GIN CRAZE & The Reasons Behind John Wesley’s Teaching Against Hard Alcohol.

Writing for History Extra, Mark Forsyth, author of A Short History of Drunkenness, explores the history behind this alcoholic spirit.

…Alcoholic spirits were a pretty new commodity in 18th-century society, though they had actually been around for a long time. They started as a chemical curiosity in about the 10th century AD. They were being drunk by the very, very rich for pleasure by about 1500, as shown when James IV of Scotland bought several barrels of whisky. But even a hundred years later, in 1600, there was only one recorded bar in England that sold spirits to the curious (just outside London, towards Barking).

Then in about 1700, spirits hit. The reasons are complicated and involve taxation of grain and the relations with the Dutch, but the important thing is that gin suddenly became widely available to Londoners, which was a good thing for the gin-sellers as Londoners needed a drink. The turn of the 18th century was a great period of urbanisation, when the poor of England flocked to London in search of streets paved with gold and Bubbles from South Sea [the South Sea Bubble was a speculation boom in the early 1710s], only to find that the streets were paved with mud and there was no work to be had. London’s population was around 600,000. There were only two other towns in England with populations of 20,000. London was the first grand, anonymous city. There were none of the social constraints of a village where everybody knew everybody’s business. And there were none of the financial safeguards either, with a parish that would support its native poor, or the family and friends who might have looked after you at home. Instead, there was gin.

A craze among the poor

It’s very hard to say which was bigger – the craze for drinking gin that swept the lower classes, or the moral panic at the sight of so many gin drinkers that engulfed the ruling classes. Anonymous hordes of poor, often homeless people wandered the city drinking away their sorrows, and often their clothes, as they readily exchanged their garments for the spirit.

Before the industrial revolution and the rash of cotton mills that would fill the north of England a century later, cloth was very expensive. Beggars really did dress in rags, if at all, and the obvious thing to sell if you really needed money fast was, literally, the shirt on your back. The descriptions left to us by the ‘Gin Panickers’ would be funny – if they weren’t so tragic.

The arrival of gin

Before gin had come on the scene, Englishmen had drunk beer. English women had drunk it too – up to a point – but beer and the alehouses where it was served had always been seen as basically male domains. Gin, which was new and exotic and metropolitan, didn’t have any of these old associations. There were no rules around gin. There were no social norms about who could drink it, or when you could drink it, or how much of it you could drink. A lot of places served it in pints because, well… that’s what you drank. A country boy newly arrived in the city wasn’t going to drink a thimbleful of something.

This was, quite literally, put to the test in 1741, when a group of Londoners offered a farm labourer a shilling for each pint of gin he could sink. He managed three, and then dropped down dead. It’s amazing he got that far, as gin, in those days, was about twice as strong as it is now and contained some interesting flavourings. Some distillers used to add sulphuric acid, just to give it some bite.

And so the efforts to ban drinking among the lower classes began. And they didn’t work very well. When authorities decided to ban the sale of gin, there were fully fledged riots. The poor didn’t want their drug of choice taken away. They loved ‘Madam Geneva’, as they called the spirit.

The Puss-and-Mew machine

The contraption known as the ‘Puss-and-Mew machine’ was simple. The gin-seller found a window in alleyway that was nowhere near the building’s front door. The window was covered boarded over with a wooden cat. The gin-buyer would approach and say to the cat: “Puss, give me two pennyworth of gin,” and then place the coins in the cat’s mouth. These would slide inwards to the gin-seller who would pour the gin down a lead pipe that emerged under the cat’s paw. The crowds loved it and the inventor, Dudley Bradstreet, made three or four pounds a day, which was a lot of money. As nobody witnessed both sides of the transaction, no charges could be brought.

Read more at …

CHURCH PLANTING & Death maps show where despair is killing Americans.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my coaching and mentoring of church planters, I have found them increasingly open to going to hard-hit urban and rural areas. This map shows that some of the most needy areas are in rural Appalachia. One of my former students (who shadowed me for a year to learn consulting) Jay Wise, pastors a church in the middle of the red zone. Read this article to understand more … so you can pray for Jay and consider supporting ministers who labor in these challenging environments.

“Death maps show where despair is killing Americans“ by Maggie Fox, NBC News, 3/14/18.

Researchers have mapped out deaths from alcohol, drugs and violence across the U.S. and found troubling patterns of despair that have worsened in recent years.

