God and the Double BBQ Sandwich

God and the Double BBQ SandwichIt is no secret that America is polarized. This is a fact that is manifested in so many different ways. Traveling down the highway to Chicago, for example, I came upon two successive billboards that I thought were striking examples of our divided culture.

The first billboard caught me by surprise: it consisted of an electrocardiogram of a heart that suddenly stops beating. The caption read: When you die, you will meet God.

RTO mini2Free Book: Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go


As we were passing through the snowy night, I was unable to catch more details of this billboard. I do not know who put it out or what I was expected to do. It really did not matter because for a brief moment I thought about what the Catholic Church calls the “Four Last Things” – Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Think of these things, Scriptures says, and you will not be lost eternally. The simple phrase served to trigger in me a gentle yet fleeting reflection upon the meaning of life. I am sure I was not the only one to make this quick reflection.


The billboard is clearly polarizing since it is directed toward that strong vein inside the American public that is turned toward things religious, spiritual and eternal. It is a sector of the American public that lives amid the fast, superficial and materialistic aspects of our pop culture yet is not entirely comfortable with them. These Americans are drawn by God, family, honor and country. On the other hand, this billboard would not appeal to other Americans who would tend to disparage the message as backward and unenlightened.

BBQ_sandwichThe second billboard came immediately afterwards and struck me by how contrary it was to the former. It consisted of a massive BBQ sandwich with the caption: Happiness is a double BBQ sandwich.

There is nothing wrong with a double BBQ sandwich or even deriving pleasure from eating one. However, the message behind this billboard is clearly materialistic yet more subtly polarizing. There is no invitation to profound reflection. Rather there is the quick insinuation that happiness can be easily bought by obtaining the immediate object of our desires. In this case, gratification equals happiness. According to the same logic, life should be a long succession of gratifications.

This billboard represents a second, more commercial, vein found in America that I call in the book, Return to Order, the perception of the nation as a co-op. This perspective holds that individuals unite themselves together in society as a means to facilitate each one’s inebriating pursuit of happiness.

How Do We Return to OrderUnder this view, an appreciation of America is tied to its ability to make everything fun and everyone happy. Like a co-op, those who hold this position expect returns on their social union in the form of constant and instant gratification. Happiness consists of participating in the excitement of a party economy that they hope will keep on going.

Of course, we cannot generalize and say that all Americans fit neatly into one category or the other. Sometimes the two can be found in differing proportions inside the same person. Other times, the same person might gravitate toward one or later the other. We might also observe collective swings of the national mood towards one or the other category.

As our crisis deepens, this fascinating interplay of perspectives, this dramatic clash of mentalities becomes the material for a great debate now taking place in America over our future. This discussion is found everywhere—even on highway billboards.

Subscription8.11There are many categories that people have used to characterize the nation’s polarization. There is red and blue, conservative and liberal, or retro and metro. Perhaps it is the case to add yet another: God and the double BBQ sandwich.

 

  • fredfrosty

    I’ll pass on the BBQ sandwich

    • Helen Spingola

      HEART BURN??

  • Louis

    The Body of Christ is the best food of all.

  • Stevie Markovich

    when Christ said “In my name you will me hated and despised…” we are really feeling this now. Gotta stand and fight. The good fight. Keep the Faith.

  • TrendyT

    There is nothing wrong with a “Double BBQ Sandwich “, if first to say grace before eating it.

  • 441019

    Gratification doesn’t give us happiness, because it can’t give us peace of mind. It is a terrible thing that our children and young people in our society (in general) are not being taught correct values.

  • prolifemama

    In the comic strip, “Tina’s Groove” this week:

    Tina is serving a man dressed in black wearing a collar (preist?), who says:
    “Funny, regular wine makes my head spin. Holy wine makes my head spin 360 degrees.”

    An acknowledgement of Who “holy wine” Is? In a secular comic? Awesome!
    Think I’ll read up a little on Piccolo, the strip’s writer…

    Postscript: Checked out Piccolo, seems she’s quite irreverent about things Catholic, so wondering how this one slipped through. I may drop an email to the woman, and ask some pithy questions…

    • Sam

      Doesn’t sound like the strip is acknowledging “Who” “holy wine” is. Sounds more like a mockery.
      Of course, there’s no such thing as “holy wine.” After consecration, it is the Precious Blood. The reference to the priest’s head spinning “360 degrees” seems to be a satanic reference. Cf., The Exorcist.

      • prolifemama

        Mockery, or ignorance. Again, the implied reference to the Exorcist’s special effects eluded me.

        • Sam

          The head of the possessed girl in The Exorcist appeared to spin 360 degrees while Satan was mocking the priest/exorcist. Movie based on true story of demonic possession in Manchester, IA. Except the possessed child was a boy. Scriptwriters apparently found it more dramatic/shocking/frightening to have the child be a girl.

          • prolifemama

            @Sam – I was perhaps 19 years old when I watched the movie. I gathered all the rosaries I could find, scapulars, medals, etc., and squinched up my eyes to see only the bare minimum, and that was quite enough.
            I avoid these kinds of films now because they jangle me to the point that I hyper-focus on the fear factor.
            There was a banner in our home in the 60s which proclaimed “One thing we owe our Lord is never to be afraid of anything.” ~~ Charles de Foucauld

    • w

      I would guess that her comment, “Holy wine makes my head spin 360 degrees.” was meant to be derrogatory and referencing the action in the 1982 movie “Poltergeist”.

      • prolifemama

        Hmm…good point. That didn’t occur to me.

  • Joyce

    Church Sign Reads: The BREAD OF LIFE NEVER GETS STALE.

  • yan

    I would say this is a zoning/commercial speech issue; which is to say, a constitutional issue implicating the freedoms of speech and expression.

    I think it would take a religious revolution before we had Supreme Court justices sufficiently religious to recognize the importance of protecting the gravity of religious messages on the highway by upholding local laws which would attempt to adequately separate them from commercial messages.

    Thus, if you want government to act in order to foster religiousity in this manner prior to such a religious revolution occurring, you would have to amend the first amendment in order to create a specific hierarchy of speech, in which religious speech was deemed more important than commercial speech in a manner sufficient to justify zoning laws which prefer religious speech on public roadways.

    The possibility of that occurring at this time in the United States is probably close to zero. I conclude therefore that we should probably work on fostering the religious revolution spoken of above as being the best means of creating a just society.

    Peace…

  • Dawnie J

    When it’s all been said and done
    There is just one thing that matters
    Did I do my best to live for truth?
    Did I live my life for you?

    When it’s all been said and done
    All my treasures will mean nothing
    Only what I’ve done
    For love’s reward
    Will stand the test of time

    Lord, your mercy is so great
    That you look beyond our weakness
    And find purest gold in miry clay
    Turning sinners into saints

    I will always sing your praise
    Here on earth and ever after
    For you’ve shown me heavens my true home
    When it’s all been said and done
    You’re my life when life is gone…