Guest Opinion: Finding Meaning – Shared Beliefs

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By Skip Hellewell

By Skip Hellewell, Guest Contributor

Last Sunday night, checking the TV, I chanced upon the Dodgers beating the Giants in extra innings for win 101 of the season. Not the best sports fan; I was unaware the Dodgers were doing so well. The program was followed by highlights of the day’s NFL football games with game-changing plays and screaming fans (yes, the Rams beat the Falcons). It was a quick tour of football stadia across the country, each with tens of thousands of fans, interspersed with long commercial breaks that are themselves a spectacle.

Sunday morning, by contrast, I was at two Laguna churches. At the first, the Beautiful Wife learned a friend’s mother had passed away that week. Typically, the BW wanted to know how she might help her friend; I was curious to know more about the mother and her husband who predeceased her. Research revealed fascinating life stories for both.

The second meeting was at Laguna’s United Methodist Church for the kick-off (to borrow a sports term) of their nine-week World Religion Study organized by Dan Gara. The point of the series is to better understand the shared beliefs of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. This seemed a good thing—to build on what we have in common rather than dwell on our differences—and I thought it the most interesting happening in Laguna that Sunday morning.

Last Sunday’s program offered a review of Christianity up to the Reformation. This Sunday, Rev. Lynn Francis, pastor, will discuss the theology of faith. Future programs will feature noted scholar Dr. William Yarchin of Azusa Pacific University, whose interests include ancient Bible manuscripts and the intersection of science and religion. Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Harvard-trained Director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, will lead the discussion on Islam. Then, Rabbi Peter Levi, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, will teach about Judaism.

Awake in the night, I pondered the contrasts between our love of sports and the observance of faith. Baseball and (American) football are relatively new. Religion, by contrast, is as old as humankind—men and women have always looked to the heavens, seeking answers. The scale and sound of the two are also extreme: stadia hold up to 100,000 screaming fans (the record for loudness is 142 decibels, akin to standing by a jet engine), with millions joining on TV. Church congregations are intimate, formed by a few dozen or a few hundred; when not singing, congregations are still enough to hear the whisper of that still, small voice.

Our embrace of both sports and religion is a testament to our versatility. The challenge is to make space in our lives to be well informed about the quieter one. Thus, please consider taking advantage of the World Religions Study at United Methodist Church for the next eight Sundays at 11:15 a.m. There’s meaning in that.

Hellewell fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]

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