Rev. Mark H. Creech
My pastor friend is an excellent and faithful leader. We grew up together and graduated from the same high school. He pastored a well-known and historic church in Western North Carolina. At his invitation, I preached there and spent time with him and his wife.
It had been a couple of years since connecting with my friend when during a phone call, he told me his marriage had failed. "What happened?" I asked. He replied his wife had taken ill, and her doctor had recommended as treatment a glass of wine each day. The practice of drinking wine, however, resulted in her drinking too much. Consequently, the pastor's wife was known for bar-hopping, and troubles complicated by her alcohol use and abuse took its toll on the marriage.
It's unfortunate the pastor's wife and perhaps her doctor didn't have access to the latest scientific findings on alcohol's significant risks to one's health.
A recent article on CNN by Jonathan Reiner, a medical doctor, titled If You Think That Glass of Wine is Good for You, It's Time to Reconsider, cites two studies and a report by the World Heart Federation which say "the consensus on alcohol's salutary effects has started to change."
Reiner notes a study published in Lancet Oncology last July. He argues the study shows an "estimated 4% of the world's newly diagnosed cases of cancer in 2020, totaling almost 750,000 people, were related to alcohol use." He adds the "authors of the study found the cancer risk was highest for people who drank a lot, but even more moderate drinkers still had an increased risk of developing cancer."
Also mentioned by Reiner is another Lancet study published in 2018 about alcohol use in 195 countries, which shows "the risk of all-cause mortality, and specifically dying from cancer, rises with increasing levels of alcohol consumption. The authors noted that the way to minimize the risk was not to drink at all."
Lastly, Reiner shares a report from the World Heart Federation made available in January of this year, which challenges the contention that any level of consumption is safe for the heart. Here is what the stunning press release from the WHF said:
In a new policy brief, the World Heart Federation (WHF) is challenging the widespread notion that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol can decrease the risk of heart disease, and calling for urgent and decisive action to tackle the unprecedented rise in alcohol-related death and disability worldwide.
In 2019, more than 2.4 million people died because of alcohol, accounting for 4.3% of all deaths globally and 12.6% of deaths in men aged 15 to 49. Alcohol is a psychoactive and harmful substance that can cause significant damage to the human body. Its consumption is a major avoidable risk factor for noncommunicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, digestive diseases, and intentional and unintentional injuries, and for several infectious diseases.
The evidence is clear: any level of alcohol consumption can lead to loss of healthy life. Studies have shown that even small amounts of alcohol can increase a person's risk of cardiovascular disease, including coronary disease, stroke, heart failure, hypertensive heart disease, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation, and aneurysm. Studies that claim alcohol can offer protection against cardiovascular disease are largely based on purely observational research, which fails to account for other factors, such as pre-existing conditions and a history of alcoholism in those considered to be "abstinent." To date, no reliable correlation has been found between moderate alcohol consumption and a lower risk of heart disease.
"The portrayal of alcohol as necessary for a vibrant social life has diverted attention from the harms of alcohol use, as have the frequent and widely publicized claims that moderate drinking, such as a glass of red wine a day, can offer protection against cardiovascular disease." said Monika Arora, Member of the WHF Advocacy Committee and co-author of the brief. "These claims are at best misinformed and at worst an attempt by the alcohol industry to mislead the public about the danger of their product."
For years, old-fashioned, narrow-minded, backward preachers, like myself, have been saying alcohol use, not just abuse, is a violation of the scriptural admonition not to defile the body, which is God's temple and should be under the Holy Spirit's control (I Cor. 3:16; 6:19-20). At one time, this was the most frequent or common position among mainline Protestant churches. But today, those who hold to abstinence have been vilified, marginalized, and lampooned.
Do the critics now have egg on their face? According to recent reputable science findings, the answer is yes! Is the pendulum for abstinence now swinging back? I would suggest science is saying it would be wise and healthy for society if it did.
"Well, what about Paul's admonition to Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach's sake?", some might ask (I Tim. 5:23). Abstainers have consistently recognized the strictest medicinal use of alcoholic wine, but never its frequent or recreational use. Note in Paul's admonition, he had to urge Timothy to drink the wine. Moreover, with modern medications, the medicinal use of wine is antiquated. If for some rare reason, it's deemed necessary, then one should beware – considering that the risks are likely to outweigh the alleged benefits.
Whether or not the Bible directly speaks against alcohol, the Bible still clearly teaches against its use in several ways. Those who do not accept this position have often not thoroughly investigated the overall teaching. And it now appears that the "social drinker" or the "moderate drinker" will not only have to overcome what the Bible says against alcohol use to justify drinking, but what science is saying too.© Rev. Mark H. Creech
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