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292 pages
Dec 2004
Basic Books

The Beloved Community

by Charles Marsh

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The Beloved Community by Charles Marsh describes how the God-given desire for community was acted out by men of faith from the civil rights movement in the fifties to the faith-based movement of today. He wrote this book “to reinvest the civil rights movement of its deep soul by interpreting the civil rights movement as theological drama.”

Dr. Marsh begins with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “passion to make human life and social existence a parable of God’s love for the world. It was agape: the outrageous venture of loving the other without conditions--a risk and a costly sacrifice. The logic of King’s dream was theologically specific: beloved community as the realization of divine love in lived social relation.”

Dr. Marsh tells of different men who were part of the struggle for racial equality and social justice: Martin England, Clarence Jordan, and Charles Sherrod. John Perkins is hailed as the father of the faith-based movement and Habitat for Humanity.

This reviewer had a hard time getting into this book. The writing is not clear at times and the author uses a great deal of references. The next-to-last chapter was great, giving examples of people who exhibit “beloved community” today: people making sacrifices as they seek to live out God’s love in today’s world.

The Beloved Community is an eye opener. I lived through the sixties--graduated high school, went to college, got married--and somehow never came face-to-face with the race situation. Today, in a large, multi-cultural church, we are dealing with becoming the beloved community that God so desires. God’s love is a gift, yet applying it takes hard work.

Read it to learn. Read it to be challenged into be an integral part of God’s plan for our world. -- Linda Demorest, Christian Book

Book Jacket:

Speaking to his supporters at the end of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1956, Martin Luther King, Jr. - then a young minister only two years out of divinity school-declared that their common goal was not simply the end of segregation as an institution. Rather, "the end is reconciliation, the end is redemption, the end is the creation of the beloved community." King's words reflect the strong religious impetus behind the civil rights movement in the South in its early days. Consciously emphasizing the Judeo-Christian roots of their convictions, civil rights leaders at the time saw their ultimate purpose as building a "beloved community" on earth. In their quest for social justice, the radical idea of Christian love, specifically through the practice of nonviolence, would transform the social and political realities of twentieth-century America.

By the end of the 1960s, that exuberant vision of the beloved community had come apart, lost to disillusionment and secular radicalism. But as noted theologian Charles Marsh shows, the same spiritual vision that animated the civil rights movement remains a vital-and growing-source of moral energy today. In moving prose, Marsh traces the history of this vision over the past four decades, from the racial reconciliation movement in American cities to the intentional communities that church groups have founded. His portraits of faith-based social justice initiatives-including Eugene Rivers' Azusa Christian Community in Boston and Koinonia Farm in Georgia-offer a stark contrast to the usual media portrayal of Christian activism.

Despite the odds against it, the pursuit of the beloved community continues to foster racial unity and civic responsibility in a divided American culture. With The Beloved Community, Marsh lays out a exuberant new vision for Christian progressivism, and simultaneously reclaims the centrality of faith in the quest for social justice.