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Local Currents: Love Your Neighbor

“Many of you don’t belong to the Catholic Church, others are not believers,” he said in his native Spanish. “From my heart I impart this blessing, in silence, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each one, but knowing that each of you is a child of God: May God bless you.” –Cathleen Falsani. “Pope Blesses the Ink Stained.” OC Register.

 

“So when Jesus calls us to love our neighbor, this is more just a command or an ethical statement or a rule of life; it’s about the very nature of reality. We are deeply connected with everyone around us, and our intentions and words and and thoughts and inclinations toward them matter more than we can begin to comprehend.” –Rob Bell. “What We Talk About When We Talk About God.”

 

col local currents David Vanderveen by Gabe Sullivan-2968Two of my close friends (above) from college are authors living in Laguna Beach who write about community and spiritual things. They are both on the road this week and have been making news, but what struck me is how what they are saying resonates with what we are doing here at home.

Cathi was covering the new head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, and his remarkable ability to approach the public, particularly the press with humility, love and blessings.

Francis’ blessing of the non-Roman, non-believers is remarkable as is his apparent focus on serving the poor. One hopes that he will be transparent and honest about serious reform in a church that has recently been found full of transgression and lacking in public confession.

Rob was in San Francisco, at Grace Cathedral, doing a tour for his new book when he was asked a simple question about his position on same-sex marriage, he responded, “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed, and I think the church needs—I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”

The Huffington Post ran a story on Rob’s position (he is a best selling-author and pastor), which has sparked more news stories and debates about gay marriage. Author Anne Rice wrote on Facebook and Twitter, “’Rob Bell Comes Out for Marriage Equality.’ This is great news. I am an admirer of Rob Bell, and I hope this will be a wonderful thing.”

Rob followed his original comments with this:

“The powerful revolutionary thing about Jesus’ message is he says ‘what do you do with the people who aren’t like you? What do you do with the other? What do you do with the person who is hardest to love…?’” Bell responded. “That’s the measure of a good religion…I think people are drawn to your message when they realize that you don’t have an agenda and that you are actually interested in them and you do want to serve them. … Serving actually does change the game.”

In an increasingly connected world, learning to get along—learning to confess and apologize as well as forgive are a corollary requirement. It is essential as last week’s letters to the editor clearly identified.

It’s also inspiring when a friend who has been repeatedly attacked, refuses to react to negative pressure, stays the course and creates positive energy in our town.

Rob has been helping James “Jamo” Pribram develop his talks about traveling the world to help fix environmental problems through partnerships with local environmental activists.

Jamo focuses on productive solutions.

Despite a jealous and demented series of attacks by a former environmental activist in town, James’ group, The Eco Warrior Foundation, now represents the California Coastal Commission’s Adopt-A-Beach Program locally.

There are days when we have to stand up for what is right, days when we have to apologize, days when we have to forgive and days when we have to ignore the dementors.

This Saturday, I will be practicing acts of service at Oak Street with Jamo from 9 a.m. until noon, cleaning up our local beach and ocean that I hope can forgive our many transgressions, because, to quote Rob again, I believe that “serving actually does change the game.”

 

David Vanderveen is a Laguna Beach resident, husband, father and energy drink entrepreneur. His email is [email protected]

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