Scotty O’Brian’s, Loveland, Colo.

12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Notable Matter: Sponsored bar seats, each with an embroidered logo/namesake representing the donor.

I’m in la-di-da land and am therefore losing patience with Colorado dive bars. Dive bars should not include microbrews on tap. They should lack decor, serve characters and stick to bottles and cans like the Long Branch Bar in Laporte, Colo. But most of the Colorado dives have microbrews. I need to go back to the Midwest where there’s an abundance of good old fashioned dive bars, places where people go to get drunk off of $1 canned PBR beer. I yearn for blue-collar America.

I don’t believe the middle class is disappearing, it’s just become invisible. I’ve thought of this well before the whole national union uprising. I have my own opinions about that but I’ll keep them to myself.

America’s Struggling Middle Class

I love the middle class — blue-collar workers — which is why I love neighborhood bars, dive bars. But do I have to go to the Rustbelt, a region continually blamed for the nation’s economic meltdown, to find it? Until I head back to Michigan in May, I’ll keep trudging along to these Colorado “dives.” Colorado natives can’t even point me to dives because they don’t know what they are.

That being said, Scotty O’Brian’s is as divey as I’ve seen in a few weeks. Wooden façade, one window, long bar, narrow structure. It’s dark, six people watching basketball on two TVs. I’m relieved to see a race car event on one of the TVs, very middle America.

I walk in pissed off by my experience with the money mongering Redeemer Lutheran Church. (I invited Redeemer to respond to my scalding review of the church, but haven’t received a response.)

I’m a little testy with the young bartender. I’m not offended by his request for ID, but his delivery is off putting.

“You got your little thingy on you?” He makes a motion with his wrist indicating that by “thingy,” he means the little plastic card in my wallet. He justifies himself. “I have to ask. Otherwise my boss will get me in trouble.”

Me: “Or you could just say I look young.” My four second tutorial on women.

“You do look young.” He’s nervous.

I loosen up. Smile in the mirror at an older man in a blue work jacket and mesh hat. He’s drinking a beer and a shot, orders them together. He sees me and looks away.

The experience is dull until a younger man and woman walk in. They sit next to me. They’re new to the area and interesting, which is a fabulous find. I enjoy our conversation, it’s refreshing to speak with people that have imagination, passion, interesting things to say.

As much as I enjoy their company and hope to see them again, they are not blue collar workers, Middle America. Where do I find this in northern Colorado? What am I missing?

Redeemer Lutheran Church, Ft. Collins, Colo.

11 a.m. to ?

Chosen because…late service

Biggest church I’ve been to.  It sits in a giant field surrounded by wealthy neighborhoods. Not only does it have a welcome center, which gives makes me feel like I’m walking through an airport rather than a church, it also has a worship center, life/center gym, preschool, student center, etc.

I’m grateful for the coffee/donut room. Guilt kicks in so I donate $1 to the coffee collection. This is the only donation I’ve made to a church thus far. After service I feel duped, used and wish I could take my money back.

Love Money, Then Jesus

Remember this scene from Jerry Maguire? This is Redeemer Lutheran Church.

JERRY MAGUIRE SHOW ME THE MONEY


The preachers or whatever are dressed in white, red sashes resting on either side of their chests. Huge choir. Massive movie screen. Many people wearing buttons purporting their love for Jesus. At least I think that’s what they’re for.

It’s “commitment weekend,” a time for parishioners to place donation envelopes they received via mail in Pottery Barn-like donation baskets. Before they do, the preacher fills them with artificial love, hiding the church’s need for greed behind Bible passages such as “whoever does not love God does not know love.”

When the preacher quiets, this message is conveyed, falsely — though song — and soundtrack as people in the sound booth add thunder and other such nonsense to the melody.

After guilt by love, the preacher gets down to business. This whole love B.S. will continue for 36 months because the church is on a mission to a) Raise up stewards b) Pay down debt c) Further the mission.

So learn about God, pay down the Redeemer Lutheran‘s $2 million debt during the next 36 months and then spread God’s word through costly missions. Appalling.

Need for Greed

He uses the following mantras to encouraging giving…and love.

“Love is not really love until it’s given away.”

“I hope you get to learn during this season we get to give love away.”

“We don’t want to whore the message of God.”

Then we watch a clip from Schindler’s List. It’s at the end when Schindler realizes the money he spent on material excess could have saved thousands of Jews.

People sniffle. It’s an emotional scene and a cleaver way for the preacher to beg for money. After the clip, he invites everyone to bring up envelopes of money, encouraging them to “woo hoo” when they dump it in Pottery Barn-like baskets.

I’m sick to my stomach. This place of worship is an infomercial, not a church. I leave and head to a dive bar in Loveland of all places, to cleanse my soul.

