Poll shows church’s shifting views of alcohol

By Heather Hahn
Nov. 30, 2018 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

A bit of religious humor: What is the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist?

A Methodist will say “howdy” when he sees you in the liquor store.

A new study puts some numbers to the punchline.

LifeWay Research, the Nashville-based research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, released a new study Nov. 27 that looked at how U.S. Protestants view alcohol consumption.

Among the 2017 findings, 62 percent of Methodists acknowledge taking a drink from time to time — compared to 33 percent of Baptists. The study asked people to identify their affiliation, and LifeWay researchers say it’s safe to assume most classified as Methodist are United Methodist.

Overall, the study shows that most Protestants agree the Bible denounces drunkenness. Nevertheless, these churchgoers also indicated growing acceptance of imbibing in moderation.

For example, a similar LifeWay survey in 2007 found that 29 percent agree that Scripture indicates people should never drink alcohol — compared to 23 percent in 2017.

Yet, the shifting attitudes toward alcohol were most dramatic among the people called Methodist — once among the nation’s most prominent champions of temperance and later Prohibition.

The survey found only Lutherans exceeded Methodists as acknowledged drinkers, with 76 percent saying they imbibe. However, Lutherans — whose founder Martin Luther famously enjoyed beer — never had a teetotaling tradition.

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