My Problem with Theology on Tap

I went to respond to a question from another thread,

and found myself on a rant. So, I am posting a new thread so that I don’t thread-jack the other topic.

I want to reiterate that the overall RENEW program looks good. I only have a problem with my experience with ToT.

I started attending Theology on Tap (ToT) during an extended stay in near MSU campus. Allegedly, “[ToT] is a speaker series that takes place in the fun, relaxed setting of your favorite local pub.” Perhaps it was the college setting, but young adults at MSU were away from their parents for the first time and used ToT as an excuse to go to a bar – covering going into a bar as a religious event.

I found it to be a dumbed-down version of CCD, and when alcohol was thrown into the mix, it was a mess. Yes, there were people who overdrank. There were hecklers who were not a part of the group who grew increasingly disrespectful. There was a shouting match that was almost violent. It was scandalous. It made the whole group look bad.

Now that I’ve moved to the DC area, I’m not sure I’d try it again. According to this local article, this is “a way of integrating religion into parishioners’ daily lives.” Spare me. Anyone really think it takes the bar scene bring Jesus back into one’s life? This isn’t the way to bring the message to the streets.

My preference would be to move ToT to a parish center, or even a hall, rather than people getting liquored up, emotional, and disrespectful. Not that drinking in moderation can or should be exclusive from a healthy Christian lifestyle. However, from what I’ve seen specifically in ToT, the maturity level of the people targeted by this outreach movement don’t take this as fellowship. According to Kate Blaine writing for the USCCB, “as [contemporary] Catholics entered their 20s and 30s, they began to drift away from the church. [ToT] is attempting to bring them back.”

“Attempting” is the right word. Instead of re-discovering a solid foundation of faith, they’re flirting and drinking. It’s a last-ditch effort to bring young people back to the Church, destined to be another failed social experiment until or unless we get back on track with proper catechesis. My experience left me feeling like I was being pandered to by a watered-down Christ and watered-down cocktails.

But surely that is a localised problem? Not an issue of the whole of ToT which I gather is very successful here in London…

The British tend to be a bit more ‘civilized’.:smiley:

I believe that. In my experience Europeans tend to be a bit more mature about drinking. Europeans seem to drink because they like it and it’s a social outlet. Americans tend to drink to get plastered enough to do things they’ll be ashamed of in the morning.

I don’t drink much and I hate bars here in the States but when I was in Ireland I spent a lot of time in bars talking and socializing and felt comfortable doing so. I think our protestant background in the States causes us to view drinking as a rebellious and wild thing to do.

As to the main subject. I haven’t been to ToT and have been leery of doing so for the reasons mentioned above. In theory it sounds good but I just have doubts about the reality. I would though be very interested in people’s experiences with ToT.

No doubt! It was, after all, a college campus, a place of fledgling independence ‘higher learning’. I was mostly disappointed in the Youth Coordinator, and doubt that this is the norm. After that, even the concept irritates me.

Since no one seems to be familiar with RENEW, I’m going to post the same link as on the other thread. Please read it and the links within before attending any RENEW programs, and be careful. Although their programs appear orthodox, the organization seems to be associated with some very heterodox groups.

In Christ



I sounded pretty harsh earlier. Looking over the RENEW ToT website, I understand that the speakers and hosts are supposed to go through some good training. And yes, it’s attracting the right crowd, but the right crowd seems to be there for the wrong reasons.

Well, you were at MSU. I spent three years there as an undergrad. I know that there were students there who didn’t think that the epitome of fun was drinking oneself into oblivion, but darned if I could find more than a few of them. :rolleyes:

ToT probably works the way it’s supposed to when it’s not set in a college town surrounded by farmland.

Ok, I’ve had a completely different experience with Theology on Tap. I was also in a college town and went to a great one with a Dominican priest leading it. It was actually in a restaurant, not a bar and the priest got a beer and people either ordered food or drinks (I had a yummy ice cream Sunday). Then the priest talked about apologetics (I wish I could remember the specifics but it was several years ago).

There was no rowdiness, not even any heavy drinking. I think the person who drunk the most had two beers - nobody was drunk and everyone was interested.

I only went once, every other time something came up. This makes me wonder which was the anomaly though :shrug:

My diocese did ToT the summers of 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006

However, I remembered ToT being held at different parishes throughout the diocese.

To confirm my memory I did an archive search on the calendar of event for my diocese. Sure enough the ToT events were being held at the different parishes.

So I was surprise to hear that in some places this program is offered in a bar…

I couldn’t believe it when I saw this thread a few moments ago. Misserissima, I just got back from Theology On Tap a couple of hours ago- in DC (at Ireland’s Four Fields on Connecticut Ave.). I am sorry you’ve had bad experiences with TOT, but in DC, it’s wonderful! Most of the people there are professionals in their 20s and 30s (and older), so there’s no undergraduates. As far as drinking goes, I have yet to see anybody drunk or even close to it. Quite a few people don’t drink, and those that do will have a beer or two at the most. I had soda tonight. It’s very obvious that people are there to learn more about Catholicism- it’s definitely not about the alcohol. The speakers are always wonderful, TOT begins and ends with prayer, there’s time for Q&A with the speakers, and it’s a great way to meet people and learn about Catholic young adult events in the area. I would highly recommend it! More information can be found here: (if you click on the calendar, you’ll see the dates and times).

Also, I noticed the article was from the Diocese of Arlington- the Archdiocese of Washington covers the District and parts of Maryland. It’s the Archdiocese of Washington that sponsors TOT at the Four Fields (although if you’re from VA, no biggie- many people from VA participate in events sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington).

Anyway, if you have any questions about TOT in the District, feel free to PM me. Welcome to DC!

Thanks for the welcome! I’ll take this to PM with you.

Is your impression of ToT like the article implies, that it’s more like a singles night? I like your dexcription and would be willing to try it again…as long as its not a sorority/frat house atmosphere.

Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience, Miserissima. I have only been to a few of these. It was at a college in a very rural area, but it was nothing like what happened to you.

Chalk it up to bad luck?

We had Tim Staples and Jimmy Akin speak at some of our diocese’s ToTs…not that I’m bragging or anything…:smiley:

My experience with Theology on Tap has also been good. Last year Cardinal O’Malley spoke. I’ve been several times and never saw anyone order more than two drinks, so no one was drunk. Here in Boston, it has not been my experience that it is a singles thing. I took my husband last time.

Sorry, Miserissima- I responded to your PM, but forgot to answer the question in your post, lol. In answer to your question, I wouldn’t describe it as being like a singles night, since people seem to be there to learn more about the faith and to meet people who share the same faith- not to walk away being un-single (I realize that’s not a word). And no, it’s nothing like a sorority/frat house type of atmosphere. Truthfully, I don’t think it would feel any different if we were at Starbucks. There just isn’t any of that drunk, rowdy behavior.

It’s pretty impossible to paint it with a broad brush. They range from really, really good to basically a bunch of desperate people trying to find a serviceable candidate to fill the office of spouse. :shrug:

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