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Author Topic: Alcohol and the Coptic Orthodox Church  (Read 10001 times) Average Rating: 0
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JamesRottnek
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« on: August 05, 2010, 03:04:21 AM »

Hi, I ran into an article recently (http://www.frantonios.org.au/2010/07/07/whats-wrong-with-alcohol/) by a Coptic priest in Australia.  It struck me as somewhat bizarre.  I figured that this would be the best site to ask my question on - given the number of Coptic Orthodox (and Oriental Orthodox in general) that post frequently.  So, is this article the official position - assuming there is one - of the Coptic Church?  If not, is it a pretty common position?

Thanks in advance
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« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2010, 03:14:01 AM »

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Doubtless, the Muslim society in which the Church has developed for fourteen centuries has contributed to this no alcohol policy, but what difference does that make? Does it matter why we have the policy?

Pretty opiniony kinda guy.  Anyone can get a blog.
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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2010, 03:45:28 AM »

That was what I was thinking, but I thought I recalled reading an FAQ on the Diocese of the Southern US that said the same essentially.
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« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2010, 03:59:44 AM »

Try this: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,25558.0.html
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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2010, 04:13:09 AM »

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The Greek word oinos was used for the juice of grapes in general, the same word for both unfermented and fermented wine, with the context determining which.”

This is completely wrong. Since Homer's time, oinos has always meant wine, i.e. an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grape juice. To this day, the words oinopoleion, oinologos, etc, (meaning wine shop, wine scientist) are used in modern Greek, even though the vernacular word for wine is now krasi.

The word for freshly-pressed, unfermented grape juice is moustos, a similarly ancient word which has come into the English language as must, and is used in Modern Greek to this day with the same meaning.
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« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2010, 04:21:14 AM »

That was one of the most bizarre parts of his blog post to me.  I've previously read about how certain protestant groups that attack alcohol have basically used the same argument (it was grape juice not wine) to defend themselves against Jesus having turned water to wine.  You'd think that if biblical scholars took that argument seriously, some version of the Bible would at least include the possibility of the word meaning grape juice, what with the billion footnotes in modern day Bibles.
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« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2010, 04:50:35 AM »

It should also be remembered that in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, there was no way that pressed grape juice could be prevented from fermenting, because of the warm climate and lack of refrigeration (which is often used in modern winemaking to slow down the fermentation rate).

Pressed grape juice would begin to ferment very shortly after pressing, as the naturally-occurring yeast on the skin of the grape (often seen as a grayish "bloom") reacts with the sugars in the must. And it would not only be the yeast present on the grapes themselves that would generate the fermentation. Natural yeast spores are present in the air, and these could also contribute to the process.

So, our temperance friends may be honorable in intent, but off the mark linguistically and practically.
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« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2010, 05:02:08 AM »

It's also pretty well known that one glass of red wine per day for women, two glasses per day for men, can help maintain healthy coronary arteries, thus staving off heart disease.
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« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2010, 12:40:53 PM »

Quote
The Greek word oinos was used for the juice of grapes in general, the same word for both unfermented and fermented wine, with the context determining which.”

This is completely wrong. Since Homer's time, oinos has always meant wine, i.e. an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grape juice. To this day, the words oinopoleion, oinologos, etc, (meaning wine shop, wine scientist) are used in modern Greek, even though the vernacular word for wine is now krasi.

The word for freshly-pressed, unfermented grape juice is moustos, a similarly ancient word which has come into the English language as must, and is used in Modern Greek to this day with the same meaning.

THANK YOU!!! That whole grape juice argument is totally inaccurate and totally Protestant!
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« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2010, 01:02:59 PM »

Though I agree entirely with previous posts which show that the consumption of alcohol is permitted, and that the wine described in the Bible is alcoholic and not simply grape juice - nevertheless - there is a thread of abstentionism in the Alexandrian tradition from the earliest times. St Clement of Alexandria, as one example, taught that it was better not to consume alcohol.

I think that we must be careful not to reject abstention altogether as a Christian choice. This is certainly not as matter of dogma, but it may well be an aspect of spirituality.

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« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2010, 01:09:08 PM »

About on par with meat?  That's kind of my take.  Meat inflaming the passions etc.
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« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2010, 01:32:19 PM »

Though I agree entirely with previous posts which show that the consumption of alcohol is permitted, and that the wine described in the Bible is alcoholic and not simply grape juice - nevertheless - there is a thread of abstentionism in the Alexandrian tradition from the earliest times. St Clement of Alexandria, as one example, taught that it was better not to consume alcohol.

I think that we must be careful not to reject abstention altogether as a Christian choice. This is certainly not as matter of dogma, but it may well be an aspect of spirituality.

Father Peter

I understand, Father, and honestly, I rarely have a drink myself.  Very rarely.  I suppose I just bridle at the Evangelical argument advanced above that the Lord Jesus turned the water into "grape juice" at Cana, and that the pharisees called Him a "winebibber" because He loved his Welch's, and He gave the Apostles grape juice at the Last Supper, and so that's what we should be using in the Eucharist.  I've articulated the exact same argument LBK utilized above, and even showed some Protestant friends of mine the relevant passages in the Greek New Testament, but they remained adamant in their position in spite of the facts.

