A few weeks ago, I set myself the mission of asking Christians the most inane queries I can think of about their religious beliefs. Try as I might, I had difficulty writing a second installment. I just couldn’t come up with anything dumber to ask than: Why did Jesus need to die for our sins? Why couldn’t he just say:
OK, people, listen up. Remember all those bad things you did, the ones that were gonna send you to hell for eternity? Well, f’geddaboudit. Phffft. Gone. Kaput. They’re off the slate. You don’t have to bother to thank me, although a few bucks in the plate would probably come in handy.Somehow, that question didn’t seem quite as ridiculous as what I’d had in mind. Fortunately, though, my life provides ample examples of preposterousness. All I have to do is be patient.
And so, this evening rolled around. My wife and I went to a wine tasting at what our locals consider a decent restaurant. Where I live, a decent restaurant is any one that doesn’t have a clown character as its representative.
Anyway, we paid twelve bucks apiece for samplings of seven mundane wines, a few little cubes of Kraft cheese, and an antipasto that was heavy on the peperoncini. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love peperoncini in their place. But they’re not really the ideal accompaniment to a wine tasting. Hot pickled peppers tend to clash with any liquids that aren’t made from olives.
One of the offerings on the pouring cart was a white merlot, which, despite its name, was pink. In my opinion, pink is to wine as white is to chocolate. As green is to beef. In the food world, only M&M’s are color-transcendent. All other foods ought to stay in their own corners of the spectrum.
So there we were, sipping on our pink wine, nibbling on our peperoncini, and trying to decide which of the processed cheese cubes would be the least tasteless, when, suddenly, Jesus popped into my head. This wasn’t so remarkable, since almost every time we have cheese of any kind, I feel obliged to say, “What a friend we have in cheeses.” Then I usually launch into a series of the world’s worst dairy-and-religion puns, only one example of which should suffice.
It is easier for a Camembert to go through the eye of the needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Gouda.Take it from my wife: You wouldn’t want to be there when I get started.
Be that as it may, the combination of Jesus and wine and bad puns immediately brought to mind the miracle at Cana. According to the gospel of John, Jesus arrived at this fancy shindig only to discover that there was no wine left. So, rather than running out to the nearest liquor store, he got a few servants to fill some pots with water, and presto – let there be White. Or Red. Or maybe Pink.
I know that some fundamentalist teetotalers dispute this. They insist that the word for wine in Koine Greek can also be translated as “grape juice.” I know zero Koine Greek, so I’m not equipped to enter that linguistic controversy. I will say, though, that it’s impossible to imagine the son of god and his followers getting their robes in a twist over being stiffed out of their Welch’s.
Also, according to John, the “governor” of the feast noticed that this particular whatever-it-was was of superior quality to the whatever-it-was that had been served earlier, before Jesus and his thirsty band had arrived. In my experience, grape juice is pretty much grape juice; I’ve never noticed a dramatic difference from one brand to the next. Superiority of quality isn’t really an issue.
Plus, of course, a wedding at which only grape juice was served would be pretty fucking dull, even if the bandleader was the Messiah.
Therefore, I’m gonna stick with the idea – believed by most Christians – that Jesus turned the water into wine. But what kind of wine? Hmmm, this was a Jewish wedding, right? But no, it couldn’t have been Manischewitz, because nobody, not even the most orthodox and soused of Chasidim, would ever rave about the relative quality of that.
Jesus must have made some pretty decent stuff; the water-into-wine trick was considered a miracle, don’t forget. And let’s assume it was something red, maybe even made, appropriately enough, with water from the Red Sea. And remember that later in his life, Jesus, himself, equates his blood with wine (almost certainly not grape juice). So I’m pretty sold on the idea of a red, unless his blood was pink like white merlot, or overly oaky like a California Chardonnay.
Let’s go with a fine red wine then. I’m guessing that the Christ would not have settled for anything short of a first growth Bordeaux, say, a Château Latour or a Mouton-Rothschild. The Romans ruled the land, so an excellent vintage Barolo is not out of the question, but somehow that doesn’t strike me as sufficiently impressive to make it into the bible. Of course, it could have been a great Australian shiraz, or a California zin (red, not white!), or even a rich vanilla-y Spanish rioja. The truth is, there’s a lot of terrific wine out there in the world, and god’s palate works in mysterious ways.
Even so, with all the noble grapes that abound, there’s still plenty of swill lurking on wine store shelves. Like pink white merlot, for example. Some of the stuff is lousy because it’s not produced to the exacting standards of oenophiles (that’s wine-lovers, for you Bud drinkers). But a lot of the crap that passes for wine is made from grapes that are just plain inferior.
And that got me thinking. Assuming, as many Christians do, that god stamped his idea of perfection on each thing he chugged out during the creation, why aren’t all grapes equally good? I can understand that he might have said to himself:
Well, variety is the spice of life. (Which reminds me: I’d better get some cinnamon and cloves going somewhere.)But why would he bother to plant those grape species that aren’t even fit to make raisins? Why, in fact, is there such a large discrepancy in quality between different variants of essentially the same food plants, from grapes to lettuce to corn to coffee beans? How come some are considered by gourmets to be far more desirable than others? Why are some fruits too sour for people to eat, and others succulent and sweet? Why don’t all vegetables grow with butter already on them? And what’s the deal with poison mushrooms that look exactly like the ones you throw on pizza? And most of all: Could it conceivably have been in god’s plan for mankind to discover white merlot?
Quazy Quistian Question # 2:
Why did god create food plants with such gross inconsistencies in quality? Explain your response.