Why is "bar" part of the theme of our show (besides the obvious joke)? Kyle and Randy break this down with the help of an excellent article by Rich Manning called "The Complicated Journey from Holy Studies to Hospitality," which interviews various bartenders about their experiences in the seemingly contrasting spaces of the hospitality industry and the church.
The article gives us occasion to discuss why we do adult beverage tastings, why people are often more comfortable in bars than churches, Randy's time in the hospitality industry, what we think about the risk of alcoholism, and more. It also gives us an opportunity to tease our Patreon in our regular episode feed. If you're already a subscriber, catch the full conversation over at our Patreon page. If you're not, enjoy this teaser and consider subscribing at www.patreon.com/apastorandaphilosopher. Thanks for your support!
The bourbon featured in this episode is Noteworthy (Randy) and Bardstown Discovery Series (Kyle).
You can find the transcript for this episode here.
Production note: we don't typically use our usual fancy setup for bonus content, so apologies that the audio quality is a bit lower than our regular episodes.
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Welcome everyone to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. You may have noticed that this is not a typical episode; it came out at a weird time, and the length is not quite maybe what you would expect from a normal episode. And that's because we're trying something new here. This is a bonus, to kind of give you guys a teaser of the sort of stuff that you will find at our Patreon account. So shout out to the patreon supporters out there, you guys are already familiar with this stuff. If you're not though, and you've thought about subscribing, or maybe it just hasn't occurred to you, you can get all sorts of really fun extra content, just like the stuff you're about to hear here, for $8 a month if you want to be a Middle Shelf subscriber, or if you really want to bless us and be a Top Shelf subscriber, that's 20 bucks a month, and that'll get you all kinds of cool perks. So hope you like this, something we're trying out. So if you have any feedback, shoot us an email. So what we're going to be talking about on this little mini episode, I guess you could call it, is something that we've been thinking about since the beginning of the podcast, and we've never actually centered it in our conversation. And that is why did we include a bar theme at all? We call ourselves A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. Most of our conversations are around either philosophy or spirituality or theology, and then we drink. And it may have seemed weird to some of you, but that, that bar thing is not just because we like to drink--it is because we like to drink, we're drinking right now--but it's not just because of that. It actually has some meaning. And recently, I came across an article that really encapsulates that meaning extremely well. And so it sparked some conversation and some thoughts and we're gonna, we're gonna discuss it a little bit here. So Randy, are you drinking anything at the moment?Randy:
I am, I'm actually drinking a throwback to an early episode. I don't remember which episode we featured this, but this is Noteworthy, it's, do you remember it, it's become kind of a go to for cheap guys like me. It's below $30, at or around$30, and I really enjoy it. It still has that date/raisin flavor profile that I oohed and ahhed about a while ago, and it's just a tasty drink. So, that's me.Kyle:
Yeah, I remember you and Elliot really loved that one. I don't remember a whole lot about it, I don't think I got much of it.Randy:
It's not good enough for you, no.Kyle:
I, it's funny that you say that, you're gonna hate me. So I made an old fashioned. And I told you this recently, but our listeners don't know. So my, my bourbon collection has gotten a little bit out of hand. And I need to get through some of it. And so recently started making, you know basic whiskey cocktails like old fashioneds and Manhattans with pretty nice bourbon, just to kind of see and because I need to get through it. And man, it's really better. So I'm drinking an old fashioned here with a Bardstown Discovery Series bourbon. And it's just so good.Randy:
I mean, I'm not gonna say what I'm thinking, because it'll get us a big E behind this episode, and I've done enough of that. So. I salute...Kyle:
Yeah, if, listeners, if you don't know what that costs, Google it and then hate me. Okay, so if you want to go read this article, highly recommended, it's called "The Complicated Journey from Holy Studies to Hospitality." And it's this guy, and it's on, it's not on a religious site or publication, I found it at liquor.com. So I get emails from them, and this, and this came up and I was like, whoa, I have to read that. And what this writer did is he found a bunch of bartenders who had graduated from evangelical Christian colleges, like a bunch of different ones, and he interviewed them about what overlap there might be, and whether they held on to their faith or not, and what they thought the connection was between the bar and the church. And he got some really, really rich stuff.Randy:
And these are pretty, yeah, these are pretty conservative Christian universities, Liberty University, Oral Roberts University, I mean, these are like bastion of evangelicalism, fundamentalist, conservative universities.Kyle:
Yeah. And some of these bartenders had left the faith, but not all of them. Some of them had remained Christian. And they talk a lot about what, what their bar context offered them that their Christian college context had failed at, or the church context in general had failed at. And so what I'd like to just focus on for whatever time we're here is, why is it, because I've noticed this too, why is it that people are often more comfortable in bars than they are in churches?Randy:
