A STUDY OF PROVERBS 23:29-35 AND THE EFFECTS OF ALCOHOLISM IN NIGERIAN SOCIETY: THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH
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1.1 Background of the Study
Alcohol has many usage and contrasting connotations. A glass of wine with a meal can symbolize Love, friendship, relaxation and enjoyment of a special occasion. It can represent romance, coming of age, success, beginnings and endings, good news and good company. At a Christian Eucharist or Jewish Passover, where wine is also shared, thanks are given to God for divine salvation from all that were enslaved, restricted and condemned. In drinking the wine, Christians participate with the first disciples in their Last Supper with Christ, and Jews participate with the ancient Hebrews in their exodus from enslavement in Egypt.
In African tradition, wine is used to portray a relationship and communion between the living human and ancestors, deities and other supernatural entities. This is evidence in covenant establishment, oath taking, daily ritual of libation, burial and institution of shrines and altars. Also in marriage ceremonies, the usage of alcoholic wine is indispensible even against the vehement opposition of Pentecostal churches in Africa with Nigeria as typical example. Ekwe (2000) stated that apart from water and wind, wine is another integral and indispensible part of
African life and living. The presence is felt in almost all the activities of African customs and traditions ranging from burials, rituals, marriages, oath takings, covenant establishments, meetings, hospitalities, evening relaxation to all forms of their daily activities.
Unfortunately, the sacredness and redemptiveness of these occasions contrast with the association of alcohol with drunken violence in our towns and cities, cirrhosis of the liver on our medical wards, debts in families, death on our roads and numbers of fights in families. It contrasts more especially with the enslavement, which is alcoholism or alcohol addiction. This contrasting nature of alcoholic drink is clearly revealed in different chapters and verses of the Hebrew Scripture, the Old Testament. Serious warnings were placed on the need to avoid addiction and lust towards alcoholic wine. At some instances, some people were strictly warned not to taste alcoholic wine or partake in meals that have connection with alcohol. For instance, Nazarites like Samson in Judges 13:7, Princes in Proverbs 31:4 and the Rechabite family in Jeremiah 35 were in this category. The book of Proverbs 23:29-35 which is the case study of this research work pointed out and analyze the state, condition and ordeals of an alcoholic drinker
and the problem of addiction even in this contemporary era.
In more purely statistical and objective terms, alcohol misuse is a contemporary social problem of enormous economic significance, which exacts a high toll of human suffering as a result of the social, psychological and medical harms to which it gives rise. Alcohol related morbidity and mortality are high in most parts of the world, and in many developing nations like Nigeria, alcohol consumption and its concomitant harms are on the increase. Yet, moderate
alcohol consumption is tolerated, enjoyed and encouraged, with the majority of the adult population being drinkers of alcohol in almost all countries other than those with an Islamic culture.
What are we to make of these observations? It is easy to project blame to a safe distance by arguing that they are the responsibility of other people‟s plights or forces beyond our control. Government, industries and moderate drinkers can blame a majority of irresponsible citizens for their excesses. The beverage alcohol industry can easily be blamed for promoting a product which causes so much harm. Or else, the product itself can be blamed and made subject of
prohibition, on the basis that everyone would be better if it were not consumed at all in civilized
Perhaps no one needs to be to blame at all. Rather than blaming people for being irresponsible whether either as drinkers or promoters of alcoholic beverage, Cook (2003) argued that maybe the problem is better understood more in terms of disease. Perhaps some people are exceptionally vulnerable because of a disease of some kind, in such a way that alcohol causes them harm, and through them harms other people too. The nature of this disease is complex. It might be understood as a disease affecting the moral and spiritual nature of human beings in such a way as to impair their judgment, self control and integrity in a far more fundamental way. And, at risk of over-simplifying things and jumping ahead of the argument, this disease might be called alcoholism or addiction.
