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Prohibition, moonshine and thou.
September 23, 2005 6:35 AM   Subscribe

"Somewhere in the Bible it is said: "If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off." I used to think the remedy somewhat radical. But to-day, being imbued with the wisdom of the prohibitionist, I have to acknowledge that, if the Bible in general, and that passage in it in particular, has a fault, it lies in its ultra-conservativeness. What? Merely cut off my own right hand if it offend me? What business have my neighbors to keep their right hands if I am not able to make mine behave itself ? Off with the lot of them! Let there be no right hands; then I am certain that mine won't land me in trouble."
So wrote Percy Andreae in 1915 when arguing against Prohibition. That excerpt is at the OSU Prohibition History site, along with such delights as Prohibition Party Cartoons (check out this adorable camel: "Vote as if your vote would be the last straw"). At the LOC, along with this page of Prohibition information, and this panoramic shot of the 1915 Anti-Saloon League of America, there is also this reminder of the link between temperance and women's suffrage. If you don't want to join The Temperance Crusade in song, or admit that (I Never Knew I Had A Wonderful Wife Until The Town Went Dry), you can listen to these mp3's at the LOC: The Drunkard's dream, The Drunkard's child, and, of course, Goodbye, booze. Prohibition and moonshining; the rise of bootlegging gangs; more primary sources at the National Archives. And no post on prohibition or temperance would be complete without Carrie Nation's Hammer.
posted by OmieWise (46 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
The quote is from the Old Testament and I think demonstrates how historically people have mis-understood Christianity, in that Christians see the Old Testament as somewhat old-fashioned and embarassing because of things like that (and dont eat pork, etc..), and so the early Christian fathers used the Old Testament as allegory, to pre-figure the events of Christs life in the New Testament.
posted by stbalbach at 6:49 AM on September 23, 2005


Thank god its friday. Eight more hours til that martini.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:49 AM on September 23, 2005


Awesome post, Omiewise.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:51 AM on September 23, 2005


Yes, well the lessons weren't really learned were they, we continue to attempt the same with marijuana with precicely the same results: empowering organized crime and generating a certain distain for the law among the general population.
posted by scheptech at 7:02 AM on September 23, 2005


I'm jealous I didn't think of doing a post on this first, Omie. Fascinating topic, this one. And to think it all happened because a bunch of women wanted to make it impossible for their husbands to blow all their wages at the bar. And then the suffrage movement grew out of the temperance movement.
posted by orange swan at 7:03 AM on September 23, 2005


It would have been nice if some of this was inside instead of on the FPP.
posted by scarymonsterrrr at 7:06 AM on September 23, 2005


Students of the prohibitionist tendency would be well advised to get their arses on over to Harry Levine's website, pronto.

For the sociologists among us, his appreciation of the work of people like Troy Duster and Joe Gusfield is pretty great as well.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:06 AM on September 23, 2005


I enthusiastically applaud this post, despite the fact that I've been drinking too much this evening to really understand it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:11 AM on September 23, 2005


Some years ago, when I was a newspaper reporter, I found an actual working chapter of the Women's Christian Temperence Union, in Jay County, Indiana. (When I say some years ago, I mean, maybe, 1985.) I attended a meeting, and it was fascinating. There was a big push to take the "white ribbon pledge," to abstain from alcohol in all forms.

To be sure, I will say this: In some places, in certain rural areas, alcohol is consumed the way crack cocaine is taken in the inner city. (Think of many Indian reservations.) I've known many people who grew up with alky parents, and they described home lives marked by what you could only call anti-social drinking -- fathers who would come home night after night with a fifth and a six-pack, and sit at the kitchen table sucking it down like medicine. In homes like this, you see where the WCTU drew its strength.

Like Homer Simpson (I think) said: Cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.
posted by nance at 7:14 AM on September 23, 2005


The quote is from the Old Testament and I think demonstrates how historically people have mis-understood Christianity, in that Christians see the Old Testament as somewhat old-fashioned and embarassing because of things like that (and dont eat pork, etc..), and so the early Christian fathers used the Old Testament as allegory, to pre-figure the events of Christs life in the New Testament.

You mean this one? The one that's attributed to Christ?

"And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." Matthew 5:30
posted by heatherann at 7:15 AM on September 23, 2005


The OSU Prohibition History site has tinkly piano music.
posted by mediareport at 7:18 AM on September 23, 2005


Oh, and let's just put that quote in context:
Matthew 5:27-30: 27"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
If anything, Jesus takes the Old Testament laws and makes them more strict.
posted by heatherann at 7:22 AM on September 23, 2005


Heh, I figured this post had the potential to spawn two completely separate threads...

Ok then, Matthew 5:30. For those unclear, it's about masturbation. "Committing adultery with the hand."

One could chose to interpret this literally, meaning that Jesus recommended radical surgery to resolve moral problems.