And I think that's part of the reason we have this aspect to our podcast, right? We intentionally set out saying, let's have conversations that people have in bars. We could have said let's have conversations that people have standing in the lobby of their church after the service, but that's not what we wanted. No one would listen to that podcast. There is a reason these conversations happen in bars. And it's not just the booze. And so one of the things that this article points out, kind of the main thrust of it, is that where the church has failed at forming community, bars have excelled. And so you get these quotes that are just like smack in the face, every evangelical pastor should hear this, kind of thing. So for example, "there are aspects of bar life, the ritual of making drinks, the hospitality, observing the fellowship among people that would have nothing to do with each other in other circumstances, these fill liturgical gaps that are left behind when people leave the church." I think it's so obviously true when you start to think about it. Like, I remember the first time I ever met with my home church. So one of the things we do at the church that you pastor is there's a bunch of small, smaller groups that meet in people's homes that we call home churches. And the first time we ever met, which was, I don't know, 10 years ago, it's been a long time, we've been together a long time. And I remember we struggled through the first few weeks trying to get to know each other, it was really awkward, multigenerational, kind of diverse, you know, backgrounds and perspectives. And I remember saying, just kind of naming the awkwardness and being like, look, let's just be frank about this. We're a group of people who are kind of forcing ourselves to do friendship here. And we probably wouldn't hang out with each other outside of this, let's, let's just be direct about that. Like, the thing that we all have in common here is Jesus. And that's exactly what happens in bars. Right. The thing that we come together to do here is something that if not for it, we probably wouldn't have met each other and might not have decided to hang out with each other. And you discover beautiful things about people when you, when you try to do the work. And what this author is saying is that happens more in bars these days than it does in churches, in many cases.Randy:
Yeah, I will, so my caveat is I used to hang out in bars, don't so much anymore, I'll hang out in pubs or bars when I'm traveling, I love to check, check newplaces out and all that stuff, but in my experience, and I think this comes through in the, in the article, because it's not just this is what happens in bars, the end. It's the hospitality industry in the bar and restaurant business. And that for me was where I found profound community, that's where, I mean for me, I was a church kid. I identified with a lot of these, a lot of the people in this article. I was a church kid, very sheltered, extremely sheltered, and did ministry, thought I wanted to be a college pastor, worked at the local mega church and then got burnt out because of the local mega church, I saw the underbelly and it didn't like it at all, had nothing, no interest in at once I was actually in the belly of the beast. And I, just, a friend of mine from ministry worked at a restaurant in downtown Milwaukee and invited me to, just said you can have a job if you want. I was a terrible server, I started working as a server, dropped tons of beers on people's laps and, you know, messed a lot of things up, but I worked my way into it got really good, and the, the long story short, is I met a group of people who I just fell in love with, and who I saw so much goodness and beauty and, and learned so much. I mean, and there are stories from our podcast, from our Why We're Affirming episode and you know, me sitting in a, in a bar with the guy named Brad who was gay, and he was really honest and let me ask any question, those are the kinds of relationships and conversations that we would have, but not just, you know, we would have them in bars. But it was just that community that was really just, really loving, really open, really accepting, really gracious, they would cut off their arm for one another if they, if needed, and if asked, and it was there that the dream for me of planting a church, of starting a church, came out of because my thought was I want a church where these people feel accepted. So I have personal story with, and kind of resonate deeply with a lot of these stories. My story isn't though, I found it in the bar or I found it in the, you know, hospitality community and I didn't need the church; I wanted to start a church for the hospitality community who felt like they would stick out like sore thumbs at a normal church and weren't interested in normal church. But the more we actually talked, the more we got to know one another. The more we became family together, and we really did become family, the more they were interested in church, the more they were interested in, in who God is and what, what God was in me because they saw something different and unique in me, they would say. But that business, that hospitality industry, is like no other, and the people who are in that community, in that industry are very, very unique. I mean, I would prefer, I hope no church people are watching, but I prefer those people over any people group I've ever been around. I love that community.Kyle:
Yeah, and that's what you would, that's what you'd hope people to say after visiting a new church a few times, right? And that is what, to your credit, that is what I and a lot of people that I know did say after visiting your church. So I think, I think you successfully brought some of that culture over. And I know that must have been challenging to do. Didn't you guys meet in a bar for a while before I joined up?Randy:
We met above a brew pub, yeah. And we would literally have to throw away cans of Pabst and sweep up cigarette butts, and it was the most awkward space, but people loved it as well. There's something unique and gritty and didn't feel like church as much.Kyle:
