A Nazarene walks into a bar

As a student who has been attending a Nazarene University and a Nazarene Church for four years now, I will admit, I was fairly confident in my understanding of Nazarene doctrine. No, I had never actually read the Church of the Nazarene Manual, but really, what could a lousy pamphlet have to say about temperance that I have not already heard on this campus?

Quite a lot actually.

There I was, all ready to argue why Nazarene Theology and Pub Theology actually were not as incompatible as they first may appear. After all, both aim to spread the love of Jesus Christ. Both want to see sinners saved. And both advocate for a liberal dose of apologetics at every meal. Contrary to what eHarmony may tell you, it takes a lot more than a few common interests and beliefs to be compatible.

Before we get into why Nazarenes should probably never ever engage in Pub Theology, lets start by answering the question: What is Pub Theology?

Pub Theology is what it says on the label: go into a bar, find some new friends, and discuss our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ over a couple of pints. Apologetics meets ale.

While Google analytics may tell you this is a new trend, Pub Theology is actually a lot older than you think. Legend has it the first Pub Theologian was Saint Arnold of Soissons, who kicked off the trend when he saved his entire medieval village of heathens from the plague by insisting they all drink beer and beer alone. Another Pub Theologian that you have probably heard of was Martin Luther, who wrote in his book, “The Bondage of Will”: “Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!” Even C.S. Lewis was known to talk theology over a good lager.

While to some Christians, the idea of mixing the Bible and beer is just as crazy as the idea of mixing liquor and beer is to some wine snobs, most adherents of Pub Theology would argue they are just WWJD-ing. After all, the book of John tells us that Jesus’ first miracle was refilling the kegs. Uh, pardon me— refilling the ὑδρίαι.

If it’s not obvious already, I am all for this old trend made new. I love the idea of Christians meeting people where they are and spreading the light of Christ in the dark places. The only question I still had was how do Nazarenes fit into this new trend?

The answer I arrived at will probably shock no one: Not at all.

Contrary to what I have been told, the Nazarene’s anti-alcohol doctrine has nothing to do with moderation or neighborly consideration. It doesn’t even really have to do with personal integrity. It has to do with the complete and total annihilation of “the social acceptability of the ‘alcohol culture.’” That’s right. Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1929 because the Church of the Nazarene actually advocates for the total de-socialization of alcohol.

I am not here to share my opinion on the Nazarene policy concerning intoxicants. What I am here to share about is whether or not Pub Theology and Nazarene Theology are compatible. After researching the subject, it is my opinion that the two are 100 percent incompatible.

According to the manual, the goal of the Nazarene church is to eradicate social drinking and the acceptability of said practice from the face of society, not only by personally avoiding it, but by refusing to endorse, traffic or license alcohol. Not only that, Nazarenes are to actively minimize others’ access to alcohol and to vote against it. I’m pretty sure the option to vote against alcohol hasn’t been on the ballot since WWII, but way to be prepared.

Any way you dice it, if you are a member of the Nazarene church and you adhere to Nazarene doctrine, I do not see how you could, in good conscience, engage in Pub Theology.

But maybe you are not “that sort of Nazarene.” Maybe you don’t need the whole country to be dry, you just personally abstain from alcohol. And right now you are saying, what’s wrong with me sitting in a pub, chatting up the cliental, and winning local hearts and minds for Jesus? To all of you, I give this extended metaphor:

Imagine you are at your favorite burger joint, sitting at the dining room counter, enjoying your six oz. thick, juicy, 100 percent black angus beef patty. In saunters a new guy. He looks nice enough, but you can’t help noticing his PETA shirt. You decide to let it slide. He hops up to the counter and orders himself a cobb salad. You think, that’s odd, ordering a salad at the best burger joint in town. But he’s friendly enough, and roots for the Bears, so you decide to let it slide.

Until his salad arrives and he proceeds to pick every shred of bacon off of it. And that’s when you realize—this man isn’t here for the burgers or dogs. He’s not even here to watch the game. By the time he finally hands you a leaflet and break into his animal rights spiel, you are not even surprised. Like most people, you can spot a vegan from a mile away.

If you can understand how a vegan canvassing a burger joint could easily come across as preachy, judgmental and downright intrusive, then you can probably understand why anyone other than a designated driver might have a hard time abstaining from alcohol while trying to share the gospel in a bar.

But hey, if after all that you still think Pub Theology is something you have been called to peruse, then by all means, knock yourself out. Just do yourself a favor and hold off until after you graduate from Olivet.


Emily Lohr, Staff Writer

1 Comment

  1. Hi Emily. Glad to see you interested in the souls of people who frequent bars. I mean that with all sincerity! Your conclusion (derived at from a personal opinion rather than an empirical study) fascinates me. I’m not certain why you think people in a bar wouldn’t be open to dialogue with a non-drinker. Sadly, in my 54 years, I’ve generally found the churched to be far more suspicious and close-minded than the unchurched.

    I frequent the local pub, sometimes for a meal, sometimes for dialog. I am friends with the owner who is always glad to see me come in and partners with me in local community events. During my visits I often have people come over to my table to engage with me. I have never had anyone there put off by the fact I don’t drink alcohol. Perhaps one difference in the vegan in your story and my visits to our local pub is that Holy Spirit leads me there, goes ahead of me, acts as a shield around me and uses the moment to draw others to Himself through my love of them. The fact that I’m less interested in convincing them to join my cause and more interested in just getting to know them and meeting any need I see, draws them into conversation and relationship rather than putting them off.

    Our local pub isn’t a recruiting station for church membership; it’s a place to meet people and share the love of Jesus with them in any way He directs. But, that’s true of our local grocery store, restaurants, schools, parks, etc. I don’t view anywhere as a recruiting grounds for our church. Others joining my cause has never been my focus and never will be. Sharing Him through loving words and actions is my passion. For His disciples, whether Naz or otherwise, that SHOULD just simply flow….like when the Master walked among us.

    I appreciate you thinking through these issues. Great job! 🙂

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