plop, plop, transubstantiation

Meagan Day (writing in Full Stop) on Joan Didion (writing in the New York Review of Books in 1989) on Ronald Reagan:

Didion’s opinion of the President himself is best exemplified in an anecdote she recounts in which the Reagans, while traveling during the 1980 campaign, attended a rural church service. Their pew-side experience up to this point had mostly been at places like Bel Air Presbyterian, where during communion congregants treated themselves to individual circular wafers and drank wine out of small cups passed around on a tray. When communion began at the small Virginia church, Nancy Reagan was scandalized that people were all drinking from the same cup. Her aid, registering her panic, assured her that she could just dip the bread in the wine; frazzled, she dropped it in. Ronald Reagan — on autopilot, as if he were reading from a teleprompter — followed suit by confidently plopping his bread into the chalice, never comprehending his mistake, his face radiating piety as his wife and aid looked on mortified. After the final hymn he stood outside the chapel shaking hands and nodding with interest. Here was the President, “insufficiently briefed (or, as they say in the White House, ‘badly served’) on the wafer issue but moving ahead, stepping ‘into the sunlight,’ satisfied with his own and everyone else’s performance, apparently oblivious to (or inured to, or indifferent to) the crises being managed in his presence.”

Funny story but it would mean the Reagans had never been to a Catholic or Episcopal church, where communicants routinely chalice-sip. Is it possible Ron's and Nancy's bubble of conservative SoCal cluelessness extended this far? Guess so if this happened the way Didion tells it. Meagan Day's article reiterates what we all knew in the '80s: that Reagan was (to use that decade's phrase) an "amiable dunce" who acted as a Trojan Horse for vicious neoconservatives (whom she calls neoliberals but the point is the same).