Monday, January 21, 2013

MLK National Holiday: The Beloved Community

As I watched the inauguration of the second term of President Barack H. Obama, I could almost hear the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. reverberating in the background.

And I think of the phrase that has been repeated more than once today -- "The Beloved Community."

"The Beloved Community" was a term first coined in early 20th Century by philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce, who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Dr. King, also a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, popularized this term and sparked its evolution.

For Dr. King "The Beloved Community" described a country -- a world even -- of justice and equality and hope. A community of faith and love, where people of different races, cultures and socio-economic groups can live together, work together and worship together.

In 1956, Dr. King spoke these words following the U.S. Supreme Court Decision to desegregate the buses of Montgomery, Alabama:
"The end [of segregation] is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men."
King's dream went beyond African Americans having the right to sit anywhere we want to sit on a city bus. His dream went beyond even the election of the first African American president. His dream was one of community, one of solidarity -- where people of different colors and races and cultures can live together in peace, hope and love. Where we see the difference in the color of our brother or sister's skin, but choose to treat him or her with respect and honor and love.

Yet many of us still live separately, work separately and worship separately.

As we embrace a new year and a new hope for our country's future, let's ask ourselves: What will I do to embrace The Beloved Community? How can I encourage my school, my workplace, my organization, my neighborhood to also embrace The Beloved Community?

If we all embrace The Beloved Community, perhaps we will witness "a love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men."



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