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‘Sweet Baby Jesus’…Is a Beer?

February 22, AD2014 11 Comments

\"Mary

A trip to my local Giant grocery store the other night brought an unpleasant surprise. Back near the store’s beer coolers, clerks were stacking case upon case of a new beer. It’s name? “Sweet Baby Jesus,” a ‘craft’ beer brewed and bottled by a local Baltimore company, DuClaw Brewing Company.

“Sweet Baby Jesus,” launched about a year ago, recently became one of DuClaw’s best-selling beers. Thanks to a recent plug from Uncrate, a digital buying guide for men, “Sweet Baby Jesus” beer is drawing attention from reviewers and expanding its appeal beyond Baltimore, into New Jersey, Virginia, and surrounding states. Critics call the ‘chocolate peanut butter’ porter beer “truly exceptional,” graced with a “creative name worth repeating.”

That “creative name worth repeating” just happens to be the name of the Lord.

No matter.

These days, taking a celebrity’s name ‘in vain’—without permission—to sell a product guarantees a public rebuke and litigation threats from the celebrity’s lawyer. But taking the Lord Jesus’s name in vain to sell a parochial brew passes for urbane wit and draws a cosmopolitan snicker. One Philadelphia reviewer honored the beer with a “Best Name” award, tittering over the fact that ‘Sweet Baby Jesus’ is “a tiny bit blasphemous.”

A tiny bit blasphemous?

Believers know that it’s not possible to be a “tiny bit” blasphemous. “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised,” according to the Psalms. The Second Commandment—“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”— forbids “the abuse of God\’s name.” The sin of blasphemy includes using “the name of God [and] of Jesus Christ in an offensive way.”

The mocking use of God’s name is not some “tiny” offense, because God is not some tiny creature. He’s our Creator. Respect for his name shows respect for God himself and for “the whole sacred reality.”

Slapping ‘Sweet Baby Jesus’ on a bottle of beer profanes his sacred name. Downing a ‘cold one’ that bears the name of Jesus, and then tossing it in the trash (or recycling bin, for those who reverence mother earth), alongside half-eaten chicken wings, soggy paper towels, and the dregs of last night’s party communicates a profound disrespect for the reality of the Person whose name it bears.

However, the DuClaw Brewing Company doesn’t give a whit. Its marketing campaign shamelessly trades on the name of Jesus, using religious imagery and language to hype the product. According to local sources, the company promoted the beer’s release with the boast, “One sip and you will exclaim the name.” The company’s website pitches a “Sweet Baby Jesus!” pint glass “featuring the ‘Sweet Baby Jesus!’ logo on one side and ‘The name says it all’ on the other.” It exhorts drinkers to “Exclaim that name!” (Abbreviated as #SweetBJ) And for 20 bucks, a woman can buy a “Sweet Baby Jesus” t-shirt that will “exclaim the name” on her “torso…so that you can look good and feel good while you drink even better.” (Guys can shell out $20 for a similar product.)

As a craft brewery, DuClaw makes money only if it sells something interesting, but it seems to have confused ‘interesting’ with ‘demeaning.’ It brews other beers with offensive names, such as “Bare Ass Blonde Ale” and “Anti-Venom Cluster F#@k,” but ‘Sweet Baby Jesus’ is the Brewery’s bestseller. Its distribution circle appears to be expanding rapidly, too. Within a ten-mile radius of my home, for example, over a dozen grocery chains and specialty stores have begun carrying it.

Why would DuClaw choose a product name that is likely to offend a wide base of potential customers? (Most Christians do drink, after all.) And why would a major grocery chain, with many Christians among its most frequent shoppers, stock a specialty product that gives a blasphemous slap in the face to the Christian God?

I suspect their market research tapped into a troubling truth: few people—even Christians—seem to care whether the name of Jesus is treated with derision or respect. Christians who are offended by the blasphemy most likely will shrug and say nothing. (Can you imagine the Muslim community’s likely response if a retailer stocked a beer profaning the name of Mohammed?)

As a private company, DuClaw Brewing Company enjoys the freedom to name its products as it chooses, within relevant legal boundaries. Its only branding “principle,” the company boasts, is to “make it cool.”  Apparently, blasphemy is “cool.”

Which leaves us with the real question: What does it say about us when a company blasphemes the name of Jesus in order to sell beer in mainstream markets—and succeeds?

© 2014. Mary Rice Hasson. All rights reserved.

About the Author:

Mary Rice Hasson is a Fellow in EPPC's Catholic Studies program. Mrs. Hasson is currently working on a book that offers new data on and explores the views of Catholic women on sexual morality and reproduction and on the Catholic Church's teachings on those topics. She recently co-authored an article on media ratings in the June 2011 issue of the professional journal Pediatrics. She writes commentary for the Catholic News Agency, which also distributes her columns to diocesan newspapers throughout the United States. She also writes from a natural law perspective for the international human rights website, MercatorNet.com, and for a variety of Catholic parenting websites. She blogs at Words from Cana. The mother of seven, Mrs. Hasson previously co-authored with Kimberly Hahn the leading book on Catholic homeschooling, Catholic Education Homeward Bound (Ignatius, 1995). She has spoken at numerous family conferences over the past 15 years, and has appeared on CNN, EWTN, and numerous local radio shows. A lawyer and member of the D.C. and Indiana bars, Mrs. Hasson graduated from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1984 and from the University of Notre Dame in 1981, with a BA in Government.

