The Whiskey Speech
Friday, May 30, 2008 -- Week of Proper 3
(I'll be on retreat next week. Next Morning Reflection, Tuesday, June 10)
Today's Reading for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 969)
Psalms 31 (morning) 35 (evening)
Proverbs 23:19-21, 29 - 24:2
1 Timothy 5:17-22(23-25)
Proverbs 29f: "Who has woe? Who has sorrow? ...Those who linger late over wine."
1 Timothy 5:23: "No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments."
Growing up as an Episcopalian in the Bible Belt as an Episcopalian, I experienced our church's tradition of moderation as a distinguishing characteristic. The Episcopal Church was one of the first to embrace the 12-step spirituality of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the perspective that addiction was better handled as a disease needing healing than as a moral failure needing punishment or shunning. Food, drink, and sex are all good gifts from God, we said -- gifts that bring happiness when enjoyed with moderation. That moderate tradition is consistent with the Biblical heritage even though it is inconsistent with the Biblical teachings of the dominant Christian denominations of my origins, churches which were suspicious of pleasures that were so easily misused. In my part of the world, previous generations divided politically and religiously between "wets" and "drys."
My home state of Mississippi was the first state to ratify the 18th amendment to prohibit alcoholic beverages (1918) and the last state to allow legal sales (1966). "Whisky" was a hot political topic, not unlike abortion and gun control today. Some voters were single-issue voters.
One of my dad's best friends was N. S. "Soggy" Sweat. Dad and Soggy were in law school together and served in the Mississippi legislature. Soggy eventually became a Federal Judge on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1952, when the Mississippi legislature was debating legalizing liquor, Soggy was a young state representative in his 20's. Soggy gave a speech that became known as the famous "Whiskey Speech," and has been treasured as a great example of American political doublespeak. I don't know that it takes us very far as a Morning Reflection, but with some delight I share it with you:
I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.
If when you say whiskey you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.
If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life's great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.
Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts
About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html
The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.
Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org
Our Rule of Life
Lowell Grisham, Rector