On a Friday....April fools ? Originally published 2/21/08
Praying at Burger King
By Dave Werther
Praying at Burger King is Richard Mouw's eagerly anticipated follow-up to Calvinism at the Las Vegas Airport (a.k.a Blackjack and the Belgic Confession). I'm going to set aside the question of corporate sponsorship (the recent gift of 10,000 Whoppers to Fuller Theological Seminary) to focus on the book itself, because even the gospel needs brand marketing, amen?
That said, this is an aesthetically pleasing work, printed on acid-free paper with gold leaf and 12-point Helvetica type. If I had any gripe with the book's aesthetics it would be the ketchup stain on page 32 and the pickle squished between the dust jacket and the cover. Even so, I found the pickle surprisingly tasty.
Taking his cue from the acrostic Psalms (9, 25, 34 and the impertinent 119), Mouw has arranged his work so that, taken together, the first letter of each chapter spells "Whopper." Hence he incorporates what might have been a cheap pop culture analogy into the very spine of his cheap pop-culture analysis. Have it your way, Richard! Well done!
In the first three chapters, specifically "WHO," Mouw weaves spirited theological inquiry into compelling personal narrative through queries that have long plagued us all.
W: What's the Better Buy: a Double Whopper Meal or a Fish Sandwich With Fries on the Side?
H: How Much Change Should I Get Back If I Order A Whopper Junior, Two Orders of Fries, A Large Lemonade, Three Desserts, And Pay with a Ten Dollar Bill?
O: Ought I to Wear the Burger King Crown When I'm Mowing the Lawn?
As moving as the opening is, this is a mere set-up for the explicitly devotional part of the book, "PPER," which finds its thematic unity in the phrase "in a pickle." (Full disclosure: I shamelessly used this theme and three of the headings below to great effect when preaching at a recent youth rally and picnic. All went well until a seventh-grade boy, who failed his confirmation class, threw a pickle at me. Beware the dangers of a too fastidious literalism.)
P: Petitionary Prayer When You're in a Pickle
P: Praise Choruses When You're in a Pickle
E: Even Pickles Get Into Pickles
R: Remembering to Give Thanks When You're No Longer in a Pickle
Vegan Christians have already come out against Mouw's implicit endorsement of Whoppers, but I say to them: Good luck writing an acrostic devotional with initial letters taken from "Brussels Sprouts."
Yes, once again Richard Mouw delivers a parable for the fast-food times we live in, without resorting to the budget menu. Rating: Three and one-half matzohs.