Anyone who might think that the subject Prohibition and Temperance is not up to date, is wholly mistaken. The writer of this article also thought that the above subject was really out of date. However a little investigation was sufficient to make him change his mind. It is true of course that the prohibition era is a matter of the past. However, that does not mean that all citizens of our country are satisfied with the present situation, Fact is that there are still millions of prohibitionists who would like nothing better than to once more force the prohibition yoke upon the shoulders of all American citizens. This, point we hope to prove in the sequence of our article.

First we wish to state what is understood by prohibition and what is usually meant by temperance. By prohibition we understand of course that the law, either local or federal law, prohibits the sale and use of liquor. During the prohibition era it was a transgression of the law to sell, make or drink liquor. The only exceptions that were made dealt with wine for communion and liquor for medicinal purpose. “The word temperance has long been used to characterize the movement for the temperate use of intoxicants and for the activities of societies of abstainers and those favoring a restriction of the use and sale of alcoholic beverages.”

Before I give my opinion on the above subject I will first prove that prohibition is becoming once more a live issue, and secondly that the temperance movement is not what it claims to be if one would merely judge by the sound of the word.

In “The American Mercury,” of March 1943, Mr. Jack Van Norden writes an article under the heading: “Prohibition is Returning.” In this particular article the author claims that the cry for prohibition has increased particularly in connection with the rumors that our soldiers are drinking excessively. Due to these rumors “The Office of War Information was obliged to institute a thorough investigation because of the unsubstantiated rumors of excessive drinking in the Army,” Its findings were made public, so Mr. Van Norden tells us, in A Survey of Drinking Habits in and around Army Camps. One of the conclusions of this survey was: “There is not excessive drinking among troops, and drinking does not constitute a serious problem.” In other words prohibition for our soldiers is not necessary. Van Norden himself is no enthusiast for prohibition either. But he claims that besides the many temperance organizations also a great number of Churches are actively seeking prohibition. Says Mr. Van Norden: “The Board of Temperance of the Methodist Church was, the leading Protestant organization behind the last fight for prohibition. It is still that today.”

I found a very interesting article under the heading “Never Prohibition Again,” in the Atlantic Monthly of Jan. 1943, by Robert M. La Follette Jr. Says Mr, La Follette: “Prohibition is attempting to stage a comeback. Under the guise of wartime necessities, the dry forces have launched the same kind of campaign that brought about the adoption of the Eighteenth Amendment after the last war.—One spokesman of the prohibition cause was quoted in the press only a few months ago as promising: ‘When prohibition comes in as a wartime measure, that will give us a chance to rally our forces and nail it down permanently/ The strategy of the prohibition movement, as he frankly stated it, is first, to try and dry up all military camps and establishments; second, to dry up all war industrial areas; and third, to dry up the entire country. How prohibition came about in 1917 and what he thinks about it, Mr. La Follette describes as follows: “The people allowed the fanatics of the temperance movement to lead them away from the principle of temperance. As a result the country was plunged into an era of moral hypocrisy, political corruption, and institutional degeneration stemming from an “experiment” in national repression which proved to be thoroughly unworkable.” (I underscored J.D.). The writer of the above mentioned article certainly would oppose the return of prohibition, says he: “For thirteen years this country grappled with the prohibition law, and finally threw it overboard with a great feeling of relief in 1933. Throughout that unfortunate period the unenforceability of the prohibition law threatened the effectiveness of all law,”

From the above quotations two things are very plain: 1. There is at present a strong movement in operation in our country which aims at the return of prohibition. 2. This movement is strongly opposed by others whose chief objection against prohibition seems to be that it is not workable.—Fundamentally of course the one is just as utilitarian as the other. We claim that prohibition as such is wrong, the principle of prohibition is wrong. The prohibition law forbids something which in itself is no sin. And because the fundamental principle is wrong our country also found out that it did not work. Prohibition was indeed the cause of moral hypocrisy, political corruption, and institutional degeneration, as Mr. La Follette puts it.

