The Beloved Community

Modified on: November 1, 2020


“I do not think of political power as an end. Neither do I think of economic power as an end. They are ingredients in the objective that we seek in life. And I think the end of that objective is a truly brotherly society, the creation of the beloved community.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in an article in Christian Century Magazine, July 13, 1966)

The Beloved Community is a vision our tradition holds up as a light to guide us. A fundamental theological concept in Unitarian Universalism, pervasive in our tradition’s thought and literature, the idea of the Beloved Community comes to us from the civil rights movement and the greater struggle for justice in which our religious movement is one proud partner. We strive for a world in which every one of us belongs, just as we are; a world of equity and affirmation; a world of fellowship and freedom; a world more livable for us all.

“The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, so that when the battle is over, a new relationship comes into being between the oppressed and the oppressor.” (from The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., March 1959)

The absurdity of this ideal is balanced by the practicality of our method. Our means align with our ends, so that we are actively realizing our goal as we pursue it. By acting as if everyone matters—even those most opposed to us, with whom we most disagree, who would do us harm; even the bullies of the world—we create a community in which every one of us matters.

“There are certain things we can say about this method that seeks justice without violence. It does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent but to win his friendship and understanding. I think that this is one of the points, one of the basic points, one of the basic distinguishing points between violence and non-violence. The ultimate end of violence is to defeat the opponent. The ultimate end of non-violence is to win the friendship of the opponent. It is necessary to boycott sometimes but the non-violent resister realized that boycott is never an end within itself, but merely a means to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor; that the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption. And so the aftermath of violence is bitterness; the aftermath of non-violence is the creation of the beloved community; the aftermath of non-violence is redemption and reconciliation. This is a method that seeks to transform and to redeem, and win the friendship of the opponent, and make it possible for men to live together as brothers in a community, and not continually live with bitterness and friction.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from “Justice Without Violence,” April 3, 1957)

Is this even possible?

“But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers 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.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from “Facing the Challenge of a New Age,” 1956)

It is worth finding out—

Scott


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