Why don't Salvationists drink, smoke or gamble?
Salvationists believe that once we have entered into a relationship with God our lives become his temple, and so we must try to adopt a lifestyle that is beneficial to our well-being. Body, mind and soul are closely interrelated and what has an adverse effect on one may well affect the other.
The misery and poverty of London's East End, which was often exacerbated by excessive drinking, led the Army's Founders to regard drink as a social evil. They made total abstinence from alcohol a condition of membership because abstinence rather than moderation seemed to them to be the most effective answer to the tragedies caused by drunkenness and alcoholism.
Today, tragedies caused through excessive drinking are no less in evidence, and the Army feels it would be hypocritical to come alongside and try to help in such situations unless its own members practised abstinence from that which was the root cause of these problems.
The Army would not judge people who see no harm in drinking in moderation. However, in a society where much social and business interaction revolve around alcohol, a positive stance is made by Salvationists that it is not necessary to rely on alcohol to feel confident, communicate with others or enjoy oneself.
In an age before the dangers of smoking were known, the Founders regarded tobacco as injurious to health, a waste of money and a disagreeable thing to inflict on others. For that reason Salvationists were at first discouraged, and subsequently forbidden, to smoke. History has proved William and Catherine Booth's views correct.
Of course Salvationists, along with all right-thinking people, abstain from the non-medical use of drugs or addictive substances.
Christians believe that our lives are in God's hands. Gambling is based on luck and chance and contradicts this belief. Gambling can be addictive, causing misery to the families of those caught in its web. Salvationists want to distance themselves from anything that can be the cause of so much harm. Nor would we be happy at making gain through other people's loss, the principle on which gambling operates.
When asked to support a lottery or raffle in aid of charity, Salvationists are free to support by making a donation instead. Salvationists do not regard their abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and gambling as a negative lifestyle, but rather we believe that it gives us the freedom to be the people God intended us to be.