But what about temperance? Just as there is a prohibition movement so there is also a Temperance movement. Particularly the women have shown great interest in temperance, as can easily be explained. Looking up some references I found that a woman’s crusade for temperance started about 1870 and crystallized here in America in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, founded by Frances E. Willard in 1883. This organization is still very active over the entire United States. For many years it has been the most influential movement for temperance and prohibition. Trying to find out what really are the purposes and aims of the W. C. T. U., I consulted a book entitled: “Women’s Torch-Bearers.” In this book I found a number of principles which express the aim of the entire organization. I will quote a little of the material that has a direct bearing on our subject. Quote: “What is the G. W. T. U? It is an organization of Christian women banded together for the protection of the home, the abolition of the liquor traffic, and the triumph of Christ’s Golden Rule in custom and in law.”—The reason for joining the organization and signing the total abstinence pledge are given in the Declaration of Principles written by Frances E. Willard: “We believe in the coming of His Kingdom whose service is perfect freedom, because His laws, written in our members as well as in nature and in grace, are perfect, converting the soul.”—The pledge of total abstinence reads: “I hereby solemnly promise, God helping me, to abstain from all distilled fermented and malt liquors, including wine, beer and cider, and to employ all proper means to discourage the use of and traffic in the same. To confirm and enforce the rationale of this pledge, we declare our purpose to educate the young; to form a better public sentiment; to reform, so far as possible, by religious, ethical, and scientific means, the drinking classes; to seek the transforming power of Divine grace for ourselves and all for whom we work, that they and we may willfully transgress no law of pure and wholesome living; and finally we pledge ourselves to labor and to pray that all these principles founded upon the gospel of Christ may be worked out into custom of society and the laws of the land.”

From the above it is plain that the temperance movement aims at much more than mere temperance. The term temperance is deceiving. In as far as I could ascertain Temperance as a movement aims at total abstinence and prohibition wherever this is possible. Of course if your teaching and speaking and education brings not enough temperance it is handy to call on the law and enforce prohibition. The temperance movement has always been the right hand of the prohibition movement. But the name is certainly misleading. From the above quotations, it is very plain that also the temperance movement cannot expect our support and that we, Reformed believers, cannot join such organizations even though some of them call themselves “Christian.” It seems to me it were better that the word Christian’ were changed into ‘humanistic.’ Moreover the principles and the pledge of the W. C. T. U. sound rather post-millennialistic to me. Still another reason why we could not join the movement as represented by the W. C. T. U. And, as I mentioned already, the difference between the prohibition movement and the temperance movement seems to be merely a difference of degree.

Do we believe in the unrestricted liquor traffic? No, not at all, we certainly believe in having laws that restrict and regulate the liquor traffic and punish the misuse of liquor. The government must have laws respecting the liquor traffic, but then the laws that do not condemn the use but the misuse of liquor. Prohibition makes sin that which is no sin. And that is our principal objection against prohibition. The danger is also that the government may arbitrarily prohibit the use of many other things which in themselves are not sinful at all.

But what about Temperance? It seems to me the Christian naturally favors temperance. Not a, temperance which is prohibition in disguise, but a temperance which has as its purpose to discourage the misuse of liquor. Nobody can deny that the liquor traffic causes much trouble and sorrow, even in some Christian homes. Should we not favor discouraging the abuse and misuse of God’s gifts? Indeed, by all means, because the misuse and abuse of something, no matter what it is, is always wrong, sinful. Hence, we believe in true Christian temperance, even in a denial of ourselves for the brother’s sake who may be weak. But such a temperance has nothing to do with the humanistic attempt to improve the world by force. If the temperance movement had no other aim but encouraging temperance among the men in the armed forces and among the men and women in civilian life we could find no quarrel with it. Now I would say: “Watch out, lest you become a humanist, a post-millennialist, a person who cannot distinguish between arbitrary compulsion and true Christian liberty.” Conclusion? No prohibition, but Christian temperance. And by all means Christian temperance, not its humanistic substitute.