Dr. Martin Luther King and the Beloved Community
As a young man with most of my life ahead of me, I decided early to give my life to something eternal and absolute. Not to these little gods that are here today and gone tomorrow. But to God who is the same yesterday, today and forever. – Martin Luther King, Jr. 1951
And it is this God who is the same yesterday, today and forever who has given man a vision of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. This Kingdom is seen in the perfect communion among God, man, animals and creation in the Garden. This Kingdom is seen in its coming glory as, again, a place of communion where people of all nations live together in peace without pain or suffering… “for the former things have passed away.” In the gap between these two pictures of the Kingdom of Heaven, we live today in a society filled with the “former things” of sin and injustice.
And, as this God-follower Martin Luther King, Jr. fought against the sin of segregation and racism, it is important to note that he was NOT simply fighting for the morality of desegregation and equality of restaurants, bathrooms and schools (etc.) but for the creation of a BELOVED COMMUNITY where people of all races could live together in peace and harmony.
In his essay The American Dream, Dr. King says, “God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men and brown men and yellow men. God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race and in the creation of a society where all men can live together as brothers, where every man will respect the dignity and the worth of human personality.”
And soon after the Supreme Court decision (November 1956) striking down Montgomery, Alabama’s bus segregation laws, Dr. King reminded his audience, “Love your enemies. Keep in mind that a boycott and its achievements do not in themselves represent the goal. The end is reconciliation, the end is redemption, the end is the creation of the beloved community.”
Dr. King’s dream of the Beloved Community (the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth) is also the dream of all God-followers. So we partner with schools to bring equality of education to all Memphis students. And we seek this equality not simply so children are smarter (although that most certainly is a goal) but for the essential role that “sameness” in education can play in making our city a beloved community where people are blessed as they live with one another in peace and dignity. It is this pursuit of the Beloved Community that gives MTR our sustaining spiritual vision when the romance of morality in education fades under the tide of sacrifice.