Are we ready to build the Beloved Community?

The Unitarian Universalist congregation that I joined recently voted to accept the UU Eighth Principle …

I thought I should try to understand what the Beloved Community might look like. Here is one description extracted from a blog titled “Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism. Carl Gregg wrote…..

“In progressive religious circles, you will often hear calls to “build the Beloved Community,” but I’m not sure we always appreciate the full historic resonance of that phrase. The term “Beloved Community” was coined by the early twentieth-century American philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916). But most of us learned it not from Royce but from The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who often spoke of the “Beloved Community” as his ultimate goal.”

As an early example, after the Montgomery Bus Boycotts in speaking about the larger movement toward which they were building, Dr. King said:

But notice as well what King is not saying. He is not saying what we are often accustomed to hearing in our highly competitive society: that the end goal is a decisive — or even crushing — victory over our opponents. For King, building Beloved Community requires the even harder work of reconciliation, redemption, and being in right relationship, of “transforming opponents into friends.”

As Dr. King said in his 1967 “A Christmas Sermon on Peace,” “We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.” That’s what he meant by “a love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men”: practices like nonviolent activism that break open the hearts of your opponents, confronting them with the inherent worth and dignity of peoples and groups they falsely believed to be less than fully human.

According to The King Center

For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a lofty utopian goal to be confused with the rapturous image of the Peaceable Kingdom, in which lions and lambs coexist in idyllic harmony. Rather, The Beloved Community was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. 

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.

Recall that for Dr. King, the Beloved Community was a “realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.” Given the effectiveness we have seen of the practice of nonviolence in the movements led by King, Gandhi, and others, what would it mean to work toward having “a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence?” What might it look like if we reallocated even 1% of our nation’s significant military budget for teaching nonviolent activism? And then 2% the next year? Then 3% and so on? How might such a paradigm shift help us move away from what Dr. King called the three greatest threats to building the Beloved Community: racism, materialism, and militarism. 

Dr. King’s friend, the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh extended the Beloved Community to all sentient beings, but he called it his sangha. In 2014, forty-six years after King’s assassination, Nhat Hanh wrote: “I was in New York when I heard the news of his assassination; I was devastated. I could not eat; I could not sleep. I made a deep vow to continue building what he called ‘the beloved community,’ not only for myself but for him also. I have done what I promised to Martin Luther King Jr. And I think that I have always felt his support.”

As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The next Buddha may take the form of a community practicing understanding and loving kindness, a community practicing mindful living.


Many of us are trying to see the characteristics of white European culture at work in ourselves and our institutions. We might also ask “so what are the characteristics of the Beloved Community?”

The following is taken from Religion & Race. The beloved community manifests and protects agape love as its guiding principle and is expressed in the following ways:

  1. Offers radical hospitality to everyone; an inclusive family rather than exclusive club;
  2. Recognizes and honors the image of God in every human being;
  3. Exhibits personal authenticity, true respect, and validation of others;
  4. Recognition and affirmation, not eradication, of differences;
  5. Listens emotionally (i.e., with the heart) – fosters empathy and compassion for others;
  6. Tolerates ambiguity – realizes that sometimes a clear-cut answer is not readily available;
  7. Builds increasing levels of trust and works to avoid fear of difference and others;
  8. Acknowledges limitations, lack of knowledge, or understanding – and seeks to learn;
  9. Acknowledges conflict or pain in order to work on difficult issues;
  10. Speaks truth in love, always considering ways to be compassionate with one another;
  11. Avoids physical aggression and verbal abuse;
  12. Resolves conflicts peacefully, without violence, recognizing that peacefully doesn’t always mean comfortably for everybody;
  13. Releases resentment and bitterness through self-purification (i.e., avoidance of internal violence through spiritual, physical, and psychological care);
  14. Focuses energy on removing evil forces (unjust systems), not destroying persons;
  15. Unyielding persistence and unwavering commitment to justice;
  16. Achieves friendship and understanding through negotiation, compromise, or consensus – considering each circumstance to discern which will be most helpful;
  17. Righteously opposes and takes direct action against poverty, hunger, and homelessness;
  18. Advocates thoroughgoing, extensive neighborhood revitalization without displacement (this also applies to the Church – working toward responsible and equitable growth, discipleship, and worship);
  19. Blends faith and action to generate a commitment to defeating injustice (not forgetting that injustice can also be found within the Church);
  20. Encourages and embraces artistic expressions of faith from diverse perspectives;
  21. Fosters dynamic and active spirituality – recognizes that we serve a dynamic God who is not left behind by a changing world or people, and that a passive approach will not work;
  22. Gathers together regularly for table fellowship, and meets the needs of everyone in the community;
  23. Relies on scripture reading, prayer, and corporate worship for inner strength;
  24. Promotes human rights and works to create a non-racist society;
  25. Shares power and acknowledges the inescapable network of mutuality among the human family.

This resource is written by Dr. Arthuree Wright

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