Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Beloved Community

Photo by Tammy Shoemaker, OSB
People are connected to those whom they love and who love them back.  We feel it even when we walk into a room, or hear the voice of welcome when kids run into the house after a day in class or when good friends laugh wholeheartedly with one another.  I felt it when I listened to Vincent Harding, the civil rights activist, who was recently interviewed by Krista Tippet on MPR.  Along with Martin Luther King, Vincent Harding seemed able to gather into his heart the jarring opinions, the hateful actions and words among the whites and blacks in the 1960s; and he continues to speak to us in these dark times when we hold at bay those who are different from ourselves, so unable to receive or even respect one another.  Both black leaders spoke of the need to form the BELOVED COMMUNITY, a concept which necessarily eliminates such ideas as “minority/majority,” “black/white,” “worthy/unworthy."
To create the Beloved Community among us, today as then, is hard work! We need to find new words to express our new reality e.g. “minority” no longer works. It connotes the existence of a “majority.” Just as in modern day families, our society is a blended one! We whites are no longer filling the ranks, directing or controlling societal mores. We need to make room for other colors, other ideas, and other ways of expression. In the 60s, one way to express opposition was through protest songs. The song “This little light of mine,” was the marching song to tell Governor Wallace that no matter what he would do, the songsters would continue to let their little lights shine! Or later in Alabama, when supporters of Martin Luther King were trying to discern whether or not to continue the march or go home, a new song was born to capture the hearts and minds of those who were discerning their decisions. It was the gripping song: “KUMBAYA ... Someone’s crying Lord; someone’s suffering, Lord ... Kumbaya ... Come be with us, Lord, Kumbaya!” With the collective support of one another and the truth of their songs, not many volunteers returned home!  They would continue to march for the civil rights of their suffering brothers and sisters!

Can we expect to do less as we enter our new era, and strive again to create a Beloved Community out of nasty partisanships? I don’t think so.  Demographically, whiteness is fading! It is understandable that we are in an identity crisis, that we wonder if we still have a role in our rapidly changing color and cultural society. We find that we are no longer in the majority. We need to move out of our comfort zone of white power into a new normal. Can we begin to call this new community a Beloved Community, as did Martin Luther King and Vincent Harding?  Do we have the courage? The compassion? And the creativity? It will take all three, and all of us–young and older, white/black/brown/red/ and yellow folk; it’ll take discipline, that of developing eyes to see and ears to hear  while our hearts and minds  break open to new unexpected revelations of light within the darkness. Again I’m reminded of the wisdom in one of Leonard Cohen’s songs: 

Ring the bells that still can ring;
Forget your perfect offering;
There’s a crack in everything;
But that’s where the light gets in …

The cracks are all around us! Can we afford to lose the light that is or can come through!  I don’t think so ...

Renée Domeier, OSB

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