If an Orthodox Christian chooses to obstain from alcohol as a matter of spirituality, I applaud him.  In fact, I don't think I've had so much as a sip in years, and my friends who do drink tease me for being a teetotaler (I am, however, a recovering Earl Grey addict), but I believe we must insist on total accuracy when it comes to the Scriptures, and not allow any distortion on this or any other point.
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« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2010, 04:18:01 AM »

http://www.suscopts.org/q&a/index.php?catid=28

Here the Southern Diocese of the Coptic Church (in the US) says that while alcohol is not a sin, the Church advocates complete abstinence because the possibility of abuse is so high.  So, Father Peter, is this thread of abstention from alcohol one that is strongly present in the Church hierarchy (that is, do most Bishops and Priests advocate complete abstention from alcohol) or is this just the position of the Southern Diocese?

Reading this, I seem to myself to be coming off as attacking the Coptic Church in some way.  I do not intend to be doing so if I come off that way to anyone else and I apologize if I do.  I genuinely am just interested in the Coptic Church's position on this.
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« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2010, 04:38:53 AM »

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Here the Southern Diocese of the Coptic Church (in the US) says that while alcohol is not a sin, the Church advocates complete abstinence because the possibility of abuse is so high.


Sounds like wise pastoral policy to me.

Do you deny that alcohol abuse is a significant and increasing problem in society? If not, then what exactly bothers you about the Church's wisdom?
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« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2010, 04:45:00 AM »

For the record, Abouna Antonious did not argue that Christ turned water into non-alcoholic grape juice. He suggested that the alcohol content of the final product would have been low. The context of his assertion would seem to imply that it would be low relative to that which we would today ordinarily regard as "wine".

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« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2010, 05:02:52 AM »

Dear James

There is a strong thread of abstention which is present in the hierarchy.

For myself, I grew up in an evangelical household which did not consume alcohol, and it was not until I was a young adult that I drank beer or cider. Even then I did not develop a habit of drinking, but it was mostly through lack of opportunity and money. My father was responsible for the youth in our congregation and did a good job of keeping us busy!

At work I have known many people who drink to excess. I have been on business trips with sales people who have drunk large amounts of alcohol and seemed hardly affected because they habitually consumed so much alcohol. I have worked with warehouse staff whose idea of a good night out was to get as drunk as possible as quickly as possible. I have sat next to a colleague who would drink 4 cans of beer in a night and just think it was a way to relax.

Yet I also know many people like Antonious Nikolas, and have been such myself, who are not total abstainers, but have little cause to drink alcohol, and consume it rarely.

For myself, and only for myself, I stand in front of a supermarket display and think, 'Why would I buy a bottle of something?' If I am not entertaining friends, or if it is not a scorching hot day, then why would I want to open a bottle of something and drink it alone at home? There are other ways to relax. There are better ways to relax. Should I drink, and therefore become less attentive, before my evening prayers or after them?

I know folk who do come home from work and drink a bottle of wine to unwind. Yet I have been asking for prayer elsewhere on this forum for the husband of a friend of my wife's who is in intensive care because his body is collapsing under the strain of years of such consumption of alcohol. Even the young people, certainly in England, are abusing alcohol earlier and earlier. In my own youth the limit might be a couple of cans of beer in secret at a party, but now, children are to be found in the parks unconscious because they have poisoned themselves with alcohol.

I am not teetotal. I would not be shocked if someone opened a bottle of wine at a dinner, or consumed alcohol in another social setting. But I do consume very little alcohol, and increasingly see less reason to do so. I do believe that the wine our Lord transformed the water into was real, alcoholic wine. We use real, alcoholic wine in the liturgy. But there does seem to be an epidemic of alcohol abuse in England, especially among the young, but also among professionals. Our streets are filled with violent drunks each weekend. Something does need to be said. I never support the use of bogus arguments, they never help bolster a position. But there are real reasons to counsel people to moderate their alcohol consumption, and to question it. Certainly in the Coptic Orthodox Church we have 210 days of fasting in which no alcohol should be consumed in any case.

The consumption of alcohol is not a sin in itself. Just as most actions and activities are not sins in themselves. But in the UK alcohol consumption does seem to be becoming a major problem, and the unthinking consumption of alcohol does seem to me to require addressing. Unthinking behaviour seems to me to be always liable to becoming sin. Wine and beers are becoming stronger and stronger. In the distant past everyone, including children, drank small beer, which was the highly dilute third brew and which was safer than water because it had been boiled. Yet the alcohol quantity was very low indeed, like making three cups of tea from a single tea-bag. Nowadays beers of up to 7 or 8% proof are cheap, and liters of strong cider can be bought for pocket money. Abstinence seems to me to be a reasonable response, and I do not mean a total abstinence but a thoughtful and discerning spiritual decision to not drink alcohol habitually and unthinkingly.

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« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2010, 06:11:46 AM »

EkhristosAnesti, if that is what he meant, then I apologize to everyone for misconstruing it.  I did not intend to.  Also, I would argue that alcohol abuse does appear to be increasingly more common (though it may just be that we are more aware of it now - as a society - than previously).  However, obesity is rapidly increasing - in large part because people are consuming way too much of bad foods (I myself eat more fast food and drink more soda than I should).  I doubt, however, that you would argue the best solution to this problem is to encourage everyone to consume no soda, no fast food, etc.  As to why I am bothered about this, I was more confused as to what the official position of the Coptic Church is.  Not having so much as been to a Coptic Church, or even knowing a Coptic Christian, I am not really that concerned with the Church's position on alcohol - just curious.

Father Peter, I am in no way suggesting that it is bad, negative, wrong, etc. for someone not to drink alcohol (either as a firm position or just by habit).  I am just trying to clarify what your Church's position is.

