Advertisement

Archive for Saturday, January 31, 2009

Theology on tap: Lawrence group gathers to discuss faith in casual atmosphere

Members of Theology on Tap discuss some of the challenges facing Christians during the weekly meeting at Henry’s, 11 E. Eighth St. The group gets its name from their contemporary approach in talking Christianity over drinks.

Members of Theology on Tap discuss some of the challenges facing Christians during the weekly meeting at Henry’s, 11 E. Eighth St. The group gets its name from their contemporary approach in talking Christianity over drinks.

January 31, 2009

Advertisement

Stir your faith

What: Theology on Tap

When: 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Thursdays

Where: Henry’s, 11 E. Eighth St.

Contact: Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt., 843-3220.

The Bible of John Wilson sits readily at hand next to a couple of drinks at Henry’s, 11 E. Eighth St.

The Bible of John Wilson sits readily at hand next to a couple of drinks at Henry’s, 11 E. Eighth St.

It’s a Thursday in January. The wind is icy, and the sun has long since sunk into the horizon. Upstairs in a dimly lit room, a dense cluster of Christians clog the stools and tables of Henry’s, 11 E. Eighth St.

They’re members of Lawrence Theology on Tap, and they share a love for Scripture and alcohol. Beer bottles, martini glasses and mixed drinks crowd the table tops. Jazz music pours from the speakers. And expletives color the conversations.

Swirling a cocktail around in a glass, co-founder Josh Longbottom, associate pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt., stabs an olive with a plastic martini fork and jumps into the discussion.

“You don’t have to be a crazy evangelical to share the good word,” he says.

Tonight the group is talking about Bible verse Mark 16:15: “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.’”

Everyone has a different opinion about the Scripture. Kristin Colahan-Sederstrom, a tax clerk with Douglas County, says it’s awkward to be asked if she’s been preaching the word of God. Preaching isn’t her profession, she says. And, anyway, the word alone is packed with ominous undertones.

“‘Preaching’ sounds very forceful to me,” Colahan-Sederstrom says. “In my mind, preaching pulls up a negative connotation, but sharing the good word, telling people that I’m a Christian, that doesn’t turn me off.”

Across the room Valerie Miller-Coleman, another co-founder of Theology on Tap, clutches a mug and waits for the conversation to lull before edging in her view.

“But if we all choose to share our faith quietly through action, what is the world hearing about Christianity?” she asks.

To punctuate her question, she drinks the last of her Honker’s Ale and plops her empty glass onto the table beside her.

Miller-Coleman is a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School. Since she finished college a few years ago, she has yearned to talk about theology.

So, as a member of Plymouth Congregational Church, Miller-Coleman worked with Longbottom to start a Bible study. And because Miller-Coleman also enjoys pushing back a couple of beers after work, she picked a secular venue to hold the sessions.

Theology on Tap meets on from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays at Henry’s. The group has been active since October, with anywhere from two to 15 people showing up.

But sessions sound more like a Socratic dialogue than a Bible study. To demonstrate, here’s a snatch of dialogue from one discussion:

“To me, I ultimately believe in the Bible because it’s the objective truth,” someone says.

“What do you mean by that — objective truth?”

“I guess I haven’t really thought that through.”

With dialogue its main goal, the group is laid-back and accepting, says Miller-Coleman. And it’s open to people of all faiths — or people of no faith. In fact, Miller-Coleman hopes atheists and agnostics could comfortably ease into the meetings without feeling alienated.

Some members don’t attend church regularly, or at all. Colahan-Sederstrom is a Christian, but she works Sundays and rarely has the chance to hear a sermon. So Thursdays fill her hunger for religious service, though Theology on Tap is a bit more casual than church. At Henry’s Bar, the feet under the tables and stools are adorned with spiky high heels, muddy winter boots or tattered tennis shoes. Jeans and T-shirts are the norm. And at one point, a quote from “Rocky” snakes its way into the meeting.

“You know Rocky better than you know the Bible,” someone quips.

