Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Beloved Community

The idea of the “Beloved Community” was central to the thinking of MLK jr.  It appears from his earliest speeches and writings to his last ones. In an early article he wrote that the purpose of the Montgomery bus boycotts “is reconciliation…redemption, the creation of the beloved community.”  In 1957 he wrote that the “ultimate aim of SCLS is to foster and create the ‘beloved community’ in America where brotherhood is a reality.” 

John A. Powell on the Beloved Community. Originally posted to the Bioneers YouTube Channel.

In his final book he states that “our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation.” Thus, we need to expand our sense of community.  He warned that desegregation by itself would only produce “a society where men are physically desegregated and spiritually segregated, where elbows are together and hearts apart.”  A better outcome is a society of “black and white together” where integration will enlarge “the concept of brotherhood to a vision of total interrelatedness.”  A vision of total interrelatedness is a large vision indeed.  We grow and expand our understanding of community, even while staying true to our local and familial relationships.

Teambuilding. Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash.

He further states that solidarity binds the entire human family because “we are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”  Here too we have powerful language for community—“an inescapable network of mutuality.” 

Isn’t this the rationale for why we wear facemasks in a time of pandemic?  Because we are part of a network of mutuality?  The same holds for the simple act of agreeing with one another that we will stop at red lights.  A network of mutuality demands it.  And, No!  It is not an infringement on one’s liberty and freedom.  It helps to guarantee that one lives to carry on one’s liberty, freedom and right to choose.

Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, march in Washington, D.C. for a new moral society. Photo originally posted to Flickr by Becker1999.

The same holds for choosing and creating an economic system that does not benefit the few at the expense of the poor.  King became stronger and stronger near the end of his life in denouncing a version of capitalism that oppressed the poor and weak and vulnerable.  That too was an offense against a beloved community.

Since his time, the tide has flooded the land with billionaires that between them hold more wealth and power and influence than all other citizens.  With this influence, they see to it that legislatures grant them tax breaks that the ordinary citizen must make up for in order to sustain schools, roads, bridges, policing, interest on national loans and the rest.  This is not the way of a beloved community.

Resistance Revival Chorus singing Ella’s Song, a protest song written in honor of Black Activist and Feminist, Ella Baker. Originally posted to the Resistance Revival Chorus YouTube Channel

In King’s evolving understanding of a “beloved community,” one senses he is applying fresh language to a vision of the kingdom of God where peace, justice and non-violence reign; and where disagreements are settled by listening to one another deeply, not by violence. 

Such a community requires inner work as well as outer work in  individuals and whatever societal institutions we birth.

See Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion.  And Matthew Fox,

Confessions: The Making of a Postdenominational Priest, pp. 119-122, 131, 135f., 290, 306, 309f., 317-319. 

Banner Image: Community members grab free food from a food bank outside of Christ Embassy Church in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. Photo by Chava Sanchez from Where To Get Financial Assistance, Food And More During The Coronavirus Crisis,

Queries for Contemplation

How do you define “beloved community”? 

How does MLK Jr.’s teachings inspire you to commit to building community?  What is the role of strife in that re-building of community?    

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9 thoughts on “Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Beloved Community”

  1. Avatar

    So, the truth comes out…. Hopefully this stark portrayal of the deep corruption portrayed by our president will awaken and motivate people to vote him out of office. The very fabric of the conscience of this nation depends upon our collective stance for integrity. The desecration must cease!

  2. Avatar

    The “Beloved” community can be realized when faith systems and their leadership decide that when they take a stand they have to reinforce it with action. Denominations choose wealth, buildings and large well paid staffs over ministry to the needy. Preachers of all sorts, denominations, creeds, etc. speak to racism, greed and white privilege by nibbling at the edges and speaking indirectly so as not to offend the “deep pockets” who pay their salaries and maintain their physical infrastructure. 83 years of Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, UCC and non-denominational attendance and membership has convinced me that our Christian faith system is quite comfortable where they are and will never change until the “deep pockets” grip is somehow thrown off.

    1. Avatar

      I think some try very hard, but the religious “system” still bows to and supports empire. Individual churches do well, but the hierarchy does not, it’s too hard to wake them up for fear of what they will lose. While my church divested from “big oil”, the larger organization will not take that plunge. It is ungodly the way corporate religion supports corporate America, and it is even worse now than ever. Thank God for Matthew and Jim Wallis, Richard Rohr and other prophets like the reverends in the Poor People’s Campaign.

    2. Richard E Reich

      Michael, I think you are right when it comes to corporate denominations and “our Christian faith system is quite comfortable where they are and will never change until the “deep pockets” grip is somehow thrown off.” Lets pray that change does come in our expression of true Christianity,,,

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