Jesus…I Need a Drink!
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.