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By Rev. Mark Gornik

A new and very important book is Charles Marsh's The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today (Basic 2005).

The book begins by recounting a 1956 address by Martin Luther King Jr. where he is reflecting on the meaning of the Montgomery bus boycott. Although a boycott was necessary in Montgomery to bring an end to discriminatory laws, King urged the church people in the movement to keep in mind that a boycott and its achievements do not in
themselves represent the goal. The end is reconciliation, the end is redemption, he said, the end is the creation of the beloved community. The beloved community, as Marsh argues, is a vision of reconciliation and right relationships. It is a picture of God's kingdom, and when the church enacts it in everyday life, it offers a prophetic witness.

Marsh shows how this Christian conviction was central to the civil rights movement. To tell this story, he turns to Martin Luther King, Clarence Jordan, and John Perkins. The beloved community continues today, Marsh argues, largely under the radar screen, and through grassroots efforts. In the chapter Building Beloved Communities: Dispatches from the Quiet Revolution, Marsh offers New Song as one example of how the vision of Dr. King, Dr. Perkins and many others for the beloved community continues today.

This is an immensely important book in the field of civil rights studies and the relationship of faith to public life. More importantly for New Song, it can help us better understand our history, work and calling.



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