Finally, Bryan Berghoef, evangelical Christian pastor and beer connoisseur, gives us in written form what so many of us secretly desire: permission to mix up our beer and religion, in public even!
In Pub Theology, he describes the formation of a club so unique as to be both hated and feared in his community, a club in which the only requirement is humble curiosity and the willingness to discuss things of God and faith. Invited are Islamists, Buddhists, atheists, Christians, and learners of all persuasions who would like to discuss key topics that form the basis of religion, in a setting that provides the consumption of good IPAs and Extra Special Darks.
It makes perfect sense, really. The availability of alcohol both precludes the arrival of Bible-toting ranters who need to dominate the conversation; and the presence of alcohol in the veins ensures conversation flows with less inhibition than such a subject generally engenders. Opponents of such an idea express outrage that a Christian pastor would not only meet in such a pagan setting, but also that he would not even subtly direct the conversation to a three-point sermon on salvation through the blood of Jesus at the end of each meeting.
Quite the contrary, he provides merely the questions to get conversation going, allowing all parties to share openly their opinions and experiences, and if a Bible-thumper starts filibustering, the conversation is politely re-directed to a new topic. Berghoef encourages an “exploration approach” to faith, which focuses on experiencing God graciously in life-affirming and socially beneficial community, rather than an “indoctrination approach,” which focuses on knowing right answers. Christians who feel the need to believe the right things will no doubt cringe when reading much of this book, but to them he would say, No Fear! The very strength of our faith, and yes, even the faiths of others who are different, is his ultimate goal. Such conversations strip down notions that we perhaps have never thought through, that perhaps are not truly necessary components of traditions that may be entirely human in origin, citing that “Ironically, it may well be that opening ourselves up to the traditions of others is the very thing that helps save our own.”
Perhaps, he contests, being right is not really very Christian at all: “In our efforts to refute other perspectives, to shout the loudest, to make sure people know that we are right, we may in fact be betraying the very God we are seeking to represent,” and the best way to show faith in Jesus is to “simply spend time with anyone, simply because they are a fellow human being, and that perhaps I am especially called to spend time with those who are often outcast by our communities of faith.”
A pub seems like one of the least intimidating places to meet folks of different backgrounds, who might ultimately benefit most from such conversations. Do you dare do it yourself? Maybe a Pub Theology setting is just the challenge your faith has been needing.
» Pub Theology is available in paperback or for Kindle at Amazon.com.