Updated: Jun 11, 2018
Often, I feel as though people know the least about the most “well-known” individuals. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, was a giant of a man who affected massive change in the United States during the civil rights movement. He was a radical revolutionary, a passionate Christian, and a devoted pacifist. Yet in many social circles I have found myself in, too often have I heard his legacy reduced to this:
“Martin Luther King was a big part of the civil rights movement, was non-violent, and was eventually killed.”
While these statements are all true, it reduces the character and the ideas of the man. Rarely have I heard people go deeper into what he believed and the things he taught.
Recently I felt a strong pull on my heart and mind to delve into his writings, sermons, and speeches. To learn as much as I can about who he was, what he believed, and what he professed. During this search I discovered his ideal of the beloved community. It captivated me.
The definition of the beloved community from thekingcenter.org is this:
“Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. 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. In the Beloved Community, 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.”
It's a beautiful world to imagine, and it is one to work for. Dr. King believed the beloved community could only come as a result of non-violence and integration. Proximation. Dr. King himself said in his 1963 sermon “Loving Your Enemies” that
“While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community.”
He believed in forgiving everyone. If a black man in mid 20th century America was able to preach the word of forgiveness and love for the very people trying to classify his race as sub-human, so can we forgive those who have done us or others wrong. Dr. King was incarcerated for protesting segregation in 1963. He sat in a cell and wrote letters of forgiveness, of hope, and of love.
Dr. King said that “Forgiveness is not an occasional action, it is a permanent attitude.” Those are the words I have chosen to live by. If the world practiced those words without fail, it would look a whole lot more like the beloved community King dreamed of.