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Church Celebrates Alcohol During Its Services

hard liquor in a short glass with ice cubes in front of a bar.

Alcohol can be a touchy subject among Christians. Many believe that the Bible prohibits Christians from drinking alcohol. Others believe that the Bible allows for imbibing in moderation. A few believe that drinking alcohol is allowable but not advisable. For one church in South Africa, though, alcohol is celebrated and promoted during their worship services.

An article on Religion News Service (RNS) opens with a description of a service at the Gabola Church located in Orange Farm, South Africa,

Dressed in a red robe and a gold-trimmed bishop’s miter, the clergyman pours whiskey into his cupped hand and anoints the forehead of the man sitting before him.

“You are hereby invested as a minister … This is a double tot,” he says of the remaining whiskey in the chalice. He hands it to the new minister, who downs it.

“Hallelujah!” shout the congregation members who erupt in singing and dancing, swigging from bottles of beer.

In case you were wondering, Gabola is the Tswana word for drinking. RNS provides further details of the Gabola Church that sets up in bars:

A pool table served as the altar, adorned with bottles of whiskey and beer. Six ministers at the altar solemnly blessed the chilled jumbo bottles of beer bought by most churchgoers. A few drank whiskey, brandy or other beverages, all of them similarly blessed. The congregation sang hymns praising the positive effects of drinking. Three new Gabola members were baptized with beer which covered their foreheads and dripped down their faces.

According to the church's founder and "self-proclaimed pope" Tsietsi Makiti, "We are a church for those who have been rejected by other churches because they drink alcohol. Gabola Church is established to redeem the people who are rejected, who are regarded as sinners. We drink for deliverance. We are drinking for the Holy Ghost to come into us."

Setting aside the obvious problem of "swigging from bottles of beer" during the service, there are a couple of major theological problems with Makiti's statement. Redemption is only found in repenting of sin and placing your faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Gabola Church is not redeeming anyone, whether they're imbibers or teetotalers. Most likely, they are helping enslave some in alcoholism.

Secondly, drinking for deliverance? What does that even mean? Theologically, we're delivered from the slavery of sin through faith in Jesus. In fact, getting drunk, which is forbidden by the Bible by the way, enslaves people. If Tsietsi Makiti is teaching people that deliverance is found through drinking alcohol, he's guilty of adding to the Bible's teaching on redemption. Not to mention that he's guilty of promoting sinful behavior in the name of Jesus.