Pub Theology, by Bryan Berghoef

Once when I was playing darts with some locals in a tavern, I scored a bull’s-eye, and another player shouted, “Tobias, you’re pure evil!” Immediately tapping my inner Augustine, I responded, “Does evil really exist or is it the absence of good?”

That question immediately sparked a fun debate that reflected genuine interest from my conversation partners at the bar. It was the kind of engagement that professors often wish for in the classroom. Some of the best theological discussions I have experienced have happened in pubs.

In recent years, a number of Roman Catholic dioceses and other Christian denominations and churches in the United States have sponsored Theology on Tap sessions at pubs to reach out to younger adults, many of whom rarely darken a church door. I organized such sessions for a few years at my St. Louis neighborhood watering hole, the Royale, an uncommonly fitting venue given that its walls are adorned with images of figures like Ignatius of Loyola, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., Lech Wałęsa, Nelson Mandela, W. E. B. Du Bois and Harriet Tubman. Theology on Tap usually includes a presentation on a topic by a theologian or clergyperson, followed by a question and answer period. However, I think that Bryan Berghoef’s approach is perhaps more palatable for pub patrons.