I work for a particular denomination of the church that’s synonymous (amongst certain parts of society) with tee-totalism. This generates moments of pain (dry office buildings & conference centres), pleasure (escapist drinking at non-dry conferences), and down right confusion.

Tonight I went out for dinner with two very senior members of the church and a group of ‘young adults’ (we were trying to come up with a solution to the church’s decline!). There was a comedy moment early on in the evening when the waiter came to take our drinks order.

I could tell that more than one person was trying to work out if it would be acceptable to order alchohol. There was that tense silence after the known non-drinker (and most senior person present) ordered his coke, and someone else asked for a similarly non-alcoholic beverage. Fortunately, the second most senior person at the table then took up the wine list and ordered a bottle of merlot – cue sigh of relief from the three of us left to order drinks!

The church moved towards temperance in the 19th century when the prevelance of gin (and its comparitive safety compared to the local water supply) was to blame for many of society’s ills. Saying no to all forms of alcohol was a way of saving society from its destruction and there was no middle ground – moderate drinking just did not exist as a concept.

Almost two centuries later we’re left with this doctrine running straight through many aspects of the denomination. From its communion wine to restrictions to what can be drunk on the premises it owns. But is it really necessary?

Would it set a better example for today’s society to teach moderation in drinking? I think we need to step away from an ‘all or nothing’ culture, where one either abstains or binges. Alcohol is not evil, but it can cause huge destruction when not handled properly.

Some people reading this may think I’m being slightly hypocritical. Truth be told, I’ve learnt (or am still learning) from my mistakes, and that’s the way life should be. I’m glad that my parents allowed me and my sister to drink at home in their company and in a responsible way. I think it’s probably a result of their example that neither or us have had truly catastrophic drunken nights like some of our friends have. As an adult, I’ve learnt that mornings are better when not hungover and that mojitos and port do not mix.

And ultimately, I’ve learnt that nothing says Friday evening like a bottle of red…

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