Wednesday, January 11, 2012

That's a Baptist Myth

Monday I picked up my 87 year old aunt at the dentist.  She had taken Special Transit Services there.  She needed to pick up medicine at her pharmacy and then do some grocery shopping.  This was no problem and the reason that I picked her up.

At the pharmacy we had to wait for one prescription to be filled.  At 87 she only takes three medications, two are for the same ailment bone loss.  The other is a very mild drug to reduce her blood pressure.  Her mind is sharp, she still works, and she lives alone.

Our conversation began innocuously.  We talked about what she needed at the store and her plans for the week.   I recently began attending a church that has communion every Sunday.  I told her I liked that.  She agreed having attended a country church with an eclectic membership that also had weekly communion.  Now my aunt attends a Baptist church.  Baptists have the Lord's Supper quarterly.  I have always thought that uncomfortably meager for an ordinance designed to make us one with Christ.  My aunt agreed.

Now you have to know that my whole family, including my aunt, are conservative fundamentalists.  That sounds redundant but trust me it is not.  I am the only one outside the fold of fundamentalism.   My rule at family gatherings is to never discuss religion.  I simply wander away when talk goes to areas I cannot agree with.  My mother was liberal, too.  I often asked her if she was sure she was related to these people.  She would smile and nod.  She was one of ten siblings.  I am an only child, but my extended family is huge, huge and conservative.

I love my aunt and know that I worry her immensely.  I once let slip that I did not believe in hell.  She prayed for me for months, afraid for my salvation.  I do not understand how your salvation can be threatened by the belief in the existence or non-existence of hell, but she sincerely believed it matter.  This slip took place not long after Southern Baptist voted for hell.  A question: Why would you vote for eternal torment?  Anyway, my aunt finally came to the conclusion that I was still saved despite my aberrant belief.  It probably helped that I am the one that looks after her.  I take her to the doctor.  I stay with her in the hospital.  After her knee replacement, I did all her grocery shopping and other chores.

Photo by htlcto
So now we are discussing the Lord's Supper  and she tells me that at the independent church she went to in the country, some of the members wanted to use wine instead of grape juice.  I muttered something about doing it both ways.  "Oh, no." she said.  "Jesus did not drink wine.  It was unfermented so it was just grape juice"  Without thinking I replied, "That's just a Baptist myth."

I knew from my aunt's expression that I was in trouble. I got a lecture on reading the scripture and believing the Bible.  She was absolutely positive that "fruit of the vine" at Passover was grape juice.  In my childhood church (Southern Baptist), I remember whole sermons devoted to this.  I knew better that to do anything more than say I would read up on what Jesus drank at his last meal.  That seemed to mollify her, but I suspect my salvation is once more a worry for her. 

Of course, I learned long ago that Jesus drank wine.  As a teenager, I investigated the unfermented wine hypothesis put forth by my childhood church and found it ridiculous. Jesus first miracle was to change water into wine.   I have always assumed his mother was so adamant that he make water into wine at the wedding at Cana because he and his buddies drank so much.  Jesus shared wine the last night of his life, not grape juice.  That he drank grape juice is a Baptist myth.

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