*Originally published Feb. 9, 2013. Moved up for interest in Nevada Brews.
Many of the world’s problems come from fundamental disagreements in beliefs, religious or not.
Bryan Berghoef, the author of Pub Theology, has set out to stop that — in a sense — or at the very least help others come to an understanding of each other. After starting a church in Traverse City, he realized there are quite a few people who don’t even think about going to church on Sundays.
He then heard of groups in London who gather together at pubs, drink beer and take part theological and philosophical discussions.
“We decided to give it a go,” Berghoef said. “Before we knew it we had atheists, humanists, Jewish, Muslims, Catholics, a great mix of people coming.”
The startup Right Brain Brewery played home to the group and Berghoef said it made for a great setting. He also enjoys the idea of trying great craft beers.
“It was just hanging out and talking,” he said. “It was a genuine place to explore, it wasn’t like church. People would challenge, but for the most part, it was understanding.”
Berghoef said only twice were there issues with the drinking and heated discussions, and it was more of a place to respect each other.
“You could see some people get visibly frustrated,” he said. “If you come in with the attitude that you’ll change people’s views, you’ll be frustrated.”
Although each week would touch on different subjects, there were a few recurring themes.
Such as, What is faith? Why do you believe in God? Why don’t you believe in God? Is evil real?
On the subject of evil, Berghoef mentioned a murder of a local high school girl.
“If God is there and God [is good], why would he allow that to happen,” he said. “It’s an interesting piece of discussion because everyone has tragic events in their lives.
“For some people, it strengthens their belief in God and that he’s there for them. Others see it as a spur and it turns them away from that faith.”
Sometimes they’d touch on more contemporary and current issues, such as Manti Te’o.
But the whole discussion circle wasn’t to bring people into Berghoefs church, and certainly not to preach his beliefs. Rather he wanted to spread out from his conservative upbringings and learn about others.
“My sense growing up was that we didn’t have a lot of opportunities to know people with different thoughts than us,” he said. “And now with technology, circles are getting smaller. We need to grow that respect for what others might think.”
He said there are conversations and roundtables such as this across the globe, and he’s happy it’s happening. The world is a place that fundamental disagreements cause divisions, and in some cases, wars. issues of faith and religion are often a major part of these misunderstandings.
“You can’t change the world all at once, but it’s great to know it’s happening,” he said.
Sitting around at the pub to learn from each other is just one small effort to bring peace.
A couple of side notes
He recently moved from Traverse City to Washington D.C.
“We were in Traverse City for seven years, we were getting a sense of comfort,” he said. “We didn’t want to blink, look up and have 20 years go by, and we felt God calling us to an urban setting.”
He also said we’re all put here with the intrinsic sense we know the world is not as good as it could be. Some of us address this brokenness in positive ways, others in unhealthy ways.
Bryan continues to write on issues of faith, culture and beer at pubtheologian.com.