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  • john654

    I have a suggestion for anyone who reads this article: GO TO THE “DuClaw Brewing Company” WEB SITE AND CLICK ON “Our Beer List”. It will REALLY put this article in perspective for you! THINK about this name for a second, “Hell ON Wood”.

  • Guy McClung

    Imagine what would happen if they start selling “Mohammed Beer” with a likeness of the muslim religion’s founder. I doubt they would remain silent and inert like Christians. Guy McClung, San Antonio

  • http://www.dianemckelva.com/ Diane McKelva

    Mary, you did a fabulous job of highlighting the “subtle”
    blasphemes in our culture. And yes, my hubby said the thing as Guy. If they
    bottled “Mohammed Ale” and used the tagline “Have a blast with
    Alah!” Oh, Lord have mercy. The outcry and condemnation would be life
    threatening. However, Christians just turn the other cheek and go on without
    seemingly noticing. That mentality is going to be to our determent. When Christ
    walked into the temple and saw the blaspheme of the money changers, He didn’t
    turn the other cheek…..he turned tables over in outrage. Where is the outrage
    today?

  • james

    Please don’t compare the reaction of Islam – they are for the most part a backward religion that will take centuries to stabliize. Jesus would turn the other cheek and
    you should all know this It is not as bad as calling your brother ‘raka’ and it has
    nothing to do with ” my Father’s house” which is why Jesus to turned righteously
    violent. If you trace the etiology of contemporary ‘lblasphemy’ you can clearly
    see it is a form of superficial contempt for all the perceived human mistakes the
    church has made in the last 50 plus years If you ignore these corporate clowns
    they will eventually go away. If you don’t they will feast off your ire.

    • http://www.dianemckelva.com/ Diane McKelva

      Respectfully, James, I disagree. Silence serves no purpose than to encourage the offender. Elie Weisel, who survived the atrocities of the Holocaust said, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Granted, Weisel’s experience reflects the worst offenses against mankind, however, this statement made upon reflection of his experiences speaks volumes to us Catholic Christians who are persecuted subtly every day, and even face torture and death in many countries – - – while so many remain silent. History shows that persecution begins subtly, and then escalates due to silence and disbelief.

      The problem that we face in the U.S. is that we fail to hold people accountable. We somehow believe that they have an inalienable right to persecute cloaked behind the veil of “free speech.” We have assumed the position that if we ignore “it, the “it” will go away. That approach has not been effective in the past, it will never be effective in the future.

      As for Jesus’ anger in response to ignorance or injustice, the temple story is only one example. There are several others; when He addressed the Pharisees in the book of Matthew, when He healed the man with the withered hand, when He predicted His passion, when He cursed the fig tree, when He was blessing the little children, when he called out the demons from the man, when He rebuked Peter and when He addressed the Pharisees. I could offer substantial details on each of these, but have limited space.

      So, James, forgive me, I will not be silent. I will always defend my faith, hold people accountable, and live by 1 Peter 3:15. I hope that others will consider the same in being Disciples of Christ.

      Peace be with you,
      Diane

    • james

      Well, Diane, my contrbution will be not to buy the beer and predict that it will eventually be d/c – and, it is not impossible that someone might be converted by the Name, We are not at odds and I applaud your effort to go on the offensive even at the risk of dismal ground support. What is manifested, sight unseen, is the tacit understanding of just how crass life can get and this nauseum is shared by way more people than you realize..

    • http://www.dianemckelva.com/ Diane McKelva

      Ah, James, we are more like-minded that I first thought. Drats- — this texting and email loses so much personality and tone, doesn’t it? Enjoyed “hearing” your perspective. Please keep praying for all God’s children….good and bad….especially me. Apologetics isn’t for the faint-hearted. ;) Peace be with you, Diane ^i^

  • David Peters

    Thank you Mary for this article. It is shocking and shows at least some of what is wrong with our nation. We need to pray, and to live the Christian life, which includes sharing our faith. Nothing will change unless people are changed. When that happens maybe stupid, profane, and blasphemous brand names, will decrease because they won’t sell.
    At least I hope so.

  • kcthomas

    We find that some Americans love to hurt the sentiments of christians by showing disrespect to Jesus. We can do two things one, we should boycot the product Two, we can pray for God,s mercy on thede perpetrators.

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  • Manial

    There is also a type of Oyster, I believe it is from the southern part of the Chesapeake that has the same name. I suspect DuClaw got this name from this oyster. By the way DuClaw also have restaurants here in Md.