While deaths from alcohol abuse, suicide and violence are down, they are more than outweighed by a gigantic 600 percent increase in drug overdose deaths, the team at the University of Washington found.

Their county-by-county breakdown of mortality data going back to 1980 paints an extremely detailed picture of where society is failing the most Americans.

“Every county experienced an increase in deaths from drug use disorders, but that burden of drug use overdoses was particularly acute in certain communities,” Laura Dwyer-Lindgren and colleagues wrote in their report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Death rates from drug abuse have increased by more than 600 percent since 1980, county-level data from the University of Washington shows. University Of Washingtonh

Drug deaths cluster in Appalachia. A map showing the rate of increase is even more dramatic, showing hot spots of worsening drug overdoses in Appalachia, Ohio, Indiana, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Read more at …

MEMBERSHIP & The Strict Church Theory: Why Strict Churches Grow Faster #LaurenceIannaccone #PennStateUniv

bpc_icon_theory.jpg Strict Church Theory


Strict churches are stronger because they reduce free riding, or the ability of members to belong yet not contribute to the group. The theory predicts that strict churches will tend to retain members and foster ongoing commitment while lenient churches will tend to lose members and exhibit very low levels of commitment. This theory builds off of rational choice assumptions and is compatible with the religious economies perspective.


Iannaccone, Laurence. 1994. “Why Strict Churches are Strong.” The American Journal of Sociology. 99(5): 1180-1211.

Kelley, Dean. (1972) 1986. Why Conservative Churches are Growing.Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.

by The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA),

Department of Sociology
The Pennsylvania State University
211 Oswald Tower
University Park, PA 16802-6207

Read more at …

More Theories

Learn about other theories of religion:
arrow.jpgChurch/Sect Cycle
arrow.jpgCivilization Theory
arrow.jpgCognitive Theories
arrow.jpgConversion Theory
arrow.jpgCyclical Theory
arrow.jpgDemographic Transition Theory
arrow.jpgModernization Theory
arrow.jpgRational Choice/Religious Economies
arrow.jpgSocial Network Theory
arrow.jpgSub-Cultural Identity Theory of Persistence and Strength

ALCOHOL & Fast Growing Churches More Likely to Set Rules on Alcohol Use

by David Briggs , US Congregational Life Survey, 7/22/13.

The actress Katherine Heigl has publicly lamented, “If I start going back to church, I’d have to stop the smoking and drinking.”

There is reason for her and others to feel that way.

While many congregations have dropped prohibitions on activities such as homosexual behavior and sex before marriage, the rate of religious communities setting rules on alcohol and tobacco remained fairly steady, according to the U.S. Congregational Life Survey.

In the case of rapidly growing congregations, there is some evidence of increasing strictness regarding both activities. One study showed the percentage of fast-growing churches in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) having rules on smoking and drinking increased more than four-fold from 2002 to 2011.

In 2002, just 2 percent of fast growing Presbyterian congregations reported having special rules or prohibitions regarding members smoking or drinking alcohol. In 2011, nine percent of fast growing churches had special rules on smoking and 11 percent reported rules on drinking.

Smoking chart
The figures are in stark contrast to the dramatic decline in the percentage of fast-growing congregations with special rules regarding homosexual behavior or unmarried adults living together.

More than three-quarters of fast-growing Presbyterian congregations in 2002 reported having rules on homosexual behavior; just 17 percent reported having such rules in 2011. The percentage of fast-growing congregations with rules or prohibitions on cohabitation dropped from 55 percent in 2002 to 13 percent in 2011.

Ida Smith-Williams, a researcher with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, compared survey data from 114 fast growing Presbyterian churches in 2011 with responses from 93 fast growing Presbyterian congregations in 2002.

Overall data from the congregational profiles in the 2001 and 2008 U.S. congregational life surveys show far more rapid declines among churches in reporting special rules on cohabitation and homosexual behavior than in rules regarding smoking and drinking.

In the 2001 survey, a quarter of congregations reported having special rules or prohibitions regarding alcohol use and 15 percent reported rules on smoking. In the 2008 survey, 19 percent of congregations had rules on drinking and 13 percent had regulations on smoking.

Compare those modest drops to the changes in the areas of sexuality. Two-thirds of congregations in the 2001 survey reported having special rules on homosexual behavior and 55 percent had guidelines about unmarried adults living together. In the 2008 congregational profile, 38 percent of congregations reported special rules on homosexual behavior and 32 percent had rules on cohabitation.

