Prego Christian

“It’s in there!” What started as a 1984 commercial for spaghetti sauce unintentionally inspired two different definitions for “Prego Christian”!

definition of Prego ChristianPrego Christian reminds me of Alka-Seltzer Christian, since both terms are examples of how a brand name has become appropriated into the language of Christianese.

It was indeed back in 1984 that Prego debuted a memorable commercial with the catchphrase “Homemade taste! It’s in there!” The fad of saying “It’s in there!” in a thick Italian accent began almost immediately! And it faded almost as immediately, but not before it had become a part of the American cultural consciousness. And somewhere along the way, the sauce and its catchphrase got co-opted into the complicated world of Christianese. As it turns out, there are now two different flavors of “Prego Christians”! And no, the two kinds of Prego Christians are not “chunky” and “garlic lovers.”

The first kind of Prego Christian actually refers to Christians who defend a doctrinal position simply by saying “It’s in there!” when asked for a Bible verse to back up what they’re claiming. In other words, if you ask Prego Christians if there’s a Scripture verse to support their ideas, they’ll pat their Bible reassuringly and respond evasively with: “Oh, it’s in there!”

The second kind of Prego Christian is a Christian who appears to be spiritually mature but is actually lacking in some key areas of spiritual growth. This sense of Prego Christian alludes to three verses in the New Testament that use the metaphor of “meat” to refer to advanced Christian teachings (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12,14 KJV). The idea here is that if you’re a mature Christian, then “meat” is an essential part of your diet. But if you’re an immature Christian, then you can’t have meat yet—you have to stay on milk until you’re ready for the meat. How on Earth does that relate to Prego spaghetti sauce? Easy. Whereas Prego spaghetti sauce famously contains garlic, herbs, onions, and special spices (“It’s all in there!”), it doesn’t contain any meat. So Prego Christians are ones who appear to have all the right ingredients but they lack the most important ingredient of all: spiritual “meat.” Side note: For a few years now Prego has had some flavors of spaghetti sauce that do contain meat. Apparently when Prego first started in 1981 all their sauces were meatless? Nevertheless, Prego Christian continues to mean “plenty of sauce but no actual meat.”

Well there you have it! Have you heard of these “Prego Christians”? If so, when did you first hear about them? Conservatively speaking, I would guess that the term been around since the mid to late late 1990s, though it’s possible that it dates back as far as 1984 when the famous Prego TV commercial debuted. As is often the case with slang words, it’s hard to find printed or online records of actual use for some of these rare words. As you’ll see below, I can only find a couple of online references dating back to 2010, besides the few times I’ve heard people use it in speech.

 

Prego Christian n. See various senses.
1. [from the 1984 television commercial for Prego spaghetti sauce that featured the catchphrase “It’s in there!”] A Christian who claims that support for a doctrine is found in the Bible; a Christian who says regarding such support in the Bible, “It’s in there!”
2010 foreskin-restoration.net (15 Jun.) : As long as it’s in the Bible they assume it must be a good thing then. I call this the “Prego Christian.” It’s not a term I can use that anyone else would understand. But when I see their logic I always mutter to myself—“Prego, it’s in there!”
2. [from the absence of meat in Prego spaghetti sauce] A Christian who appears to be mature but in fact lacks maturity. The allusion is to meat as a metaphor for advanced Christian doctrine (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12,14) and therefore the absence of meat as a metaphor for spiritual immaturity.
2012 secoc.org (6 Apr.) : A professor at ACU [=Abilene Christian University] used to call us “Prego Christians” because we looked a lot like Christians, but when it came down to our ingredients we lacked the meat…. At least I think that’s what he meant and wasn’t just hungry.