Now Starting: Theology On Tap

I’m starting a Theology on Tap group that will meet on my front porch every Thursday this summer at 7:00. Please come join me for beer, theology, and protest of stupid copyright laws.


Yeah, I’m not really starting a Theology on Tap because I’m that attached to the concept (although it’s a good one). I’m starting a theology on tap because my friend Adam Walker Cleaveland just wrote a blog post tossing out the mere idea of starting a theology on tap group for his church, and within six hours, he received an email notification from the group that apparently holds the trademark for the term “theology on tap.” They basically told him he couldn’t use the name without paying them money. Oh, and this is a ministry, too.

WTF?!?!?!?!?!! (uh oh, has anyone trademarked “WTF” yet?)

Better yet:  WTFWJD???? (Ryan, you’d better hurry up and trademark that one.)

So, even though I actually think the name “Theology on Tap” is a little hokey and overused, I’m now going to start one, and yes, that’s EXACTLY what I’m going to call it: THEOLOGY ON TAP. Every Thursday night at 7pm, my front porch. Bring your favorite beer, and I’ll share some of mine with you. We’ll print t-shirts, flyers, and publicize the heck out of it. Oh, and if you’re not in New Jersey but still want to participate, I’d encourage you to start your own THEOLOGY ON TAP wherever you live. If thousands of us all do it together, I doubt the copyright Nazis who “own” the words (ridiculous, isn’t it?) Theology on Tap will really be able to sustain that many lawsuits. And even if they try, they’ll end up looking as stupid and foolish and selfish as when ASCAP sued the Girl Scouts of America for singing copyrighted songs around their campfires.

Sheesh. What an idiotic world we live in.

See you tonight for THEOLOGY ON TAP!!!

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17 Responses to Now Starting: Theology On Tap

  1. Katie Mulligan says:

    Guess that answers the authority question…

  2. fg says:

    As someone who has been very active in a non-sanctioned ToT for many years and as someone who use to work for the Catholic Church (who owns the copyright) I see both sides of this issue.

    I’d like to point out that it is a pretty big Catholic program. One that that will have hundreds of participants each night it occurs in many Dioceses around the country. It is target to “young people” in the Catholic Church. It is very Catholic in it’s programming.

    Catholics have put with a long history of “protestants” aggressively trying to convert them to “real” Christianity and they are a bit sensitive to that. So if a non-Catholic church promotes a ToT it could be confusing for pew Catholics so I can see why they would enforce the copyright. They just don’t know what the intention of all these groups are, so they probably choose to enforce it everytime they notice it.

    This issue is a lot more complicated than one might think at first glance.

  3. Neal Locke says:

    Simple solution, fg: Call it “Catholic Theology on Tap” and then there’s no confusion. I personally am a fan of the Roman Catholic Church, and think there’s much we as protestants still need to learn from our Catholic brothers and sisters (especially as related to historic monasticism).

    But that’s no excuse for propping up idiotic laws that allow people to own arrangements of words and prevent others from using them. I seriously, seriously doubt that the Catholic group in question were the first to use the term. More likely, they were just the first opportunistic squatters to trademark it. And then rabidly defend it from others, including (again, I’m speculating) those who had already been using it.



    You’re a fan of the Roman Catholic Church????? They are pretty much the anti-Mr. Locke. Hierarchical leadership? Check. Fixed doctrine and dogma? Check. Very fixed boundaries for church membership and who can take the eucharist? Check.

    Sounds like you like the idea of liking Catholicism because it makes you more ecumenically minded than you actually like much about Catholicism itself.

  5. Dannah says:



  6. Neal Locke says:

    Ok, whomever you are, BWAHAHA typing from robbinsville k-12 in New Jersey…

    First let me refer you to my policy on anonymous comments before I chuck them to the pirate speak generator.

    Second, you prove the point that you really don’t know me too well, and that you can only know one side of a person from reading his blog. I’ve had a fascination for the Catholic church ever since I attended one for several years as a child in the very Catholic country of Belgium. I’ve had a love for Catholic monasticism for many years, too, especially the Benedictine, Cistercian, and Trappist traditions. I have profound respect for the long and complex history of the Catholic church through the millenia, and even when I was a teenager, I viewed Pope John Paul II as one of my favorite role models.

    But you are correct in noting that there is much about the Catholic church that seems to run counter to several of my stated values on this blog. You might note the same things about my relationship with the Presbyterian church, for that matter, or even with my mother, sister, and grandfather (all military officers), the fact that I married and am very much in love with an orthodox, conservative, Southern Baptist wife, that I did my undergraduate studies at Oral Roberts University, or the fact that even now I’m enrolled in a degree program at an institutional seminary…

    Come on.

    If you haven’t grasped that I’m comfortable with paradox yet, you aren’t too bright. If you can’t understand that I’ve always been attracted to things and ideas on the other side of my vantage point, you just don’t know me. And judging from your anonymity, you really don’t seem that interested in getting to know me as a complex human being, so why even bother pointing out what *you* perceive to be my inconsistencies? My friends do a much better job at that, and I respect their words when they do. But not yours.

