October 6, 2013
Just as I was thinking about getting a great, thick, juicy burger — but one without any condiments that mock the sacred Christian sacrament of Holy Communion — a truly weird thing happened:
A fried chicken sandwich came to mind.
Yes, I know, it's odd. First, I'm almost tasting that medium rare beef, onions, real cheese and thick bacon on a fresh bun, and wouldn't you know it, chicken pops into my head.
It's that old Chick-fil-A outrage. Remember?
Only a year ago, the Chick-fil-A chain sought to open a restaurant on the Northwest Side. Immediately, the politicians were apoplectic with horror and indignation.
Chick-fil-A owner Dan Cathy, an opponent of gay marriage, had dared publicly suggest that marriage should only be between one man and one woman.
City Hall was so offended, the local alderman vowed to block the store's construction. Chicago's mayor weighed in, too.
"Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values," warned Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "They're not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you're gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values."
But what of Chicago's values when a heavy-metal burger joint makes national headlines for selling a $17 gourmet burger seasoned with the metaphoric blood and body of Christ?
You must have heard of the amazing story in the Tribune last week, by reporter Ellen Jean Hirst, about Kuma's Corner. The renowned burger place began offering a new burger, the Ghost, to commemorate the Swedish band Ghost B.C.
On its Facebook page, Kuma's explained the burger "in the spirit of our undying reverence for the lord and all things holy." And they listed the contents. A 10-ounce patty, chile aioli, braised goat shoulder, white cheddar cheese and two other special ingredients, quoted here directly from Kuma's:
"Red Wine Reduction (the blood of Christ) with Communion Wafer garnish (the body of Christ). Come pay your respects!"
I've since heard apologists suggest that since the wafers had not been consecrated, they were really nothing but bread. But they do bear the sign of the cross.
I'm not Roman Catholic, but I am a Christian, and I was offended. And sickened. And angry, because the predictable happened. Kuma's got the public buzz. And half-wits couldn't wait to mock Christians who were offended.
One blog at ChicagoNow, part of the Tribune media group, purported in a fake news story to have interviewed the Roman Catholic Pope Francis.
At this newspaper, we're not allowed to make up fake interviews with popes. But some blogs must operate under different rules. According to that blog, "Pope Francis" defended Kuma's. He said he might like his Ghost burger sent to Rome.
"Perhaps … if this Kuma considers lowering the price so that families with kids — good, breeding families with 8-10 kids — can eat there. You know, like McDonalds," the fake pope said.
That's how some refer to women with children. They're not mothers, they're breeders, you know, like sows producing livestock. Is that part of Chicago's values, too?
We called Kuma's Corner and spoke to Luke Tobias, the director of operations. He said the response had been mostly positive.
"We're not going to go out of our way to piss people off. That wouldn't be the best business plan to upset our customers," Tobias told us.
"No, we did not go out of our way to mock Catholicism, the Christianity religion, or anything. We just really liked the band."
You didn't go out of your way? You didn't have to. It was easy. But let's hope Kuma's doesn't create any more truly dangerous and offensive burgers.
Say, a Muhammad burger, of pork belly and fried pigs' ears. Or a King David burger, of ground pork loin, bacon, cheese and a mandatory milk shake. Or a Buddha carpaccio plate with raw egg, or a secular Obama burger that costs only $17 trillion.
Yes, bigotry in a cheeseburger is protected by the Constitution. But it's lousy business. And if they picked on a religion other than Christianity, there might be more serious consequences. It wouldn't end with awkward silence. It would be loud and ugly.
There is nothing brave about mocking any religious beliefs. It's cheap.
Late Friday, the people at Kuma's issued a manifesto declaring they would keep the Ghost burger on the menu and reiterating their First Amendment rights. Fine. I'm not questioning their rights. I'm questioning their values and business judgment.
Kuma's added that the burger joint "in no way created this as a commentary on religion."
Really? Kuma's described the wine reduction sauce as "the blood of Christ" and the Communion wafer as "the body of Christ."
After all the hand-wringing about not wanting to offend, Kuma's did promise to donate $1,500 to Catholic Charities.
But they should write a much larger check.
On the reality TV show "Pawn Stars," a single silver coin from biblical times fetched $1,600. Add 29 more and Kuma's should drop $48,000 on Catholic Charities just to be fair.
Oh, and remember last year's controversy and the guys at City Hall who were so outraged about a chicken sandwich and Chicago's "values"?
City Hall must love burgers. Because there were no news conferences, no speeches, no angry mayoral condemnations about Kuma's "values."
Perhaps that's because Chicago politicians understand their own eternal truth at City Hall. Silence isn't silver.
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