Also, for everyone, there are actually some benefits to alcohol consumption.  According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate alcohol use (defined as two drinks a day if you are a man 65 and under or one drink a day if you are a woman or if you are a man 66 and older - with a drink defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 of wine, or 1.5 of 80-proof distilled spirits) can bring you the following benefits:
    * Reduce your risk of developing heart disease, peripheral vascular disease and intermittent claudication
    * Reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack
    * Possibly reduce your risk of strokes, particularly ischemic strokes
    * Lower your risk of gallstones
    * Possibly reduce your risk of diabetes

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alcohol/SC00024

And I've read elsewhere about how new evidence is suggesting that moderate drinking may help to prevent dementia later in life.
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« Reply #17 on: August 06, 2010, 06:24:10 AM »

I didn't take any of your posts as critical of the Coptic Orthodox Church. But it does seem to me that I am increasingly agreeing both personally and as a priest with the view that we should not drink very much alcohol at all and certainly not regularly.

My own opinion is that the Church should indeed take a view on the epidemic of obesity. I am a couple of stone overweight and that doesn't happen by accident. I am not sure why a reasonable answer to this would not be to encourage no or minimal consumption of high-fat and high-sugar foods? These are not good for us and we should eat, and drink, with discretion.

It is not a sin to eat a Big Mac, but it is not sensible to eat a lot of Big Macs. It might not be sinful to smoke a cigarette once or twice, or rather it may be symptomatic of some other spiritual condition, but I would never encourage any parishoner in smoking. As I said, I am not in favour of strict teetotalism since it seems to me to be unnecessary, but I would consider that someone drinking a pint of beer every night would be drinking too much. Personally I see the dangers of habitual alcohol consumption as outweighing any medical benefits. I see too many drunken children, young people and adults, and too many who are suffering the consequences of habitual alcohol consumption. A drink once in a while is one thing, drinking every day is something else.

Father Peter
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« Reply #18 on: August 06, 2010, 09:55:33 AM »

James,

Quote
Also, I would argue that alcohol abuse does appear to be increasingly more common (though it may just be that we are more aware of it now - as a society - than previously).  However, obesity is rapidly increasing - in large part because people are consuming way too much of bad foods (I myself eat more fast food and drink more soda than I should).  I doubt, however, that you would argue the best solution to this problem is to encourage everyone to consume no soda, no fast food, etc.  


Drunkenness is sinful. As far as I am aware, there is nothing sinful about obesity which is simply the result of bad choices when it comes to what types of food one eats. There is something sinful about obesity via gluttony, however, and so the Church does indeed regulate our eating habits to discourage such. That is after all one of the purposes of fasting, yes?

I don't understand why, in any event, you'd doubt that I "would argue the best solution to [the problem of obesity that is the result of bad food choices] is to encourage everyone to consume no soda, no fast food, etc." Why do you make this sound so absurd? Where I live this is precisely what government agencies concerned with the physical welfare of the population are doing, through advertisements and education etc. This is precisely what our school systems are doing out of concern for the health of our future generations. Schools across the country are even beginning to ban junk food from being sold in canteens to this end.

Quote
Also, for everyone, there are actually some benefits to alcohol consumption.  According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate alcohol use (defined as two drinks a day if you are a man 65 and under or one drink a day if you are a woman or if you are a man 66 and older - with a drink defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 of wine, or 1.5 of 80-proof distilled spirits) can bring you the following benefits:
    * Reduce your risk of developing heart disease, peripheral vascular disease and intermittent claudication
    * Reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack
    * Possibly reduce your risk of strokes, particularly ischemic strokes
    * Lower your risk of gallstones
    * Possibly reduce your risk of diabetes

Defending alcohol consumption by pointing to its health benefits is like defending a serial killer by pointing out that he nevertheless likes to help old ladies cross the street. Maybe that analogy is a bit too heavy. Since you’ve raised the topic of diet and health, I’ll go with the following analogy: it’s like defending a McDonalds burger by pointing out that it’s a source of high protein for muscle growth and repair. You get where I’m going with this, yeah? The dangers and risks of alcohol consumption far outweigh any health benefits, both in theory and practice. There are plenty of other more sensible and effective means of reducing your risk to diabetes etc., that are not also the means to increasing your risk to destroying your life.

The Church's wisdom on this matter glows brighter from a perspective that considers the effects of alcohol on youth in particular. Youth seem to have very little control when it comes to alcohol. Many youth cultures have no concept of moderate drinking. The entire joy of alcohol for them is in getting drunk. In adopting a strict overall policy on alcohol, the Church addresses the vulnerability of her youth. Youth grow up in a Church culture where not consuming alcohol is the norm amongst family, relatives, friends and associates, no matter their age or class. This predisposes them against the temptations to consume alcohol in excess they are very likely to meet in the world outside of Church.
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« Reply #19 on: August 06, 2010, 11:15:39 AM »

I agree entirely with EkhristosAnesti,

I will add that I grew up in an evangelical home in which alcohol consumption and bad language was not at all permitted or demonstrated by my parents, therefore I find all bad language still to be objectionable, and alcohol consumption, especially to excess, is not something I have ever been comfortable with. These are good habits which I am glad that my parents instilled in me, without me being entirely negative to others over them.

I would wish that all youth grew up with a general inclination not to turn to alcohol, rather than a general inclination, as is the case in our times, that alcohol will be consumed.

Father Peter
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« Reply #20 on: August 06, 2010, 01:01:09 PM »

Could there be any Moslem influence on the rather harsh stance (some?) Copts take towards alcohol.
I don't really see this in our churches, where alcohol flows freely at most church events.
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« Reply #21 on: August 06, 2010, 01:06:29 PM »

Could there be any Moslem influence on the rather harsh stance (some?) Copts take towards alcohol.
I don't really see this in our churches, where alcohol flows freely at most church events.