Therefore, viewing alcoholism or addiction as a disease or rather cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabrics of individual lives and society at large, one has to provide medication that will give permanent cure to this disease or reduce it to the bearest minimum in our society. One obvious fact which is glaring is the application of diverse curative methods to halt the pandemic nature of alcohol addiction which many have failed. For instance, laws have been made in different societies against alcoholic drinking, like in many Islamic states, which proved abortive because people devise diverse means to fall back to the pit of addiction. Again different alcoholic producing companies have been banned from production and advertising alcoholic drinks, but local production of alcohol serve as alternative means, therefore making the former ineffective.
However, the Hebrew Scripture offers principles, precepts and admonitions which strict observation, adherence and application of these, will bring the menace of alcoholism in the society to a halt. The reason remains that the Scripture touches the heart of man and answers diverse questions in the inner man. Edward (2000) observed that while human laws address immediate issues and challenges of man which solutions are temporal, the Scripture touches the remote (the root) of the same issues, offering a permanent solution. So the problem of alcoholism
is not different from other issues which the Scripture has offered permanent solution. This research work will showcase and analyze issues associated with alcohol and alcoholism using the Scriptural tool presented in Proverbs 23:29-35. Among all the books in the Bible that talked about alcohol, the book of Proverbs in different chapters and verses (Proverbs 23:20-21, 20:1) made many comments on the issue of wine and alcohol. But among these chapters, Proverbs 23:29-35 has the longest context, therefore stands as the most appropriate exegetical tool to treat the issue of alcoholism. Lessons drawn from this text will be applied to the Nigeria society with regards to alcoholism. Placing the Bible text on the Nigeria situation, solution will be offered.
1.2 Statement of the Problems
There is no issue of greater concern in our society today, whether it is to health, industry, state or church, national or family life, than that of alcohol and its effects. The knowledge that scientific research, history and human observation revealed has proved clearly that alcoholism is a problem which must be undertaken from different approaches. No one attitude or objective field of service can operate independently with complete success. The level of alcohol addiction in Nigeria is growing in a geometric speed and the consumption percentage is very alarming. Amadi (2010) observed that every street in Onitsha, Anambra State, has about three to five bars and drinking centers. The number of crates of beer consumed in a day, especially on Sunday, calls for higher supply to alcoholic producing companies and on the other side of the coin, calls for a social rethink. Wondering on the increasing craves for alcoholic drink, one will foresee the corresponding health, psychological, social and economical dangers it poses to our nation
This case is similar to the problem of HIV/AIDs because it is either one is infected or affected. Therefore, everyone is involved in this issue and thereby requires general attention. Besides, the woes that betide victims of alcoholism like cases of family separation, psychological trauma, serious health issue, financial bankruptcy, several road accidents and deaths have never served as a deterrent to up coming alcoholic drinker. The more people are affected, the more the quest for “mixed wine”. Also the taste and nature of many alcoholic drinks in Nigeria awake the mind to critical questions. It is has been observed that different brands of beer in Nigeria are very bitter and gins
are very hot, yet the rate of consumption is too high and unbearable. The evidence is quiet glaring in different bars and joints where a single individual consumes a crate of beer or even more, staggering home without counting the cost both financially and health wise.
Therefore critical questions arise: what are the principal factors responsible for the high consumption of alcohol in our society? Are there measures taken to curb this social menace and what result have they yielded? If those measures or steps taken to checkmate this ill proved abortive, what is the cause? Who bears causative responsibility for alcoholic problems, the producers or the promoters or the consumers? If previous measures to arrest alcoholism have failed, are there new measures that can be applied or added to the failed one in order to achieve a
solid and lasting result? What is the role of the church to combat this evil betiding our society if
other institutions have failed in their attempts?
