By Rev. Mark Gornik
new and very important book is Charles Marsh's The Beloved
Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil
Rights Movement to Today (Basic 2005).
The book begins by recounting a
1956 address by Martin Luther King Jr. where he is
reflecting on the meaning of the Montgomery bus boycott.
Although a boycott was necessary in Montgomery to bring an
end to discriminatory laws, King urged the church people
in the movement to keep in mind that a boycott and its
achievements do not in
themselves represent the goal. The end is reconciliation,
the end is redemption, he said, the end is the creation of
the beloved community. The beloved community, as Marsh
argues, is a vision of reconciliation and right
relationships. It is a picture of God's kingdom, and when
the church enacts it in everyday life, it offers a
Marsh shows how this Christian
conviction was central to the civil rights movement. To
tell this story, he turns to Martin Luther King, Clarence
Jordan, and John Perkins. The beloved community continues
today, Marsh argues, largely under the radar screen, and
through grassroots efforts. In the chapter Building
Beloved Communities: Dispatches from the Quiet Revolution,
Marsh offers New Song as one example of how the vision of
Dr. King, Dr. Perkins and many others for the beloved
community continues today.
This is an immensely important
book in the field of civil rights studies and the
relationship of faith to public life. More importantly for
New Song, it can help us better understand our history,
work and calling.