The wages of sin ... are taxable income

Friday, April 28, 2006

Sin, of course, is a good thing.

At least that's what some theologians say. And some elected officials. And who am I to argue, since I am but a lowly word wrangler trying to make some sense of our world and those of us who inhabit it.

According to the sages, our familiarity with sin is what allows us to appreciate redemption.

Just think of all the people you know who would be out of a good job if we didn't have sin: preachers, Sunday school superintendents, choir directors, traveling evangelists, religious fund-raisers on TV, all those publishers of religious tracts, pew manufacturers, pulpit makers and stained-glass artisans.

Thankfully, we can't get rid of sin, so job security for those folks isn't much of a problem.

Given the fact that we depend on sin so heavily as the underpinning of our religious and moral purpose, we ought not to be so tough on those who, when they reach that ominous Fork in the Road, choose the road to Hades rather than the golden streets of Glory Hallelujah -- and have to pay taxes on their ill-gotten gains.

All of this came to mind in recent days as things got stirred up over the newest strip club in the Greater East Cape Girardeau Metropolitan Area.

There's nothing quite like a good high-and-mighty fuss over the morals of our community, especially when we live in such unpure times.

Take a look at TV programming readily available to your 8-year-old innocent child or your 81-year-old innocent mother. With few exceptions, the content is garbage. And it gets grimier every year.

Why?

Because that's what TV viewers -- like you and me -- will watch.

If no one watched what passes as TV -- or movie or DVD or music video -- entertainment these days, it wouldn't exist. Period.

And that's what the entrepreneurs who open strip clubs argue, rather effectively, about their line of work. Without customers, any business folds.

The way it looks right now, Cape Girardeau is about to be one-upped by our sister city on the other side of the river, which will soon have two strip clubs.

The mayor of East Cape Girardeau is on the record as supporting increases in city revenue through economic development. And if a strip club is what you get, who's going to tell a young Gypsy Rose Lee she's not the sort we had in mind to bolster the gross domestic product?

Meanwhile, the other Cape Girardeau spends a considerable amount of time and money trying to attract factories and life-science labs and big-box retailers and fine restaurants and cosmetic surgeons and airplane manufacturers.

Wouldn't sin be easier?

East Cape Girardeau isn't alone in recognizing the value of sin. The profitability of immorality has also spawned a roadside industry across the belt line of the Show Me State. Nearly every exit along Interstate 70 between St. Louis and Kansas City sports an adult bookstore.

Who knew interstate motorists were so literary?

I mentioned this week to a couple of newsroom cohorts that there might be bigger and better ways for East Cape Girardeau to profit in addition to strip clubs.

The town fathers might want to take a leaf from Cairo, Ill.'s, playbook and hire a speed-enforcement control officer (surely there's a grant for that, too) to park on the other end of the bridge.

Safety first, I always say.

And then sin. Just so the churches don't go bust.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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