Welcome to the debut of the Midrash St. Louis blog. Our website just got a much-needed overhaul and we’ve added this blog to provide more of the “Commentary on Culture” which Midrash has fostered since its origin way back in April of 2005.
First let’s address our name. It’s a bit confusing, we know. Allow us to explain. Midrash is a Hebrew term that refers to “commentary.” While Midrash St Louis is not specifically Hebrew in background or focus, we like this term because we like the concept of commentary, of identifying important themes and thoughts of our day, and providing commentary thereon. Midrash St. Louis put simply is all about “commentary on culture.” We provide forums for commentary on the most important and timely issues of our day - what we refer to as “stuff that matters.” We’re completely inclusive and revel in diversity of opinion; we invite absolutely anyone and everyone to give and receive thoughtful views on the stuff that matters, today. We love to provoke, to receive, and to provide, commentary on culture. That’s Midrash St. Louis in a nutshell: commentary on culture. That wasn’t so confusing, was it?
Now let’s summarize the specific things Midrash does in support of this vision; we do a lot, and a lot of very different things. We started in April 2005 with the debut of the event we call “Theology at the Bottleworks.” We had this crazy vision of bringing together just everybody in one room to go completely old school and talk face to face about the most important issues of our day. And do it over beer. And include as part of the discussion whatever spiritual thoughts or heritage informs our views. In essence, we talk about everything under the sun, including politics and religion, and add beer. And – it seems to work. Our first Theology at the Bottleworks took up the topic of “Bush, Faith and War,” and discussed the Iraq war, the president at the time and how spiritualities inform and influence our views of the justness of armed conflict. Eighty people showed up. No fights broke out. Instead, the night was fascinating in its diversity of opinion, its thoughtfulness and its respect for others’ views. A new St. Louis tradition was borne – as well as an event we call humbly, “the best public discussion in town.” After 106 discussions in a row of the hottest and most important topics of our times, Theology at the Bottleworks is indeed a tradition in our town; it’s the best public discussion around.
However famous Theology at the Bottleworks is, it is not the only thing we do. Not by a long shot. Currently, Theology at the Bottleworks is our biggest monthly event. For something more personal, you can try the Midrash ArtTalks that meet each month. People who love art, or don’t love or get it, meet the first Friday of each month at galleries and museums around town to see some art and gather to discuss it. Midrash loves to create forums for giving and receiving commentary on culture, and ArtTalks provide just that for people who want to talk about the art that’s around town.
In addition, Midrash St. Louis gives an award – the Midrash St. Louis Film Award – at the St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) each year. Recognizing that film is one of the most popular and powerful mediums in our culture, and desirous of supporting film-making in our town, we give the largest cash award at SLIFF to a film with a substantial St Louis connection that explores with honesty and artistry the hope or need for reconciliation and redemption. We find those to be the most interesting, the most worthy and interesting, and – well – the most redemptive themes in human experience and seek to celebrate films that do so, well.
And Midrash has done so much more over the last 9 years – hosted a huge panel discussion on The State of St. Louis, another on the Truths and Deceptions of the Davinci Code book, hosted a huge film event at the Tivoli Theatre, hosted a public viewing and discussion of a vice-presidential debate, hosted the Elevate St. Louis lecture series, hosted innumerable coffeeshop discussions on the hottest and latest topics, and more – all in the name of commentary on culture.
Why? We love our city. All of it. We love the people of our city. All of them. We love to explore the stuff that matters with people who think like us and don’t think like us. We love to sharpen thoughts and discussion skills. Putting all that together, we believe that fostering respectful and thoughtful dialogue between people of all views and politics and religions reinforces the inherent dignity and value of all people and makes us better people; and as we become better people, and able to converse intelligently and respectfully, St. Louis becomes a better place. It’s that simple. And complicated.
We love to have these discussions, revel in these diversities, connect with all these people, live in these tensions, and we think we contribute, in a tiny way, to the flourishing of our city and its people as we do so- one animated, but respectful, conversation at a time.