Jesus…I Need a Drink!

Cityonahill Sometimes I wonder if I'm an elitist. When I'm done doing that, I wonder if it's a bad thing that I am. When I answer that in the negative I usually pat myself on the back.

Maybe "elitist" isn't the right word for what I'm thinking about today. Maybe anti-asshole is the better term. Allow me to quote from a story from The Reflector, the Mississippi State University student newspaper, about a bill that was passed by the Board of Aldermen in Starksville, Mississippi that would allow Sunday sales of beer, wine and liquor in restaurants (though only if 250 yards from a church):

"Before we can even get our seats warmed up, we are talking about a
whiskey bill," Alderman Roy Perkins said. "We are about Christianity on Sundays. We
are not going to be a leader in whiskey sales."

You have to wonder how the Jews in town feel about this sentiment. Actually you really don't have to wonder too much. Mississippi sports the second lowest percentage of Jews of all 50 states. A friend of mine suggested that perhaps this is because Jews like to drink on Sunday and Mississippi hasn't been the most friendly drinking state. Perhaps. But I'm thinking the cause of the small population of Jews might have more to do with people like Alderman Roy Perkins.

"Former Republican mayoral candidate Marnita Henderson opposed the
ordinance and said the aldermen will bear responsibility for any
alcohol-related accidents on Sundays."

Who bears responsibility for alcohol-related accidents on Tuesdays?

My favorite quote from the story about the debate over Sunday sales in Starksville is this one:

"I have heard a lot of people saying that if this passes 'Maybe we
should smoke crack or drive one hundred miles per hour on Sundays
too'," said Starksville resident Grady Dixon. "The difference between that and this [the Sunday
sales ordinance], is you're not able to smoke crack the other six days
of the week."

Mr. Dixon has a point, but I don't think the only difference between a law allowing drinking on Sunday and smoking crack on a Sunday is the legal disposition of the two acts, despite what libertarians or Christians  might say. I think the difference might have to do with the character of the two acts.

Clearly there is some right-thinking going on in Starksville as demonstrated by the tortured comparison quoted above and by the fact that the Board of Alderman did see fit to pass a law (4-3—it was a close call that put God on the losing side) that allows a glass of wine with dinner on the Sabbath. But here is another indication that having a college nearby a town acts as a moderating influence on the local culture:

"I wouldn't buy alcohol on Sundays just because it's a day of worship,"
junior Communications major Tierra McCoy said. "I wouldn't use my reasons not to buy alcohol to hinder
anyone else from doing it though."

BINGO! Tierra gets the Golden Bottle Award for exhibiting common sense.

I'm sure the United States has the most loopy laws in the world where alcohol is concerned. How America's came to mix politics, alcohol, religion and business together in such a tangled way is a story I'm sure I must one day come to understand much better than I do. However, I'm pretty sure we can look to the sentiment behind John Winthrop's then-obscure 1630 sermon to American Puritans that explains the original meaning of America to its original white settlers:

"Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all
people are uppon us; soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee
have undertaken and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made
a story and a byword through the world, wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speake
evill of the wayes of god and all professours for Gods sake; wee shall shame the faces of
many of gods worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into Cursses upon us
till wee be consumed out of the good land whether wee are going."

The puritans did not object to drink. However, the sentiment that they embraced of an America serving God's will is certainly still on display in various states where alcohol laws are meant to make residents better servants of their God. Starksville, Mississippi appears to be addressing the long standing quandary of how to be good small L liberals and confess their faith at the same time.

18 Responses

  1. Vicki - August 25, 2009

    As a recovering Southerner living in California with my Jewish spouse, I feel you in this post! I just finished a very interesting book, “The Family” by Jeff Sharlet, that takes on this weird American amalgamation of Christianity and politics.
    I highly recommend it.

  2. Tom Wark - August 25, 2009

    Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll look for it.

  3. Benito - August 25, 2009

    I could write a book about bizarre alcohol laws in the South. With specific regards to Sunday, here in Memphis I can’t purchase any alcohol before noon. At 12:00 I can buy anything in a restaurant or bar, but in a store I can only purchase beer.
    It is also possible for a restaurant to lose its beer license but retain its liquor license, or vice versa. A chef I know had to move the planned location of his upcoming restaurant because it was too close to a church. The new location is just outside the boundary of yet another church.

  4. 1WineDude - August 25, 2009

    Religion… can’t live with it… pass the beer nuts!

  5. Thomas Pellechia - August 25, 2009

    My comment, posted a few hours ago and told that it was accepted, is not here. So, this is a test.

  6. Jenifer - August 26, 2009

    It is great to find someone who can find the fun things in life!

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  7. Alan Ken - August 26, 2009

    Having attended MSU, I can verify that “StarkPatch” has some strange alcohol laws. In 1984, my friends and I went to the local grocery for some beer, snacks, etc. on a Monday, only to be told we couldn’t buy the beer, because it was Columbus Day…

  8. Samantha - August 26, 2009

    Is it just me or is anyone else feeling us clicking backwards?