Or not.
posted by scheptech at 7:32 AM on September 23, 2005


Another great way to understand Prohibition is to look at the Financial Post Magazine's 100 richest Canadians lists.
posted by srboisvert at 7:33 AM on September 23, 2005


Nice catch, heatherann. Indeed, it was Jesus who recommended the amputation and induced prolapse of sinful members and organs, whereas the Old Testament only demanded similar liberation of anatomical extremities as a means of retribution upon other offenders. The whole point of the New Testament passage was to highlight via hyperbole just how hopeless the fight against pervasive sinfulness was for anyone: easy enough to cut off hands and gouge out eyes, but what about sinful minds and gluttonous stomachs? Surely there must be a gentler, more loving way to deal with the problem of sin? The cruel heartlessness of the verse is meant to point to later references to Christ as an advocate in whom cutting off arms and gouging out eyes is not necessary because in his sacrifice he is generous to forgive the sinful, hands and eyes intact.

I have similar thoughts for drugs and alcohol. Prohibition, Wars on Drugs, even draconian anti-tobacco legislation, are a way of "amputating" offending societal stimuli, to keep them from causing others harm; but as has been mentioned above, the end result of such legalistic means of control over agents of "sin" tends to simply add to the mystique of drink and drug, and generates resentment among the populace for an authority structure bent on depriving the public of its fun.

Take a look at Chicago in the 1930s, for example. Now, take a look at modern Amsterdam.

(I find it ironic that one particular hardcore conservative Christian denomination in the early 20th Century, the Methodists, were a driving force behind the Temperance Movement of the time. It's the Methodists we have to thank for modern American Protestantism's use of grape juice rather than wine in the ordinance of communion. Yet today, they are one of the most "liberal" denominations in the USA with regard to other areas of doctrine, such as ordination of females and acceptance of homosexuals.)
posted by brownpau at 7:39 AM on September 23, 2005


srboisvert - good point, the Canadian rep for decent beer and liquor got it's start during prohibition when the stuff was indeed a lot better than what was available locally

And in 50 years, one wonders what families will be on the 100 richest Columbians list?
posted by scheptech at 7:43 AM on September 23, 2005


Well done, OmieWise. I raise a glass in your general direction.
posted by grateful at 7:50 AM on September 23, 2005


Prohibitional also ruined the American winemaking industry for almost 30 years after it ended. Americans just lost their taste for well-made American wine, and developed a taste, oh, for Thunderbird. (Self link.)
posted by maxsparber at 7:52 AM on September 23, 2005


American Protestantism's use of grape juice rather than wine in the ordinance of communion.

There's a practical issue on this one which also helps tie these two threads neatly back together. Think about it, some folks taking communion are alchoholics... I remember for a short time, in one place at least, they used to offer both wine and juice so the 'normal people' could have wine like usual and the alkies could select the juice. You could tell by the color. It became painfully obvious that was a way to brand and segregate 'them' forever so the move to all-juice was quickly and happily adopted.
posted by scheptech at 7:58 AM on September 23, 2005


American Protestantism's use of grape juice rather than wine in the ordinance of communion.

Also, a lot of children take communion, and many of them are too young to like the taste of alcohol, so it's a little nicer for them if grape juice is used. I've seen similar things done with the wafers, replacing them with bread, and once even with part of a pita!
posted by unreason at 8:17 AM on September 23, 2005


Great post once again, OmieWise. I can tell you that Carrie Nation's home state of Kansas still has fairly strict liquor laws in some places (it's up to the county to decide). No alcohol sales on Sunday, liquor by the drink in which you have to be a member of the club to buy alcohol, and prohibition wasn't repealed here until 1948. Of course, alcoholism is rampant in some areas of the state (no link, just personal experience) and I personally agree with brownpau's sentiments, so take my sentiments with a grain of salt (or with grain and some hops, whatever you like). Thanks for the post, Omie.
posted by sleepy pete at 8:19 AM on September 23, 2005


I'll drink to that OmieWise. Nice stuff.
posted by caddis at 8:21 AM on September 23, 2005


brownpou wrote: ... modern American Protestantism's use of grape juice rather than wine in the ordinance of communion.

I was forced through Lutheran services as a child, and the ones at 'my' church, at least, had both available. On your way up, you could either pick up an empty glass to receive wine, or grab one prefilled with grape juice.
posted by Godbert at 8:52 AM on September 23, 2005


TJH-It really isn't that kind of party.

And even if it were, that's just way, way too long.


