The Eschatology of Chips and Salsa: a revelation from St. Jon the Stone
A number of years ago I heard a new teaching, a teaching that was strange and yet very familiar. I heard it from a fellow traveler who told me that he had not derived at this message entirely on his own but that it had been handed down to him in bits and pieces, after which he fashioned it together into a comprehensive whole. Some may refer to it as the Apocalypsis el Papas Fritas y Salsa, though commonly it is simply called, Revelation of Chips and Salsa. Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains, I had never been exposed to this prophetic teaching. In fact, I knew very little about any foreign food such as tacos, enchiladas, or burritos. For a while the old Dairy Queen in my town, which had gone out of business, had become a Taco Hut—a local variation of the more famous Taco Bell—but it too had been replaced by establishment selling still yet a different sort of foreign food—C.J.’s Pizza. I was not actually introduced to chips and salsa as an aperitivo (i.e. an appetizer, hors d’oeuvre, or antipasto) until my first date in college—with the woman who would later become my wife. Although this new teaching remains somewhat obscure, I have no doubt that it will rise to prominence within the church and may even one day be listed as a cardinal doctrine. The importance of the teaching is sure to increase as the popularity of the dish continues to escalate.
Pre-chip, mid-chip, or post-chip…that is the question
The technical arguments of the various interpretations of the eschatology of chips and salsa could fill up a multivolume dissertation so I will restrict my comments here to only the most basic description of the teaching with its most practical applications. When a group of people (two or more) sit down for a meal in which chips and salsa are being served, some of the people will be pre-chip, that is, they will want to pray for food before anyone takes their first bite. (There is also a substratum of the pre-chip doctrine that insists on the prayer being pre-dip, though this group is often marginalized as an extreme form of eschatological fundamentalism). Another major group is best described as being post-chip, which is a belief that the prayer of thanksgiving—commonly called the blessing—comes after the chips and salsa have been eaten and before the entrées are consumed. What often happens is that a post-chip believer is unknowingly sharing the meal with a pre-chip believer(s). The former goes to take the initial bite while the latter launches into the prayer. In an attempt not to offend their weaker spiritual siblings (cf. 1 Cor. 8-10), the post-chip believer becomes, in practice, a mid-chipper. Mid-chip is a commonly held doctrine practiced both by pre-chippers who forget to pray and by post-chippers who do not wish to offend.
Pre-meal, post-meal, or ameal?
Perhaps it could go without saying that all of the positions mentioned above all share the common belief known as pre-meal—the belief that a prayer must be offered before the meal. It might come as a surprise to many traditional pre-mealers that other doctrines of chips and salsa do exist, for example post-meal. A few scholars have connected this practice with an ancient Jewish custom of thanking God even after the meal (i.e. after the meal he blessed the cup and passed it). Latent influence of post-meal belief can be found even among the most staunch and stalwart pre-mealers. Many of that tradition can testify to hearing at the end of a meal the words, “Lord, that was a good meal.” One final category is left behind, namely ameal. This particular belief has omitted the prayer for the meal altogether. A very controversially and potentially divisive doctrine, ameal was a commonly held belief in the early church. Some scholars argue that it was even held by none other than St. Augustine. Nevertheless, many pre-meal groups have no latitude whatsoever for this final position; and therefore, they list it as heretical position worthy of disfellowship.
A Practical Theology of Chips and Salsa
In the words of the great prophet Bob, “the times they are a changin’.” In the words of Rupertus Meldenius—an otherwise undistinguished German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century: “In the essentials, unity, in the nonessentials, liberty, and in all things, charity.” Philip Schaff calls this saying, which is often mistakenly accredited to Augustine, “the watchword of Christian peacemakers” (History of the Christian Church, vol. 7, 650). After all it was Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.” With the world growing smaller due to globalization, multiculturalism, and some would say post-denominationalism, I recommend that we start offering one another more grace when it comes to saying Grace.