A local newspaper recently asked me some questions about shifting attitudes and practices regarding the sale of alcohol in E Texas. Here’s what I had to say (you may notice I’m not good at generating sound bites).
Once upon a time, in some segments of American culture, abstinence from alcohol was perceived to be the norm for Christians. This norm has weakened over the past generation for a number of reasons. First, a number of Christians like to drink. Where once they would do it in private, perhaps even while publicly standing against alcohol, they have grown tired of appearing to be hypocrites. Second, in many parts of our culture the percentage of those who feel some sense of allegiance to traditional norms is declining. Third, some people have read the Bible and discovered that not only is it not a pro-abstinence document, but also that Jesus himself turned water into wine for his first miracle. As far as we can tell from the context he seems to have done so on the assumption that more wine would be a good thing for those at the wedding party.
That said, the Bible is strongly against drunkenness. Being drunk is a sign of foolishness in scripture. We know the destructive power of alcohol addiction today. I know too many people who have drunk themselves to death or their families to destruction. Free availability of alcohol to addicts was destructive enough in early America. Combined now with some of our technological advances (cars in particular), it is even more deadly.
I’ve mentioned that in the past many gave normative status to abstinence from alcohol. Another norm that was commonly accepted in those days was that hedonism wasn’t the highest value. Pleasure was a good, but it was also recognized to have some dangers, and thus in need of restraint. As the attitude toward abstinence has changed, the attitude toward hedonism has also changed. The notion “if it feels good, do it,” a long-standing practice of humans wherever they are found, has become more openly acceptable. Combining easy access to alcohol with a culture that centers on hedonism and largely rejects self-control, can be as dangerous as making guns easily available in a setting where fear and paranoia are rampant. So until our culture becomes less hedonistic and better at inculcating self-control, I will be concerned about the “growing trend of East Texas communities electing to go wet.” But then again, as one who has read the Bible, I’m not terribly surprised when the world acts like the world.