Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, Free for CAPC Members
In Gospel Fluency, Jeff Vanderstelt wants to help every believer speak the gospel in the stuff of everyday life.
If you love both literature and Chipotle’s Mexican Grill, then you’re in luck, as Chipotle’s take-out bags now sport excerpts from the work of contemporary writers. In between gulps of soda you can enjoy the literary stylings of writer Jonathan Safran Foer, presented with a hand-drawn flourish right on the cup itself.
It was Safran Foer who came up with the idea of marrying literature with fast food (though technically-speaking Chipotle’s is actually considered “fast casual”) in the first place. While eating at Chipotle’s one day he began pining for something to read during his meal. Unlike most of the developed world, he didn’t turn to his smart phone, instead examining his cup and the bag the food came in, both of which were unadorned, lacking the typical fast food whirlwind of imagery featuring movie tie-in superheroes and that little guy from Monopoly.
Safran Foer saw an opportunity in this vast acreage of paper goods, and thanks to his status as a major contemporary novelist, was able to do something about it. He approached Chipotle’s CEO with the idea of creating a literary moment on the surface of every Chipotle cup and bag. Thus, a very modern marriage of intellect and commerce was born.
So what’s wrong with taking in a bit of literature with our fast food? Especially when the fast food in question comes from Chipotle, a shining example of corporate rectitude if there ever was one, coaching patrons in everything from hormone-free beef to renewable energy in its supply chain? Well, nothing really, except for the idea that our world is now so bereft of meaning that it seems like a good idea to turn to our disposable paper wrappers in hope of a transcendent moment.
Chipotle’s paper bags and cups now contain multitudes. And these paper bags are a reminder that sometimes it seems as though nothing in the developed world is functioning as originally intended. We go to church expecting to be entertained, and watch TV expecting to be moved. We go to a fast food restaurant to be enlightened, the work of our culture’s most prominent writers offered up to us in fragments, on grease-stained paper.
Does one elevate a burrito by wrapping it in the words of Toni Morrison? Probably. Does one cheapen literature by using it to cradle bits of rice and sour cream? Most likely. But in the 21st century, what else are we going to do? Where else are we going to turn for bits of wisdom? As things stand, dispensing deep thoughts along with burrito bowls seems just about right.
A quote from Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Everything is Illuminated is appropriate when considering Chipotle’s new role as literary arbiter, holding true for both the soul and the belly: “It was not the feeling of completeness I so needed,” Safran Foer writes, “but the feeling of not being empty.”
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