Not Your Grandparents' Fundamentalism: Fundamentalist Millennial and Gen Z Attitudes Toward Alcohol.

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Author: Joe Coker
Date: Spring 2021
From: Baptist History and Heritage(Vol. 56, Issue 1)
Publisher: Baptist History and Heritage Society
Document Type: Article
Length: 6,025 words
Lexile Measure: 1680L

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The kids have a new take, a new take on faith; Pick up the pieces, get carried away. "Oh My Heart," REM

For almost 200 years white American evangelicals have generally disapproved of alcohol consumption. For a significant portion of that time many even supported the outright prohibition of liquor by the government. Baptists--especially in the southern United States--have consistently numbered among those who condemn strong drink and who, even after the failure of national prohibition, viewed alcohol consumption as incompatible with a true Christian lifestyle.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) passed its first anti-drinking resolution in 1886, and for almost 150 years these resolutions opposing alcohol remained a staple on the part of the denomination. More than 50 such resolutions have been passed during that time, most recently in 2006. Since 2006, however, the SBC has not passed another resolution regarding alcohol, making this the longest period of interval between such resolutions since 1886. The passage of that 2006 abstinence resolution was unlike its predecessors because of the surprising resistance it faced from the floor of the Convention.

Throughout the twentieth century, Southern Baptists rejected even moderate use of alcohol, a tenet of the faith that remained consistent both during periods of fundamentalist prevalence (first in the 1910s-1920s and then again in the 1980s-present) and in times when the denomination was dominated by more mainstream evangelical thinking. But notable rifts within the denomination on this issue have surfaced, beginning with the passage of the 2006 resolution and continuing over the past 15 years. In particular, the attitude toward liquor consumption among Millennial and Gen Z fundamentalist Baptists has shifted drastically from that of their elders, reflecting a significant generational fault line developing within the SBC and suggesting that the denomination's position on alcohol consumption will likely change in the years to come, despite how theologically conservative the Convention remains.

Nineteenth Century: Roots

The temperance movement in America emerged in the aftermath of the War of 1812. Due to a number of factors--including reduced cost and greater availability of whiskey as a result of improvements in transportation--whiskey consumption in the United States increased drastically during that period. Evangelicals in New England cities, where this "veritable whiskey binge"--as historian W.J. Rorabaugh called it--was most prevalent, began to form temperance societies aimed at improving the morals and decreasing the drunkenness of society. (1)

One of the earliest temperance societies was formed in Massachusetts in 1813. By 1826 a national temperance organization, the American Temperance Society, formed in Boston. A decade later a new society, the American Temperance Union, formed and advocated total abstinence from all alcoholic beverages, not just the hard liquor that previous organizations had condemned. Temperance advocates also began to push for legal prohibition of alcohol sales, and 15 years later Maine became the first state to pass such legislation. Throughout this process, northern Baptists were a key constituency supporting this new moral reform effort.

Generally speaking, Baptists in the South were somewhat slower to embrace temperance reform in the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A669891899