Since she started selling beer in the early 90s, Maria Julius (not her real) has been a guest of the elders’ council at Bangwe Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) to answer charges bordering on violation of church doctrines.
Under the church law, Adventists are not to trade in beers, let alone partake in any alcoholic drink.
Yet, this is the entrepreneurship Julius found herself in since the death of her husband, who was the sole breadwinner of the family.
“Being uneducated, chances of securing a job were slim. But since I had to survive, I opted for the easiest means of earning a living which was selling beer with the little money from the deceased estate,” said Julius who plies her trade in the confines of Limbe Tavern.
But to the elders’ council, her actions disrespected the laid down church doctrines whose penalty is nothing less than ex-communication.
However, the elders felt it would be unfair to pass judgment on the lady without according her an opportunity to defend her action.
“I told them I ventured into this business solely to survive. To date, the council is threatening to ex-communicate me if I don’t stop selling beer. But because I have don’t have other options, I may not succumb to their demands. Otherwise, my family will starve,” said Julius.
She added: “What baffles me is that the church isn’t committing itself to provide for my seven-member family in the event that I stop selling beer. Instead, they only tell me to go and wait for my verdict.”
SDA is not the only church that discourages its members from associating themselves with beer production and sales.
There are several other church and faith groups that stop their believers from working for companies that not only produce and sell alcoholic drinks, but also condoms and cigarettes.
One such a faith group is Islam.
Senior inspector for the At-Tariqatul Qadriah Sunni Association (AQSA) Sheikh Fahad Zaidu Muhammad said the Qur’an does not support production, sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks.
Muhammad, therefore, said it is outright sinful for Muslims to work for beer brewers and/ or be involved in its distribution and sales.
But Principal of Kamalibwe Chipangano Church, Pastor Tutuzga Nyirenda said a Christian would not be committing sin by merely working for beer brewers, involvement in the distribution process or partaking of the alcoholic drinks.
Nyirenda said the Bible would not have contained a scripture encouraging believers to drink beer, wine, or any other alcoholic drink with a merry heart.
He referred to Ecclesiastes 9:7 which says: “Go, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works.”
Said Nyirenda: “The Bible could not have carried that verse if production and consumption of alcohol was sinful. Therefore, my assessment is that there’s nothing wrong for Christians to work for manufacturers of alcoholic drink.”
Nyirenda further disclosed that the Bible does not necessarily condemn beer, but irresponsible drinking, which may lead to sin.
Former pastor for Balaka SDA Church Chrispin Khonde said much as he agreed that some verses condone moderate consumption of beer, it was only proper for churches to prevent their members from sinning.
“The scripture also forbids a Christian from doing anything that might offend other believers or encourage them to sin against their conscience (ref. 1 Corinthians 8:9). We’re also aware that it is difficult for some people to control themselves when they start drinking beer.
“And in light of these principles, it would be extremely difficult to say alcohol drinks, whether production or consumption, could bring glory to God,” he said.