February 2, 2011

Church in the Pub?

People who are even semi active in the community of skepticism will have known about different Skeptics in the Pub going on, as they are successfully  taking place in numerous cities all over the globe. If imitation is the greatest act of flattery, skeptics should start to feel good about themselves because at least one pub near my home town is starting to offer church in the pub.

The Tir Nan Og has started offering a church 'service' on Sundays from 7-10 in Kingston Ontario. During that time, "There will be live music, dancing and drama by local performers and an extremely brief address by pastor Steve Fritz-Millett, who was introduced to such services while living in New Zealand." This service obviously isn't aimed at the traditional bible thumping crowed, as it will be the bass that is thumping the bible now.

Now I could go a few directions from here, but I think I'll start with talking about the decline of the church and why church in the pub brings some of what it has lost back. Church used to be, in poker terms, the only game in town. Entertainment and social integration came through the act of getting together on Sundays and it was the only option for people who didn't have facebook or radios. Singing, and dancing weren't a inconsequential part of church service, and while the community building aspect is included in bringing people together to talk about morality, it's importance has also faded at a community level.

Now there are a plethora of free and dare I say more entertaining options for people, anything from clubs to internet sites. While, this has been the case for a while, and there were other options in the past as well, something has changed. Church as went from the only game in town, to being equal or nearly equal in the two previously mentioned categories, and now it has been far surpassed.

This also accounts for the information gained from a Gallup poll about religiosity in different countries, which points out that,

"Each of the most religious countries is relatively poor, with a per-capita GDP below $5,000. This reflects the strong relationship between a country's socioeconomic status and the religiosity of its residents. In the world's poorest countries -- those with average per-capita incomes of $2,000 or lower -- the median proportion who say religion is important in their daily lives is 95%. In contrast, the median for the richest countries -- those with average per-capita incomes higher than $25,000 -- is 47%."

Correlation doesn't mean causation, and there are numerous reasons for poorer people to be more religious but it would make sense with the numbers that as people get more options for community involvement and entertainment, they would rely on religion less for those things. I'd argue that a large factor is what I described above.

I think church in the pub goes a little way towards getting some of that back, while also creating some free press. I don't know many people motivated to see a choir, even when they have the ability to join in, but when you add a band, tone down the rhetoric and include some drinking everything inevitably gets a little more interesting, heck I'm not above taking a cheap shot here, it may even take drinking to make some of those passages make sense.

Yet, there is a question of what the bible says about drinking that remains to be answered. The pastor is quoted as saying that, "Jesus's first miracle was to turn water into wine at a wedding. Jesus was against people overindulging in alcohol, but not alcohol itself." and while that is true, as is the case with most arguments based on biblical words the opposite case could be made depending on what quotes you cherry pick.

A good list of them come from, What the Bible Says About Drunkenness and Why It's Wrong, from which I'll take a few and show them here:

Proverbs 23 - Verse 29 "Show me people who drink too much, who have to try out fancy drinks, and I will show you people who are miserable and sorry for themselves, always causing trouble and always complaining. Their eyes are bloodshot, and they have bruises that could have been avoided."

Isaiah 28 - Verse 1 "Destruction is certain for the city of Samaria - the pride and joy of the drunkards of Israel! 7 Israel is being led by drunks! The priests and prophets reel and stagger from beer and wine. They make stupid mistakes as they carry out their responsibilities." (The other sites emphasis)

Galations 5 - Verse 19  "When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, 20 idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin." (Sites emphasis again)

Ephesians 5 - Verse 18 "Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you."

So I think the case can be made that drinking isn't something that is actively encouraged within the bible, but there are also passages that don't demonize it to the level that those previous quotes do. Either way I think that more of this type of thing will begin to happen and I'm actually alright with it. I support peoples freedom to talk about whatever they like, especially in a public place like a pub, but it goes further than that as well. A bar is a more comfortable to raise questions and disagreement, somewhere much more conducive to an open exchange of information, and while I wouldn't buy what they were selling they can try to sell it to mature people.

In fact, I think all church should be held in pubs and bars. People, at least where I'm from, have to be 19 to go to the bar and as such they would be old enough to make decisions about what to believe for themselves, instead of being indoctrinated with beliefs. Now it may be argued that people are indoctrinated with scientific information from schools, but I'd think it would be wrong to term science in schools as indoctrination as whats really being encouraged is for people test ideas and to think for themselves. 

Thanks for reading,

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