Not everybody drives a truck. Not everybody drinks sweet tea. Not everybody owns a gun, wears a ball cap, boots and jeans. Not everybody goes to church or watches every NASCAR race. — "Southern Comfort Zone," song by Brad Paisley
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I'm not sure what to make of a just-published Associated Press story making the case that the once-dominant influence of churches in the South is waning.
On the one hand: Duh.
On the other hand: I'm not certain that the small town of Sylacauga, Ala., allowing Ruby Tuesday's or O'Charley's to sell beer on Sunday afternoon is a sign of the End Times — or the best example of churches losing their dominance.
The top of the AP story:
SYLACAUGA, Ala. (AP) -- Prayers said and the closing hymn sung, tea-drinking churchgoers fill Marble City Grill for Sunday lunch. But hard on their heels comes the afternoon crowd: craft beer-drinking, NFL-watching football fans.
Such a scene would have been impossible just months ago because Sunday alcohol sales were long illegal in Sylacauga, hometown of both the actor who played TV's Gomer Pyle and the white marble used to construct the U.S. Supreme Court building. While the central Alabama city of 12,700 has only one hospital, four public schools and 21 red lights, the chamber of commerce directory lists 78 churches.
Yet few were surprised when residents voted overwhelmingly in September to legalize Sunday alcohol sales. Churches lacked either the heart or influence to stop it.
That shift is part of a broad pattern across the South: Churches are losing their grip on a region where they could long set community standards with a pulpit-pounding sermon or, more subtly, a sideward glance toward someone walking into a liquor store.