Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Tonight I attended the greatest church on Earth: Beer Church
Legend has it that beer church started 5 years ago when a guy named Wally invited some friends to the Horse Brass Pub to talk about stuff. The next week they went again, and each invited friends, and so on and so forth. For the last five years, a mixture of people have shown up to the Horse Brass each Wednesday night at 8 to talk about religion. There’s no creed, no denomination requirement, no judgment, and except for my diet coke chaser, no non-alcoholic beverages.
As is my way, I was the first to arrive. I found Wally, introduced myself, and for about 20 minutes, I had him all to myself. Not knowing anything about each other, he asked me what my current status is. Now, when most people ask this question, they’re asking if you’re single or not. Wally wanted to know my religious status. Fair enough. I explained that currently, I’m a discontent atheist. I went through my story of working backwards from fervent Christianity, ditching hell, then finding no need for a savior if there’s nothing to be saved from, then no good reason to continue believing in God at all, to accepting the term atheist.
After my testimony, I asked Wally what his situation is. He’s a “recovering fundamentalist.” He is still very much Christian, and claims to hold a “conservative” interpretation of the Bible. He talked about his wife of 30 years, and how he misses her right now because she’s on a 5000 mile bike trip, riding 100 miles per day. We talked for awhile about hell, and his view of it. Wally believes in hell, but not necessarily in the way most people do. Wally said there’s no scripture that says the decision to accept Christ or not has to come during this life, so it’s entirely possible that people can make that decision after we’re dead and in the presence of God. Even then, he says, people will reject God, and will have chosen hell, which is nothing more than separation from God. He believes those souls will be annihilated, and he thinks he can back it up with scripture. Interesting!
Others arrived, and we talked about such broad topics as capitalism, utilitarianism, public schools, the role of faith in voting. It was great. I don’t have a lot of wisdom to impart on anyone following beer church, but I definitely that feel that this kind of gathering can do nothing but good for people. To be able to put down our sensitivities, our need to be right, and just listen to other people, and accept them as human beings, no matter what their opinions - that is great. I told a Christian that I’m an atheist while having no idea he was a Christian, and he didn’t argue with me at all. We left as friends, and I’m certain I’ll be back again soon. This was the perfect church for me. A diverse group of people who aren’t interested in anything more than a good conversation, and some beer. Amen!