagers creates a variety of family situations. Church workers such as pastors can deal directly with these, or make referrals to various available agencies.
Examples of two treatment facilities, AL-ANON for families of alcohol abusers, and AL-ATEEN for teenagers, are serving useful purposes. In some respects they are similar to ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, one of the more successful treatment modalities.
On the extent of problem, the Dayton, Ohio, Daily News, July 21, 1975, carried an article by the editors of Scholastic Magazine which stated "in a poll of 40,000 junior and senior high students, 76% say that the use of alcohol is increasing."
Dr. M. E. Chafetz, Director of NIAAA, feels the problem is growing because young people are moving away from the use of drugs and substituting alcohol. It seems parents accept the use of alcohol more than drugs.
Sloan Wilson writes in Suburbia Today, "Adolescence is a disturbed time of life with the following characteristics: (1) parents are no longer Godlike images but humans with fallacies; (2) choices are made affecting lifelong careers; (3) there are extensive glandular and physical changes; (4) there is strain in determining a personal code of ethics.
In dealing with alcohol problems, the church should consider the following guidelines: (1) sharing experiences and thus strengthening faith; (2) setting up "hot line situations," a telephone staffed by sensitive persons; (3) forming group discussions; (4) praying for and loving one another; (5) learning to depend on God's guidance; (6) counseling the family member without any feeling of, or displaying, judgmental attitude; (7) showing concern with love and caring; (8) becoming involved in prevention and rehabilitation efforts and encouraging and supporting community-wide efforts to provide services and facilities.
Families of alcoholics are not outcasts, or full of "demons," but rather they offer the greatest opportunity for the Christian to live in true commitment to express love for not just some, but for all, whether their beliefs and actions meet a certain standard or not.
(14) The Church Seeks Legislation to Eliminate or Control the Problem
Drugs generally are legislated against in many ways. Possession and sale, without a prescription, of marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, barbiturates, opium, morphine, heroin, methadone, and many others are subject to severe penalties. Yet alcohol, the most harmful of all drugs to most people, is available without restriction in many places. Some advocate legislation to make alcohol more difficult to obtain.
Major problems to overcome in seeking legislation to eliminate or control the alcohol, drug, tobacco, and related problems—some would include products high in caffeine such as coffee, colas, etc.—are the profits to private enterprise and the tax revenue to government agencies. For example, the tax revenue to the State of Ohio in 1973 for tobacco sales was $194,891,370; for liquor it was $159,035,678, and for other drugs a proportionate amount of tax revenue was received. As long as state revenues are very high on these substances, it is less likely that legislation will appear. Also, groups such as the American Medical Association, the American Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, and others, do not want legislation regulating sales and profits.
New York State recently passed a law to decriminalize public intoxication. This would provide treatment facilities for alcohol abusers apprehended by police—rather than simply putting abusers into jail for a time. This is progress of a sort in the legislative field.
(15) The Church Seeks to Limit the Advertising of Alcohol, Tobacco, Caffeine-Containing and Other Products
The broadcasting industry is regulated in the United States by the Federal Communications Commission established by Congress under the Communications Act of 1934. The FCC does not regulate program content specifically and has established over the years a pattern of regulation which seeks to avoid interference in questions of content except where such questions affect fairness, political broadcasts, employment practices, and the like.
The regulation of advertising with respect to standards of truthfulness is given to the Federal Trade Commission under a cooperative arrangement with the FCC. Questions of false and misleading advertising are therefore not usually the concern of the FCC.
The regulation of advertising with respect to alcohol, drugs, and tobacco products might properly be considered by the FTC if the ads are considered on the basis of safety. Thus, if these products are categorized as harmful substances, the FTC might hear arguments on regulatory controls for such ads.
Because the FTC is concerned mostly with questions of truthfulness and product safety in advertising there are reasons to assume the FTC would consider a ban on alcohol, tobacco, and drug ads.
Government policy on questions of broadcast messages has encouraged an atmosphere of "self-regulation" on the part of station owners and advertisers. The most important group is the NAB—the National Association of Broadcasters. Through its Code Authority the NAB enforces certain programming practices for subscriber stations. (Stations are not required to belong to the NAB.)
On questions of alcohol and drug advertising the current standards of the NAB declare:
IV. 10. The use of liquor and the depletion of smoking in program content shall be de-emphasized. When shown, they should be consistent with plot and character development.
IX. 6. The advertising of hard liquor (distilled spirits) is not acceptable.
IX. 7. The advertising of beer and wines is acceptable only when presented in the best of good taste and discretion, and is acceptable only subject to Federal and local laws. (Interpretation by NAB: "...commercials involving beer and wine should avoid any representation of on-camera drinking.")
There is another factor in the regulation of the advertising of such products as alcohol, drugs, and tobacco: Congressional legislation. The outstanding example is the enormous pressure brought to bear on Congress by anti-smoking lobbyists. The FCC and the FTC were pressured to do something about the prevalence of pro-smoking messages, i.e., commercials for tobacco products, on the airwaves. The Congress responded to the citizen pressure and passed legislation banning cigarette ads from radio and television.
