Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Most people have the day off from work, but I have a meeting with the facilitator of our upcoming all church retreat to discuss our retreat's theme "The Beloved Community." The Beloved Community is a radical vision of the world that King challenged us all to embrace.
I love the vision of be Beloved Community; that may seem ironic when looking at my blog's title and reading what the the King Center's site says about Beloved Community:
"For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the Peaceable Kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony. Rather, The Beloved Community was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence."
I actually think there's not a large difference between the "utopian goal" of the lion and lamb lying down together and the US and Al Qaida laying down arms. Most days it seems more realistic to expect the lion and lamb to play chess together while lazing under a tree somewhere.
The Beloved Community is a real vision. When I talk to church people and ask them what their vision for their local congregation is, I am stunned at the lack of real vision. After allowing the silence to sit for a while, I use these follow up questions, "When you visualize your perfect church community, what do you see - actually see? A big facility? A modern facility? Lots of programs? What color are the people? How old? What are you doing together? What is happening in worship?" Too many of us - all of us - lose vision. We lose vision of vibrant, socially active, relevant, life-transforming Christianity. The Beloved Community reintroduces us to a beautiful vision of how the world (and our churches) might be. In the Beloved Community puts forth a vision in which the world's wealth is shared, war is unncessary, and all people are valued and valuable. The Beloved Community lies at the heart of social justice. It's a perfect start for churches to discuss the Beloved Community when trying to see their own possibilities and what the gospel calls us into.
While King did not originate the idea of the Beloved Community (he borrowed it from FOR's Josiah Royce), King is the one who popularized the notion. On this day of remembering the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr. I am spending today reflecting upon the Beloved Community, what its implications would be in our individual lives, in the workings of our churches, and in the midst of our world.
For more substance on the Beloved Community, I refer you to:
The King Center