Sacramental Beer

Plus: Backhanded Apology

"This is the kind of thing Jesus did," Johnston says, gesturing to the crowd around him. Clearly pleased with his analogy, he smiles broadly and adjusts his Buddy Holly-style glasses. "Jesus hung out in places like this, with tax collectors and sinners," he says, quickly noting that this audience was not necessarily full of such characters.

In fact, the crowd turned out to be a relatively average cross section of Uptown society. Under 40, overwhelmingly white and employees of places like Merrill Lynch and Neiman Marcus, many people used the term "laid-back" over and over again to describe the evening.

"Anybody could come and ask their questions," says Sharisse Butler, who attended the meeting with her husband, Oliver, who is studying to be a priest. During the second half of the event, attendees submitted concerns about suicide, the effectiveness of prayer and whether the story of Adam and Eve is real. In his responses, Mills was thoroughly un-dogmatic, even vague.

"The story of Adam and Eve is authoritative," he says, after struggling for a few moments to find the right words. "It's reliable. Let's leave it at that."

For the second time that night, the audience was left with more questions than answers, and nobody seemed to mind. After all, says Buddy Apple, an SMU law student who has been attending the Church of the Incarnation since December, it's about the conversation, not the resolution. And maybe a little bit about the beer.

"If you tell people that you're having a discussion about God at a bar, people are like, wha?" Apple says. "But they end up coming, anyway." The Theology Live organizers don't seem to be swayed by the surprised, and sometimes negative, reactions they get. The key, they say, is moderation.

"We have had people who say they won't come," Johnston says. "If they're against it, they're just trying to be careful, but it is possible to sit down and have a pint and talk theology."

The last Theology Live meeting will deal with the tensions between Christianity and other religions, to be held June 27 at 7 p.m. at the Ginger Man. --Andrea Grimes

Backhanded Apology
Texas' two senators absent from list of co-sponsors in lynching apology

On June 13, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for not making lynching a federal crime--but like most things on Capitol Hill, "unanimous" is subject to interpretation. The resolution was adopted by "unanimous consent," meaning that the senators did not actually have to vote for the measure, but rather simply declined to oppose it.

The resolution's sponsor, Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, preferred a "roll call vote" that would have put each senator's position on the record, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee insisted on the unanimous consent route. Still, when the time came, 78 of the chamber's 100 members, including Frist, had added their names as co-sponsors, eager to be on the record as apologizing for the Senate's inaction in the face of the racial terrorism that from 1882 to 1962 claimed at least 4,742 lives. Texas Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, however, were among the 21 who had not joined Landrieu as co-sponsors.

"It is a statement in itself that there are not 100 co-sponsors," Senator John Kerry told The New York Times the next day.

Eight senators have since thought better of that statement and signed on as co-sponsors retroactively--the most recent being Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah on June 17, four days after the resolution was adopted. That leaves 13 senators, all Republicans, still choosing not to have their names on the resolution. The missing include both senators from Mississippi, the state with the most recorded lynchings, and both from Texas, which ranks third (both senators from No. 2 Georgia signed on).

Staffers for Hutchison and Cornyn have given a stirring performance of the Texas two-step in an attempt to downplay their absence.

"It wasn't a decision not to co-sponsor it; it was a decision to support the bill," insists Cornyn spokesman Don Stewart. Stewart notes that the offices of all senators are contacted before a unanimous consent adoption to see if there are any objections. "We did not object," he says.

Hutchison's office says the senator wasn't even consulted on the decision not to co-sponsor. "When it came to us it was so overwhelmingly supported that we just offered our support and moved on," says Hutchison press secretary Chris Paulitz. "You can never have every senator co-sponsor something."

Technically he's right, because one senator must introduce the resolution as the "sponsor." But this year alone, the Senate has adopted four resolutions with one sponsor and 99 co-sponsors.

"It's not particularly unusual, because most resolutions are to declare National Girl Scout Week, for example," says Cal Jillson, an SMU political science professor who has written six books on American government.

The four resolutions with everyone on board recognized victims of the December tsunami, the January elections in Iraq, the death of the pope and the death of a former senator from Nebraska. Hutchison and Cornyn also saw fit to join in on heavily co-sponsored resolutions recognizing Greek Independence Day (54 co-sponsors), calling for a constitutional amendment banning desecration of the flag (53) and proclaiming "Extension Living Well Week" (49).

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