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Our Testimony on Alcohol

Dear Editor: Thank you for reminding us of the traditional Quaker testimony on abstinence from alcohol. It is dismaying to see it increasingly forgotten in our meetings. It is one thing to recognize that outlawing alcohol and drugs leads to violent crime and mass incarceration. It is another to conclude that the use of chemical substances is desirable or even benign. When we are laughing about the casual use of wine or pot, we might want to ponder this question: Would we make a small sacrifice to help those in need? Are we able to forego a minor indulgence for the sake of those whom disease has made powerless? Because whether we are aware of it or not, we are surrounded by people who are caught with their families in a downward spiral of addiction.

On Reconciliation (January 2015)

Quaker Culture: Friends and Alcohol

Friends have expressed strong concerns about the use and abuse of alcohol for more than three hundred years. . . Yet many contemporary Friends find such [concerns] anachronistic at best. . . Early Quakers found excessive drinking especially pernicious because it interfered with one’s ability to discern the divine will. . . [They also] considered intemperance a social and political issue as well as a spiritual/personal one. . . In the final analysis, however, there is probably no argument that would convince a moderate drinker that the occasional drinking of alcohol is always invariably wrong in any absolute sense. But Friends have generally tried to apply higher standards to their behavior. . . The traditional Friends testimony on alcohol has long offered a good reason why we should be willing to give up something that may in and of itself be of little consequence to ourselves. We should do so because of the example we are providing for others.

On Temptation (November 2014)

Elizabeth Gurney Fry: A Quaker Mess

Friends are doing a lot of reevaluation these days, reexamining our past and our venerable Quaker ancestors. In some cases, when moral inconsistencies emerge into the open, reexamination means that some iconic Friends are losing their luster. In other cases, stories of early Friends’ messy lives help us to see their humanity, which can lend greater depth and nuance to their spiritual writings. This happened for me when I read Chad Thralls’ May 2011 article in Friends Journal on the “embodied” life of Thomas Kelly. Learning how Kelly confronted his inner demons through surrender to Spirit increased my appreciation of his lyrical testimony.

On Conflict (January 2023)

Not Just Intense, Alive

Joanne Steinwachs has practiced psychotherapy as a clinical social worker since 1985 and runs a private practice in Denver. She works primarily with adults, addressing a wide range of issues, including chronic mental illness, addictions, eating disorders, and bipolar disorder.  Joanne is a friend of Friends, and she spoke with Western Friend by phone on March 14, 2013. 

On Power (March 2013)

Substance Abuse

Margaret Fisher’s reminder of the “traditional Quaker testimony on abstinence from alcohol” is also a reminder of the diversity of the world of Friends. Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice mentions the general concern of addictions, particularly those that are harmful to others. Serving alcohol at Meeting gatherings is not to be done, and Friends should always provide alternatives when they serve alcohol to guests in their homes. Pot is not explicitly addressed in Faith and Practice. So I see that this testimony has a few hairs that can be split.

On Knowing (March 2015)