KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 — Christianity does not forbid liquor but only condemns intoxication and debauchery, church leaders said today in response to a PAS lawmaker who claimed all religions prohibited the consumption of alcohol.

Rev Clarence Devadass, director of the Catholic Research Centre in the archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, said the church is not against alcohol per se but abuses that result in harm.

“In fact, a small amount of wine is integrally used for the celebration of the Catholic Mass.

“The Bible does not forbid the consumption of alcoholic beverages, but drunkenness is clearly condemned and considered sin,” he told Malay Mail when asked to respond to Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh’s claim in Parliament last Wednesday.

The Pasir Puteh MP who professed to have studied comparative religions made the sweeping statement during a debate on drink driving and even told Beruas MP Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham, a Christian, that Jesus Christ forbade the consumption of alcohol but that the Bible was later “manipulated”.

“On the whole, the church teaches that the virtue of temperance or moderation disposes us to avoid every kind of excess, which includes the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco and even medicine.

“Irresponsible actions arising from the abuse of substance incurs grave guilt,” Clarence said.

Likewise, Council of Churches Malaysia general secretary Rev Hermen Shastri said alcohol consumption has been used in civilisations worldwide for religious celebrations and medicinally since long ago.

“It has been used for its medicinal value. In countries with colder climates, it helped people survive winters without heated rooms.

“Additionally, it was also used for religious celebrations and socialising. In the case where most religions frown upon alcohol is due to the susceptibility of abuse and potential addiction,” he said.

Hermen said Christianity only warns against drunkenness and its adherents are reminded to set good examples to others.

“The PAS MP should not impose his views on others. In a diverse society we need governance based on rational thinking and not taking the religious high ground,” he added.

Christian Federation of Malaysia executive secretary Tan Kong Beng who taught theology in a seminary for seven years suggested Islamist party lawmaker Nik Zawawi take another look at what he had studied about Christianity.

“I do not recall whether he quoted any texts to support his claim,” he said of Nik Zawawi, adding that those familiar with Christian scripture would know there were a number of passages about alcohol, but in praise rather than in prohibition.

Tan cited several examples to support his assertion, including Psalms 104, verses 14 to 15 which he said spoke of God’s greatness in creating all things.

“Among the things these verses mention, wine is specifically highlighted, referred to as wine that gladdens hearts. All this we receive from God with thanksgiving,” he said.

Like the other two Christian clerics contacted by Malay Mail, Tan said consuming alcohol was not the problem but overindulgence and cited other passages from the Bible that he said addressed this.

“Of course if we overindulge in wine, it will mock us because we become inebriated, losing our faculties and our rationality. Indeed, Proverbs 20:1 states that overindulgence in wine leads us astray.

“Similarly, Ephesians 5:18 tells us not to get drunk on wine but instead be filled with the Spirit of God,” he said.

Tan also cited 1 Timothy 5:23 which relates how Paul the apostle told his younger colleague Timothy of Lystra who was later made a saint, to stop drinking only water and instead use a little wine when the later complained of stomach ailments and other illnesses.

“So as you can see, wine comes from what God has given to us, and this also applies to alcoholic beverages in general. There is no outright prohibition, just a warning.

“I think it would be better that everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim, come together and learn from each other for the sake of religious harmony. We should learn from one another’s scriptures, as opposed to speaking out of turn and mentioning the religions of others without much knowledge,” Tan said.