In a letter written to Abbe Morellet in 1779, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter. Abbe Mourellet, written in 1779, Benjamin Franklin mused that the strategically placed elbow was a sign that God wants us to enjoy wine. In the end, if God put the elbow lower than the arm, our wine glasses could never reach all up into our mouths. If the elbow were placed higher, our wine glass would be able to shoot straight through our mouths.
“From the actual situation of the elbow,” Franklin wrote, “we are enabled to drink in a relaxed manner and the glass is able to go right to your mouth. We should, therefore, drinking from a glass, be awed by this wisdom of goodness; we should adore the drink!”
Franklin’s argument was presented as lighthearted, jolly fun. However, it reminds us that wine, unlike other beverages, is closely linked to worship and celebration.
Wine and religion: timeless friends
The Egyptians have, for instance, had a relationship with gods and wine from as early as 4000 BCE. Hathor was the Egyptian god patron of wines and was celebrated on a lunar “Day of Intoxication.”
In the same way, Greeks also praised Dionysus as the benefactor of all gifts that are good and also identified Dionysus as the Patron of Wine. Dionysus was said to bring spiritual and ecstatic visions to his followers. The Romans were also of the belief that wine had been bestowed on humans by Jupiter, the god of Jupiter, who is also known as the god of light, air, and heat.
A majority of Roman religious celebrations were associated with significant stages of the grape-growing and the wine-producing cycle of agriculture. Asian civilizations, too, consider wine to be a symbol of the spiritual, such as the massive sake barrels that are found at Japanese Shinto shrines and the place of wine on altars for ceremonies that honor the Chinese god of prosperity.
It is believed that the “cult of wine” has been a part of both Judaism as well as Christianity since the time of Jesus Christ. In the early Mediterranean culture, wine was not considered a luxury, but it was an essential part of everyday life and was consumed by every class and age. This is why it’s not a surprise that Hebrew bible verses depict wine as a symbol of God’s grace (Genesis 27:28; Deuteronomy 7:13; Amos 9:24).
The Christian New Testament reports that Jesus’ first public miracle was performed at the wedding of Cana, where he changed the water into wine. The Christian communion sacrament demonstrates the ways in which the subtle enjoyment of drinking wine was linked to the spiritual desire to experience both union with God and to be part of an intimate community. For many centuries, Catholic priests preserved and promoted the art of winemaking by providing religious worshipers with sacramental wines in all of the Old as well as New Worlds.
One nation with one God. God and with wine to all
The close connection between wine and religion lasted into and into the American colonies. The Pilgrims started to make wine within a few days of their arrival in Plymouth and utilized their wine to celebrate the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1623. 1697 in 1697, Father Juan Ugarte led a small group of Jesuit priests from Mexico to the Baja region in California, where they planted grapes to provide this mission with a reliable supply of wine to celebrate Communion and to provide the priests’ dwindling food sources. The new assignments were later constructed within San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey, and San Francisco – which, in turn, led to California becoming the primary wine producer of the country.
Drinking wine, Benjamin Franklin wrote, is proof to show that God loves us and is happy to make us happy.’ Wikimedia Commons
The pious settlers of America’s Midwest were also keen on sharing wine with the aim of creating communities. It was the German Protestants who established themselves in Missouri, and the people who founded the Amana Colonies in Iowa, Colonies, and the Amana Colonies, realized that drinking wine gave them an atmosphere of camaraderie and joy that bound them in a Christian community. In addition, and this may be a shock to some readers – in the early days when congregations were in areas such as Kirtland, Ohio, and Nauvoo, Illinois, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discovered that drinking wine induced an altered mood that was which fueled religious enthusiasm.
The nectar of gods, or “cup of devils”?
There’s no reason to be surprised it was that the “wine question” was an issue of contention in the temperance community, which advocated for a total ban on alcohol.
There were a myriad of reasons of a cultural and social nature for Prohibition, including concerns over the efficiency of economics, protecting children and women from drunken men, as well as protecting the country’s tradition of Protestantism against Irish Catholic immigrants.
However, the lawmakers made sure they would ensure that the “Medicine of Life to the Nations” was secured. The adoption of the Volstead Act that enforced Prohibition in the United States from 1920 until its repeal in 1933 was legally feasible only by creating provisions for the ongoing production of wine to both Christian and Jewish congregations.
In their determination to push for Prohibition and prohibition, a number of conservative Protestants believed that references to wine in the Bible were mistranslated from the original texts and thought that the scriptures were meant to refer to plain, unfermented grape juice. Although virtually no serious academics agree with this idea, it is true that a lot of Christians consider the consumption of liquor to be an unhealthy sin and use grape juice instead of wine in their worship services.
Thomas Welch, a Methodist dentist and minister, was so sincere in his stance against alcohol that he developed the method of removing winemaking yeast that produces alcohol from the. His son, Charles, expressed that Welch Company Welch Company “was born in 1869 out of a passion to serve God by helping His Church to give its communion the ‘fruit of the vine,’ instead of the ‘cup of devils.'”
However, Benjamin Franklin would have likely not agreed with Thomas Welch. It is said that wine, Franklin said, was “proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”