The Gospel According to Beer: Majority Rules?

The devil led him [Jesus] up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”   (Luke. 4:7)

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world…But now my kingdom is from another place.” ( John. 18:36)

In our culture today, and in most cultures throughout time, people have found ways to divide themselves.  The “us and them” mentality permeates our consciousness even though we might not be aware of it.  I have noticed a similar “us and them” phenomenon in beer culture.

One group has discovered the depth and nuance of a minority movement that subversively enters into beer culture and calls into question all the values and perspectives that culture holds.  The other group insists that their majority culture (which has stood the test of time and that has large consensus on its side) must be correct because, well…they’re the majority.   Who are these two groups you ask?  Answer,  microbrewers and large domestic brewers.

By definition a microbrewery is any brewery whose yearly production does not exceed 15,000 barrels (roughly 480,000 gallons).  By comparison, Anhesuer-Bush produces 100 million barrels (3.2 billion gallons) yearly making up for 51 percent of U.S. beer production.  Of the various beers that Anhesuer-Bush produces, its most popular (according to sales) is Bud Light which is supposedly the most popular beer in the world.  Read these words again, “Bud Light is the most popular beer in the world”.  And now it’s about to get real up in here.

When you add the yearly sum total of all domestic beer sales in U.S. you will find that Anhesuer-Bush, Miller, and Coors account for 78 percent of the beer consumed.  For every one beer consumed in the U.S. that isn’t brewed by one of these brewers, there are three more beers that are.  I think it’s safe to say that when the average person is thinking about what beer to drink their mental default is something close to…”Ehhh, I’ll have a Bud Light”

Most people are not seeking other brewed options because they have not considered that the minority, the lesser known, the underground and the underdog might have something better to offer.  Might makes right.  Quality and visible quantity are confused for one another; again Bud Light is at least the U.S.’s favorite beer.  At the same time it’s hard to feel bad for many of our swill imbibing friends, because when you offer them something of deeper nuance and quality they often give you a funny look.

I would like to go on record as saying that I like to hunt, I own a gun, I have been off-roading, I have camped in remote locations where the nearest hospital is days away, I avoid shaving my facial hair, I have helped in the conceiving of two-count them-two children, and lo and behold, I do not drink mass produced beer…shocking I know!  The large brewers have set forth the notion that strength is in the numbers, and so anyone who isn’t getting in on the mass market bandwagon must not be into strength which means if you don’t drink their stuff, you’re probably busy getting your nails done right now.

Theological Reflection

Let us consider the temptation of our Lord in Luke 4.  Satan offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world which is seemingly a nice package deal if you’re into world domination.  Why does Jesus not take him up on his offer?  There are a few answers to this questions that are completely legitimate, but I will offer just one.  If Jesus accomplished his mission from a position of earthly power, making use of strength in numbers, what would be so compelling about that?  Jesus could have gained immense “market share” and established “Jesusism” as the only religion…the share holders (insert disciples) would have loved it.  Instead, it was the grassroots effort of a nobody Rabbi from Nazareth with his lackluster disciples laboring together for three years.  In fact, at the end of Christ’s earth-bound ministry, it seems as though he had only about 120 followers (see the beginning of Acts).

Many turned away from Jesus because they couldn’t imagine a deeper truth pointing toward eternal life.  One disciple in particular was concerned about being associated with the Jesus he had come to follow (Jn 18:17).  That which has substance and depth and nuance, and richness and wisdom, and true beauty is often times that which is dismissed as being “uppity” or self-righteous or even dangerous.  Certainly, some of us are to blame for the bad rap our Faith gets, but let us not desert the one Truth for a lie with better “drinkability”.

Centuries ago great men across the Atlantic (and other places as well) brewed what is rightly known as beer.  It was the kind of beverage that so many of us have dreamed of, a foretelling of the kingdom to come.  But that vision has been hijacked today, and a blasphemous facsimile has been but in its place, so too has the message of the Gospel been hijacked by shiny faced “Gospel-light” salesmen.  We should be concerned that these marketing gurus bring in larger crowds than the Messiah himself.  Such worldly power only stands to confuse the real means by which we are offered an eternal life in the midst of this one.  We need small batches of an earth shattering message, brewed with care and conviction. We must taste and savor this costly message for in it we have real life.

When offered the “beer” of the masses Jesus refused, and so should we.