I remember once at an Oriental Orthodox event hosted by the Armenian Church, wine was on the table at the agape dinner, but none of the Copts or Ethiopians touched their glasses.  Grin
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« Reply #22 on: August 06, 2010, 01:29:49 PM »

Could there be any Moslem influence on the rather harsh stance

From the article that began this topic:

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Doubtless, the Muslim society in which the Church has developed for fourteen centuries has contributed to this no alcohol policy, but what difference does that make? Does it matter why we have the policy? Isn’t it much more important whether it is a good policy to have or not?

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« Reply #23 on: August 06, 2010, 03:32:50 PM »

At the recent consecration of the Syrian Cathedral there was wine served at the reception, but the Coptic, Ethiopian and Eritrean clergy stuck to soft drinks.

I wonder if part of the reason is that it seems to me that the Coptic/Ethiopian/Eritrean Orthodox Churches have been, and are, very monastic, and indeed have often relied on the monasteries to preserve the life of the Church through the darkest years. Much of the spiritual practice of the laity is essentially the same as monastic practice. There is the same extensive fasting, the same hours of prayer, the lengthy hours of praises etc etc. I wonder if the abstention from alcohol is related to this very strong monastic thread in the Church?

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« Reply #24 on: August 06, 2010, 04:23:07 PM »

That sounds like a reasonable hypothesis, Father.  I wouldn't be surprised if you were on the right track.  The fact that the Ethiopian and Eritrean faithful also abstain from alcohol (in the main) would seem to indicate that the alleged Islamic influence is not the only factor at play here, since Ethiopia has always been an "island of Christianity".  Perhaps there is a pre-Islamic tradition of piety in this area that has always informed the the See of St. Mark and was merely reinforced by Islamic rule?

On a related note, I've noticed that all of the Indian Orthodox bishops and monastic priests that I've been blessed to meet have been strict vegetarians and regard this as a part of their spiritual discipline.  If this is informed by the fact that their Church exists in a largely Hindu milieu, does this even matter?  It's still a way of sanctifying the temple that is their body, and hallowing it for God.  Couldn't the same be said for our Coptic fathers and faithful on the subject of vino?
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« Reply #25 on: August 06, 2010, 06:33:51 PM »

i agree with the Coptic Church wholeheartedly on this!
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« Reply #26 on: August 06, 2010, 07:40:11 PM »

"...because the chance of abuse is so high..."

Doesn't this really vary according to the individual? I will say that I drink what is usually understood as a moderate amount of alcohol. Every once in a while I may have a few drinks at a time with some friends, and maybe once or twice a week I may have a single drink for myself as a means of relaxing.

I can say with confidence that I have never been drunk.

And I have only even been close to being drunk once or twice.

So it seems to me that the chance of abuse is not high with myself, even though I do drink a moderate amount of alcohol.

So how can there be a unilateral suggestion that all abstain as if all are highly inclined to abuse alcohol?
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« Reply #27 on: August 06, 2010, 11:00:43 PM »

In my view, the reason why it would be an over-reaction to say that you should have no soda, McDonald's, etc. because too much is bad is that anything - if overused - can be very bad for you.  Watching television (depending on what you are watching of course) is not bad in moderation - yet it is very bad if that's all you do.  Being on the computer is not a bad thing in moderation, but is very bad if you do nothing else.  My point is, if something is not itself a sin - which the link to the Southern Diocese says - then I don't understand the strong encouragement to completely stay away from it because of the possibility of overuse (of course, I do not mean that someone shouldn't be able to choose to stay away from it, or that there is no spiritual benefit to doing so for some people).  I mean, with television or the internet, I'd say that there can be a big temptation to either: 1) use them in excess; and 2) use them negatively (viewing things you probably shouldn't be).  However, would you then say that it is not overreacting to say "You shouldn't use these at all."?

Also, I would say that a comparison between smoking and alcohol or fast food is a bad comparison.  My reasoning for this is that smoking is very addictive.  It takes from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to become addicted to cigarettes - which suggests that it is very risky to try and smoke only once in a while.  This is not the case with something like alcohol or fast food.

While I obviously can't say that you see many people who overuse alcohol (never having been to Britain), I myself know many people who drink in moderation and do not get drunk.  In fact, I know virtually no one who gets drunk yet I know many, many people who drink at least once a week.

I also disagree with comparing defending eating a McDonald's hamburger and defending alcohol consumption because a McDonald's hamburger is going to affect you negatively (though not enough if you eat it once in a while to where I would say it's a problem).  By contrast, alcohol when used in moderation is not going to affect you negatively.

Also, I would argue against the assertion that youth are more at risk for excess alcohol consumption if they grow up in a family where drinking is ok.  In fact, the evidence shows that young people who drink with their parents are less likely to consume alcohol in excess than those who do not.  According to Dr. Mark Bellis (who did a study in England on 10,000 teenagers that concluded this), "The majority of people who are drinking at early ages are not then going on to be problem drinkers later in life.  The real issues are around people understanding alcohol, learning about alcohol, being set a good example by their parents.”  The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in the US, has concluded the same thing (that being, young people who drink with their parents are less likely to have drinking problems later in life).  In fact, students who do start drinking with their parents outperform their peers on standardized tests of math, geography, and other subjects. 

