Residents of Keene, Texas, are confronted with a special election on May 5, 2018. At issue is a measure that would legalize the sale of beer and wine. The mostly Seventh-day Adventist town of just over 6,100 residents is home to Southwestern Adventist University, as well as a 3,000-member Adventist Church, a church-run high school—Chisholm Trail Academy—a church run elementary school, and a large Spanish-language Adventist church.
The measure is reportedly being backed and funded by a real estate owner and developer in Cleburne, Texas, a town of 30,000 residents five miles to the west (which already allows the sale of beer and wine), as well as by several Keene residents who believe the measure will be good for business. Knowing that most Keene-ites are Seventh-day Adventists who keep the Sabbath on Saturday, the measure’s backers have arranged to hold the vote on a Saturday.
Keene currently lacks a full-service grocery store, having only convenience outlets like “Family Dollar” and “Dollar General,” which carry a small selection of groceries but have no fruits, vegetables, or a bakery. The backers hope that if the sale of alcohol is legalized, a large grocery store will open in Keene. But no grocery chain has committed to build a store if the measure passes, and it seems very unlikely that alcohol sales would play a role in such a decision, given the town’s Adventist character.
The alcohol legalization measure would not be good for business or promote growth in Keene. What the measure’s backers do not realize is that Keene is a nice quiet, law-abiding town that people want to live in precisely because it is a Seventh-day Adventist town that does not allow the sale of alcohol.
As we noted in our two-part series on Adventist and Wine, alcohol disinhibits and impairs judgment, leading to about 3 million violent crimes per year in which the offender was drinking. More than 30,000 per year die from cirrhosis of the liver and alcohol poisoning. Alcohol interferes with nerve functioning, leading to lowered reaction times, causing motor vehicle accidents and leading to over 10,000 deaths per year.
Moreover, the idea that alcohol promotes municipal prosperity is contrary to both common sense and revealed truth. When you are drinking you are not taking care of business, which is why “he who loves wine and oil will never be rich.” Prov. 21:17. “The drunkard and the glutton come to poverty, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” Prov. 23:21.
Given how destructive alcohol is to a peaceful, law-abiding, productive, dignified society, it is not surprising that Seventh-day Adventists have always worked to outlaw it. Ellen White and the early Adventists believed that temperance was not just for the Christian believer but for the entire society:
The advocates of temperance fail to do their whole duty unless they exert their influence by precept and example—by voice and pen and vote—in favor of prohibition and total abstinence. We need not expect that God will work a miracle to bring about this reform, and thus remove the necessity for our exertion.
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The prosperity of a nation is dependent upon the virtue and intelligence of its citizens. To secure these blessings, habits of strict temperance are indispensable. The history of ancient kingdoms is replete with lessons of warning for us. Luxury, self-indulgence, and dissipation prepared the way for their downfall. It remains to be seen whether our own republic will be admonished by their example and avoid their fate. Gospel Workers 1915, 387-388
For most Keene residents, it will not be necessary to vote on Sabbath to vote against this ill-advised measure. Early voting begins April 23rd at the new Keene City Hall and continues through May 1st. If for some reason you are unable to vote early, however, have no moral qualms about voting against alcohol even on the Sabbath. Ellen White’s son, Arthur White, quoted her saying:
“Shall we vote for prohibition?” she asked. “Yes, to a man, everywhere,” she replied, “and perhaps I shall shock some of you if I say, if necessary, vote on the Sabbath day for prohibition if you cannot at any other time.”
If you are a Keene resident, please vote “no” on this attempt to legalize alcohol sales in early voting or on May 5th. If you know someone who is a Keene resident, please remind him or her to vote “no.”
The measure failed badly, with 194 voting for alcohol sales, and 516 voting against. That's about 28% for and 72% against. Keene voters prefer the town to remain dry for now.