The newspaper headline was: “With conviction, the elderly pastor conned the former convict into surrendering after the ex-con attempted to con the pastor out his life savings. And with conviction the jury convicted the ex-con.”
Are you dizzy yet? When I read that news brief, it made my head spin. So, get a cup of coffee and let’s look at the word “Conviction.” What does it mean?
It comes from Latin: convincere; which means: “to conquer, to overcome decisively; to firmly persuade.” Today the verb form is “to convince or convict”; and the noun is “conviction.”
So, a conviction is a firm belief that we hold on to; and many times a conviction is not just an idea that we believe. It is often a value or set of values (such as wedding vows and Biblical principles) upon which we have based our lives. Therefore, convictions are the criteria by which we make important decisions, and are the foundation of our character. And when we act on convictions, society often changes.
Thomas was a man of convictions. He saw a problem. He felt a conviction in his heart and mind about it. He prayed about it. Then, facing derision and opposition, he decided to do something about it.
Born in Glastonbury, England in 1845, Thomas was a dentist, a minister in the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion (which became the Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church), and disapproved of both slavery and alcohol.
Already understanding the detrimental results of alcoholism on society, Thomas became concerned about the use of alcohol (the sacramental wine) in Holy Communion. He objected to the use of alcohol anyway, had a pastoral concern for recovering alcoholics, and wanted children to partake in the sacrament of communion. As a communion steward in the church, Thomas Bramwell decided he had to do something about it.
He read about Ephraim Wales from Concord, Massachusetts who had finally achieved his goal of “developing the perfect sweet and palatable grape.” Ephraim named the grape after his hometown, Concord. Thomas also knew about Louis Pasteur’s process of retarding the spoilage of milk, called pasteurization, and applied that process to the Concord grape to prevent the fermentation process. After developing his unfermented communion alternative, he eventually convinced his church and many others to use the unfermented wine.
So there you have it. A centuries-long practice of using alcoholic wine in communion was overturned by a prohibitionist. Today entire denominations decry any use of alcohol in any form, including in Holy Communion.
But society also changed in other areas because of this man of convictions. His full name is Thomas Bramwell Welch, and he – with his son, Charles – had developed Welch’s Grape Juice. This achievement not only gave us unfermented wine for both sacramental communion and a safe beverage for home, but marked the beginning of the processed fruit juice industry.
Here are a few more tidbits of Welch trivia.
In 1913 Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan served Welch’s Grape Juice at a state diplomatic event instead of the traditional fermented wine. In 1914 the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, forbade wine on naval ships and [temporarily] substituted Welch’s Grape Juice. In 1918 the Welch Company developed its first jam and called it “Grapelade.” The U.S. Army bought the first entire batch, and the G.I.s clamored for it when they returned to civilian life. In 1923 the world-famous “Concord Grape Jelly” was introduced, and it is my all-time favorite jelly. And in 1949 Welch became a pioneer in the frozen fruit juice industry by introducing Welch’s Frozen Grape Juice Concentrate. An added bonus is that in 2002 researchers reported the potential cancer-fighting benefit of the purple grape juice.
One man who had strong convictions changed society for the better. But a simple, diligent research can reveal thousands of others who, with conviction, changed our world: some for the better, and some for the worse.
How about you? Are you a person with convictions, or do you just float through life and let other folk establish your political, religious, and personal ideology? Living with and acting on convictions will produce the foundation in life you need to determine your direction and set your goals in life. Living with convictions produce character and integrity.
How do you become a person of conviction? I’m glad you asked.
Establish your core values – the values and ideas that you absolutely cannot and will not change. Now, if you say that you absolutely believe there are no absolutes – go meditate on that contradiction – that will be one of your core values.
Once you have determined some of these foundation stones of life, think about them; meditate on them and see where they might lead you. If you don’t like the result, go back and think it through again.
Reading about people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Welch, Charles Finney, and Billy Graham can assist you in defining and learning about convictions. Reading about Biblical characters such as Moses, Joshua, the Wise men from the East, the Apostle Paul, and especially the teachings and examples of Jesus can help you, because personal convictions help establish and confirm our identity.
May the Lord bless you as you live with and act on Godly convictions.