A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

McDonald's McRib Sandwich, the Barbecue Police, and Preference Driven Churches

The McRib sandwich is back at McDonald's for a limited time. Over the years this combination of pork pieces fashioned in the shape of four ribs, slathered with barbecue sauce, topped with onions and pickles on an elongated bun has developed a real cult following. There's even a website tracking where the McRib can be currently purchased across the USA and Canada. McDonald's has brilliantly marketed this sandwich over the years in not making it available all the time so that McRib devotees will get their fill while the sandwich is available.

Now anyone who knows real barbecue knows that the McRib is not barbecue in the true sense. Barbecue is cooked slowly and then there's the whole debate over whether beef or pork make for better barbecue. What I find fascinating is not only the large number of McRib faithful out there, but also the many McRib detractors. I'm not talking about the people who have eaten the McRib and don't care for the taste; I'm referring to the ones who think some great evil has been done in the creation of the sandwich itself. One person started a blog entitled "Retire the McRib" where he states, "Banish the McRib forever. It's is sacrilege against the real barbecue deities and authentic, slow-smoked, flavorful racks of ribs. Real ribs have bones not patty formations designed to emulate them." Of course, this blogger hasn't posted in about a year, so I suppose there's only so much that can be said about the McRib as an abomination of desolation. Catherine Hamm writes in a recent editorial for the LA Times, "McDonald's McRib is to barbecue as Hannibal Lecter is to psychiatry. This piece of pork smeared with some abomination of sauce has achieved a cult following for reasons I can't understand."

As a barbecue lover myself, I know that the McRib is not true barbecue, but why is that even a significant point? If I had to choose between some Carolina baby back pork ribs and a McRib, I would take the former every time. But I like the taste of the McRib, so for me the matter of barbecue purity is not even an issue. I will probably swing through a Mickey D's drive-thru a couple of times before the middle of November and have a McRib only because I like the taste. I like the McRib just because I like it. I would never refer to the sandwich as true barbecue, but neither will I feel as if I have soiled myself morally if I eat one.

Yes, there are some things that should not be left to preference. The church in the West is in decline primarily because its members have become preference driven in reference to the church's mission and ministry, and not purpose driven and focused on the task Jesus himself commanded-- making disciples. We think about the church in the same way as we order from the menu in a restaurant. We ask the question, "What do I want?" Mission as menu has led to a church that is less than faithful.

But there are other things in which preference is OK. I like the McRib. I prefer it over a Big Mac. So, the next time I go to McDonald's I will be getting the McRib, even though the barbecue purists will balk... which is another reason I will get the McRib...

...I like to give the barbecue police a McRibbing.

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