Because the regulation of advertising of a "controversial" nature is bound to create a collision of many interests, the Congressional mandate to regulate such ads is only conceivable when there is sufficient ground swell of citizen support for regulation.
Given the current situation, the manufacturers and distributors of alcoholic beverages, the advertising industry, the owners, managers, and stockholders in radio and TV stations have a lot of economic self-interest at stake in the promoting of alcohol products. The case is the same for other drug products.
The church can work within the consumer movement on misleading advertisement. A positive effort to disseminate the truth in advertisement and the long-range body harm as a result of participating in use of such seems to be the best approach as a solution.
(15a) The Degree to Which Advertising Is a Contributing Factor in the Consumption of Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco
There are absolutely no conclusive arguments on the relationship between advertising and consumption.
Broadcast advertisers claim great benefits in the promotion of products on the airwaves. They have overwhelming empirical evidence to support their arguments: in almost every case, the promotion of products through advertising increases the sales of the product. Critics of advertising claim the ads create false values and needs in consumers. Therefore, we are victims of a plethora of unneeded drugs, cosmetic products, and the like. This, of course, assumes that most people are vulnerable to easy manipulation. Whether the critics are right or not, their arguments are grounded on the same premise: advertising is effective in creating consumer demand regardless of requisite consumer needs.
A striking contrast to these claims is the experience with the ban on cigarette commercials. Not long after the ban the volume of sales showed remarkable gains. Without any apparent stimulation from advertising messages on radio and TV more people smoked more cigarettes. The numbers of new smokers among the young increased as well.
It is important to recognize that the appeal advertising has is not always aimed at our human abilities to reason and to make .discriminating judgments based on factual data or believable evidence. Ads appeal to our instincts, our emotions, our identities as persons. This appeal to emotions is probably what causes the most distress to the critics of advertising. The "truth" is distorted, they say.
Here we are in a dilemma not unlike the ethical dilemma posed by the choice to consume or abstain from the personal use of alcoholic beverages. That choice is not a neat process of deciding between one position and another. The choice we make can be influenced, even clouded, by our family environment, the experiences of our friends, the pressures of social groups, education, socioeconomic parameters, and the like. Most important, the choice is affected by what we believe about ourselves and what we believe about the human condition.
Look at advertising: do we believe we are personally vulnerable to the seduction of our faculties by advertisers? Is the community at large vulnerable?
In 1971, a symposium of renowned theologians met in Canada and examined the issue of truth in advertising. In this very careful and analytical study they grappled with the issues of advertising techniques from undue stress on status in product ads to exaggerated superlatives. They rated the performance of the advertising industry as a whole much higher than most critics. The theologians argue for a concept of shared responsibility for advertising standards. Since cultural phenomena often set the trend for advertisers, instead of the other way around, initiatives must come from responsible groups in business, government, church, etc.
The most significant conclusion in the symposium is evident in the lack of clear conclusions that can be drawn from a careful study of advertising.
(16) The Church Sees Abstinence as the Position Consistent With Its Heritage and Interpretation of the Christian Tradition
The church takes this position because of the following considerations:
The church recognizes that a number of its members are users of alcoholic beverages (see sections 2, 3, and 4 of this report) and, as we continue to share with these members, we will also recognize our responsibility to aid them in growing beyond their drinking habits and will fellowship with them toward that goal.
The church lifts up the following cautions on moderate drinking:
(17) Our Position in Relation to Alcohol and the Alcohol Problem
The Church of the Brethren has consistently and repeatedly stated its opposition to the manufacture, sale, distribution, and use of alcoholic beverages. We therefore recommend and urge Brethren to abstain from the manufacture, sale or use of alcoholic beverages. We further urge Brethren to refrain from working in the production, distribution, or dispensing of alcoholic beverages for consumption by the individual, or the production or sale of materials to be used in the manufacture of such products. And furthermore, since these groceries, drugstores, restaurants, etc., that do not sell alcoholic beverages lose a very lucrative income thereby, as well as the total trade of those who wish to buy alcoholic beverages while purchasing their groceries, drug supplies, meals, etc., we urge all Brethren to travel a little farther or spend a little more, if necessary, to patronize those enterprises which do not sell alcoholic beverages. (Annual Conference Minutes, 1952)
(18) The Church Sees the Necessity of Enhancing or Increasing Its Program of Field Activities (Conferences, Staff Speaking, etc.). Curriculum Materials, Preaching From the Pulpit, Congregational Planning, and the Like to Make the Constituency Aware of the Comprehensive Aspects of the Alcohol Situation as Follows:
The committee recommends that the seminary give more emphasis to the alcohol and drug problem in its total emphasis on Christian Social Ethics. The committee likewise recommends that the colleges include a greater emphasis on drug and alcohol abuse in its courses in sociology, economics, Christian social ethics, health education, and others. The church should supply a list of names of all professionals that understand the problem drinker, including psychiatrists, psychologists, clergymen, legal problem and law enforcement officers, educators, and others.