Yeah, the, this is a little bit tangential, but, so obviously, I've never worked in the bar industry, never been a bartender or anything like that. The closest thing I've experienced to that kind of unconditional community, though, would be music festival people. I used to go to a music festival every year with the same group of people. And there were some weird people at this music festival.Randy:
Was it Cornerstone?Kyle:
It was, it was. And, man, there were some characters, you could find any type of person you can imagine, you could find there. And we always said, if, I don't know what heaven's gonna be like, but it's got to feel something like this. And there's something here that you get that none of us had ever gotten in any church we had ever attended. And there was just no, I think a huge part of is, there's no judgement at all. And there's always somebody there to help you with whatever it happens to be, you know?Randy:
Yep, yep. Yeah, I've heard stories from that specific festival, and it sounded like the similar kind of atmosphere where it's just, you take you take care of one another. I remember watching a documentary on Woodstock, it was fascinating on HBO, and there, they brought in for security, there was, this was at a time in the late 60s, this is tangential, we don't have to include this if you don't want, but...Kyle:
We always say that, then we always do.Randy:
I know. But this was happening in the late 60s. And what was happening in music festivals in late 60s was security would always basically start a riot, you know, people would be strung out on drugs, they would be, you know, challenging authority, and security would be tough and gruff, and be, and really, literally start riots and huge fights. And Woodstock was like I want to do something different, and so they brought in this group of hippies, like peace, love, and drugs hippies, and they were the security for the event. And it went perfectly. And they would literally, like if somebody was strung out on drugs, they would have, come into the tent, they would care for that person, let them come down, took several hours, and then they would say, hey, you know what just happened to you, how I cared for you? That person walking in was you five hours ago, now go care for them. And it would just start this chain, chain effect. It reminds me of that a little bit. Yeah.Kyle:
That's so beautiful. And it's like, it's just obvious that that's what Jesus would have done, you know?Randy:
And it's so dissimilar to what you get in a lot of churches, specifically evangelical churches, but not just. So I want to read a quote from this article that I thought was really great. So the first thing people think of when you think church/bar, often, is the time Jesus turned water into wine. Like it's just kind of a go-to.Randy:
Yeah, I hated that, I hated that part of the story.Kyle:
Anytime, like, literally anytime alcohol came up, so I went to a teetotaller campus ministry in college, so all of the leadership, the pastor, everybody was a teetotaller, and it was like strongly anti-alcohol. Alcohol was the devil. Anytime it came out, the first thing people would go to was "what about Jesus turning water into wine" or whatever. But I really like what this author does with it, because he's just like, straight up front he says, "The miracle of Jesus turning water into wine is a lazy way to forge a link between the church and the bar. It's a misdirection," he says.Randy:
"It obscures the true relationship between the church and the bar." I love that. "n order to understand the true relationship between the church and the bar," he says, you have to dig into the context a little bit. And he says "wine historically acted as a central element for connection and fun in a variety of social settings." And then he quotes a bartender, apparently a famous guy who wrote a bartending book, and he says, "Nobody goes to a bar for a drink." I love that. It's not entirely true, but you know what he means, right? People are going there for connection. They're going there for community, often the community of the staff, or the community of the people around them, or the community that they brought with them that they can, for whatever reason, have a freeer time of discussion with them in that space. And I just love that this liquor.com writer, who I think went to a Christian university himself, is digging deeper into that passage than any of my college pastors ever did. Because for them, it was always about the wine and did it actually have alcohol in it or not, that's all they cared about.Randy:
That's so sad. That's ridiculous. Terrible reading of that story. Yeah, no, I agree with the writer, I mean, that's, that's a, that's a lazy, silly parallel to make and to always use that. But I would just say, I mean, it's even in the New Testament, I mean, these love feasts that the church would have, these, you know, making the Eucharist or the Lord's table in the book of Corinthians, they would abuse it, but what Paul was hoping for is this, really, a table of camaraderie and a table of remembrance and a table of celebration with one another, I mean, in many ways, the Eucharist and what, I think, Paul and Jesus, their ideas of it resembled kind of what we're talking about as far as safety, community remembrance, celebration, mourning, sacrifice, all of that happening.Kyle:
In the second half of this conversation, we discuss why we're comfortable having a podcast that features alcohol when we both know alcoholics who might listen, how alcohol might be conducive to a positive spiritual experience, and Randy shares a hilarious anecdote from his early days in the bar industry as a naive young Christian boy. To hear all of this, head over to our Patreon and subscribe at either the Middle or Top Shelf level. You can find that in the show notes, or just type patreon.com/apastorandaphilosopher into your web browser. We'll see you at our regularly scheduled episode in a few days. Cheers.