One testimony that Quakers have had to give careful thought to is our testimony on moderation. In the nineteenth century Quakers saw the bad effects that drink and drunkenness had in society. Along with other non-conformist Christians they campaigned against alcohol. Many Quakers were active in the Temperance Movement – a movement of people who “took the pledge” (promising that they would never drink alcohol) as a witness against the evils it caused.
Nowadays, we emphasize the need for moderation, though some still take a stand against all alcohol. As time passes testimonies continue to develop: when we think about moderation these days, we also need to include smoking and drug and solvent abuse. There are several questions of personal responsibility and stewardship involved in deciding our own attitude to the use of alcohol and drugs.
“Many Yearly Meetings hold very strong testimonies against the use of tobacco or alcohol. Within Britain Yearly Meeting some Friends advocate total abstinence from alcohol, others counsel moderation. Those who smoke tobacco, drink alcohol or abuse other substances risk damage to their own health, and may hurt or endanger other people. Such use can deaden a person’s sensitivity and response to others and to God. Consider whether you should avoid these products altogether, discourage their use in others, especially young people, and refrain from any share in their manufacture or sale. Maintain your own integrity and do not let social pressures influence your decisions.”
In all questions of this kind we try to think very carefully about how to put our faith into practice. We do not have written creeds or sets of rules but we can turn for help to Advices and Queries:
“In view of the harm done by the use of alcohol, tobacco and other habit-forming drugs, consider whether you should limit your use of them or refrain from them all together. Remember that any use of alcohol or drugs may impair judgment and put both the user and others in danger.”
Harvey Gillman, in his book A Light that is Shining says:
“You will note here that rules are not being set down … The question is always: how far are you in control of your own life, how far are you using your money wisely and creatively, how far are you setting an example to those over whom you have some influence? In this matter as in many others, it is easy to be carried away by social pressure and it is often hard to stick to principles.”