  9. fredfric koeppel - August 26, 2009

    having lived in a small town in Mississippi for 10 years (teaching at a junior college) i will testify that plenty of people drive 100 mph on those hilly back roads any day of the week. and surely people who smoke crack cocaine will do it any day of the week, including the “Lord’s Holy Day.” The county where we lived was dry, so of course each county across the line from us had a liquor store right across the line. Inevitably (this was Mississippi) there was one store that was owned by a cousin of the sheriff of our county; if you bought wine or liquor from THAT store, you wouldn’t be stopped crossing back into our county. And at the private “country club” you could bring your own bottle and drink all night at the parties and dances; naturally the mayor and sheriff and all were members of the club, drinking along with everybody else. America, thy name is hypocrisy.

  10. Thomas Pellechia - August 26, 2009

    Now, now Fredric.
    Anyway, God is a divine concept. Christianity is a doctrinal religion based on a divine concept. Sunday blue laws are part of doctrine, not divinity, and there is something in the Constitution about separating religion from state.

  11. George Parkinson - August 27, 2009

    7:00 a.m.; thursday morning, gettin’ the first kid ready for the first day of school,(finally!) readin’ your “rant” thinkin’ bout the new law in Maine and the Alabama issue over the gladiators label…think I’ll put some sauce in my coffee!
    seriously, all this is about fear vs respect for alcohol. If we teach our kids respect, maybe they won’t test their fear, get drunk, drive 100 miles an hour and get in an accident that is then blamed on the “non-Christian” pagan worshipper like me. I’m Buddhist.

  12. Dylan - August 27, 2009

    I like what Tierra McCoy had to say.

  13. Richard - August 27, 2009

    As someone who grew up in the south and is now bi-coastal(please! no weird sex comments, this means I live on the West – glory! – coast most of the time and the East – argh – some of the time), you are forgetting the lack of logic and rationality that goes into southern ree-lij-in:
    1. Separation of Church and State? No, what Constitution?
    2. Dancing is strictly forbidden.
    3. The only reference to “alcohol” must be preceeded by an adjectival descriptor such as “demon” as in “demon alcohol.”
    4. All alcohol is alcohol – beer, wine, whiskey, rum, crack, heroin, marijuana (oops? wait?)
    5. All alcohol is bad, bad, bad.
    6. Alcohol leads to bizarre behaviour – like southern marriages; ministers involved in sex scandals; George W. Bush being elected…
    7. Hypocrisy is the first order of form in most religion in the south…
    Now that this is out of the way – I do have a bone to pick with you – you said “4-3—it was a close call that put God on the losing side.” Tom! Horrors! I think that God is never on the losing side – and I’m sure that whatever deity one believe in is both getting a chuckle out of the hypocrisy and shedding a tear that “His/Her/Its” children could have become such low IQ hayseeds who seem to fall off a different turnip truck everyday…
    With tongue firmly in cheek,

  14. Morton Leslie - August 27, 2009

    Blue laws always have the opposite effect than the intention. The Six o’clock Swill in New Zealand and Australia for most of the 20th century was a classic example. Due to the temperance movement pubs and hotels shut their public bars at 6 p.m., So between finishing work at five o’clock and the six o’clock closing time, men drank heavily downing drinks in quick succession, then spilled out into the streets at closing to wreak havoc on the streets and highways. Though repealed a few years earlier, I experienced its effect first hand in my first visit to both countries. The rushed and macho manner of over consumption immediately after work was still evident.
    I would guess that Mississippi’s laws have had a related and negative effect on the responsible alcoholic beverage consumption among its citizens. Treat them like sinners, they act like sinners.

  15. Gordon - August 27, 2009

    Let’s not pretend blue laws are just a southern thing. Up until a year ago you couldn’t buy beer to tailgate for a Bills game in New York State on a Sunday morning, and don’t get me started about Pennsylvania….

  16. WineDiverGirl - August 27, 2009

    It doesn’t seem like logic enters into many debates where sex, drugs n rock n roll are concerned. But when it does, it a searing, hilarious comedy routine for the likes of Chris ROck, Gallagher or George Carlin (RIP) …thanks for the laughs. Some great lines in there.

  17. Golly - August 29, 2009

    Whatever happened to the separation of church and state fantasy?

  18. RosehillWineRacks - September 2, 2009

    Unfortunately, it seems like the ideal that the forefathers fought for – separation of church and state – will never happen. These are the two most power hungry groups looking to control you and I, and there will most certainly always be overlap amongst their respective pontificators… because control isn’t control unless there’s absolute control, of everything.
    Ah well, enough of these frivolities – it’s Wednesday & cool here today = time to enjoy a fine Gewurz…

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