Back on topic,

I would think that a more relevant passage to use against prohibition is the whole water to wine deal. If booze is bad, why is JC creating it? Reminds me of a David Cross routine where someone asks Jesus to transform sage.
posted by Bort at 9:00 AM on September 23, 2005


Without prohibition (and/or moonshiners) we wouldn't have the bootleggers' turn or the Jake Leg.

such noise TJH, also flagged
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:01 AM on September 23, 2005


Thanks btw OmieWise, [this is fresh].
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:02 AM on September 23, 2005


If booze is bad, why is JC creating it

The general argument used at the time was that in Jesus's time, wine was pretty much a necessity, because of the poor water sanitation. In fact, the Romans rarely drank pure wine unless they intended to get drunk; they'd use a mixture of wine and water. The wine poisoned most of the germs in the water, and the water diluted the wine.
posted by unreason at 9:09 AM on September 23, 2005


That was way too long, and I'm flagging it as noise.
posted by brownpau at 11:28 AM EST on September 23 [!]


Opinions differ. I flagged it as a fantastic comment.
posted by caddis at 10:37 AM on September 23, 2005


Flag wars.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:04 AM on September 23, 2005


As great a comment it may or may not have been, do you think it was proper in this thread? I mean TJH could have just waited for the next inevitable Christians vs. Atheists thread.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:09 AM on September 23, 2005


What this site needs is a way to put a cut-tag more-inside, inside.

I very nearly copy-pasted the entirety of this link, as it's only slightly longer than that 'comment', but decided against it.

Great OP.
posted by Drastic at 11:13 AM on September 23, 2005


And in 50 years, one wonders what families will be on the 100 richest Columbians list?

Yeah. The Kennedy's come to mind. And before them the fine upstanding Boston and London families who were peddling dope to China.
posted by tkchrist at 11:23 AM on September 23, 2005


I live in beautiful Westerville, Ohio, home of the Anti-Saloon League.

Except here, it's not that past. Westerville is still technically dry, although last November we finally passed 2 site-specific licenses for the sale of alcohol. Neither of them are open yet, so there's still nowhere to get a drink.
posted by cptnrandy at 11:37 AM on September 23, 2005


Whoops - here's the link: The Anti-Saloon League.
posted by cptnrandy at 11:39 AM on September 23, 2005


[removed The Jesse Helm's 2500 word comment listing biblical contradictions]
posted by jessamyn at 11:54 AM on September 23, 2005


I've had the water to wine discussion with my Southern Baptist mother. If the water was so bad why didn't Jesus turn the water to pure water? That would have been a miracle.
posted by whatever at 1:45 PM on September 23, 2005


If the water was so bad why didn't Jesus turn the water to pure water? That would have been a miracle.

2 possible reasons:

1. Because people weren't used to pure water, and might not've drunk it

2. Regardless of the goodness or badness of liquor, it was a wedding, and the guests expected wine, and there wasn't any. No one wants to drink water at a wedding banquet.
posted by unreason at 1:53 PM on September 23, 2005


Wow, I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and never knew that Westerville was a dry town. In fact I worked for a software company actually in Westerville and never knew this.

Of course I don't drink, but you'd think I would have heard about it somewhere.

Amazing.
posted by kindall at 1:57 PM on September 23, 2005


The Bible (both Old and New Testaments) is largely a pack of self-contradictory lies, designed to confuse people and make them feel guilty and, therefore, more obedient.

Prohibition was (and in some cases, still is) a very stupid law which made lots of gangsters rich.

Do we have Consensus?
posted by cleardawn at 3:01 PM on September 23, 2005


But the point is that he made wine. Wine is okay. The true believers would have drank the water and been fine. A miracle. It's a matter of faith.
posted by whatever at 3:04 PM on September 23, 2005


I have some connections to the WCT. My grandmother, whose husband, father and several brothers were all Methodist ministers, was an active member in the 30's.

In addition, I myself once won $50.00 in a speech competition that is still being held by WCT. I believe I wrote about the practices used by neighborhood bars to keep the men coming back every night in the days before radio and TV instead of going home to their families.

Brick sandwich, anyone?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:03 PM on September 23, 2005


Man, this brings back memories of college. Every year those of us in Fermentation Science at U.C. Davis would celebrate the repeal of prohibition with a party featuring numerous alcoholic libations. During my tenure it was traditionally held at Sarah's Place, a house where several grad students lived. I was the one drinking cocktails out of a pineapple.
posted by Eekacat at 4:27 PM on September 23, 2005


The Bible (both Old and New Testaments) is largely a pack of self-contradictory lies, designed to confuse people and make them feel guilty and, therefore, more obedient.

Wow, it's like, some of these people see the word "bible" and they just can't stop themselves from spewing hate. It's like Pavlov's bell.

posted by brownpau at 8:23 PM on September 23, 2005


Brownpau, the only person here "spewing hate" is you. If you want to see some real spewing of hate, read the Old Testament. Or talk to Pat Robertson.
posted by cleardawn at 7:59 PM on September 24, 2005


Cleardawn wrote: "Anyone who promotes Christianity, Judaism, or Islam to children is promoting child abuse, in my view, and should urgently reconsider what they're teaching their children."
posted by OmieWise at 5:43 AM on September 26, 2005


My apologies for feeding the troll.
posted by brownpau at 12:55 PM on September 26, 2005


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