“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
I really wanted to believe that Benjamin Franklin said that. For years, I did believe it. But according to Bob Skilnik, a grand poobah of beer history, our revered kite-flier did not in fact say this. What Benny Franks did say, while more edifying, was much less titillating:
“Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.“1
Thanks, Mr. Skilnik, for giving us the truth. Thanks, too, for the buzzkill.
So it turns out that Franklin was waxing lyrical about wine, not beer. To be honest, though, as much as I want my thirst for porters and stouts to be endorsed by historical giants, I do respect the truth-sleuths that look for the facts behind the fun.2 Heck, I enjoy looking for “the real story” almost as much as I like spreading those tales (true? not true?) about subliminal messages in Disney movies. I rush to Snopes.com when a story smells of legend. I still watch the short vid of the MythBusters guys trying to make a missile launcher out of a trombone. Aside from bringing me back to my childhood attempts to send a G.I. Joe into outer space with bottle rockets, it feeds my inner Sherlock Holmes.3
That trombone story, by the way: BUSTED.
Famed Catholic pundit Garry Wills wants in on the myth buster biz, which is why he wrote Why Priests?: A Failed Tradition. Catholics have gone on for too long, says Wills, thinking that priesthood is an essential element in understanding who Jesus is and what he accomplished. Similarly, after centuries of having priesthood in the Catholic picture, we take it for granted that it’s actually necessary for making this whole Church-thing go ‘round. Read my book, says Wills. Let’s take a good look at that man behind the curtain. 300 pages from now, you too will conclude that these myths are, once and for all…
But… are they? How many conspiracy theories, after all, turn out to be true? Did the U.S. really stage the moon landing? How many TV specials have been made about UFOs and government cover-ups? And, as much as we wanted to believe it, were Rastafarian zealots really responsible for the near-death of the Twinkie?4
Fr. Robert Barron of WordOnFire.org did some fact checking on Wills’ conspiracy theory. Why Priests?, in his estimation, ranks close to Roswell on the truth-scale. In the video below, Barron aims to bust a buster. Check out his response and let us know what you think: Between Wills and Barron, who’s sowing wisdom, and who’s sowing snopes?
- http://urbanlegends.about.com/b/2008/09/15/misquote-ben-franklin-on-beer.htm ↩
- On the other hand, do I need Ben Franklin’s endorsement when I have this man’s nihil obstat? ↩
- Video here. Of the MythBusters guys, not of an eight-year-old me with bottle rockets. ↩
- Yes, I just made that up. ↩