There is no lecture or sermon at Theology on Tap. At each meeting, one person picks a Bible passage, and the group freely talks about it. At this night’s meeting, John Wilson picked Mark 16:15 — the good word passage. And the Scripture sparked an animated dialogue, sprinkled with laugher and high-fives.

Most members of Theology on Tap argue against extreme evangelicalism, saying that type of faith — the type that uses the threat of hell to intimidate nonbelievers — gives their flavor of Christianity a bad name.

Still, most members do want to spread their faith to others. And Wilson is one of them.

“I love Pachamama’s hamburgers, and I’m going to tell everyone I know about them because it brings joy in my life, and I want to share that,” Wilson says. “I’m going to do the same thing with Christianity.”

But conversion isn’t the group’s main motive, says Miller-Coleman. Sure, she would be happy if Theology on Tap tugged someone toward Christianity, but that’s not the group’s intention.

“Sure, we want this to be a gateway for folks — a gateway to deeper conversation,” Miller-Coleman says.

Comments

Omegatron 5 years, 10 months ago

“But if we all choose to share our faith quietly through action, what is the world hearing about Christianity?” she asks.... "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition."

Omegatron 5 years, 10 months ago

“To me, I ultimately believe in the Bible because it’s the objective truth,” someone says.“What do you mean by that — objective truth?”“I guess I haven’t really thought that through.”- In fact, Miller-Coleman hopes atheists and agnostics could comfortably ease into the meetings without feeling alienated. -... with conversations like that... Pass

merritr 5 years, 10 months ago

..with conversations like that, you can count me in. Omegatron, please let me know if I am misrepresenting your thoughts: You don't want to attend a conversation about Christianity and the Bible because someone is asked to explain what they meant by "....the objective truth"? You don't want to talk about the Bible in the presence of agnostics or atheists? Yeah, I'm sure Jesus would really frown upon that sort of thing. I'm sorry if I come off like a jerk, but I'm sure many readers would be interested to see why you would want to pass on this type of conversation.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 10 months ago

be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit ... fundamentalists not welcome at this. and, longbottom belongs to a church that denies the truth of Romans 1, so how seriously can you take anything he says about the Bible.

Omegatron 5 years, 10 months ago

"You don't want to talk about the Bible in the presence of agnostics or atheists? Yeah, I'm sure Jesus would really frown upon that sort of thing."To answer that part. I'm not Religious, nor am I afraid to have a religious debate with anyone."Omegatron, please let me know if I am misrepresenting your thoughts: You don't want to attend a conversation about Christianity and the Bible because someone is asked to explain what they meant by “….the objective truth”?"No. I don't mind if someone want to make such a brazen statement as calling something "The objective truth."But when challenged the best they can come up with is “I guess I haven’t really thought that through.” ?Please, I hear this all the time from religious "sheep" who call something something because that's what they've been told, not because they came to that conclusion on their own.Debating people like that is like talking to a brick wall. So again.... with conversations like that... PassOr with conversations like that I'll pass, to clarify.

Omegatron 5 years, 10 months ago

... not to say that I discourage anyone wanting to attend to attend.In fact I think it's a good thing to mix alcohol with religious discussion...

SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 10 months ago

"crazy evangelical" - Josh LongbottomAnother reason I don't attend Plymouth Congregational Church.

jonas_opines 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm sure that they're just as thankful as you.

jonas_opines 5 years, 10 months ago

"longbottom belongs to a church that denies the truth of Romans 1, so how seriously can you take anything he says about the Bible."Certainly possible to know a great deal about the Bible and think there's scant truth to that passage, as well as other passages throughout.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 10 months ago

While it is indeed indicative to the lack of thought and introspection involving most religious dogma, saying "I guess I haven't thought that through" is at least a start.Many christians, when confronted with such a question, would just dig their heels in with their dogmatic beliefs, refuse to think about it, and insult the questioner with accusations of going to hell and of being anti-christian."I guess I haven't thought it through" is a good start to begin to shed the light of reason on illogical, untenable beliefs.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 10 months ago

We need to "teach the controversy" when it comes to xtianity, xlam, and other religious dogma.

