Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. & The Beloved Community

I just finished a very intensive January term class wherein we spent our time delving into the issue of Charity vs. Justice. Charity is necessary, but serves as a bandage to the larger systemic problems. Justice addresses the problems – names the powers and principalities that lead for the need of charity. As part of this class we divided into three groups each focusing on a public issue, and in doing so we sought to name the powers behind each injustice. My group explored violence. We focused on the context immediately surrounding us – that of people forced by circumstances to live on the streets and the economic violence that surrounds that entire issue. One of the ways in which we sought to mobilize faith communities in to action was by creating a Declaration of Rights in the Beloved Community. The Beloved Community was Rev. King’s vision for the world – a World House – where sisters and brothers care for each other with agape love.

I am posting the Declaration of Rights below, and encourage any of my clergy friends to sign it either in the comments or by liking it (you do not have to be clergy to do either of these), but more importantly I urge you to take it to your congregations and allow it to stimulate your vision for a world as God intends.

Grace and Peace,

Declaration of Rights in the Beloved Community

Whereas we believe that all people are created equally in the image of God and that the presence of God in humanity is an essential part of what it means to be human, we vow to recommit ourselves every day to doing our best, by the Grace of God, to live into an Absolute Resurrection Theology. This means that:

– Whereas we claim the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we commit ourselves to seeking to live into God’s intention and vision for the possibilities of the world.

– We believe that God has the power to resurrect and to make the new heaven and new earth a reality.

– Because God has defeated death, God can also defeat violence.

– God is calling the Body of Christ not merely to faith but to a radical discipleship that seeks to embody and live into this new reality believing that God has freed us not for ourselves alone but that all people might truly be free.

As a consequence of an Absolute Resurrection Theology all people are enumerated the following inalienable rights:

The right to be recognized and be dignified regardless of gender, race, sexuality, religion, creed, economic station, or state of health.

The right to claim your identity – to name yourself and not be the object of systems that seek to devalue your worth, but to name yourself and make your self the subject.

The right to employment that provides you a living wage, safe and dignified working conditions, and that has fair and just hiring and dismissal practices.

The right to mobility – to fair and affordable housing that would allow you to live on the South Side of Chicago or the along the Gold Coast.

The right to be safe – to have the same access to physical, mental and emotional safety as everyone else.

The right to community – a place to gather and work with others.

The right to have access to not just emergency health care, but to preventative health care.

The right to be educated – that everyone have the same access to quality education.

The right to Sabbath – a time of rest for spiritual, mental and emotional renewal.

Therefore in recognition of these rights and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ we demand communities of faith pick up and bear the cross and be a witness in society. We demand these communities of faith mobilize people for the care of their neighbors both locally and globally.

We Demand:
Better Law Enforcement:
– Our law enforcement system to practice restorative justice as opposed to retributive justice.
– Our police force must protect all persons regardless of race, gender, class, or age from all forms of violence.

We Demand:
Better Business:
– Corporations cannot view people as means to an end, but rather as the end.
– People have inherent value that is greater than any profit.

We Demand:
– Better Political Administration:
– Politicians will be held accountable to uphold principle over price.
– Our political system must empower everyone to name their place at the table.
– Leaders must emerge from every walk of life, not just the privileged.

We Demand:
Better Education:
– Education must be offered equally for everyone regardless of linguistic, mental, physical capabilities.
– All can learn and have the ability to do so even in light of the reality that everyone will not learn in the same way or on the same day.
– Anything humans have done; humans can do.

We Demand:
Better Healthcare:
– Healthcare that equitably offers preventative care and rehabilitation to those in need.

We Demand:
Better Community Relations:
– No one can be seen as being irreparably damaged.
– People must be viewed based on their gifts and talents not their limitations.

As leaders of communities of faith there is no reason for us not to declare these rights and demands as we seek to create the Beloved Community.

Written by Jennifer Crosswhite, Benjamin Adams, James Bixby, & Justin Thornburgh
14 January, 2011


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