(FORTUNE Magazine) – The reading that Sunday was on temperance: ''Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise'' (Proverbs, 20:1). And once he took the pulpit, Reverend Calvin Butts, the onetime black militant who now leads Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church, did not hesitate to apply Old Testament scripture to the dispute over PowerMaster, the potent malt liquor developed by G. Heileman Brewing Co. in a controversial attempt to gain sales in the black community. ''We all know that power does not come from a can,'' , he thundered in a sermon that compared Heileman's black-owned advertising agency to crack dealers on the street. ''It comes from the beer of the Lord!'' Not surprisingly, Heileman resents the analogy. PowerMaster, which the company stopped making in early July after the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms withdrew its approval of the name, was the latest in a series of efforts by corporate marketers to sell inner-city consumers on their brands of cigarettes, fast food, and malt liquor. Early last year, R.J. Reynolds dropped plans to market Uptown, a menthol cigarette aimed at blacks, under pressure from black leaders, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan. Fast-food chains have drawn criticism for pitching their fat- and salt-laden goods to inner-city residents, who are much more likely than suburbanites to become heavy consumers. But the most enthusiastic marketers to the inner city appear to be brewing companies, whose malt liquor campaigns are rife with macho power claims. While the beer market as a whole is dominated by Anheuser-Busch, malt liquor is a niche occupied mainly by smaller players -- Stroh Brewery, which makes Schlitz Malt Liquor; Heileman, maker of Colt 45; and Pabst Brewing, which makes Olde English ''800''. Such products, which have an alcohol content well above the 3.7% of the average beer, are aimed squarely at inner-city dwellers seeking a cheap high. Slogans frequently include the word power, although federal regulators -- citing laws forbidding reference to beer's alcohol content -- plan to stop that soon. They won't hear any complaints from Anheuser-Busch: When the PowerMaster controversy erupted, A-B President Patrick Stokes wrote to Heileman Chairman Thomas Rattigan that the planned launch could be seen as an indication ''that we put profits before the consideration of the communities we serve.'' Rattigan doesn't want to comment on the issue. In any event, many inner-city residents have not absorbed the news about health and lifestyle. The Department of Health and Human Services last spring released figures showing a decline in life expectancy for blacks for the fourth straight year -- down to 69.2 years, vs. 75.6 years for whites. Although much of the drop is attributable to homicide and AIDS, blacks also suffer higher instances of tobacco- and alcohol-related illnesses than whites. Enter Butts, who has called for a nationwide ban on billboards advertising cigarettes and alcohol, and who recently led supporters in a whitewashing ! campaign against billboards in Harlem. At 142nd Street and Broadway, encountering an Olde English ''Power'' sign, Butts assistant Dino Woodard interrupted a turn-of-the-century temperance anthem to lead an impromptu chant: ''Drugs kill! Drugs kill! Alcohol and tobacco! All drugs!''