As well, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has concluded that moderate drinkers have greater longevity than non-drinkers.  In fact, it found that there is a decrease in heart disease by 40 percent to 60 percent.  The Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association reported that "The lowest mortality occurs in those who consume one or two drinks per day."  A  Harvard study found the risk of death from all causes to be 21% to 28% lower among men who drank alcohol moderately, compared to abstainers.  A large-scale study in China found that middle-aged men who drank moderately had a nearly 20% lower overall mortality compared to abstainers.  Harvard's Nurses' Health Study of over 85,000 women found reduced mortality among moderate drinkers.   A study of more than 40,000 people by the Cancer Research Center in Honolulu found that "persons with moderate alcohol intake appear to have a significantly lower risk of dying than nondrinkers.” An Italian study of 1,536 men aged 45-65 found that about two (2) years of life were gained by moderate drinkers (1-4 drinks per day) in comparison with occasional and heavy drinkers.  A nation-wide Canadian study found moderate drinkers who consumed alcohol daily to have 15% less disability than the general population.  A National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study asserts that "The totality of evidence on moderate alcohol and CHD (coronary heart disease) supports a judgment of a cause-effect relationship... there are cardioprotective benefits associated with responsible, moderate alcohol intake."  A study of 18,455 males from the Physicians Health Study revealed that those originally consuming one drink per week or less who increased their consumption to six drinks per week or less has a 29% reduction in CVD risk compared to those who did not increase their consumption. Men originally consuming 1-6 drinks per week who increased their consumption moderately has a 15% decrease in CVD risk compared to those who made no change.  A study published in the American Heart Association's journal found abstainers' risk of stroke to be double that of moderate drinkers.  A Harvard University study found the lowest levels of hypertension among young adults who consumed one to three drinks per day.  The American Diabetes Association reports that "In people with diabetes, light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, probably because alcohol raises HDL cholesterol, the so-called 'good cholesterol.'"  An analysis of pairs of twins (23,000 Finnish twins to be more precise) with different drinking patterns found that those who consumed alcohol in moderation had half the risk of developing type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes compared to those who consumed less alcohol.  A study of 8,663 men over a period of as long as 25 years found that the incidence of type 2  diabetes was significantly lower among moderate drinkers than among either abstainers or heavy drinkers. These findings persisted after adjusting for age, smoking, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, waist circumference, parental diabetes, fasting plasma glucose, body mass index (BMI), serum triglyceride concentration, and cardiorespiratory fitness.  A French study found moderate drinkers to have a 75% lower risk for Alzheimer's Disease and an 80% lower risk for senile dementia.   Moderate drinkers have been found to be more resistant than abstainers to five strains of the common cold virus. Those who consumed 2 to 3 drinks daily had an 85% greater resistance. Those drinking 1 to 2 drinks daily had a 65% lower risk and those who drank less than daily had a 30% lower risk than abstainers.  An analysis of data from 760,044 men and women who were tracked for seven to 20 years found that moderate drinkers are about 30% less likely to develop kidney cancer than are abstainers.  A large prospective study of 59,237 Swedish women age 40-76 found that those who consumed at least one drink per week had a 38% lower risk of kidney cancer than did abstainers or those who drank less. For women over 55, the risk dropped by two-thirds (66%).  Harvard researchers have found moderate drinkers to be almost 1/3 less likely to suffer Peripheral Artery Disease (a significant cause of death among the elderly) than those consuming less than one drink per week. 

I would also agree with the point that not everyone is equally likely to become an alcoholic.  Someone with a family history of alcoholism for instance is more likely to become an alcoholic.  Someone who easily becomes dependent on things (including prescription medication) is probably more likely to become an alcoholic.  So the idea that just because one in ten drinkers is an alcoholic and therefore the risk is too great for people to drink at all, I find a little bizarre because as with all things, the risk is different based on the individual. 

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« Reply #28 on: August 07, 2010, 06:09:12 AM »

I am not sure who you are trying to convince that alcohol is a great idea?

You have already said that you don't know any Coptic Orthodox, so why does it matter so much to you.

The fact is that in the UK 28% of the adult population consume more than 21 units of alcohol a week. 40% of young men drink more than 21 units of alcohol a week. Over 20% of men drink more than 8 units on at least one day in the week. About 40% of men drink more than 4 units on at least one day a week. My own home town is not safe at night on Friday and Saturday because of crowds of violent drunk young men and women. It is entirely normal to see groups of young teens walking around in the summer with bottles of soft drinks laced with vodka.

Whatever the statistics for formal alcoholism may or may not be, it is clear in the UK that there is an epidemic of alcohol abuse and especially among younger people in public, and professional people in private. 40% of young men are drinking more than the government suggested safe limit each week. 30% of young women are drinking more than the government suggested safe limit each week. That is a major problem.

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« Reply #29 on: August 07, 2010, 06:52:15 AM »

I'm not trying to convince anyone that alcohol is a "great idea," Father.  I am just trying to point out benefits of alcohol.  I don't know the alcohol situation in the UK.  However, I would caution against relying too heavily upon anecdotal evidence to prove much of anything.  All I was trying to do in my previous post was point out that if moderate drinkers were to start abstaining completely from alcohol (as the Southern Diocese, at least, suggests they should do) there would be many more deaths amongst those persons.  Furthermore, studies show that youth who start drinking with their parents when they are young are less likely to abuse alcohol and to have problems with alcohol, than those who do not.  I am not really trying to prove anything though.  All I was doing is pointing out that alcohol can be beneficial.
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« Reply #30 on: August 07, 2010, 07:16:40 AM »

I am not using anecdotal evidence, although it is very obvious here in the UK. I am using government statistics.

40% of young men are drinking more than is safe for them every week.

