June 20, 2005

Midland, Texas: The He Brew Cafe

If I ever pass through Midland, Texas, I’m going to stop by the He Brew for a cup of coffee. This donation–based Christian coffeehouse on Illinois Avenue serves latte, cappuccino, pastries, and more, in four large, pleasant wood–floored rooms. It caters to “a spectrum of age ranges, a bouquet of denominations and a rainbow of personalities,” according to the Odessa American’s religion page. (Odessa is the more blue–collar sister city of white–collar Midland.) Christians ranging from Catholics to Presbyterians go there for a laidback, loving atmosphere. Owner Regina Kuethe opened the place in order to spread the love of God. And the customers respond by donating not only money for their food and drink, but paintings for the walls, books for the shelves, and ingredients for baking.

“People feel a part of the place,” Kuethe said. “They feel drawn to give to it. Like the Israelites, they each give according to their talents.”

I like the idea of this every bit as much as I’d like the idea of the latest Hindu or Rastafarian or orthodox Jewish hangout in Brooklyn. I heard about it from my friend the liberal San Francisco educational reformer, previously introduced in my recent PC Hotel post. She was in Midland on a mission to spread the gospel of progressive education to the unbelievers. What she found were kind hosts, an audience with an open mind, and a surprisingly diverse population. (We looked up the county’s 2004 election statistics and found that over 40% had voted for Kerry rather than native son George.) She was talking to an Asian traveler who is familiar with the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (a college named for an oil field from a prehistoric time which many of the local residents believe never happened). “They are simple people,” the man said and spoke admiringly of Midlanders’ love of family and of the land.

Was I upset by the name of the cafe, my friend inquired? Not at all. I’m not one of these contemporary professional ethnics who gets offended at a well–intentioned acknowledgment of my people. I know the difference between hostility and friendship. Sure, they’d like to convert me, but I can take care of myself, and if they ever succeeded -- well, there would have to be a pretty good reason for it, I’ll tell you that.