THE BELOVED COMMUNITY
by Rev. Teresita Matos-Post
The Beloved Community, a vision popularized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proposes a realistic “global vision” in which all people share the wealth of the earth. According to The King Center, “In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”
Dr. King’s vision is in complete alignment with Hebrew Scriptures, Gospels, letters of the Apostles, Jesus’ mission and ministry, and historical Christian doctrine and tradition. So, why does it seem that the values that are paramount to God’s dream for the kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven, seem to be escaping our realm of possibility?
We might offer a simplistic and unhelpful answer, “the beloved community is utopic.” In other words, desirable but unattainable. I suggest to us that the following might be more plausible answers; because: “We do not want to,” “It is too difficult”, or “I have to let go of something, I am not ready to let go of, just yet (if not ever).” No judgment here. These are all very human responses, we have the freedom to claim any one of them at any time.
However, we must recognize that it is us, humanity, that stands in the way of justice. We stand in the way of God establishing God’s kingdom on earth. It is by design, that we the people of God are entrusted to build it. So, who will build it if we stand in the way?
My husband and I just returned from visiting Kenya on a mission journey. I took with me all the prejudiced images of what Africa was and looked like, according to National Geographic and World Vision programs on TV. I expected a barren land, with streets lined by people begging in borderline starvation. I must admit the state of affairs was not as the bleak one of my imagination, though I cannot discount the many areas we did not visit where this might be the case. On our journey through the south west territory of Kenya, we found a country lush in green land. Land that is fruitful: bananas, potatoes, yams, kale, carrots (the biggest I’ve ever seen!), mangoes, etc
Many times in my prayers, I asked God why would God allow people to live in areas where food and water were scarce. (Like God would do this to us.) It was during this trip God answered my prayerful question: “It is not I who does this, it is you.”
Perturbed by the contrast of the resourcefulness of the Kenyan land and the Kenyan people, and the desperate poverty that enslaves them. I went to where I knew I would find answers: HISTORY. It was hard to find it among all the science and math text books that abound, but I found a single dusty old history book used in secondary school. In it I read a summary of the history of all of Africa, and more specifically the history of Kenya as a British colony, and later as a nation. I will spare you the details, (if you are interested in them, let’s chat!), but what it boiled down to, is that Kenya, while a free country, continues to struggle with the devastation caused by discrimination, bigotry, and racism. The colonial economy stole from the Kenyan tribes their land, their resources, and the structures that would enable them to strive. Colonialism enslaved them to a system, that with its rules, regulations, law and order, deprived them of their human dignity. We do it to each other. Praying will do very little to remove the evils of racism, poverty, bigotry, because God has nothing to do with it. We are the ones that must do something about it. The Beloved Community requires that from us. Jesus expects it from us. God waits for us to make up our minds.
As we encounter increasingly acts of violence, murder, and terrorism, many ignited by bigotry, prejudice, and hatred in our own country, I cannot resist the thought (and truth!) that history repeats itself. Not because God does it, or allows it. But because, we keep fumbling in the same old bad habits and mistakes of the past.
In his now famous 1963 speech, Dr. King said, “But a 100 years later the Negro still is not free.” The Emancipation Proclamation did not solve it all. One hundred and fifty six years later, people in America are still not free from the evils of poverty, bigotry, racism, and discrimination. We know these are evils, because they behave the same way in every country, in every community, where they are allowed to thrive.
If the beloved community, that is God’s kingdom, envisions a global community sharing resources, wealth, and opportunity equally, what does it take for us to build upon that dream to make it a reality? What would it take for the church to stand boldly against hunger, poverty, and homelessness? Many Christians hide behind the notion that Jesus did not engage in any of these “political” issues; to those beloved sisters and brothers I say, “Read the Gospels, again, and again, and again…” Amen.
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