Beloved Community - Monday Musing, January 17, 2022
Beloved Community. Today we celebrate the life and ministry of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who once said, “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” Jesus taught about the kin-dom of God: the prophets’ vision of shalom, where the powerful and the powerless can imagine and enact a just world together. So King’s prophetic voice describes the experience of God’s kin-dom – an ideal where humankind lives with one another in harmony with no racial and social divisions.
Dr. King’s Beloved Community was the vision for the Civil Rights Movement in which all people shared the wealth of the earth; poverty, hunger, and homelessness would not be tolerated because international standards of human decency would not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice would be replaced with an all-inclusive spirit. Fundamental to the concept of the Beloved Community is inclusiveness, both economic and social. The notion that all can share earth’s bounty describes a society in which the social product is shared far more equally than it is today. The Beloved Community also describes a society in which all are embraced, and none discriminated against.
In baptism, Christ makes a mark on our lives so that we can make a mark on the world. Jesus models for us – challenges us – to live in such a way that all people, regardless of race, religion, economic status, physical and mental ability, where we are born, or who we love, are included in God’s beloved community. God’s love is not just for the entitled few; the door to God’s kin-dom swings wide.
In speaking about the possibility of actualizing the Beloved Community, King attempted to avoid what he called “a superficial optimism” on the one hand, and “a crippling pessimism” on the other. He knew that the solution to social problems was a slow process. At the same time, he was confident that – through God’s help and human effort – social progress could be made. We celebrate the legacy of MLK today, but can we honestly say that we have reached the mountaintop?
The prophetic voice of John the baptizer invites us to prepare for the coming kin-dom of God. John’s answer is with the “baptism of repentance,” which invites us to contemplate how we might live faithfully between what John Westerhoff calls “the already and the not yet of God’s new creation.” King’s Beloved Community falls into the “not yet” category. Today, the idea of a beloved community continues to be the goal of civil rights movements and justice-seekers across the country. Dr. King has been taken from us, but may the spirit that inspired the civil rights movement not be lost. The beloved community is an ideology of action where people of faith, and those committed to social justice, can work together toward a more just future. May we as a community of faith be challenged to overcome the hardships, bear the burdens, carry the torch, and advance King’s dream. See you in church!