1.1. Background to the Quaker Testimony on Abstinence and Moderation
As temperance and moderation are virtues proceeding from true religion…we beseech all to be careful of their conduct and behaviour, abstaining from every appearance of evil; and excess in drinking has been too prevalent among many of the inhabitants of these nations, we commend to all Friends a watchful care over themselves, attended with a religious and prudent zeal against a practice so dishonourable and pernicious.(Yearly Meeting in London 1751 , 20.38)
Many yearly meetings hold very strong testimonies against any 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.(, 20.40)
1.2. Quaker Approaches to Addiction
Friends, whatever ye are addicted to, the tempter will come in that thing: and when he can trouble you, then he gets advantage over you, and then you are gone. Stand still in that which is pure, and after ye see yourselves, and then mercy comes in. After thou seest thy thoughts, and thy temptations, do not think, but submit; and then power comes. Stand still in that which shows and discovers; and then doth strength immediately come. And stand still in the Light, and submit to it, and the other will be hushed and gone; and then content comes.(, 20.42)
For those trapped in substance abuse, such advice [as in 20.401] may seem hollow. Commonalities exist between addictive behaviours with these substances and other compulsive actions such as in the areas of eating disorders, gambling, overwork and physical abuse. The causes go deep and may not be fully understood, but the resulting pain, fear, desperation and denial, damaging the abuser and all around that person, need to be supportively recognised. A meeting community should be ready to listen non-judgmentally, offer information about sources of help, refuse to enable people to continue in harmful patterns, and continue to offer an environment free from addictive practices.(, 20.41)
1.3. Abstinence and Moderation as Quaker Testimony
“the adoption of…abstinence as a rule, or even as a strong advice, is far from being desirable… it should derive from personal conviction…”.
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 using them altogether. Remember that any use of alcohol or drugs may impair judgment and put both the user and others in danger.(, 1.02.40)
Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all, with the measure of light which is pure and holy, may be guided; and so in the light walking and abiding, these may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not from the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.Postscript to an epistle to “the brethren in the north” issued by a meeting of elders at Balby, 1656.(: 1.01)
1.4. Context of the Quaker Study
1.5. Theoretical Context for the Study
Various measures of religious behaviour, religious affiliation or “religiosity” are inversely correlated with substance use and misuse (, pp. 189–97; , pp. 169–72; , pp. 109–12). There is debate about how this effect may operate. For example, affiliation with a faith community may instil moral values which guard against substance use—especially illicit substance use—or substance misuse. However, religion is also associated with various measures of mental well-being (, pp. 118–37; , pp. 43–81) and may reduce substance misuse by improving coping skills or reducing perceived stress. On the other hand, the effect may simply be a function of conforming to the norms of a social group in which substance use or misuse is less acceptable.
2.1. Research Design and Theoretical Framework
2.2. Study Sample
2.3. Quantitative Measures Used in the Study
2.3.1. Substance Use
2.3.2. Quaker Engagement
- “formal involvement” (consisting of membership of the Religious Society of Friends vs. non-membership, frequency of attendance at Meeting for Worship, and a subjective measure of importance of Quakerism to the individual);
- “group identification measures” (measured by three Likert scale questions relating to feelings of affinity and closeness to other Quakers);
- “spirituality” consisting of: a scaled question about the frequency of private prayer/meditation; and levels of agreement with two Likert-scaled statements “spirituality is very important to me in my life” and “God’s presence is available to me in everyday life”.
Common measures of religiosity include denominational identification, frequency of participation in religious services, the degree of religion’s meaningfulness to an individual, and the degree of the individual’s closeness to members of a religious group.
2.3.3. Statistical Method Applied to the Quantitative Engagement Measures
2.4. Qualitative Methods
3. Study Findings
3.1. Quaker Perspectives on Abstinence and Moderation
“Moderation, respect for self and others, simple life-style, these things (substances) are not needed.”“Moderation in everything.”
“I like being part of a community in which it’s acceptable not to drink.”
“…encourage me to form a considered view of the effects of substance use on myself and others, while not being censorious towards others who are different.”
“…I do have a firm belief that people take drink and drugs to keep away from emotions they can’t deal with…the knowledge that it’s not forbidden—that it’s for me to make my own choices…I find that very reassuring…a real lifeline…”“I think Quakerism is very good at that…You know, it’s people saying ‘I’ve made that decision that I no longer do that, but I’m not telling you that’s right for you.’ The whole thing is about not judging people and accepting.”
3.1.1. The Relationships between Testimony and Behaviour
3.1.2. The Community Dimension to the Interpretation of Testimony
3.2. Study Findings in Relation to Spirituality
3.2.1. Quaker Perspectives on Spirituality and Substance Use
- Mind-clouding/cognitive effects:
- “I think the ability to think clearly helps with a spiritual life. I think that the use of substances can get in the way of this.”
- “Non-use means I am clearer in my thinking and making a choice in ‘Free Will’”.
- Effect on their direct relationship with God:
- “The clearer my consciousness, the more alive I feel and receptive to God’s wisdom.”
- “I don’t think I could be connected to God if I was befuddled by alcohol or drugs.”
- Effect on the nature of the spirit:
- “I think it would affect one’s thinking reasoning discernment and thus one’s spiritual life.”
- “Non-use—less clouded inner light—hopefully!”
- Effect on the body and therefore the spirit:
- “Spiritual life enhanced by healthy body.”
- “I think it can harm, and this includes caffeine and chocolate and antibiotics and steroids etc.”
- False contentment/delusion:
- “Contentment comes from within not without.”
- Adverse practical effects:
- “Drinking has sometimes meant tiredness on Sunday morning, which affects my likelihood of going to Meeting.”
- Addiction as the issue:
- “Keep me free from addiction.”
“Experimental experience can sometimes enhance knowledge and therefore spiritual life.”.YFGM respondent
3.2.2. Quantitative Results of the Investigation into Spirituality and Substance Use
3.3. Interpretation of the Findings in Relation to Spirituality
- Behaviour: “overt behavior, such as religious and spiritual practices”;
- Belief: “a sense of interrelatedness of living beings, soul or spirit, and life beyond material existence”;
- Spiritual experience, in the form of “mystical or convictional experiences, serenity and oneness”.
“It may be experienced as a relationship with that which is intimately ‘inner’, immanent and personal, within the self and others, and/or as relationship with that which is wholly ‘other’, transcendent and beyond the self. It is experienced as being of fundamental or ultimate importance…”
3.3.1. The Roles of Spiritual Behaviour and Spiritual Awareness
3.3.2. Twelve-Step Recovery and the Quaker Community
“I was made to feel welcome and wanted by my local PM.2 I had at last found a place where my spirituality could flourish. I didn’t have to believe, or pretend to believe, the impossible. There was no creed, no doctrine, only expectant waiting. After a few years I applied for membership and was accepted.”
“AA is pure Quakerism. We follow spiritual principles and a spiritual path.”“From being a dirty broken down alcoholic I prayed to Jesus to help me and as long as I remain clean and sober I can have a rich full life.”
“Gradually after attending Meeting over the years I came to believe if there was ‘that of God’ in everyone there must be some in me and I wasn’t all bad…”
3.3.3. Summary of the Possible Relationships between Spirituality and Use
4. Concluding Remarks
Conflicts of Interest
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- 1See passage 20.40 on moderation, above.
- 2Preparative Meeting was the name for a local Quaker Meeting; they are now known as Local Meetings (LMs).
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