Omegatron 5 years, 10 months ago

"and insult the questioner with accusations of going to hell..."I've heard so many versions there of that I've lost track of what hell is. Whatever, where ever hell is, it's must be very populated since everyone says everyone else, who doesn't believe in their version of of x-faith, is going there...

Strontius 5 years, 10 months ago

As an atheist myself, I'm not sure anything would be gained by attending these meetings, particularly if the discussion centers around a biblical verse. In five years, I have failed to come across a new or unique religious argument. I would also annoy a lot of Christians by pointing out how they are most likely hypocrites, that most haven't read the Bible, don't actually understand the Bible, and that the label "Christian" is meaningless because everyone has their own interpretation of what it means to be a Christian and essentially makes up their own beliefs and then finds a biblical interpretation to fit them.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 10 months ago

Spirituality cannot flow from the constrained, conventional, dogmatic rhetoric of established, organized religion, however flowing the spirits of the distilled variety.Awe is borne of the unbridled conversation, unfolding between intimates... "... whenever two or more of you are gathered, without name...."

midwestmystic 5 years, 10 months ago

It'd be interesting if all the pastors (esp. ones with MDivs) in town were lined up and you asked them what they REALLY think about the bible or about some of the rituals and dogmas of the church institution. I'd bet almost everybody would be surprised. That is, of course, if they weren't worried about the churches firing them and kicking them out for saying what they really think and experienced. Change happens slowly and it's got to start somewhere.As for the authority of the bible, personally, the bible is not God and to worship it above all else is idolatry. the bible is a tool, like any book, to draw out essential truths, not to proclaim judgement. People who, like this group, ask questions, pursue growth and understanding, and can be honest about their lack of knowledge... I find it kind of refreshing, especially after reading these comments. Maybe I'll check them out.

Omegatron 5 years, 10 months ago

"It'd be interesting if all the pastors (esp. ones with MDivs) in town were lined up and you asked them what they REALLY think about the bible or about some of the rituals and dogmas of the church institution. "Are we talking about Christianity? If so the last word needs to be plural. Each Branch (Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Mormon, etc) has it's own church institution, tradition, philosophy, dogma, ritual, and the branches of those branches have additional ritual and beliefs...

bearded_gnome 5 years, 10 months ago

In all to many cases, the reason for the discomfort is that your observations are true. Though, I would hope that any Christian would not be too surprisedbecause we know ourselves to be sinners whom Christ died to save. to make that famous bridge for us to cross to God. ***Jonas, if people claim to be Christian, they claim to be Christlike. or, seeking to follow the example of Christ. Paul's letters spell that out thoroughly. when we because of our modern sensibilities decide that some portions of the new testament don't fit today, we are playing God. I know you do not claim to be a Christian. but these in this article do. the truth in Romans chapter 1 are also underscored by a passage in 1Corinthians chapter 6. when people say "oh that was for them back then" it becomes a slippery slope, and many things we might not like can be excused away.

midwestmystic 5 years, 10 months ago

Oh my,this is an argumentative bunch. Omegatron, while your observations are true, there are also ways that the Christian Church is one big freaking institution. For instance, did you hear any other pastor besides UCC mentioned? No. Why? Because as a whole,the church institution encourages and silenty (or not so silently) pressures pastors to keep their heads down and not create waves. So, for any pastor who does so risks a lot. All I'm saying is that it's refreshing to have someone take a leap and encourage dialogue in a different setting. And I wish more pastors felt they could do so. Maybe then Christianity would be perceived different in the media.

Omegatron 5 years, 10 months ago

"Omegatron, while your observations are true, there are also ways that the Christian Church is one big freaking institution. For instance, did you hear any other pastor besides UCC mentioned? No. Why? Because as a whole,the church institution encourages and silenty (or not so silently) pressures pastors to keep their heads down and not create waves. So, for any pastor who does so risks a lot."Yeah. I think that's one of the main things all branches of that faith, of any faith for that matter, have in common.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.