The committee established contact with the General Board and recommends that the Parish Ministries Commission provide, upon request, a bibliography of study materials, and a proposed study unit on the use of alcohol which would be in harmony with this report.
The committee took note that the current curriculum and study materials of the Board on the alcohol problem and drug abuse are informal inclusions in recommended curriculum materials in the book Simple Living, by Edward K. Ziegler, emphasis in the paper on "Hunger" related to the moral implications of the use of grain for the production of alcohol, and the regular interpretative publications of the church such as Messenger and others.
The committee recommends that alcohol issues be included in regular sermons, in local yearly program planning, in social ethics conferences, and that provisions be made for supplying meeting rooms in church buildings for ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS groups.
The alcohol industry should be held responsible for its products and for the safety of those products among their users, if necessary, through taxation for treatment of alcoholics.
Many federal, state, and private national state and local agencies have an abundance of materials. Some of these are focused on abstinence and others on social or moderate drinking. The following are significant sources of materials
The National Council on Alcoholism, Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016
The Pennsylvania Council on Alcohol Problems, 900 S. Arlington Ave., Harrisburg, PA 17109
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Department of Health Education and Welfare, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852
Films distributed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, available from ABT Associates, Wheeler St., Cambridge, MA 02138
Teenagers and Alcohol, Gail Milgram, Ed. D., 1970, Richard Rosera Press, 29 E. 21st St., New York, NY 10010, $4.70
The National Women's Christian Temperance Union, 1730 Chicago Ave., Evanston, Illinois 60201, and its state affiliates
The American Council on Alcohol Problems, 119 Constitution Ave., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002
American Business Men's Research Foundation, Suite 705, Stoddard Building, Lansing, Michigan 48933
Many denominational headquarters have extensive materials which would be useful to our people.
(19) The Church Sees Conversion, Recommitment and Redirection of Life, or Similar Concepts Variously Stated as the Basic Sustainer and Guarantor of the Effectiveness of Other Modes of Treatment such as: medicine, inpatient wards, outpatient clinics, halfway houses, counseling centers, hot lines, personal counseling, occupational therapy, vocational counseling, social services, ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, AL-ANON, AL-ATEEN, and others. The church also sees the need of preventive programs such as the nutritional approach and the motivational approach of education regarding alcohol use.
Even though millions of dollars are being spent for study projects, education, treatment clinics, rehabilitation centers, hospital wards, etc., to reduce the problem of alcohol abuse, the ultimate solution, as noted in Section (6), depends to a considerable extent on the motivation of the person with the problem.
It is at this point that conversion, recommitment, or redirection of life plays a major role. The church, as the bearer of the good news of salvation, owes more concern to problem drinkers. It can offer conversion and involvement in a supporting community of faith as invaluable resources. But the would-be helper must be aware of two pitfalls: moral permissiveness and moral earnestness that cannot forgive. Pharisaism and legalism can easily compound an alcoholic's already massive feeling of rejection by "good" people. Taking a stance for abstinence need not alienate a caring church from problem drinkers; rather, it sets a clear direction and goal for effective ministry.
If alcoholism is an illness and drunkenness a sin (Gal. 5:21), the church should expect a problem drinker to utilize the assistance of professionals in fields other than religion. In fact, the church should cultivate a team approach but not abdicate its own unique role and goals. Problem drinkers (indeed, all persons) need the theology of St. Paul: "Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do" (Eph. 5:15, Phillips).
Jesus' parable of the prodigal son and the forgiving father is a story in which problem drinkers may find a useful mirror for self-understanding and seeing the path to salvation. Only as one is able to honestly admit that his life is trapped in sin and disease, that he is responsible for his life and actions, and that he needs help that is available—only then is the Holy Spirit free to minister new life and strength to him. As that happens, God must be personally represented by a pastor, trained layman, or other caring person who will manifest a loving, patient, and dependable support for the person seeking help—the one who may be a "Christ" in terms of another of Jesus' parables (Matt. 25:31ff).
The church will not make the judgment that such persons are uniquely bad, sinful, and will avoid attitudes of self-righteousness, and will recognize the truth that alcoholism is an illness and the abuser is sick. The church doors will always be kept open to allow sufferers to enter, creating acceptance, a sense of belonging, and a redemptive fellowship.
The church understands that conversion is always personal, but never private. A personal relationship to Jesus Christ involves the Holy Spirit who commonly utilizes the church as a supporting community needful to every Christian.
A. Stauffer Curry, Chairperson
David Wine, Secretary
I. J. Musselman
G. Wm. Sayers
Charles E. Weaver
Action of 1976 Annual Conference
The report was presented by A. Stauffer Curry, chairman of the committee, with other members of the committee present. A great many amendments were accepted which are incorporated in the above wording of the paper. The paper was adopted.