If you want to drink then that is a matter for you and your spiritual father surely. What we consume is most importantly a spiritual matter not a health matter. All of the benefits of alcohol can be found in other substances, and the negatives often far outweigh the positives. This has nothing to do with becoming a formal alcoholic but is to do with the significantly large minority of people in the UK who abuse alcohol. A glass of wine now and again is one thing, but a glass of wine every day is something else. A bottle of wine something altogether different. Yet this is increasingly a normal practice. I could care less about the health benefits to be honest and am more interested in the spiritual consequences.

If we shouldn't drive after a pint of beer then should we pray? Can we pray with proper attention? Can we have the 'mind of Christ' when 'relaxed' by alcohol? If alcohol then why not various drugs? What is the aim of our drinking alcohol? The spiritual virtue of sobriety cannot be separated from being sober. This does not require an absolute teetotalism but it does require an effort to preserve the balance and attention of our mind. This is certainly not helped by alcohol.

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« Reply #31 on: August 07, 2010, 07:50:24 AM »

I didn't intend to say you were only using anecdotal evidence, though you did use some.  I just usually say that to people in person or on forums when I find them doing it.  But anyways, That is a very high percentage of persons who drink more than they should; in the UK alcohol abuse is apparently a very serious issue. 

I would also agree that spiritual concerns are entirely valid when a church (or an individual) is deciding what to do, Father.  However, I wouldn't say that a glass of wine a night is bad for you (though I would certainly agree a bottle of wine in a day is more than anyone should go through, unless they are splitting it with many people). 

While you shouldn't drive after a pint of beer, I am not talking about consuming a pint of beer at a time.  As I referenced earlier, a glass of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer (a pint is 20 IIRC) and moderate drinking in (I believe) all of those studies was defined (for men) as two glasses of beer a day - or 24 ounces of beer a day.  No one is saying that this needs to be consumed at one time to be a moderate drinker.  Rather, a moderate drinker could spread this out over many, many hours and thus it could cease from impairing his mental faculties at all - therefore not being a problem with regards to prayer (which I would agree you should probably not be doing drunk).  Furthermore, not everyone drinks because they want to 'relax.'  Many people drink because they enjoy the taste of alcohol.  As for whether or not alcohol impairs our attention, I would agree that if you consume too much of it, it does without doubt.  However, I don't think that in moderate amounts it does that.

I honestly didn't intend for this to become a debate when I started the topic.  I genuinely was just interested in whether or not that blog post was an accurate depiction of the Coptic Church's view on alcohol (and the only reason I wasn't sure was because it seems that Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Armenian Church are less opposed to moderate consumption of alcohol).  But I digress...
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« Reply #32 on: August 07, 2010, 06:30:43 PM »

(and the only reason I wasn't sure was because it seems that Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Armenian Church are less opposed to moderate consumption of alcohol)

I believe it was also pointed at that at the consecration of a Syriac Orthodox cathedral that there was alcohol served as well. So probably we could say that the Asian OO in general are more comfortable with moderate alcohol consumption while it is particularly the African OO who have the tradition of abstention.
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« Reply #33 on: August 07, 2010, 06:31:27 PM »

"...because the chance of abuse is so high..."

Doesn't this really vary according to the individual? I will say that I drink what is usually understood as a moderate amount of alcohol. Every once in a while I may have a few drinks at a time with some friends, and maybe once or twice a week I may have a single drink for myself as a means of relaxing.

I can say with confidence that I have never been drunk.

And I have only even been close to being drunk once or twice.

So it seems to me that the chance of abuse is not high with myself, even though I do drink a moderate amount of alcohol.

So how can there be a unilateral suggestion that all abstain as if all are highly inclined to abuse alcohol?

Seeing as how my pondering are slightly different from James', I'm hoping someone might be able to respond to mine.
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« Reply #34 on: August 07, 2010, 10:33:51 PM »

(and the only reason I wasn't sure was because it seems that Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Armenian Church are less opposed to moderate consumption of alcohol)

I believe it was also pointed at that at the consecration of a Syriac Orthodox cathedral that there was alcohol served as well. So probably we could say that the Asian OO in general are more comfortable with moderate alcohol consumption while it is particularly the African OO who have the tradition of abstention.

That's interesting.  Does anyone who knows about such things have a reason as to why a tradition of abstention developed in the Ethiopian and Coptic Churches, but not the Syriac and Armenian? 
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« Reply #35 on: August 07, 2010, 10:44:33 PM »

You got to realize that the Armenian and Syriac Orthodox have been geographically "next door" to each other through the centuries, whereas the Copts and Ethiopians have been geographically distant from the Syrians and Armenians, while being close to each other.  Today, in our modern world of diaspora, modern travel and modern communication, that doesn't matter so much, but in the old days there was very little communication between the Oriental Orthodox in Asia Minor and those in North Africa.  Consequently, you will see a lot of differences between them.
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« Reply #36 on: August 07, 2010, 11:07:47 PM »

(and the only reason I wasn't sure was because it seems that Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Armenian Church are less opposed to moderate consumption of alcohol)

I believe it was also pointed at that at the consecration of a Syriac Orthodox cathedral that there was alcohol served as well. So probably we could say that the Asian OO in general are more comfortable with moderate alcohol consumption while it is particularly the African OO who have the tradition of abstention.

That's interesting.  Does anyone who knows about such things have a reason as to why a tradition of abstention developed in the Ethiopian and Coptic Churches, but not the Syriac and Armenian? 

