Those of you who listen to the podcast know that I went to Theology Beer Camp back in January, where I met some of the folks whose podcasts I’ve enjoyed over the last few years. This week (it’s been a heck of a semester, folks) I’ve finally had a chance to sit down, get some of the pictures off of my phone, and reflect on my first live podcasting experience, my first in-person encounters with some of these folks, and the first time I’ve been in a room with this many people who listen to the Christian Humanist Radio Network. I did not taste any of the beer (let my employer take note), but the theology was not to be missed, and the people were a joy to meet.
Meeting up with Tripp Fuller in person was a bunch of fun. I sometimes wonder whether people’s “radio” personae are going to match up with the people I’d meet in person, and with Tripp, there’s almost no distance between the podcast host and the guy with whom I shared meals at Redondo Beach’s Pacific Ocean pier. I’ve had a few people express some concern for me when they heard Tripp’s rants after my John Cobb interview, but there’s no need for that: Although Tripp and I were in the same room at the same time for the first time in January 2017, we’ve been listening to each other’s shows for years, and we’d recorded together a few times (two of which actually made it to the Internet), and the friendship that emerged from that was ready to sustain the kind of show we put on for people. And honestly, having audio of some of Tripp’s signature rants gave me a chance to respond to them in some context other than yelling at my car’s stereo, so I figure that was a bonus in its own right.
Then there were my housemates. I’m not sure why I didn’t get any pictures with Adam Clark, but some day I’ll rectify that, and if that doesn’t happen, at minimum I’ll have him on Christian Humanist Profiles (if he’ll come on, of course) to talk about his forthcoming books. I did manage to come away with pictures of Amy and Christian Piatt and Todd Littleton. I’d heard all three of them on podcasts here and there, and frankly, the Piatts–of the Homebrewed Culturecast–intimidated the heck out of me when we first met for that reason. I feared that, sharing a cottage with them (Homebrewed Christianity put up podcasters in Airbnb houses) was going to be an exercise in watching what came out of my mouth. But then we all settled in, and I could tell before long at all that, in the best way possible, their on-air personalities–which are quite intense, I’m not going to lie–give way, in person, to a pair of the most enjoyable people I’ve spent time around. We talked about our kids, about God, about living in different parts of the country, and about all the sorts of things that friends talk about, and when I came on their show on the camp’s second day for a guest bit, their hospitality made my first podcast in front of a live audience a true delight.
Todd Littleton? I met him about 5 in the afternoon, and about six hours later we were sleeping on a futon together. That’s what happens at these things, I hear. I’d heard some of Todd’s guest spots on various Homebrewed shows, but I didn’t know about his long-running support of the network, and he and I hit it off so well that we decided to record some audio for a side episode before we left town. So we did–twice–and they’re two of the Theology Beer Camp episodes. I’ve also been on his show, Patheological, twice since Theology Beer Camp, once to talk about Dante and once, with Eric Hall, to talk about Plato. And you know that anyone who offers me those kinds of opportunities is going to be one of my favorite people.
I was especially eager to meet Teer Hardy and Jason Micheli of the Crackers and Grape Juice podcast, and I did on the Camp’s first official night. Their laid-back approach to the event was just perfect, and although I didn’t get to hear their interview with John Cobb (I was in another room interviewing Christian Piatt and Adam Clark), I learned after the fact that they had faced Tripp’s experiment with the “Cobb’s Anger” sketch before I had, so I have to hand that to them.
I’ll go ahead and admit that Theology Beer Camp probably isn’t for everybody. If you listen to the Christian Humanist Podcast and find yourself resonating with David Grubbs and irritated with me, I’ll just say that I was about the second-most-conservative person at the event. (Eric Hall, who actually converted to Roman Catholicism to prove how traditionalist he is, had me beat.) But if you enjoy hearing from Christian Humanist Profiles guests like Daniel Kirk, Thomas Jay Oord, Peter Rollins, and Tripp Fuller, go look up this summer’s iteration of Theology Beer Camp, and consider dropping in–even if you’re not a drinker (I didn’t have anything to drink, both because of my pre-diabetic concerns and my Emmanuel College contract), the conversations are stellar, and Tripp Fuller knows how to put on a show. I assure you that he won’t get mean with you like he did with me (I get the sense he gets to know a person before he gets that way), and you’ll find all kinds of conversation partners.
One image from the camp sticks with me even now: on big-screen televisions on either side of the venue, between sessions, a series of slides would cycle through the Theology Beer Camp logo, various sponsors of the event, and the podcasts represented. Because I’m easily distracted by moving pictures, every once in a while I’d catch a glimpse of Desiderius Erasmus looking out at the crowds, and I realized that, for some of the folks at this event, our little project was part of why they were there. (Here’s looking at you, Jeffrey Carter!) And it made me appreciate that, in the corner of the world that has its own intellectual revolution going on, whether they call it Process or Progressive or Emergent or Radical Theology, the Christian Humanists have our place there, perhaps playing Erasmus to Tripp Fuller’s Martin Luther, ready to join in some of the critiques of the ecclesial forms and dogmas we’ve inherited while insisting, as Erasmus did in his famed dispute with Luther, that it’s not time yet to throw out what might seem dated or worn out or even constricting. Let’s hold off on that for a while longer. In the end what we do might become a footnote of sorts to what the Homebrewed folks are doing, just as undergrads read Erasmus largely to set the stage for Luther. Maybe not. But either way, that wouldn’t be entirely a bad place to sojourn for a spell.
UPDATE: Jeffrey Carter just passed this photo along via Facebook. Jeffrey has posted comments on Facebook on episodes over the years and stands as one of our most active listeners. I’ll go ahead and confess at this point that he made the mistake of picking me up as his partner in the cornhole tournament (yes, there was a cornhole tournament), and for whatever reason, I couldn’t hit the side of a barn that morning. Sorry again, Jeffrey!
If anyone else has pics from the event, by all means let me know, and I’ll keep posting them here!