The Salvation Army started as a way of bringing church to the disadvantaged and marginalised people of London and our founder, William Booth, recognised that alcohol was a significant issue for his flock. His way of addressing the problem was to make The Salvation Army a temperance movement. As a matter of example and solidarity for those they were trying to help, Salvationists were required to become tee-total and so I followed that tradition when I formalised my membership of the church at age 18.
Since my childhood in the Salvos, the requirement to avoid alcohol has not changed but the attitudes surrounding the issue certainly have. I remember a Salvation Army where, for members, drinking was regarded as a complete no-no and would probably have provoked a pastoral visit from a senior member of the church community but these days it is tolerated with something more like a "don't ask, don't tell" attitude.
As I neared adulthood I regarded the Army's stance as a prime way to make ourselves, as a group, appear unapproachable and censorious although I still had huge respect for the philosophy and largely kept my promise to be alcohol free. ( I would sometimes have a taste of someone else's drink but drew the line at pouring or purchasing my own)
I suppose the expectation of abstinence was too much for a proportion of my generation because many of the people I grew up with in the church eventually left The Salvation Army and made themselves at home in the Anglican church where it was more acceptable to have a tipple.
I never felt a need to leave "the Salvos" but I decided that I would not burden my children with shame if they were to drink moderately.
In the last few years I have seen these threads come together in an new way. My children have all reached the age of majority, our New South Wales state government has enacted "draconian", "nanny state" anti-alcohol laws in an attempt to curb alcohol related violence and the church is increasingly struggling to be found relevant. My own local church, the one I have attended all my life, has been threatened with closure and our future is not certain,
I am beginning to think that maybe there would be some in our society who would welcome the absence of alcohol and that an environment of abstinence might be a refuge of sorts? Maybe the church is losing relevance because it looks too much the same as secular society? Maybe abstinence is way cooler than we have given it credit for? I find it a little sad that our government is taking a stand towards moderation while the church is going in the opposite direction and I find it disturbing that the sanctions against alcohol are financially driven (saving money for police and hospitals) rather than rooted in the welfare of humanity.