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Theology & beer

Theology & beer May 2, 2016

A trend today is holding Bible studies, outreach ministries, and theological discussions in pubs, with the accompaniment of good beer.  I’ve spoken at some of those.

But talking about faith with what is sometimes called “the Lutheran beverage” is not a new phenomenon.  It goes way back, according to an article in Journal Sentinel from Milwaukee (natch!), and was especially instrumental in the Reformation.  (I would add to the article’s examples the importance of the White Horse Inn in Cambridge, where luminaries of the English Reformation such as Tyndale, Coverdale,  Barnes, and Cranmer, met to discuss the latest writings out of Wittenberg.  That English tavern is where the radio show got its name.)

Favorite takeaway from the article:  Catholic countries drank wine; Reformation countries drank beer.

What do you think about this today?  Should a church sponsor such events, or does it work better on the parachurch level, as informal gatherings, or when the theological discussions over a pint occur naturally among friends?  Or do you think the combination of alcohol and religion is totally inappropriate?

From Kathy Flanigan,  Bible and a brew: Groups get together to talk faith over a pint, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The big screen at Bernie’s Tap Room in Waukesha flickers with a baseball game between Texas Christian University and Dallas Baptist. The players are nearly life-size.

But the action on-screen is lost to the 15 people seated at two long tables in front of the game. They are deep in conversation about Jesus, church and life, stopping occasionally for a sip from the pint glass at hand.

Jesus + Beer is in session.

In and near Milwaukee, some people are getting a little faith with their froth. Assemblages like Jesus + Beer are part of a national trend of groups combining Bible study with elbow-bending. Sometimes, it’s just easier to talk religion over a beer, one pastor said. It’s also an idea that goes back to Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. . . .

Not that these kinds of groups are unique. Or new. Pub talks about religion have been going on since the Middle Ages.

J. Patrick Hornbeck, chair of the theology department at Fordham University in New York, says pubs represent a space of freedom that churches don’t always offer.

“It gives people permission to say a little more,” said Hornbeck, who says pubs offer something of a theological lubricant. “It’s something more of an equalizing force.”

Drinking beer and talking religion played a role in the Protestant Reformation, said Steve Jerbi, pastor at All Peoples Lutheran Church, 2600 N. 2nd St. . . .

“Beer is God’s way of saying he wants us to be happy,” according to an adage credited to Martin Luther. More than one pub theology practitioner repeated it.

David Dault, head of the nonprofit Chicago Sunday Evening Club, said the relationship between religion and alcohol can be chronicled through the Reformation. Look for which countries had beer as their main alcoholic beverage as opposed to wine: Catholics and wine vs. Protestants and beer.

As in Luther’s day, perhaps, “craft beer allows you to nerd out about the technicalities — about hops, about mash time. People that geek out about theology have a similar craft,” Dault said.

“There’s a certain technical pride in both creating something and playing with holy things, intoxicating substances. Things that are spiritual in both senses of the word.”

[Keep reading. . .]

HT:  John Frahm

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