While I was working on a blog post tonight about our freshman Philosophy course, I remembered a little story I had written some four or five years ago. At the time I had read a blog post by a popular emergent church figure, Jim Henderson, of Jim and Casper Go to Church fame. He was complaining about “Beliefism,” which apparently is the belief that your own beliefs are superior to those of others. Aside from being entirely self-refuting, his post was simply bizarre. It played into an overall feeling of frustration I had toward the emergent church as a movement, so I purged my feelings by writing this little story. It uses some of Henderson’s philosophy, but in a different setting:
So, Alphonse is hungry. He’s in the mood for beef calories, and decides to head into town and try out this new restaurant he’s heard of. It’s called The Emergaurant. He goes inside; the place looks great, just the atmosphere he needs in which to gorge. The menu is all he could hope for: pages of pastas, pizzas, burgers and fries. Amazing. The waiter comes and Alphonse orders a deluxe triple-cheese burger, with extra cheese. He can’t wait to have grease puddling at his elbows. In twenty minutes the waiter returns with… a steaming bowl of soup.
“I think you’ve given me the wrong order,” says Alphonse.
“No, I don’t think so, sir. You ordered a deluxe triple-cheese burger with extra cheese, right?”
“I did, and clearly that’s not my order.”
“Sure it is. Only instead of buns, we put noodles, instead of beef there’s little chunks of chicken, and instead of cheese there’s a lot of broth.”
“Ok, so it’s a joke. I get it. Can I have my burger now?”
“Let me try to explain. We feel that the burger category is much too exclusivist and needs to be broadened. Why can’t chicken noodle soup, while being true to it’s own traditional culinary forms, also be called a burger? People need to think beyond the confines of their own beliefs, and re-connect with a less systematic, and a more metaphorical view of food. We dream big dreams around here, and have come to realize that a burger is so much more than just two buns and a patty.
“Listen. I don’t care what you think about the burger category. I really don’t. I want a beefy, cheesy, trans-fat loaded burger. I want to ruin this shirt with mustard stains. I want to be able to study my reflection in the grease on my forearms and style my hair with the mayonnaise that’s fallen from the back of the bun. Get it?”
“Sir, I can see where you’re coming from, and I used to think that way too. I just want to gently remind you, and in doing so perhaps nudge you away from such narrow and constricting views, that your ideas about burgers are not superior to mine. That attitude just breeds intolerance and fear, and where you have hostility and confusion, you should be open and engaging. Perhaps you could share your personal experience with me, and together we can open a door to a new understanding of burgers.”
Some days later, Alphonse received a bill in the mail that covered all the dental work the waiter would need. Although it was substantial, he felt that it was worth it.