David Fitch writes,

“Zizek narrates how coca-cola was originally concocted as a medicine (originally known as a nerve tonic, stimulant and headache remedy). It was eventually sweetened and its strange taste was made more palatable. Soon it became a popular drink during prohibition that still possessed those medicinal qualities (it was deemed “refreshing” as well as the perfect “temperance drink”). Over time, however, its sugar was replaced with sweetener, its caffeine extracted, and so today we are left with Caffeine-Free Diet Coke: a drink that does not fulfill any of the concrete needs of a drink. The two reasons why anyone would drink anything: it quenches thirst/provides nutrition and it tastes good, have in Zizek’s words “been suspended.”

“Today, Coke has become a drink that does not quench thirst, does not provide any stimulant and whose strange taste is not particularly satisfying. Nonetheless, it is the most consumed beverage in the world. It plays on the mysterious enjoyment we get out of consuming it as something to enjoy in surplus after we have already quenched our thirst. We drink Coke because Coke is “it”” not because it satisfies anything material. In essence, all that remains of what was once Coke is a pure semblance, an artificial promise of a substance which never materialized. In Zizek’s words, we ‘drink nothing in the guise of something …” It is “in effect merely an envelope of a void.”(22-23).

Strangely, I posted this on the same day when I heard a discussion on CBC Ideas of the evolution of soft ice-cream. The original goal was to stretch regular ice-cream by injecting air and a bit of water into it, to increase profitability. The effort was so successful that the original scoop of ice-cream went 300% further. Good marketing did the rest. Not so different, perhaps, to what occurs when we water down the gospel in to boost attendance at a weekly meeting. Eventually pragmatics rule, and we don’t even realize that the gospel we offer has been reduced to bullet points divorced from the biblical story. As Fitch points out (June 22nd), “the Inerrant Bible, the Decision for Christ, and the Christian Nation somehow became badges for us that worked against our formation into God’s Mission for the world.”

See also “Surrogates”