This Day in History -- Prohibition and Shah of Iran

On this day in 1919, it was certified that the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution had been ratified, and would take effect one year later, on January 16, 1920.  The Amendment read as follows:

After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all the territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

A few months later, Congress passed the Volstead Act (over President Woodrow Wilson’s veto) to create a special unit within the Treasury Department to enforce prohibition. 

The early Adventists had been much in favor of temperance reform and outright prohibition of hard liquor.  Having passed away in 1915, Ellen White did not live to see prohibition enacted, but she had vigorously promoted the cause during her lifetime:

The advocates of temperance fail to do their whole duty unless they exert their influence by precept and example—by voice and pen and vote— in favor of prohibition and total abstinence. We need not expect that God will work a miracle to bring about this reform, and thus remove the necessity for our exertion. . . . What can be done to press back the inflowing tide of evil? Let laws be enacted and rigidly enforced prohibiting the sale and use of ardent spirits as a beverage.  Gospel Workers 1915, 387-388

Let the danger from the liquor traffic be made plain and a public sentiment be created that shall demand its prohibition. Let the drink-maddened men be given an opportunity to escape from their thralldom. Let the voice of the nation demand of its lawmakers that a stop be put to this infamous traffic.  Ministry of Healing, 346.2

“Shall we vote for prohibition?” she asked. “Yes, to a man, everywhere,” she replied, “and perhaps I shall shock some of you if I say, if necessary, vote on the Sabbath day for prohibition if you cannot at any other time.”  Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White: The Lonely Years, 1876-1891 (Hagerstown, Md.: Review & Herald, 1984), vol. 3, p. 161.

Sadly, prohibition was a failure.  Americans were too thirsty for alcohol, and the law was widely flouted.  Vigorous efforts by law enforcement largely failed to prevent the widespread distribution of alcoholic beverages.  The proliferation of "bathtub gin" and other adulterated product caused serious injuries; hundreds went blind from methanol toxicity. Organized crime flourished, and became violent as "bootleggers" battled over lucrative market share; the most notorious gang violence came on February 14, 1929, when men from Al Capone's mob lined up seven men from George "Bugs" Moran's gang against the wall of a Chicago garage and machine-gunned them to death.

After about a decade of it, most Americans had concluded that the cure of prohibition was worse than the disease of alcohol abuse.  On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment, repealing the 18th, was ratified. 

What are we to make of the fact that Ellen White promoted prohibition, yet when it was implemented, it failed?  Does this mean she was not a prophet?  Is the role of a prophet to make accurate predictions about future events, or to urge godly reformation and revival?  Scripture shows us that prophets are sometimes called upon to make predictions of divine retribution and judgment--which may or may not be conditional--but often the prophet's role is to urge her listeners on to godly behavior, and godly reforms in the surrounding society regardless whether such reforms will ultimately succeed.

*  *  *

On this day in 1979, an Islamic revolution forced the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to flee the country he had ruled since 1941.  Pahlavi was a secularizer who admired the West and had close ties to the United States.  He was succeeded by a Shia Muslim theocracy ruled by Muslim clerics, first Ayatolla Khomeini, then Ayatolla Khamenei. 

The effects of this political earthquake are still with us today; in fact they are more relevant than ever.  Islam is, by its scriptural precepts and most of its history, a religio-political combination that is both a religion, which informs beliefs about the unseen spiritual world and the hereafter, and a body of law that governs Muslim society and any other society Muslims are able to bring under submission through jihad warfare--and Muslims are commanded, in the strongest possible terms, to fight jihad.  But although this is the inarguable nature of Islam, Islam's political component was suppressed by Western domination for almost two centuries.  Indeed, Islam as a governing philosophy was discredited in most Muslim societies, whose leaders tended to view the West favorably.  This was certainly true of men like Kemal Attaturk

All that has changed in the last few decades, as symbolized by the Iranian Revolution.

The foundation of the Sunni Muslim revival was laid in 1928, when Egyptian Hassan al-Banna noted that the Muslim nation ("ummah") must have a caliph, the religio-political leader who is the successor of Muhammad, and there hadn't been one since Kemal purported to abolish the caliphate in 1924.  Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological mother of all Sunni jihad groups in the world, including Hamas, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Turkey was long the secularist bulwark of the Sunni-Muslim world, but Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has assumed absolute control over the country subsequent to a failed coup last summer, has abandoned secularism and is rapidly re-Islamizing Turkey.

But nowhere has revivified Muslim fundamentalism taken hold as thoroughly as in post-Pahlavi Iran.  And because Iran is the most populous and most heavily Shia Muslim nation, its radicalization has radicalized the Shia Muslim population throughout the region. 

The West is thus far without a cogent response to the Muslim revival.  Most Western leaders refuse even to acknowledge the nature of Islam as an aggressive, dangerous, totalitarian religio-political ideology.  Civilizational exhaustion, drastic demographic decline, and the degeneracy of its political class leave the West without an answer to a resurgent, self-confident Islam.  Our civilizational prognosis looks dim.