Monday, January 15, 2018

The Beloved Community -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Photo by Jerónimo Bernot on Unsplash

"I have a dream..."

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the tragic death of Martin Luther King Jr. After a lifetime of nonviolence social reform, he was killed in Memphis, TN on April 4, 1968. King paved the way for civil rights reform, including winning the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance, leaving a legacy of hope and inspiration that continues today.

King avoided violence and reformed through peaceful protests. He also rallied with speeches, his most well known being at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, where he stated, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

We’ve come a long way in half a century, but we still have a long way to go to eliminate poverty, racism and militarism. We, as a global society, still need King’s vision of love and engagement for all people, to help us overcome prejudice, which is still very much alive today.

King consistently spoke of love, a theme weaved through his speeches, writings and actions. He declared love and respect did not require absolute uniformity or watered-down viewpoints, but consideration for culture and views that are different. This belief that we can all live together in harmony was proclaimed “The Beloved Community.”

“The way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.” 

This term, Beloved Community, was first coined by philosopher Josiah Royce. King infused Royce’s concept with deeper meaning, and preached it to the world. 

In The Beloved Community, the international standards of human decency will not allow poverty, hunger or homelessness. Racism and all forms of discrimination will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. International disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” 

The Beloved Community is not this lofty Utopian ideal, but a realistic, achievable goal. When people commit to a philosophy of nonviolence, we can create a global community where all people can share in the wealth of the earth. Conflict is inevitable part of the human experience, but it can be resolved peacefully. Adversaries can be reconciled through a mutual, determined commitment to nonviolence with a spirit of friendship and goodwill.

King’s principles of nonviolence begin by acknowledging the “triple evils,” poverty, racism and militarism. Poverty concerns our unemployment, homelessness, illiteracy, hunger and malnutrition. Racism includes prejudice, ethnic conflict, sexism, homophobia, discrimination against disabled and stereotyping. Militarism covers war, domestic violence, rape, terrorism, child abuse and violent crimes. These evils are the leading hindrances from developing The Beloved Community.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 

King chose to reform by sending out a call to freedom and racial unity through love and engagement for all people. He believed in a nonviolent approach and termed Six Principles of Nonviolence described in his first book, “Stride Toward Freedom.” The six principles include:
  1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people
  2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding
  3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
  4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform
  5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate
  6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. 
During the same year King died, his wife, Coretta Scott King, established the The King Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The center remains a global destination, resource center and community institution for nonviolent change. It is a living monument committed to the causes for which King lived and died, ensuring King’s legacy remains relevant and viable and leverages for positive social impact. The center is currently transitioning to meet the challenges and opportunities of today in hopes to inspire future generations to carry forward King’s unfinished work, empowering nonviolent social change moving forward.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a time to honor his memory and legacy through action. If the national pendulum is ever going to swing from hate to love, it will require role models in every community who don’t just call out for respectful engagement, but live it. It’s time to act by reaching out across the social and economical divisions and love your neighbor, even if he or she is different than you.

"Agape [love] is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people…Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.”

It takes a community to embrace the conviction that the Beloved Community can be achieved through an unshakable commitment to nonviolence. It is not an easy or a fast process, but the rewards are amazing when we can live together in peace without fear. 

This is a movement that has strong foundations; however, the choice lies with you. By internalizing King’s principles of nonviolence and making them a way of life, you develop the ability to resolve social, economical and political conflicts, reconciling adversaries and advancing social change in your community, nation and world. Together we can create The Beloved Community.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

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