Why were the rules on smoking and drinking more likely to remain a part of congregational life, or in the cases of some fast growing churches become even more prevalent, during a period of growing religious individualism?

In part, the retention of guidelines on alcohol and tobacco use may also reflect a shifting emphasis in religion and the larger culture in promoting public health even if it means greater regulation of individuals.

That fast-growing churches would be more associated with rules on drinking and smoking also may not be so surprising.

In analyzing the findings, Smith-Williams said the first thing that came to her mind was the strict church theory described by sociologists such as Laurence Iannaccone that notes having clear guidelines tends to screen out members who lack commitment and stimulate participation among those who remain.

Many congregations appear to be easing up on older prohibitions. But none of these special rules appear to be disappearing from American religious life. The rules congregations choose, and how they decide to promote them, are a key part of their identity.

Read more on how growing congregations are keeping up with changing times.

Read more at …

ALCOHOL & 50 Reasons Not to Drink by Jamie Morgan

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This spring the Wesleyan Church will discuss changes in membership requirements. Regardless of the outcome, I have found in my own life that it is prudent to not drink alcohol. This recent article by Jamie Morgan sums up well my thinking.

50 Reasons Not to Drink
by Jamie Morgan, Charisma Magazine, 12/29/15.

1. I can’t be sober-minded if I’m not sober.

2. Alcohol has an assignment: destruction.

3. Alcohol is a depressant. Anything that depresses should be avoided at all costs.

4. I don’t want to make my brother or sister stumble in the name of exercising my “Christian liberties.” My choice to drink could lead to someone’s demise.

5. Alcohol skews my judgment.

6. Alcohol leaves me worse, not better.

7. What I do in moderation, my children will do in excess.

8. Even the unsaved know I shouldn’t drink. Bible in one hand, beer in the other—any lost person could point this out as a confusing contradiction.

9. Alcohol doesn’t bring others closer to the Lord when they see me drinking, but further away.

10. Alcohol doesn’t bring me closer to the Lord when I drink, but further away.

11. I want to be fully awake and ready for the return of Christ, not drowsy, sluggish and fuzzy.

12. Show me a family for whom alcohol has made a positive difference in their lives. You won’t be able to.

13. I have never heard anyone say, “Wow, that gin and tonic made me feel so Christlike!”

14. I want to avoid all appearances of evil.

15. Alcohol makes it much harder for me to practice the fruit of self-control.

16. Alcohol causes me to lose my filter.

17. Alcohol is a legal mind-altering drug.

18. Alcohol is addictive.

19. Alcohol is a numbing agent for pain and sorrow only Jesus can heal.

20. Many regrets are associated with alcohol. (I can give you a whole bunch!)

21. No one has ever said, “If only I had taken a drink, things wouldn’t have gotten out of control.”

22. Alcohol causes me to act in ways I normally wouldn’t.

23. Alcohol kills brain cells.


Read 27 more at …

ADDICTION & The Best Reason For A Christian To Avoid Alcohol @PatHannon

The Best Reason For A Christian To Avoid Alcohol

by Pat Hannon, 6/4/14

“I have heard many reasons for Christians to abstain from alcohol. Most of these reasons focus on personal piety, personal health, and personal responsibility.

But the best reason to abstain from alcohol has nothing to do with personal piety. The best reason for a Christian to avoid alcohol is the church’s mission to the least of these in the margins of society. [Feel free totweet this.]

Yes, the bible does not forbid drinking alcohol.
Yes, alcohol in moderation is an acceptable Christian position.

But, when I open my eyes to the plight of the least of these in our world, I cannot help but see the horrible destruction that alcohol brings to individuals, families, and neighborhoods. The church’s mission to partner with God in the redemption of all things leads me to stand against the destructive force that alcohol too often becomes. By fully abstaining from alcohol I stand with those who have no ability to drink in moderation. I stand with the family members who have been hurt through a loved one’s addiction. I stand with those in neighborhoods that have been scarred by generations of alcoholism. And I seek to model a way to a better society.

The June 2014 issue of Christianity Today features the article “Why I Gave Up Alcohol” by D.L. Mayfield. Mayfield testifies to giving up alcohol as a way of loving her neighbors. She writes, “I didn’t give up alcohol because I wanted to flee the evils of the world. I gave up alcohol as a way of engaging the evils of the world.” Go read her entire article. It is very, very good.”

Read more at …