The researcher saw these existing states of affairs as societal hurdles that require a tactical approach. These questions are great challenges and mathematical puzzles if left unsolved will foster the increase of this social ill. This research work to a reasonable extent analyzes these issues and offers solutions.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The purpose of this study is to take a critical cum exegetical approach to the book of Proverbs 23:29-35 which discusses critically issues associated with alcohol and alcoholism and apply it to the Nigeria situation in order to offer workable solutions. In other words, the problem of alcohol has been known for decades starting from the time of Noah, down to the time of Solomon who gave this instruction concerning alcohol, so the Nigerian situation is not new. If the Scripture offered solution then, this work will apply it to the contemporary Nigerian situation
with the intention to bring solutions also. Furthermore, it is evident and obvious that issues concerning alcohol and addiction have affected every facet of human life ranging from social, economical, psychological, health to the
religious system of our country. The inability to take practical steps to combat this evil, will lead to a kind of societal doom that is better imagined than experienced. Bearing this situation in mind, this research work has the objective to use the instructions and warnings presented by Solomon in Proverbs 23:29-35 to bring correction to our present society. In other words, it will create an insight that would help us study the extent alcoholic addiction has eaten deep into the fabrics of the Nigeria society and the way out.
In addition, this research work is geared towards quickening the church both the clergy and laity, awaking them from slumber, charging them to withstand and stop the high increase of alcoholic addiction in Nigeria. The church as an agent of change will be challenged in this project to apply every reasonable method available in order to combat this problem once and for all. Jellinek (1960:22) pointed out “we will conquer the problems of alcohol or they will conquer us”.
Besides, this work has in mind to create an enlightenment campaign and educate alcoholic addicts and moderate drinkers on the dangers associated with this “poison”. Mathew (1996:4) argued “alcohol is not a stimulant; it is poison. It is not food; it is not a medicine, it is poison always and everywhere”. Many victims and even moderate drinkers of alcohol are ignorant of the harming effects of what they enjoy and have pleasure in. This paper has the
objective to shed light in their dark world and by this illumination; the shackles of alcoholism will be broken. Moreover the prospect of the posterity lies on the foundation we establish today. Combating alcoholism creates an understanding and builds another state of affairs where the future generation will operate on, a society free from alcoholism and its side effects. In other words, the aim of this study also is to create a better background in our society for the benefit of the future generation.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The significance of this study in our contemporary Nigeria society cannot be overemphasized. It will be of great benefits to Nigeria ranging from victims of alcoholism, moderate drinkers, affected families and the society at large. Proper exegesis of Proverbs 23:29-35 will be carefully carried out, issues and effects of alcoholism will be pointed out which will be brought home to the Nigerian situation and solution will be proffered. This work is first important to the addicted in the sense that it will give revelation of his situation, the harm it has caused him and the possible way out. There is a high amount of difficulty to quit from addiction to any substance and alcoholic addiction is not exceptional. But this work will serve as a hammer that will break the stumbling block of alcoholic addiction.
Furthermore, this study is significant to the church in the sense that it will challenge and spur them on to action in order to combat alcoholism and its dooming effect to the Nigerian society. The clergy will be motivated to herald the gospel of deliverance from alcoholism while the laity will move to the grassroots of bars, joints and drinking centers to take the message home.
To psychologist, health and social workers the study is a compass to navigate into the life and situation of their client in this situation. This will inject fresh hope and energy in them in their fight against alcoholic addiction and other related challenges. Proper application of the principle this work will enshrine with respect to alcoholic addiction together with their principle will bring a social change. The families of the drunk, individuals and organizations that are affected are not left out.
This will serve as aid for the development of proper approach to the one under this condition. It
will be a manual that will foster their ability to instruct, counsel, treat an alcoholic addict.
1.5 Scope of the Study
The study will concentrate on the effects of alcoholism as presented in Proverbs 23:29-35 as it affects the Nigerian society. The contemporary society is challenged by diverse addictions and dependency on different substance such as alcohol, hard drugs (Cocaine, nicotine Marijuana, cigarette, etc). Common observation has proved that people addicted to alcohol in Nigeria are twice in number than those addicted to any substance. Therefore, this concept motivates the researcher to limit the scope of this study to alcoholic wine and alcoholism. This will enable him
to make in-depth study on the effects of alcohol on the Nigerian society. In other words issues concerning non-alcoholic wine and other dependence substance shall not be treated. Moreover, the Nigerian environment and society will serve as the location of this study with direct reference to states in the southern part of the country. The concept of alcoholism and problems associated with them is a global pandemic with diverse effects on different society.
