One of these recent columns caused a South Carolina reader to question whether I could “imagine the sinless Saviour with a cigarette hanging between His lips, or drinking a can of beer.”

Waving the poker-game imagery, it’s a fair question. So I decided to see if I could imagine such a thing.

I began by imagining Jesus at the wedding in Cana lifting a glass of the wine he has just produced from water. At that moment I froze the mental tableau, transported Jesus to a sixteenth-century German wedding party, drained the cup of wine, replaced it with beer, and started the action again. It worked fine.

Freezing the action again, I transported Jesus to a twentieth-century dining table complete with ashtrays and tried to put a cigarette in his hand. It kept falling out so I gave the effort up as a bad job.

I decided to try to see if I could get Jesus’ reaction to a morally neutral but obnoxious practice—gum chewing. I pictured him working over a particularly intricate piece of carpentry work. He reached into his tunic, withdrew a shiny stick of Juicy Fruit, and carefully unwrapped it, replacing the paper in his tunic to avoid littering the byways of Palestine. As he popped the sugared nonsense into his mouth, the whole picture shattered and disappeared.

I wondered if the uniqueness of Christ was largely responsible for my results and decided to try Socrates to find out.

There was no point in trying beer drinking. There was enough alcohol flowing at the symposium to bomb a small city.

So I tried cigarettes. Socrates picked up the pack. He banged it confidently against the side of his hand. Nothing happened. He shook it and peered inside to verify the presence of a cigarette. He again banged the package on his hand, ...

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