Sunday, 20 October 2013

God Hates Alcoholics by John Robertson

Read by Michael Rogers

My campaign to rid Hong Kong's streets of drunks was inspired by Pastor Fred Phelps. Phelps, you may know, is the man behind the Westboro Baptist Church's infamous “God Hates Fags” campaign in the US. Aided by members of the church as well as those of his large family, he's made a name for himself over the last two decades by leading anti-gay protests across the nation. He and his followers obsessively show up at any event that they deem to be linked to homosexuals and picket it with signs bearing slogans such as “No Tears for Queers”, “Turn or Burn”, and, most frequently, “God Hates Fags.” Their self-described mission is to alert everybody to the evils of homosexuality as laid out in the Bible and “spread God's hate.”

After reading about the Westboro Baptist Church's activities, I decided to start a similar campaign directed at an issue closer to my own heart. You see, I was an alcoholic in my younger years, before finally being born again and swearing off booze at the age of 35. Since then, I've come to hate the sight and smell of alcohol anywhere. But more than that, I hate the sight of drunks. For a long time I couldn't enter the streets of Lan Kwai Fong or Wan Chai without wanting to vomit. On any given visit there, I'd have the rare distinction of being the most sober as well as the most puke-prone person around.

Now, I know I've just said my hostility toward drunks was rooted in my own personal struggles with alcohol. But I assure you it also has a basis in scripture. The Bible condemns intoxication just as vigorously as it does homosexuality. Indeed, perhaps more so. Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” Proverbs 20:1 says: “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” And then there's Corinthians 7:16: “Whoever embraces drunkenness shall perish at the breath of God, and his children shall be clothed with the Lord's eternal curse.”

Okay, I slightly made that last one up. But I can't help thinking that if the Bible had been a bit more Sodom and Gomorrah about drinking like it was about sodomizing and, well, whatever it was the folks in Gomorrah did, then we'd have more drunks keeping their reckless, violent, debauched behavior confined to the safety of their own closets.

Heeding the call from above, I rounded up a few of the more aggressive, fire-and-brimstone-happy souls from my local Pentecostal church group, and took my battle to the streets. Our plan was to picket bars and clubs with signs bearing slogans such as, “The Big Hangover Awaits Below”, “That Bud's on Beelzebub”, and, most frequently, “God Hates Alcoholics”.

The first target was a well-known den of sin, The Old China Hand in Wan Chai.

Our arrival there took the patrons at the outdoor seating area by surprise. There was a tense, one-minute standoff during which both sides stared each other down.

It finally ended when a particularly red-faced drinker guffawed and spat a mouthful of his pint on my sign.

“God hates alcoholics?” he read in a mocking voice, as though we were the ones who needed sobering up. “Take a look at the world around ya. More likely God is an alcoholic.”

At this his fellow inebriates cheered and clinked their glasses in the air, as though he'd just scored goal one for pissheads round the world.

“What would you know about drinking anyway?” he went on, emboldened. “I'll bet nothing but breast milk's passed your little mummy's boy lips.” His fellow souses cheered and jeered again as he sucked an imaginary nipple.

“You're wrong about that,” I said, stepping forward now. “As a matter of fact, I'm certain I used to outdrink any of you on a nightly basis. And I'll wager I could do so right now if any of you has the balls to take me on.”

My fellow servants of the Lord looked mortified at me, as though I'd just sacrificed a goat and done a pagan dance in the middle of Lockhart Road. But I knew what I was doing. I laid down the terms of the challenge loud and clear.

“If any one of you can down 10 pints of beer faster than I can, I swear we'll clear off and never bother you again,” I said. “But if I win, you have to swear off booze for at least a month.”

The jeers came loud now, and my mocker stepped forward to take up the challenge with a scornful belch.

The bartender gladly poured us 10 pints each, then stood between us like a referee.

“Gentleman, start your engines,” he hollered, as we braced ourselves.

And then at the count of three, we were off.

I drank then like I'd never drunk before in my earlier life as an alcoholic. I drank like all the goodness in the world depended on it. Because my faith told me it did. I drank with the passion of a soldier fighting a holy war. Because that's what I was. I drank like I had the Liver of the Lord inside me that night. And sure enough, I won.

My opponent was aghast, and so was everyone else in the room, but it was clear as ten empty glasses: I'd finished while he was barely halfway.

Now I know it was a gentleman's bet, and there was nothing to hold my opponent to his word, but I swear to you I never saw his face again on the streets of Wan Chai after that. I believe he went home that night feeling he'd encountered a true miracle, a sign from God that his bingeing days were over. I believe my heroism that night put the fear of the Lord in his drink-addled soul and dried it out forever.

But he wasn't the only one, for I didn't stop there. Oh no. That night I'd finally discovered the real purpose for which God had put me on this earth. I realized then that I was sent to soak up every last drop of sin on Lockhart Road, the same way Jesus was sent to absorb the sins of the world in his suffering. This was my personal cross to bear. And so every night since I've taken the cast iron stomach that God blessed me with to a different bar, my team of feisty picketers in tow, ready to lay down my challenge. When I'm in an especially charitable mood, I'll even do the occasional morning challenge outside all-night hellholes like Dusk Til Dawn. And I've never lost once.

Sure, I suffer, just as Christ suffered, but through my suffering I've saved 56 souls so far and counting from the strong waters of sin. And I won't stop until my work is done.

And yes, if you ask me, I still believe God hates alcoholics. But I also believe he's made a glorious exception in this one.

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