Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick speaks at Theology on Tap in Washington, D.C. in 2005. Alex Wong / Getty Images
Benjamin Franklin, pointing to the story of Jesus turning water into wine, acknowledges the miracle of the processes of nature itself, taking natural sugars and recombining them into an (ahem) intoxicating elixir that has been a staple of global culture for millennia.
And then the religious folks came along and tried to ruin the fun for everyone. Having grown up Baptist, I heard some of my fellow faithful proclaim the evils of demon alcohol, though their warnings seemed to do little to stem folks’ drinking, aside from pushing them to do it more privately. Then I met some Anglican and Jewish friends who appreciated the fruit of the vine around the dinner table. I was shocked – and more than a little intrigued – when I saw kids under the age of 21 taking part in the ritual wine drinking as part of a Jewish Seder meal, and I was in awe when I realized some churches used real wine in their worship services.
So which is it? Is alcohol the lynchpin of the decline of civilization, or is it a sacrament, not only to be enjoyed, but to be held up as a gift from the Almighty?