Academic journal article
By Pierard, Richard V.
Journal of Church and State , Vol. 49, No. 1
The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, From the Civil Rights Movement to Today. By Charles Marsh. New York: Basic Books, 2005. 292 pp. $26.00.
Charles Marsh, professor of religion at the University of Virginia, presents a thoughtful study, examining a central concept of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King's vision of the "beloved community," and the role it played in various endeavors to achieve social justice in the subsequent four decades. King proclaimed in December 1956, that the ultimate goal of the struggle was not just the ending of racial discrimination but also reconciliation, redemption, and "the creation of the beloved community." This would be a new social order, one in which people divided by centuries of oppression and hatred would come to live together peaceably in beloved community. Marsh's central argument is that Christian faith gave rise to and sustained the Civil Rights Movement and this overarching spiritual vision. The teachings of Jesus came alive in the segregated South.
The book opens with a careful analysis of King's work in Montgomery, Alabama, and the emergence of his idea of beloved community. Next it deals with Clarence Jordan and Koinonia Farm in southern Georgia and the interaction between the two endeavors. It then focuses on the tragic story of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). Born in local black church theological radicalism, it was taken over by secular revolutionaries who, with their black power emphasis, had no use for SNCC's original incarnational vision. The work of building beloved community withered and died.
In 1968, the vision seemed to be in ruins. The emerging counterculture was unable to develop strategies for rebuilding relationships and for reconnection with the sources of redemption, reconciliation, and beloved community. …