The leaders of this church should be ashamed of themselves for their unabashed call to greed. Redeemer Lutheran Church is antithetical to Jesus’ message. It’s disgusting.

Pastor Noah Filipiak is young, smart and far from a thumper. He’s using his church, Barefoot Christian Church, as a pulpit to build community and understanding in Lansing, Mich. His approach to religion could encourage a person like me to convert…if conversion were a possibility.

Filipiak, 27, started Barefoot Church, which is located in Downtown Lansing, in 2006 to build a community, not pack pews. Barefoot started as a series of in-home Bible study groups and eventually grew into a building.

A friend told me about Filipiak a few years ago and though we live in the same hood, I’ve never met him. However, he left two books in my mailbox — The Year of Living Biblically and The Blue Parakeet — books an uneducated, almost middle age person like myself will actually read. He knows how to connect with people, he isn’t pushy and he’s gracious.

He’s one of many people cracking my thumper stereotype. Here’s what he has to say about the church, movie theaters and God’s request that a prophet marry a prostitute.

Barefoot Church. Do you really check your shoes at the door?

Noah Filipiak: No. We came up with the name from Exodus where Moses takes off his sandals before God at the holy bush. When we started the church we didn’t want it to be a once a week ritual. As Christians we have God living inside of us so we should live out that faith all the time. Essentially, the way Moses was in front of God when he saw the burning bush is what it would look like if God were consciously with us.

It’s a good name to laugh at and it raises some good questions.

What do you think about all of these churches that are desperately trying to boost parishioner numbers?

NF: There’s a really delicate balance there. Do we want people in church? Absolutely because we want people knowing the love of Jesus but if the goal is just to have a big crowd and not be honoring God, that’s different. He was never about having a big crowd. He invested in 12 disciples, not the big show. We need to be careful about the motives there.

I’ve been to a big box church. I’ve also been to several prisons. I prefer the prisons. Thoughts?

NF: I think you’re talking about mega churches. I call that movie theater church and I think American church culture is turning more into movie theater churches. When I go to the movies, I walk in with a bunch of people I don’t know, we see a show together and when it’s all over, we leave and go back the next week to do it again.

What I say to my church is, next time you’re in a movie, turn to the person next to you in the theater and talk to them really seriously. Say hey, I want to let you know I have an addiction to porn that I can’t break and it’s wrecking my marriage and I was wondering if you you’ll be there for me. Can I call you when I’m struggling? See what the person says. Usually that person will sit in another chair and probably report you to an usher.

The story of how the church started includes a description of what went on — teaching, singing, prayer and fellowship with people. There you see a very different picture of church than what we do today. It’s challenging for me as a pastor. It’s like OK, we live in America, how do we kind of fight against our culture? We’re very individualistic in some ways but we’re consumers and those things blend into church and that’s why we need to emphasize home groups and community groups.

Church is more than just a big show.

You said I might like the Book of Hosea. I remember thinking he was a bit of a wimp. What did I miss?

NF: I thought you might find it funny that God asked him to marry a prostitute. I read that and I preach on it every once and while. I don’t think most Christians realize that even in the Bible, God asks his prophet to marry a prostitute. There are Christians that might say that’s false.

I think the metaphor is fairly powerful. It shows that God is a relational God and it shows what’s really happening with his people. It shows what they were doing to him (Hosea) and emotionally it really hurt the way it would if my spouse were cheating on me. It’s more a metaphor than Hosea himself.

Do you ever get sick of reading the Bible?

NF: Yeah. I grew up in the church and genuinely put my faith in Christ when I was like four years old. It sounds bizarre, but it truly wasn’t a manipulative thing. I first read through it when I was 15 and I’m 27. I remember the first reading and I thought some sections were really boring.

The Bible can lose its freshness but you have to keep it different. Right now I’m reading the Daily Bible. It takes the Bible and divides it chronologically and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few months. That’s really freshened it up for me. The big thing is to see the Bible as a story, not a lot of different things just happening.

So you’ve read a bit of the blog. What am I missing?

NF: I think the biggest thing is that I would never have anyone pick up the Bible and read it cover-to-cover. Not to sound dramatic, but when people get to drive a car, they don’t give everyone a car and say have fun and good luck. We give driving lessons and there’s a test you have to pass. You have to know a bit about the car before you drive it.

I think the Bible is a dangerous book and it can be misused and misread. I think when it’s just picked up without some context to what it actually is, it can be difficult to glean the messages.

For example, when you read through the Old Testament there’s definitely stuff that’s just crazy. I believe the Bible is God’s word. The trick is the context. It’s not meant to be taken literally so that’s often why the Bible is so misunderstood. People read the context and say that would never apply today. Whether it’s not eating shellfish or not wearing certain fibers. Some of those obscure texts still have meaning for us so we have to realize the context we read it in today is different than when it was written.

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