  7. Have ye considered some other equally satisfyin’ title? I`ve had some events at me local brew-on-premises pub, an’ typically do somethin’ relatin’ t’ th’ Weddin’ at Cana. Water into grog be, after all, a pretty impressive miracle.

  8. Jeff Locke says:

    Wow Neal – way to put fg in his place. Maybe you should clarify that last statement “but not yours”, so that isn’t mistaken for being loathsome…That you would respect his opinion if he made the effort to enter into true dialogue with you. If that’s not the case (and I believe it is), it should be.

  9. Jeff Locke says:

    Oh, and I like the blog post. Although there are a lot of other battles to fight, I am going to start a TOT group just because I admire your spirit and passion on the issue. That’s right…try to stop us now!! 🙂

  10. Jeff Locke says:

    …just emailed RENEW International and told them what I thought about the enforcement of copyrights within the church.

    …It would be cool to see people post on here that they are starting TOT groups all over the country (world?) as a result of all this. I am starting one in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

  11. Just consider this an opportunity to come up with an equally clever name. No reason to get your stole in a bunch because of copywrite laws.

  12. Neal Locke says:

    @Jeff — my last comment rant wasn’t directed at fg (that’s Fritz Gutwein) because his comment wasn’t anonymous. And he was actually being pretty nice (I was the one kind of being a jerk in that conversation). The comment you’re referring to was directed at “BWAHAHAHA” — whomever that is. And yes, I accept your clarification that the statement “but not yours” only applies if my assumption is correct that he or she doesn’t want to try to build a relationship, just to make mocking comments hidden behind the cloak of anonymity. (FWIW I have no problem with mocking comments exchanged publicly among friends or colleagues–it’s the anonymity that bothers me).

    @IntrovertedOne — thanks for the comment. Unfortunately in this case, it’s not at all about the name, clever or not. It’s about trying to use a little bit of civil disobedience to break down a corrupt copyright system. That’s not entirely the fault of the organization who trademarked “Theology on Tap” but they certainly did take advantage of the system. BTW, I have confirmed (via a link someone posted on Adam’s site) that the term “Theology on Tap” dates at least back to the early 1900’s and it’s original use was not from a Catholic organization.

  13. Christopher Hooker says:

    Cool. I’ll bring the PBR. I know how much you love it. Nothing says Theology on Tap like award winning beer.

  14. Jeff Locke says:

    Damn impaired working memory. Sorry FG.

  15. @fg, I would be reluctant to say “the Church” owns it. It appears to be an independent group affiliated with a diocese.

    Just reading their about page, I get annoyed with seeing RENEW every third word.. Reminds me of when I wanted a particular domain name. Turns out a Catholic had bought it and was squatting on it. I wanted it for non-profit, religious apostolate reasons, but he was asking for $$$. Give me a break! Some people..

    Also, note it’s not hard to TM things, or at least try to. You just try to be the first to claim the TM and list it in your publications as such. It’s not even about being the first to use it.. just the first to TM (as I understand it).

    Anyhoo, I salute you, Neal, for doing this, whatever it’s called. Maybe I can come a few times. 🙂

  16. Margaret Aymer Oget says:

    As I noted on Adam’s blog, um…calling down fire because a bunch of Samaritans don’t let you go through their village–not WJWD (Luke 9:52-56).

    It seems petty to me.

  17. Neal Locke says:

    Margaret — You’re absolutely right that Jesus didn’t call down fire on Samaritans. But I don’t think the entity in question here is playing the part of the Samaritan. Instead they remind me of the overly legalistic pharisees that Jesus actually did expend some pretty choice words to.

    Copyright and trademark abuse is no “petty” matter, especially for the church. In my personal experience, it often cuts to the heart of ministry, and that’s why I take it so personally. Let me give you some examples:

    1. The coffee shop where some talented kids from my youth group used to play music was shut down because of copyright trolling.

    2. The girl scouts of America were sued by ASCAP for merely singing copyrighted songs around campfires at their meetings.

    3. Several churches across the nation were forced by legal threats from the NFL to shut down super-bowl parties, many of which were organized as fundraisers for local soup kitchens.

    4. A musician friend of mine was sent threatening legal notices from a major CHRISTIAN publishing company because she recorded the public domain song “Amazing Grace” — the company said the legal burden of proof rested with her to *prove* that her version wasn’t the same as one from one of their artists. She couldn’t afford the legal fees, so she simply yanked her recording off the internet.

    Margaret, things like this are absolutely INSANE, and standing up for a more just and equitable copyright/trademark/patent system in our country certainly isn’t petty. To me it’s a matter of social justice, and freedom to pursue ministry.

    Let me ask you this: by using the phrase Theology on Tap, is Adam (or any number of churches who use it) in some way causing detriment or harm to the ministry of the group that owns the trademark? It isn’t likely.

    In most cases like this, the ones who hold the trademark or copyright represent the legal “power” and those who are threatened with legal action are the marginalized, powerless, and victims of the situation. Sure, it may not quite rise to the level of AIDS or global hunger, but I suspect I know who Jesus would side with in cases like this one.

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