Skip to content

A Theology of Ribs

One of my passions is learning the fine art of smoking various meats and learning the nuances of regional forms of barbecuing.  I have now become known as the guy in my congregation that wants to throw parties centered on everyone eating brisket and well-rubbed and smoked ribs.  From the double-dry rubbed ribs of Memphis to the pulled pork and coleslaw topped with pepper-vinegar sauce in North Carolina, I love all things barbecue.  In the spirit of perhaps the single greatest contribution of America to the world: ribs, I offer this theology of ribs.

Firstly, to eat ribs is to live in the mode of receptive doxology before God as we receive from God a gift of new life and promise.  It should be noted that in the story of the Bible, meat is not given to humankind to eat as a result of the Fall, rather it is given after God’s covenant with Noah that he will never again destroy the earth (Gen. 9:2).  Thus, the eating of meat is an act of celebration and confidence in God’s gratuitous promise to preserve, sustain and nurture our lives.

Secondly, to cook and eat ribs is to resist the consumerist zeitgeist of this present age.  Smoking meats is an inherently timeful activity, requiring patience and the discipline of submitting oneself to learning the skills and virtues necessary to produce properly tender and delicious meats.  As such it is an embodiment of discipleship which requires Christians to timefully commit to learning the hard art of the craft of discipleship.  In a world of instantly prepared Big Mac’s, Christians must be found amongst those timefully smoking racks of baby back ribs if they are to be counted as true disciples.

Thirdly, to cook and eat ribs is an act of subversive solidarity with the poor and the oppressed.  It is not often known, but the most delicious and treasured forms of barbecue, particularly ribs are, historically speaking, the product of slaves and peasants.  It was those members of society who were at the bottom which were given these cuts of meat because the larger cuts of boneless meat were treasured by the rich.  Thus, the enslaved, the poor, and the oppressed developed methods of slow-cooking over smoke that tenderized and rendered mouth-wateringly delicious these “less desirable” cuts of meat.  Thus, to eat ribs is to participate in an ancient tradition of solidarity with the oppressed.

Fourthly, to cook and eat ribs is to participate in the hospitality of the Triune God.  To engage in the timeful process of preparing ribs is to be turned outside of oneself toward welcoming others into the joys of mutual feasting.  No one cooks a rack of ribs for themselves.  To prepare ribs is to live ek-statically and in the inherently ecclesial mode of koinonia.

Finally, to cook and eat ribs is to anticipate, through the Spirit the final eschatological consummation of all things in the great messianic banquet.  Some vegetarian Christians may insist that in the eschaton there will be no more eating of meat.  However, the prophetic visions insist that this is not the case:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine– the best of meats and the finest of wines.  On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;  he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. (Isa. 25:6-8)

Thus, I believe we can confidently say that we will all feast on ribs eternally.  And thus we shall find ourselves, rapt in Triune goodness enjoying forever the luminescent symphony of savor: smoked ribs and barbecue sauces from all tribes, tongues, and nations in the fullness of perichoretic delectability.


  1. Bryan L wrote:


    Monday, July 23, 2007 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  2. WTM wrote:

    As much as I love the wit and whimsy, is anyone else starting to get a little tired of the “A Theology of [insert your pet issue or hobby here]” posts floating around the theo-blogosphere?

    Monday, July 23, 2007 at 12:28 pm | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:

    Well, I’ve only seen one other, so…not just yet for me. Besides this IS a holy topic and I won’t be swayed on that point.

    Monday, July 23, 2007 at 12:32 pm | Permalink
  4. d. w. horstkoetter wrote:

    Well done. We must partake of this theology when I swing by. Mmmm. Who says theology isn’t delicious?

    Monday, July 23, 2007 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  5. Bobby Grow wrote:

    Yum . . .

    Monday, July 23, 2007 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  6. WTM wrote:

    Touche :-)

    Monday, July 23, 2007 at 12:45 pm | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    Dave, I have four racks of spare ribs, three racks of baby back, and one brisket all in my fridge right now. I’m sure a good bit will be here waiting to be smoked upon your arrival, bro!

    Monday, July 23, 2007 at 12:45 pm | Permalink
  8. jgoroncy wrote:

    Fantastic. So glad that I’ve just had dinner otherwise I’d be drooling all over the keyboard by now. BTW: What drink do you recommend to go with such a messianically- shaped bbq? I assume that point #3 means that a $25 bottle of merlot would cancel out any sense of participating ‘in an ancient tradition of solidarity with the oppressed’ with any sense of integrity.

    Monday, July 23, 2007 at 12:46 pm | Permalink
  9. Halden wrote:

    Jason, the issue with the Merlot, wouldn’t be that it would cancel out solidarity with the oppressed, it’s that ribs must be paired with BEER! We’re talking essentials here.

    Monday, July 23, 2007 at 12:50 pm | Permalink
  10. gmw wrote:

    This is the most brilliant post yet. Beer with my ribs indeed. I think that reading of Isaiah is a faithful one. And as a Texan, I would offer that the beer & bbq wedding reception common here is an eschatological foretaste of the great Wedding Feast!

    Monday, July 23, 2007 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
  11. adamsteward wrote:

    Boo-Yah!! I can’t wait for the ribs. And if they run out, there’s always the chicken in my freezer.

    Monday, July 23, 2007 at 5:24 pm | Permalink
  12. angela wrote:



    Tuesday, July 24, 2007 at 3:13 pm | Permalink
  13. Russell wrote:

    Great post! Not too much of a stretch at all, although I thought like the post might be, on the face of it.
    One thing:
    On the third point, I’d like to ask how eating delectable ribs joins in with today’s poor in “subversive solidarity.”

    Tuesday, July 24, 2007 at 10:20 pm | Permalink
  14. Halden wrote:

    It really is all just a joke, Russell. I guess it would be subversive if you invited them all to eat with you. Which is always a vital practice for rich christians.

    Wednesday, July 25, 2007 at 8:00 am | Permalink
  15. Russell wrote:

    So I missed the sarcasm. That’ll teach me to catch up on my blog feeds immediately after a weeklong trip with sr. high students…

    Wednesday, July 25, 2007 at 8:45 am | Permalink

Switch to our mobile site