Great night at the pub last night. Nine of us grabbed a pint and settled in for a good discussion, huddled around the table as if seeking respite from the snow drifts just outside.
A. showed up, who promptly styled himself ‘kinda the local guru.’ Then quickly thought better of it and shifted to ‘kinda the local guy.’ He’d been reading up on the history of Islam and noted to us that “Mohammed had to work hard. He fought with people, he had enemies, he bled. He worked to establish a religion. Unlike Jesus. Jesus didn’t have much opposition. He had it easy, just healing people and floating on the water. Mohammed though, man… that guy…”
I asked him if he had converted to Islam, with this newfound admiration of the prophet (PBUH). He said no.
After that little soliloquy we hit the sheet. First question, “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?” Most people admitted that they did not. R. said that she often takes the New Year as a time to take stock of where things are in her life and seek to continue to grow both personally and professionally. I noted that I sort of do the same. N. (who brought the pretzels) noted that her son always resolves to give up crack cocaine. That way he never fails to live up to his resolution.
We spent some time discussing why resolutions tend to be individual (we can’t make anyone else do something), but also noted the benefits of making resolutions with someone else or with a community of some sort (accountability, mutuality). We wondered about a couple in a relationship making resolutions. S. noted that she sort of does that with her husband, but that then they tend to pursue the resolutions individually, or each in their own way. Yet there is something about a communal effort that can create energy and certainly can hold one to what one has said. The other S. noted that companies and organizations often do the same thing but call them ‘goals’ or ‘plans.’
Then the question (contributed by C., who was down in Kzoo doing PT South) was: “Should Pub Theology have a 2012 resolution?” At this point the question of location came up, with RBB’s upcoming move to 16th Street. We had heard that the pub portion of the new location was not going to be as big a priority, so it is unclear whether there will be adequate space. There is talk of something new coming into the Warehouse district to take RB’s place, perhaps Short’s or someone else. It would be tempting to stay. Another possibility is the new Filling Station brewery coming in by the library. In any case, Pub Theology resolves to keep meeting (wherever we end up) and being the place in Northern Michigan for beer, conversation, and God.
Topic 2: “Individualism is a poor container for the Gospel.”
This was generally agreed, as S. (with the glasses) noted that “We can’t all play a solo at the same time.” The other S. (reading glasses) noted that individualism tends to cause people to apprehend what they believe is true about the world and why, rather than take someone else’s word for it, or simply buying into the community’s agreed upon take, and tends to cause people to move away from faith, so yes, it is a poor container for the gospel. B. highlighted the fact that Christianity is not meant to be an individualistic faith. It is not simply ‘my spirituality’ or ‘me and Jesus.’ Rather, it is meant to be experienced in community, lived out in community, and that when a group of people together take following Jesus seriously, and live into the Gospel, and live out the Gospel, that it is a powerful statement to those looking on. R. worried that such a focus on community would drown out people’s ability to be individuals. That there would be space for the ‘other’, whether that is someone divorced, or gay, or recovering, or whatever. B. noted that ideally the Gospel is inclusive and calls for a community that is open. Such a community ought to reflect the diversity of individuals who all come together because of who God is and because he has made and called each of them. It was concluded that there is such a thing as good individualism, and good communalism, but that both can go awry if we are not careful.
Topic 3: “In light of the 2012 end of time idea, do you think the redemption of Christ will come in this world — or does it require a new world?”
S. noted that there were 3 billion people on the planet when he was born, and there are now over 7 billion. R. (who refuses resolutions) noted that “The world will end.” B. asked, “Who here thinks they will live to see the end?” Most people said no. But then N. (who was back at long last! and brought the chips) blurted out, “What are y’all talking about?”
As the rest of the table continued to debate the end of the world, I got up to get another pint. This time a Dark Squirrel Lager.
The last three questions all sort of related:
4. What would have to happen for the believer not to believe?
5. What would have to happen for the unbeliever to believe?
6. Is theology (or what kind of theology is) compatible with belief in the constancy of nature?
I don’t have time (or the recall) to give you the rest of the conversation.
But a few highlights:
R. asked, “Why does it say unbeliever? Shouldn’t it be nonbeliever? What does unbeliever mean?”
N. (chips) pleaded, “Damn it! Call it Spirit, energy, essence, whatever! We all believe in it.”
N. (pretzels) noted, “It’s time to start preaching the stuff we’ve known for 200 years.” (referring to biblical scholarship that is often known about by seminaries and preachers but kept from the congregation because ‘they’re not ready for it’.)
And a couple more from the ‘local guru’:
“I think about time differently than most people.”
“Are any of you communists?” (This out of nowhere, in the middle of a completely unrelated discussion)
“Do you think it’s better to show weakness, or to hide weakness?”
And that’s a wrap! If you were there and care to fill us in on more of what happened, feel free. If you weren’t there, but have any thoughts on the above topics – post them below!