For most of their history, the Patriarch of Alexandria was the head of the Copts and also indirectly the Ethiopians because its occupant supplied their Metropolitan. The interconnectedness of the Coptic, Ethiopian, and Eritrean churches should have obvious reasons, as such. This is why I sometimes group them together as the "African OO". The Armenians, on the other hand, have had a historical relationship with the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. Though their relationship was first with the Exarch of Caesarea in Cappdocia (the see Basil the Great started), a few generations in they broke from his leadership and became independent. Later on in the beginning of the 8th century, at the Council of Manazkert, they confirmed full communion with the Syriac Orthodox and established an official relationship with them. The relationship of the Indians to the Syriac Orthodox is due to them, since the mid 17th century, having a dependent relationship upon the Syriac Patriarch similar to how the Ethiopians did with the Coptic Patriarch. As such I sometimes group the Syrians, Armenians, and Indians together as the "Asian OO", though the relationship between the Syrians and Indians is more dependent than between the Syrians and Armenians.
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« Reply #37 on: August 07, 2010, 11:10:09 PM »

You got to realize that the Armenian and Syriac Orthodox have been geographically "next door" to each other through the centuries, whereas the Copts and Ethiopians have been geographically distant from the Syrians and Armenians, while being close to each other.  Today, in our modern world of diaspora, modern travel and modern communication, that doesn't matter so much, but in the old days there was very little communication between the Oriental Orthodox in Asia Minor and those in North Africa.  Consequently, you will see a lot of differences between them.

It is, however, important to point out that the Armenians are more independent and different from the Syrians than the Ethiopians are from the Copts. I think this is primarily because the Armenian Catholicos has been "autocephalous" since ~370, that not changing after Manzakert, whereas the Ethiopians were subject to Alexandria for about 1600 years.
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« Reply #38 on: August 08, 2010, 12:16:41 AM »

Thanks guys...This site is one of the best places to find out information about the Oriental Orthodox - it seems as though the lack of knowledge amongst most Westerners about them carries onto the internet.
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« Reply #39 on: August 08, 2010, 03:38:37 AM »

James,

There seem to be two general types of matters being discussed here: a matter of principle and a matter of fact. The matter of principle relates to the sensibility/propriety/prudence of the Church’s decision in relation to her concerns. The matter of fact relates to whether her concerns are proportional to reality.

The matter of principle presumes that as a matter of fact alcohol abuse is a very imminent and increasing problem in society and the source of many evils (drink driving, family split-ups, drunken accidents and fatalities, long-term diseases etc.). As these evils far outweigh any of the benefits of moderate drinking--which seems a practice difficult for many to responsibly control in general, and almost impossible to control in many youth cultures--the Church has found it fit to take an ultra-ascetic approach to the matter in her concern for and moral duty towards the spiritual edification of the faithful.  

It’s important to stress in relation to this matter of principle that the Church does not presume that *everyone* is equally vulnerable to a high risk of alcohol abuse. Her mentality on the matter is a type of consequentialist mentality in which she deems it worth sacrificing whatever little is to be gained from responsible drinking by those so capable of it, in order to prevent the rather grave consequences/evils of irresponsible drinking to which the more vulnerable of her flock (i.e. the youth, and those with depressive/anxiety disorders/issues) are particularly prone.
 
The principle of sacrificing something not inherently sinful out of concern for the "weaker brethren" is in fact an Apostolic principle. St Paul goes as far as to say that an inherently non-sinful act becomes sinful if it causes the weaker brethren to stumble: see 1 Cor. 8.

In support of your position on matters of fact, you introduce various numbers and statistics. A cursory internet search suggests that you typed a few words into a search engine and came across a particular term essay paper (hosted by a number of different websites), which you did not even reference, containing all of the quotes and data that you present. This suggests you did not properly research the matter. As far as I’m concerned, statistics and authorities should only be used by those prepared to critically approach and engage with them first, and not simply because they’ve conveniently been quoted and used in some term essay paper being sold on the internet to lazy school students.

With that said, I don’t have the time to critically analyse your statistics or investigate other available empirical data on the matter. The points made in the above paragraph are not intended to discredit the data you present, but only to suggest that I can't take your use of such data very seriously.

Ultimately, it suffices for me that the reality of the situation as assumed by the Church’s policy seems a matter of common sense and one reflective of the experiences of the vast majority of people. If you’ve convinced yourself that the benefits of alcohol outweigh the risks and dangers (drink driving, family split-ups, drunken accidents and fatalities, long-term diseases) because you've conveniently stumbled upon some numbers and authorities which would seem to support your conviction, that’s your prerogative.
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« Reply #40 on: August 08, 2010, 07:14:21 AM »

Quote
Could there be any Moslem influence on the rather harsh stance

Quote
Doubtless, the Muslim society in which the Church has developed for fourteen centuries has contributed to this no alcohol policy, but what difference does that make? Does it matter why we have the policy? Isn’t it much more important whether it is a good policy to have or not?
Quote
I wonder if part of the reason is that it seems to me that the Coptic/Ethiopian/Eritrean Orthodox Churches have been, and are, very monastic, and indeed have often relied on the monasteries to preserve the life of the Church through the darkest years. Much of the spiritual practice of the laity is essentially the same as monastic practice. There is the same extensive fasting, the same hours of prayer, the lengthy hours of praises etc etc. I wonder if the abstention from alcohol is related to this very strong monastic thread in the Church?

One could bring many examples from the lives of the Egyptian desert fathers to show that drinking wine was very common among both monks and nuns of the Egyptian monasteries of the 4th-5th centuries. And only few ascetics completely abstained from wine and taught the same. But even they could keep some wine with themselves to serve the guests.
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« Reply #41 on: August 08, 2010, 07:26:36 AM »

Some examples:

It was said of abba Macarius that when relaxing in the company of the brothers he made a rule for himself that if wine were offered him he would drink it, but that for every cup of wine he would afterwards go for a whole day without water. But as all the brothers wanted was for him to have some relaxation they did offer him wine, and the old man gladly drank it but afterwards punished himself for it. But a disciple who had found out about this said the brothers, "For Heaven's sake don't give it to him, for afterwards he compensates for it by punishing himself."  When the brothers realised this they stopped offering it to him.

