ACAP President, Rev. Creech says numerous questions regarding alcohol addressed
Christian Action League
By L.A. Williams
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — How does alcohol affect women’s bodies differently from men’s? What can America learn from Great Britain’s mishandling of liquor sales? What does the Bible really say about wine? All these questions and many more were addressed at the annual conference of the American Council on Alcohol Problems held at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church Sept. 23 and 24.
“Our speakers were informative and inspiring at an event that is always designed to equip folks across the nation to better address alcohol policies and problems,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, president of ACAP’s Board of Directors and executive director of the Christian Action League.
Dr. James B. Angel, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Samford University, told conference participants that alcohol abuse, the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in America, kills some 85,000 people in our country each year, and shortens the life spans of men and women by an average of 20 years.
He addressed gender differences in alcohol’s effects — women’s bodies generally contain less water and their digestive enzymes are less active leading to higher blood alcohol levels more quickly — and said women are twice as likely to become addicted to alcohol than men and also more vulnerable to many of its medical consequences.
Dr. Angel’s presentation also included an analysis of alcohol and the brain, the effects of binge drinking and specific risks for young drinkers. He also examined alcohol’s links to more than 60 diseases, ranging from cancer and cardiovascular disease to cirrhosis, dementia, depression, gout, seizures, high blood pressure, infectious disease, pancreatitis and more. He presented MRI images of the brains of moderate drinkers compared to those of alcoholics showing striking shrinkage of the cortex, the cerebellum and other brain tissues and cited a number of studies published just last year dealing with increased risks of cancer and sexually transmitted illnesses caused by alcohol abuse.
Looking beyond alcohol’s direct health effects to its legal and societal harms, attorney Jason Underwood addressed Problems with Privatization and took his audience on a tour of Great Britain’s experience with alcohol deregulation beginning with the gin craze of the 1700s. He showed how tightened controls during the World Wars had slowed abuse somewhat but that increased access in grocery stores and extended bar and pub hours, especially 24-hour sales that started in 2003, had led to serious spikes in alcohol disease and hospitalization rates.
Using the Field of Dreams motto “if you build it, they will come,” Underwood said research has consistently shown that “the more stores there are, the more alcohol that is sold – with its attendant increase in drunken driving, underage consumption, addiction and crime.” In the U.K, that increased access has led to doubled alcohol intake since World War II and very high rates of binge drinking and heavy drinking.
He said only the 21st Amendment, which grants state and local government the power to regulate liquor sales within their borders, stands between the United States and the “vertical monopolies” that make alcohol super cheap and always available in Great Britain. However, Underwood, who practices law in Kentucky, warned that the controls that have kept alcohol somewhat in check in the U.S. are being weakened on a daily basis.
“Over the last few years, two giant companies — Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, which together control 80 percent of beer sales in the United States — have been working, along with giant retailers, led by Costco, to undermine the existing system in the name of efficiency and low prices,” he said. “If they succeed, America’s alcohol market will begin to look a lot more like England’s.”
Underwood said that is already happening in states like Washington, where sales were privatized last year. Outlets went from 329 to 1,500, and consumption studies show a rise of more than 40 percent in alcohol sales. While sales and accompanying problems soar, expected profits to privatizing states haven’t, he said.
“A Washington Post study showed that every state that has tried this experiment immediately lost money,” Underwood explained, sharing data from Iowa, West Virginia and Maine. He said control states should focus on modernization when necessary and offer customers more choice, knowledgeable staff and attractive stores without allowing retailers to sell at or below cost and never selling off their wholesale operations.
“This is great advice for us to bring home to North Carolina,” said Dr. Creech. “The push for privatization remains an issue here, but a mountain of evidence — fiscal, medical and societal — shows it is not the right direction to move.”
He said the ACAP presentations, from devotions to scientific reports, were helpful to everyone from policy makers to pastors who network with ACAP’s 37 state affiliates.
“When the Rev. David Brumbelow spoke, he told the group about his book, ‘Ancient Wine and the Bible: The Case for Abstinence,'” Dr. Creech said. “I know of no definitive work offered today that does what Brumbelow does in his book. It is scholarly, sound and makes for an irrefutable argument in favor of abstaining from alcoholic beverages. I believe every pastor ought to have a copy.”
Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the book, for which he wrote the foreword, addresses the subject with “keen logic, a grasp of history, and thorough exegesis of biblical literature.”
Bringing to bear a similar theme, the Rev. Kevin Hamm of Gardendale First Baptist Church told ACAP attendees that in counseling young people and others who come into the life of his church who drink alcohol, he encourages them to ask themselves six determining questions before deciding whether to use alcoholic beverages: Will it benefit me? Will it enslave me? Will it hurt others? Will it help others? Will it glorify God? And will it evangelize others?
“If you drink occasionally we’re not mad at you, but we want you to seriously give thought to your actions and what the Bible has to say regarding alcohol,” he told the crowd, outlining via scripture some very practical reasons to abstain from alcohol altogether.
Following state reports, a number of other presentations and a tour of the non-profit Jimmie Hale Mission, the American Council on Alcohol Problems wrapped up the second-day session with a business meeting, a dinner with former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and closing remarks from Dr. Bill Day, the incoming executive director replacing Dr. Dan Ireland, who held the post for 15 years.
The meeting was hosted by Dr. Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP). Day is ALCAP’s retired education director.