Theology on Tap
He nervously entered the bar, uncertain of what he would experience. Would he be shamed? Ridiculed? Verbally attacked? When he saw us—our group of ten, packed together at a table like sardines—he approached, but cautiously. “Is this Theology on Tap?” he asked. “Yessir, grab a seat and order a beer!” I replied.
On most nights, our gathering had been a safe place to ask hard questions. Seekers, atheists, agnostics, and “nones” had found our community and our dialogue courteous, respectful, and non-threatening. Tonight would be no different. At least not for us.
His name was Jason. His nervousness had disappeared as his frustration became palpable. It wasn’t long before he blurted out, “I’m an atheist, and you guys are all Christians, so …knives out! Let’s get to the debate!”
I paused, at first uncertain as to how to respond. “Umm, you know, Jason, this isn’t a debate. Everyone is welcome, and I’m really glad you’re here. Our only rule is that every idea and every person must be respected … and actually you’ve made it kinda awkward by assuming you can tell who is a Christian and who is not. Maybe you can dial it back a bit?”
“In fact,” I continued, “I’d love to hear your thoughts on tonight’s topic…”
Well, it ended up that there wasn’t merely one topic that night. The conversation ping-ponged from person to person, and from question to question. “If God is good, why is there suffering?” “How can a loving God send anyone to hell?” “How can Jesus be the only way?” These were all questions Jason had posed before. He was used to being preached at. He was quite experienced at hearing simple answers from Christians to complex, multi-faceted, and emotionally-loaded questions.
What Jason hadn’t experienced was being asked about his life.
Asked about his thoughts.
Asked about his feelings.
And over the course of a few hours, something miraculous happened.
His tone softened. His anger subsided. At one point, his eyes even glistened with emotion.
No, Jason didn’t fall on his face in that bar, confessing Jesus as Lord.
Honestly, I don’t even know where his story went after that evening, because we never heard from him again.
But we did see his FB post.
“Tonight, I went to a bar and talked religion with some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met.”
Wow. And all we really did was listen.
The theology that was “on tap” that night—the spiritual insight that began to loosen an angry knot around a young man’s soul—was simply that he matters.
He matters to God.
And he matters to us.