This morning I picked up the local newspaper to find, in very large letters, the headline: “ANGELINA GOES WET.” What that means is that up until now, it has been forbidden by our local county (whose name is Angelina) to sell alcoholic beverages in retail stores, and to have an alcoholic beverage in a restaurant. It was required that the customer go through a totally hypocritical action of becoming a “member” of a “club.” So yesterday, along with our national, state, and local elections, the voters of Angelina county defeated that prohibition and will now be able to buy wine or beer in our local grocery outlets without having to drive all the way to the county line (about eight miles away) to buy those things.
As I was preparing to cast my vote, the thought occurred to me, as we see it formulated on a bracelet that some teenagers wear these days: “what would Jesus do?” There can’t be much doubt about what Jesus would do, when we reflect upon what he actually did at the marriage feast in Cana. On that occasion, his blessed mother pointed out to him that the wedding party had run out of wine, the common beverage of the time. And it was obvious that she was asking him to do something about it, lest the young couple be permanently embarrassed by the lack of refreshments at their wedding reception. So, Our Lord produced somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of wine by miracle! The evangelist Saint John points out to us that that was Our Lord’s first “sign,” and that because of it, his disciples believed in him. At the time of the last supper, Our Lord again used wine — this time to give to the world himself in the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist.
This practice of trying to prevent people from using alcoholic beverages by passing laws against them is actually counterproductive. History indicates that never did the American people drink as much as they did during the years of Prohibition. Those were the years of organized crime based upon the illegal importation or domestic production of various kinds of liquor. The years of the so-called “speak-easys,” liquor smuggling, and even liquor production by families in their own homes or property. There is a favorite story about a member of my own family ruining some of her clothes in an attempt to make something called “cherry bounce.” It’s a drink produced by the fermentation of the juice of wild cherries along with rock candy and, I suppose, some kind of alcoholic beverage as a “starter.” In any case, on a hot day down by the bayou, the bottle containing the mixture and hidden away in the back of a clothes closet exploded and did irreparable damage to some of the clothes!
So much for trying to legislate for other people in the name of religion. You will certainly not find any prohibitions against liquor in the Bible, nor in the liturgies of the Churches which go back beyond the Protestant Reformation. The solution to the problem of drunkenness and alcoholism lies with moderation or even total abstinence, not legislation. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.