Monday, April 09, 2007

Jesus in the Media: Things Go better with....Jesus and Coke?

O.K. so this Italian ad executive is doing some soul searching having lost his job and his marriage, and goes to Jerusalem. He bumps into Jesus and offers him a Coke. Jesus kindly takes it and drinks it and being the ad agent he is the ad exec thinks-- "What a testimonial for Coca Cola!" He didn't think, "What a Friend we Have in Jesus" or Jesus is a hospitable guy. No, he thought--- ad endorsement! This is part of an Italian film entitled "7 kilometers from Jerusalem" (see the story at, a part which got axed because of the swift and furious response of Coca Cola's legal wing. They wanted nothing to do with such a scene, and had it axed from the movie. Oh those Italians--- first it was Jesus Jeans ("What would Jesus wear?") then it was Jesus and Coke ("What would Jesus drink?").

My question is--- Why would Coke be upset about this scene? 1) Fear of reprisals from the devout? This seems unlikely, since no one is much worried about or troubled by offending Christians anymore; 2) Jesus' endorsement of Coke would give Coke too much of a market edge over Pepsi? In light of their recent ad campaign in which they are thinking of suing themselves for taste infringement over the Coke Zero vs. Classic Coke issue it becomes clear they have too much time on their hands; 3) Trademark infringement and protecting their intellectual property was more important to them than Jesus' endorsement? 4) Market share of soft drinks in Italy is so high for Coke now that they did not need Jesus' help? 5) Coke was afraid the Pope might intervene and insist that Jesus be portrayed as politely refusing Coke but accepting communion wine, in which case the sale of Coke would go down in Italy and communion wine would go up? 6) Coke knew that Jesus was secretly not a Coke man, and so the scene was implausible (In fact I have it on the highest authority that Jesus is actually an afficiando of Cheerwine, a North Carolina beverage that is a cherry cola. Obviously the new covenant and the Good News more naturally goes with something called Cheerwine).

What do you think?


Peter Kirk said...

I guess Pepsico is now furiously trying to persuade the directors to reshoot the scene with Jesus drinking Pepsi.

Ben Witherington said...

Well since Pepsi is also a North Carolina beverage (originated in New Bern and the name comes from the fact that the maker wanted a beverage that "is pep" and so pepsi is "is pep" backwards) I would be all in favor of that. I'm thinking they could redo John 2--- the wedding feast at Cana, with Jesus turning the water into Pepsi-- then the wedding would never fizzle :)


John R. said...

I haven't had Cheerwine in a long time. Your comment was surprising because I didn't think anybody knew about it anymore.

Cheerwine Good.
Coke Bad.

Let the whole world know.

John R.

Jeff A. Spry said...

Ben, It must be rough growing up in NC and developing a taste for Cheerwine and then moving away. We lived in Tennessee for six years and one of the greatest things about moving back home was to get reacquainted with Cheerwine. Do you ship yours out there?

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Jeff:

I have tried to have it shipped in but its so expensive to ship. I had it at my coffee shop in Wilmore for a while until I sold the shop. People got addicted to it. It is the best! Cherry Coke and Cherry Pepsi are poor imitations. Sadly, I live in a state they doesn't serve sweet tea or know what real barbecue is either. This must be what Jesus was referring to when he spoke of the ascetical wilderness experience of the Israelites. Quail and manna are not exactly the same as barbecue and Cheerwine.


Jim Pemberton said...

As a namesake of the inventor of Coca Cola (Atlanta pharmacist and cocaine addict Dr. John Pemberton), I'll note that an Italian probably doesn't know about the benefits of Cheerwine and likely remembers the memorable slogan, "Coke adds life." While not theologically precise there is a hint (if even a hint) of Christological truth in the words of the slogan if not the product.

Mike Taylor said...

This is lots of fun. But seriously, as a Texan, I know on confirmed testimony that Dr. Pepper (Luke's little known nickname)is the Apostolic choice.

Ben Witherington said...

Well Mike, let me break it to you as gentle as a lamb-- both Mt. Dew and Dr. Pepper were invented in N.C. and to this day, N.C. is the biggest soft drink swillin state in the union in terms of per capita consumption. I can't help it if some Texas company bought us out. See it has to do with Prohibition in the old South--- when hard drinks were banned in the south inventive southerners in the 1920s or so came up with soft drinks. Some of them were Christians offering alternatives to hard liquor. For instance.....

It is interesting to study what Mrs. Smucker or Orrville Ohio, Mr. Kellogg of Michigan and Mr. Cadbury all had in common. Answer, they were all Christians trying to get people off of alcohol and other things that hurt us--- Mrs. Smucker was a leader in the women's temperance movement, and both Kellogg and Cadbury were health nuts who thought cereal and chocolate were mighty good for us as alternatives to smokin and booze and such. You may blame Mr. Cadbury for those cream eggs and chocolate bunnies, at least in part.


Ben W.

Ben Witherington said...

Oh yes Harold in Abilene's is great, if you love beef barbecue, and I like it a lot, but second best. As for Ale 8 one---- please. Its just derivative ginger ale.


Shane Vander Hart said...

I think it's all ridiculous. Coke probably needs all the help it can get though.

garye said...

Jesus obviously changed the water into Cheerwine because it says that they saved the best for last.

rocksalive777 said...

What they didn't tell anyone is that they actually got Jesus to shoot the seen. Every time he handed the Coke over to the other actor, the Coke turned to wine.

Not wanting to offend its teetotalist supporters in the South, Coke had the scene axed.

And I think Jesus was a Jones Soda man myself.

Anonymous said...

God bless Mr. Cadbury for bringing the Kingdom.

It sounds like Cheerwine would be the proper choice for washing down a cream egg. Anybody down there willing to send me a can?

Ike said...

Cheerwine is awesome. When my family lived in NC, a guy at our Church worked for Cheerwine and us kids would enjoy a can every morning after Church in the parking lot.

Carrie Ann said...

Dr. Witherington, I heard a rumor that the IGA in Wilmore sells Cheerwine. However, I do think Jesus would love to have Ale-8 or the Coke.

dhughens said...

Saw your recent comment on Cheerwine and thought you might like to know about the Cheerwine Festival on May 19:

Something to Cheer About: Cheerwine’s 90th Anniversary Celebration
Salisbury to Host Cheerwine Celebration on May 19

SALISBURY, N.C. – Cheerwine, North Carolina’s original cherry different soft drink, will celebrate its 90th anniversary on May 19 by hosting a celebration in downtown Salisbury, home to Cheerwine.

The event will be held on Easy Street in the heart of the 200 block, just off N. Main Street, from 1 – 6 p.m. and will include local entertainment, activities for families and kids, a Cheerwine burping contest and of course, lots of Cheerwine.

“We invite everyone who loves Cheerwine to join us in celebrating our 90th anniversary,” said Cliff Ritchie, chief executive officer, Cheerwine. “The people of Salisbury, along with our growing fan base from places far and near, have allowed our family business to be successful year after year, so this event is really about them.”

Attendees of the festival will be able to view Cheerwine ads and other memorabilia from 1917 to the present, thanks to the displays of several collectors who will be in Salisbury for the celebration.

Carolina Beverage Corporation was founded in 1917 and originated the Cheerwine and Diet Cheerwine soft drink brands. Nearly 90 years later, Cheerwine is one of the oldest family-owned soft drink businesses in America.
Cheerwine and Diet Cheerwine soft drinks are made and distributed by Carolina Beverage Corporation, which also makes and distributes Blue Mist bottled water and Savage Energy Drink . Carolina Beverage's products are available in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia as well as parts of the Midwestern U.S. For more information on Cheerwine visit