The use of alcohol (1)

Really, this topic wears me out. Here’s what I don’t think: I don’t think it’s very sophisticated or modern or hip or whatever to have a positive opinion of alcohol. You’re not a hick if you think that the use of alcohol can and does hurt people.

I have a friend who (a long time ago; like a decade ago) used to drive a beer truck, and while I haven’t asked for his permission to use his testimony, he was actually saved in the back of a beer truck – heard the Gospel for the first time, realized that Jesus was Lord and Savior, and asked God for forgiveness for his sins and for a new life in Jesus Christ.

That’s good stuff, no? But there are some who would then ask the question, "so when did he stop driving the beer truck, cent?" because the answer "like a decade ago" is not good enough for them, and I would answer, "shortly after getting saved."

And some of those people are clever – because then they would say, "AHA! He quit driving the beer truck because he got saved," and I would say to that, "yes, that is a fair interpretation of the facts."

And yet again they would say, "AHA! So because he wanted to be more holy and live a clean life, he wanted to steer clear of the alcohol industry and stop selling licker for a living!"

"Why yes," I would say, "that is a very fair interpretation of the facts."

"AHA! So why is it then, cent," comes the closer, with the thought that I have not considered my argument very well, and where exactly are we having brunch after service this Sunday, "that you are so angry at the SBC for resolving to do everything in its power to jump-start Prohibition?"

That’s a great question! I’m glad you asked.

Let’s think about something for a minute. Let’s assume, for example, that you are driving a beer truck in Albany, NY, and your major stops are SAM’S Club, BJ’s Wholesale, and Hannaford Supermarkets. You make a nice living, and for the most part what you see are somewhat-educated upper-middle income people shopping and buying things including beer which you were glad to sell to your retailers at the state-required prices, and you get paid with a check that day. Booyah. Middle-class Americans make everybody happy.

That is to say, it is extraordinarily obvious that selling beer in Albany NY is not hurting anybody on a statistical basis – the ones who drink in NY drink less on average than the ones in Georgia, Tennessee and Texas (for example). Georgia and Texas, btw, also report more people who are heavy drinkers than NY as a percent, so you don’t worry about it very much. NY also has the lowest rate of deaths due to alcohol per million when compared to AR, GA, TX and TN (TN and AR have nearly 3 times as many deaths per million; you can that info from this pdf and population info from – and the lowest population of Baptists of the 5 states. Isn’t that astounding?

So a guy selling beer in NY doesn’t have the problem of, say, the guy selling beer in Little Rock or Memphis or Atlanta or Dallas who knows for a fact that the people buying his beer are 2 to 4 times more likely to be problem drinkers, and the median income of those folks (except maybe in GA and TX in urban areas) is significantly lower than the educated, well-heeled class in Albany NY.

The guy in these predominantly-baptist states has the problem of considering that he is actually doing harm because he knows who is buying his beer, and they are not one-beer-with-dinner drinkers. So the question is not, "what about the demon likker?!" but "What about my weaker brother?"

When my friend who was a beer driver in one of these states realized he was a stumbling block for people he ought to be helping – lower income, more likely to binge, more likely to drive when drunk – he ought to have quit. But does that mean that nobody should drink alcohol?

Here we have covered the statistical reasoning. Next time, we will cover the comparative reasoning. And the biblical/moral reasoning is also forthcoming.

Stay tuned.