***

Once when there had been a celebration of Mass in abba Antony's mountain, there was a little wine left over which one of the seniors poured into a small cup and took to abba Sisoe, who when he was offered it drank it. A second time he accepted and drank, but on being offered it a third time he refused, saying, "Easy, brother, don't you know where Satan is?"

***

A certain brother asked abba Sisoe what he should do because certain of the brothers out of kindness frequently asked him to stay for a meal after church.
"That's burdensome", the old man said.
And his disciple, Abraham, said, "If a brother goes to church on the Saturday and Sunday and drinks three cups of wine afterwards, would that be too much?"  
"That wouldn't be too much, if it weren't for Satan," the old man said.

***
Once on a feast day in Scete an old man was offered a cup of wine which he thrust away from him, saying, "Take this death-dealing stuff away." When the other people at table saw this they refrained from drinking also.

***
There was an old man in Egypt long before abba Pimen went there, a man of great reputation and held in high esteem among people. When abba Pimen arrived with his company people began to leave the old man and go to abba Pimen. The old man was jealous and took to speaking evil of abba Pimen. When abba Pimen got to hear of this he was sorry and said to his brothers, "What shall we do about this fine old man? All those people leaving him and coming to me, a mere nothing, are causing me a great deal of worry. What can we do to make it up to him?" And they said to him, "Let's get together something to eat and some wine and go to him and have a meal together. Perhaps that will suffice to propitiate him." etc etc

***
There's another story too about an Egyptian old man who visited a monastery for women and was only offered  bread and water, while the nuns themselves eat fish and drank wine.
Again a story about a nun who pretended to be an alcoholic who secretly took wine and drank (well, a nun couldn't become an alcoholic, whether truly or falsely, if there wasn't wine used in the monastery).
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« Reply #42 on: August 08, 2010, 11:02:05 AM »

EkhristosAnesti, I can certainly understand the Church's postion.  If in fact there is as little benefit (when compared to the costs) to moderate alcohol consumption as you seem to think, then it makes a good deal of sense.  However, I simply don't buy that idea (I would argue this is not because I have convinced myself of alcohol's benefits, but rather because you have convinced yourself of its uselessness - though as you have said, we have a right to believe as we choose).  I also had not considered the point that a non-sinful act can become sinful if it causes others to stumble.  That is certainly something that the Church should consider, and arguably outweighs the benefits of alcohol (this of course is something that can't be proven).

It is true that I did a simple search to find these studies listed on a webpage.  http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/AlcoholAndHealth.html  I was not trying to conceal this.  Furthermore, many of these referenced studies are once that I have read about previously because the effects of alcohol on the body is something that interests me. 

I suppose though that neither of us is going to change our opinion on this issue.
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« Reply #43 on: August 13, 2010, 08:48:25 PM »

grapes become fermented quickly from my perspective. I have eaten many grapes that when oldish and bruised tasted much more like wine than grape juice.
I think C.S. Lewis' standpoint is a good one
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« Reply #44 on: August 13, 2010, 10:07:57 PM »

It's hard to say whether there's an ascetic or an Islamic influence on the abstinence of alcoholic drinks (it could be a combination of both), but it's been known as late at the 10th Century that one of the major differences between a Copt and a Muslim was wine:

Quote
[In] The Book of the History of the Patriarchs [w]e find an amusing account about Severus of Ashmunin, which is often quoted, of one of his disputations with the Muslim Chief Justice (qadi al-qudat), who asked Severus (Sawirus) whether a passing dog was Muslim or Christian. To avoid giving an incriminating answer, Severus replied, "Ask him." The judge said, "The dog does not talk." It was Friday, a fast day for Copts, so Severus said that fasting Copts on that day eat no meat, and break the fast by sipping wine. he suggested offering the dog meat and wine, so that if he ate the meat, he was a Muslim, and if he drank the wine, he must be a Christian. In this manner he gave an answer that the Chief Justice could not refute. (Note 3: A.S. Atiya, Yassa `Abd al-Masih and O.H.E. Burmester History of the Patriarchs of the Egyptian Church known as the History of the Holy Church , Vol II part II (Cairo 1948), 92-93 (text), 138 (translation).)

"Eating and Drinking in Egypt After the Arabic Conquest" by Dr. Youhanna N. Youssef in Saint Shenouda Coptic Quarterly 1.1 (2004) 17-24.

This seems to confirm at least in the past that wine was not considered sinful, but in fact a Coptic cultural norm.  I would say however, I am personally worried by some Coptic clergy who can go as far as say that the wine in the wedding of Cana was not wine, but grape juice with no alcoholic content, only to further an agenda of abstinence not as recommended, but rather spiritual necessary.

I have nothing wrong with HG Bishop Youssef in his tone that abstinence is a recommendation, but sometimes some priests can take recommendations and change them into dogma, which is what I personally don't like.

I will say this.  In my opinion, alcohol should be rarely used, as well as smoking (very rarely since we do not know yet how that can affect each individual person, but collectively for the most part it does more harm than help), as well as fast food.  These are to be taken once in a blue moon so to speak, and not regularly.  Of course, it would be nice if one was to abstain, but I cannot guilt trip someone into having one drink as many priests have suggested to me.
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