A potent mix
‘Pub Theology’ blends beer, God and conversation
“I’m an absurdist.” “It kind of reminds me of Kierkegaard.” “To answer that question we have to define what ‘God’ means.”
This is not typical bar banter in downtown Las Vegas. Of course, Banger Brewing is not a typical bar and “Pub Theology” is not a typical event. Held the last Monday of each month at the high-ceilinged, keg-strewn craft brewery, “Pub Theology” attempts to merge beer, God and conversation.
A tricky task indeed—one that could lead to drunken, pathetic bar brawls—but not at “Pub Theology.” The event, which launched in February and is billed as “Different Brews, Different Views,” is surprisingly civil. It does, however, feature its fair share of verbal sparring.
That, of course, is part of the idea.
“We wanted to create a space where people could discuss life and faith,” explained Jeremy Martin, who founded and moderates the event. “You see all types of discussion groups and trivia nights at bars, and I thought what better place to come together to talk about things that people might consider controversial.”
Apparently, there’s a demand for such discussions downtown. The debut drew 18 people to Banger Brewing and the September edition saw 15 eager and attentive attendees spread across two tables. The attendees included a student, musician, delivery driver, management consultant and member of the Air Force. The conversation, sparked by photocopied talking points, ranged from football to fatherhood.
“It energizes me,” said regular attendee Stephanie Jaramillo. “I like to be in a group of people—some that I know, some that I don’t—and be able to have interesting conversations. I learn new things and get different perspectives. I really like rich conversation and it doesn’t seem to happen organically that often.”
Jaramillo is part of the core group of people helping Martin launch his startup church Downtown Faith. For several months they’ve been fundraising and team building. They plan to debut the church early next year in downtown Las Vegas.
Jaramillo was reluctant to call herself a Christian, explaining that the label can carry negative connotations. She simply said, “I follow Jesus.”
However, attendee Olivier Compagne doesn’t consider himself a Christian or follower of Jesus. Nonetheless, he explained, he feels comfortable at the event.
“It’s very open; that’s what I like about it,” said Compagne in a French accent. “If it was extremely Christian-oriented I probably wouldn’t attend. I’m interested in spirituality and psychology and I find the discussions interesting. I also try to influence them [the other attendees], because I don’t always agree with everything they say. I like sharing my views and opening them up to a different way of thinking.”
Martin, who’s from Jacksonville, Fla., and moved to Las Vegas in 2011, said “Pub Theology” is about “conversation not conversion.” “Conversation” implies that everyone is welcome, he explained, while “conversion” or “religion” can come across as one-sided or exclusive. Despite popular belief, he added, religious and nonreligious people can socialize together and have productive, two-sided conversations (and, indeed, that seems to be one of the goals of “Pub Theology”).
After the September event, as glasses sat empty on the tables and the crowd slowly dispersed, Martin said that he hopes “Pub Theology” will eventually be held twice a month at Banger Brewing or spread to other downtown venues. Maybe someone will start a Wednesday night at Atomic Liquors or a Thursday at the Gold Spike, he said, thinking aloud.
“Our goal is to create a space where people can have discussions,” said Martin. “Our church will be one space, but this is another. We want to create all kinds of spaces downtown where people are having conversations and connecting and building relationships, whether they agree with each other or not.”
The December “Pub Theology” is scheduled for Monday the 26th at Banger Brewing (450 Fremont St.- #135). For more information on the event and Downtown Faith, visit dtlvfaith.com or search “Downtown Faith” on Facebook.