Protestants and alcohol

It’s that time of year when the festival season at Catholic parishes in my area gets into full swing. Generally, a lot of the neighborhoods wind up unhappy about these festivals which are meant to earn money for the parish, but also bring a lot of drunkedness into the neighborhoods because the festivals tend to sell alcohol as part of their fund-raising. It is a part of Catholic culture which I find disturbing – I don’t know why any church would encourage drinking at such large events. Do Protestants have church events which include alcohol or do they tend to frown on these activities at church?

I think in general, Protestant gatherings are unlikely to include alcohol, even for the more liberal denominations. But as you say, alcohol is part of the Catholic culture, and from my personal experience, alcohol is (right or wrong) a huge money maker in many festivals.

Churches can’t control festival-goers lack of control. One could even argue that if a festival doesn’t sell alcohol, some people will bring their own and get drunk and rowdy anyway. I’ve seen that happen too!

I cannot speak to Mainline Protestants (I’ve been told, but don’t know for sure, that the local Presbyterian Church serves martinis in the church basement :D). However, many Evangelical Protestants tend to forbid or strongly discourage drinking alcohol altogether. Protestant women (especially the Methodists) were among the biggest pushers of the Temperance Movement and Prohibition. That strain of teetotalism is still strong in many parts of Protestantism. To this day, the United Methodist Church, as well as other Protestant churches, maintain total abstinence from alcohol as official denominational teaching. This position is held by many Baptists, Pentecostals, Holiness churches, and many non-denominational churches.

The effects of the Temperance Movement were so profound and deep that many Protestant churches have not used wine during Holy Communion since the 19th century. Wine is replaced with grape juice.

Really? People brought their own to a church event? I’ve always wondered what Catholics do in dry counties in Kentucky and Tennessee.

I was wondering that too. Also, what’d Catholics do during Prohibition?

Are you asking about the use of wine during the Eucharist? If so, there was a legal exception to sacramental wine.

Ahh okay. It was just hard to imagine Catholics getting a break like that from what seemed like a very strict Protestant leaning government.

It would only have been Catholic priests who needed the exemption since, as I understand it, laypeople at the time did not receive the wine during the Eucharist.

Episcopalians and Lutherans, however, gave their laypeople both bread and wine. It was not just a concession to Catholics but a concession to other sacramental Protestants.

Wine is also used in Jewish celebrations such as passover as well. Usually Protestant Churches do not have large money raising festivals like Catholic Churches do. While drinking alcohol isn’t forbidden and frowned down on as in the Protestant groups that you mention, I think the “Catholic Culture” where there is drinking at events such as parish festivals may have it’s root more in the ethnic groups that came to America such as Irish and Polish where these things are more part of the culture of that country than originating from the Catholic religion. Since the first large groups of Catholics that came to the USA are Irish and drinking is a large part of the Irish culture in terms of going to pubs etc. Parish festivals seem to have originated out of the ethnic parishes in celebration.

I myself don’t attend these festivals because I’m just not able to handle the drinking – I guess my Mormon background shows up there. I wonder how many Protestants have the same reaction and if the community reaction is worth including alcohol at these events.

Sad but true, and yes it is disturbing. The non-Catholic churches in my area do not sell alcohol at their fund raisers.

I do think that those with a background like yours where there is no alcohol do struggle with this. I think it is an unrecognized barrier for a number of Protestants (and even Mormons). This also can extend to smoking as well. Not all parishes have these large types of festivals where there is 3 days of rides and noise etc. My parish has more of a picnic type and yes, beer is served but one doesn’t have to drink beer at all to go socialize with your fellow parishioners. I can understand your struggle and again if this is something that bothers you, it probably is the wiser not to attend. I think for you, take a step back and maybe try to realize that if your parish has one of the larger festival type celebrations is to look at the founding ethnic group that started the parish (Irish, Polish, Italian) and try to see this more as an outgrowth of the originating ethnic group of the parish. I know I’ve seen some thoughts about the drinking as some of these things but if the festival is a long established tradition, eliminating things such as serving beer and stopping bingo is going to be a tough sell to the parish as a whole that may have been doing the festival for a long time. I do understand where you are coming from completely.

Well, we Lutherans love our beer - in moderation, of course. :smiley: We have beer at many social church functions, and we even give the special time we set aside for socializing a special German name: Gemütlichkeit. In fact, just google “LCMS Gemütlichkeit” and you’ll find many Lutheran theological conferences -whether for layman or clergy- include a time for it. Some even include an open bar.

So to answer your question; yes. Yes, at least some “protestants” have events which include alcohol.

Would you check their calendar for the next event?

My Church just had a sale, and silent auction party.
Mucho wine at the party.
Only one person became a ‘little happy.’
(not me)

Germans do love their October fest. i think you support my point that drinking stems more from the ethnicity than the religion. Serving beer may have more to do the the German thing than a Lutheran thing even though many Lutherans have a German background.

Our parish festival has a designated area for alcohol consumption as to separate the “rowdy” crowd from the general population of festival-goers. There is also a limit put on how may drinks a person may have. I think when the necessary precautions are taken to ensure that people drink responsibly at a joyous occasion, it in no way reflects poorly on the Church. No one can help if someone brings their own bottle of vodka from home and drinks that! Its just the nature of this type of event. A weekend during the summer time, a festive atmosphere, large diverse crowds of people - people will find a way to drink whether alcohol is being served or not!

I doubt people bring alcohol to Protestant events. We have a large music festival in town every year where they bring in contemporary Christian music artists. Literally thousands attend. I have never heard they have a problem with alcohol at such events, but maybe I’m just missing it. The event is free – they aren’t trying to raise funds for a church. I actually think alcohol could be eliminated from our events and the same amount of real funds could be raised. I’ve never heard that these events are really profitable. They amount to a small contribution to the parish budget with the main purpose being fellowship for the community. I do wonder if alcohol at these events contributes to a stereotype of the drunken Catholic that is so common in Protestant circles.

Oh, of course - there’s certainly a cultural influence, and we German Lutherans love our beer. :smiley: And it’s not limited to the German Lutherans; the Scandinavian Lutherans can almost hold their own in drinking with us.

That said, Gemütlichkeit really does serve an important purpose that sort-of… transcends mere cultural phenomenon. It builds community within the church.

Here are a few (old) examples of conferences with scheduled Gemütlichkeit:

These customs vary, some Catholic cultures refuse to serve alcohol as well. While some protestants and evangelicals and baptists speak against booze, but drink any Catholic under the table! Seen plenty of these!

I watched a documentary on PBS on Prohibition - were Catholic priests, Rabbis, and others were exempted – leading to such figures with no congregation as Rabbi Sean O’Brien! :smiley:

I don’t like the alcohol at such events and have said so to my Pastor. Alcohol is more than just a small occasion for sin and the Church has no business serving it.

I wont volunteer for or attend events like our silent auction where many get very drunk, or gambling nights.


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