Why do cultural aphorisms find an easy home in college town coffee houses?
At the Bello Mundo Cafe, I think it’s the setting that makes it work: San Luis Obispo, college town, Monterey Street, 75 degrees and sunny, with a gentle breeze blowing. A sign on the sidewalk just outside the door has photos: a cupcake, a coffee cup, and a slice of pie. Just above that the sign reads:
bello mundo café
“May your love be your only religion, and may you preach it to us all” — Sam Beam.
Perfect – I’ll take coffee, a cupcake, and Sam Beam on religion please.
The Bello Mundo Café sits next to an amazing used bookstore — Phoenix Books. It’s one of those awesome places that somehow got frozen in time. Walking through the door you’re surprised to find that it’s 1967 all over again. The intense looking guy behind the counter looks like he just came from a Vietnam era protest rally. Never mind that he’s 63 years old. Vintage books are piled chaotically, floor to ceiling. The philosophy, history of revolution, and occult sections are especially brimming; poetry too. For twenty two dollars, I scored a vintage five volume hardback set: Poets of the English Language — Langland to Yeats — Viking Portable Library.
Now, sitting on my desk, I have my bible, five volumes of the greatest poetry of the English language, and a photo from the bella mundo café, complete with food pics and a Sam Beam quote on religion.
Sam says that love should be my only religion. But I need a little help here. I don’t want to break the spell of a warm summer day, a good cup of coffee, or an easy cultural aphorism; but if love is to be my only religion, how shall I define love?
- Listen to the full catalog of Iron & Wine albums and search for more clues from Sam. Good.
- Read the five volumes of English Poetry. Better.
- Open the Bible. Best.
Love needs definition. Reducing love to a warm feeling, a general sense of goodwill, or a repeat of the 60’s free sex movement isn’t going to get you very far; unless perhaps you spend all your days in college town coffee houses or retro bookstores.
Thankfully, God’s word turns a spotlight on love: God’s love for us, our love for God, our love for our neighbor. This is love defined by the gospel of Jesus Christ and written into the revelation of God’s Word from Genesis to Revelation: love revealed in the story of redemption, love lived out in the life of Christ, love displayed in ultimate sacrifice, and love that triumphed over the grave. This is the love of God from which nothing can separate us. It wins our heart’s affection and calls us to love God fully in return, expressing his love to our neighbor in Christ’s name. It’s awesome, humbling and challenging. It moves us beyond easy aphorisms on sunny days — a cupcake and coffee in hand.
Let’s let God define love. Let’s listen, receive, obey, sacrifice, and serve. That’s our quest!