The Nigeria society shares in this problem also, therefore becomes suitable for this study.
References can be made on other countries of the world but Nigeria will be the central focus and the first hand recipient of this research work.
The tool of this study will be centered on the book of Proverbs 23:29-35. Alcoholism and the effects are part of the major topics that run in different chapters and verses of the Bible. The researcher finds the book of Proverbs 23:29-35 suitable and relevant for the Nigerian society with respect to alcoholism. Therefore, this will serve as the major discuss with cross reference to other scriptural verses that are appropriate for this study. The background will be examined, the context will be analyzed and the keywords in these verses will be critically studied.
1.6 Research Methodology
The researcher is aware of the import of exegesis and hermeneutics in biblical studies and interpretation therefore this was the first approach towards the study of the Proverbs 23:29-35. The research employed literary and analytical methods. In this regard, issues on alcoholism were raised and literacy analyzed especially in the interpretation of Proverbs 23:29-35 and the major findings were applied to the Nigerian situation.
The method of data collections on this project followed a systematic pattern. On this regard, the researcher sourced for relevant and modern materials through different medium. Primary and secondary source will serve as major instruments for study development. In the primary source of data collection, first hand interview was made on key players and analysts in the field of religion, psychology, medicine and other relevant fields. Also alcoholic addicts who wish to open up were interviewed on the causes and their state with respect to alcoholic drinking. On the other hand, the secondary source concentrates on pure library information from where information will be gathered from text books, journals, periodicals, newspapers, magazines both from Nigeria and international communities. Besides internet materials was used in order to enrich this research work. The data collected from both primary and secondary sources were critically interpreted, analyzed and presented through the literary analytical style.
1.7 Definition of Terms
Effect According to Abbott (2009), effect can be defined as a change or changed state occurring as
a direct result of action by somebody or something else. It can also be seen as a change that
somebody or something causes in somebody or something else. The result of such action can be
seen as effects. This result can be either positive or negative as the case may be.
Alcoholism There are various definitions of alcoholism; some are based on causal factors, while others stress operational aspect. Jellinek (1960) defined alcoholism as any use of alcoholic beverage that causes damage of the individual or society or both. He recognizes four subclasses of the disease. (i) Alpha alcoholism: this is purely psychological; it continual dependence upon the effects of alcoholism (ii) Beta alcoholism similar to alpha, with the added complication of physiological derangements such as gastritis, neuritis, liver and vascular disease (iii) Gamma alcoholism: characterized by the traditional pharmacological criterion of addiction, including both tolerance (a diminishing effect with repeated use) and dependency. This is the form most commonly seen in courts, large municipal hospitals and correctional institutions (iv) Delta alcoholism: inability to abstain from drink for even short intervals of time, continuous than spree drinking.
Keller (1962) defined alcoholism as a psychogenic dependence on or a physiological
addiction to ethyl alcohol, manifested by the individual‟s inability to refrain from drinking or to stop once he has started. Emphasis here is on the loss of control. Defining alcoholism from the general point of view, Martins (2003:34) stated Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages usually to the detriment of the drinker‟s health, personal relationships and social standing. It is medically considered a disease, specifically a neurological disorder, and in medicine several other terms are used, specifically „alcohol abused” and „alcohol dependence‟ which have more specific definition.
Society Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2011) defined society as a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. It can also consist of like- minded people governed by own norms and values within a dominant, large society. More broadly, a society may be described as an economic, social or industrial infrastructure made up of a varied collection of individuals. Members of a society may be from
different ethnic groups like the Nigerian Society.
Church Mahoney (2009) defined the church as a word derived from the Greek word “ekklesia”
which means a called out assembly. Church (singular) refers to the church universal, a city church or a house church. Abbott (2003) added that the New Testament offers many metaphors for the word church like, the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the branch of the true Vine (Christ), the people of God etc