Meat and Ketchup

“MEAT AND KETCHUP!” my two-year-old son John yelled at me when I entered the house. 

His face and hands were covered in ketchup. His clothes were too. He had a baby ‘spork’ in his right hand and he couldn’t have been prouder of himself. 

“Meat and ketchup,” I replied. “Yum.” 

“NO!” he shouted back. “MEAT AND KETCHUP.” 

“Yea, Johnny, I heard you,” I offered. “Meat and ketchup. Good boy.” 

With his ketchup covered fingers he grabbed my hand and led me to the table. He pointed to his plate, dug the spork in and ate a mouthful of ketchup. 

“I’m eating ketchup,” he said. 

He sure was. It wasn’t meat and ketchup. He was eating ketchup. He shoveled spork-ful after spork-ful of ketchup into his mouth. When the spork wasn’t cutting it he literally licked the plate clean. 

As I watched my son, I couldn’t help but wonder why a person would ever do such a thing. What kind of person just eats a plate of ketchup? There’s no point. It’s not filling. It’s not nutritional. It’s sort of gross. Actually, it’s really gross. It might even be bad for you. And yet here was my son – my offspring, my pride, my joy – eating ketchup like a bowl of soup. 

All of which, naturally, got me thinking about faith. I wondered in what ways we grownups do that same thing on a different level. How do we, as Jesus says, “eat the bread that leads to death?” How do we settle for things that taste great, even if they aren’t filling? Do we proudly eat ketchup and miss the meat? Do we take the condiment without the meal? Do we settle for the sugar without the nutrition? 

As I sat with those questions at our kitchen table with my son covered in ketchup, I came to realization that we do. Instead of meat and ketchup a lot of times we’re just eating ketchup. We settle for messages that are meaningless. We trust lies. We cling to tribal ideologies that are against our self-interests. 

When bishops and church leaders lie and cover up abuse and we settle for their thin apologies without any recourse or action – we’re eating ketchup. When politicians abuse their power and serve themselves rather than their constituents and we still just vote the part line – we’re eating ketchup. When pastors promise us that enough faith will make us rich or tell us God just needed another angel and we buy it – we’re eating ketchup. When we ignore the obvious and cling to vain, contrived notions of humanity – we’re eating ketchup. When we value our own life and size others up based on how things look on social media – we’re eating ketchup. 

It is time for us to put the meat back in the meal. God is calling for us to tackle tough subjects, to think critically, to open our minds, and, indeed, to open our lives. We are called to put the paper down and open our Bible, to turn off the TV and start to pray. We are invited to cross party lines, to tear down walls, to ask critical questions, and to speak truth to power. If we don’t this world and our lives will be as messy as my son eating ketchup. 

In the Way, 


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