THE BELOVED COMMUNITY
‘Let us foster a united community, free from discrimination-a city that may be called a ‘beloved community’ which provides equal justice for all.”
The Rev. Maurice McCrackin (1905-1997)
It is truly and just that we should celebrate Mac’s beloved community, a community here today and a community yet to be formed, for Mac’s beloved community was and is a community of all beings. Mac’s concern was for everyone and everything, including the animals. Mac excluded none of the oppressed from his compassionate love and neither should we. Of course Mac did not know very much about the theories of feminism, or animal rights or deep ecology because these are relatively new issues and yet he instinctively knew these ideas are all interconnected with all the other justice and human rights issues. For example, he became a vegetarian when he was told how the animals suffer under modern factory farming practices and how eating “meat”, i.e., the bodies of dead animals, impacts on the earth and on the feeding of the poor. And he rode a bus all night to Washington, DC, to participate in a National Organization for Women-sponsored demonstration for women’s rights. And we all know how often Mac picketed and protested for the poor and the homeless and how often he was jailed for peace.
What does this mean for us? It means that we must concern ourselves with all beings too. We must talk with one another to understand each other’s concerns. We must look for the interconnection between all the issues. When we do look for that interconnection we will find that it is the suffering or oppression of some one or some thing, whether it be the poor, women, animals, prisoners, the homeless, third world people, people of a different color, the physically disabled, the mentally ill, children or the earth. The important truth is that all beings are interdependent and interrelated. Our actions, following on our thought patterns, have an effect on everything else.
If we are serious about forming Mac’s beloved community we need to examine the thought patterns leading to our actions. The problem, often unconscious, is a vicious circle starting with our own psyche’s tendency to a dualistic thinking pattern. This is coupled with a desire for privilege and a willingness to dominate others, whom we then classify as inferior, in order to gain that privilege. Eventually such conduct becomes institutionalized in our culture, reinforced by our customs and codified in our laws.
The term, dualistic thinking, refers to a tendency which is almost natural, to divide reality into opposing pairs such as good or evil, white or black, male or female, human or animal, man or nature, rich or poor, European culture or Native American culture, first world or third world, etc. The pairs are thought of as mutually exclusive and as the opposite of each other, with the first mentioned pair member considered “higher” or of more value than the other member of the pair. Engaging in this kind of dualistic or hierarchical thinking tends to be used as an excuse for the members of the so-called “higher” or “more valuable” group to dominate the members of the so-called “lower” or “less valuable” group. So, for example, the rich feel justified in dominating the poor, man feels that it is OK to destroy nature, humans think that animals don’t matter and men traditionally think they are superior to women.
This way of thinking starts in our own minds but it becomes institutionalized in the culture which is generates and the laws which we make to enforce it. Thus individuals, institutions, governments and multi-national corporations think they act with impunity when they violate the rights and well being of everyone and everything. This is the vicious circle which prevents the beloved community from becoming reality. We must become aware of this dualistic, divisive thinking and we must reject it because it becomes the basis for the discrimination that causes oppression and suffering. Instead, we must see the interconnections and the interrelatedness of all beings, instead of a separation into higher or lower or good or evil.
So laws which give privilege to one group over another must be changed to give equal rights to all. The cultural conditioning must be challenged and shown for what it is, the cause of oppression and suffering to some of the beings of the world, even allowing for the destruction of the earth itself. To begin to break the vicious circle we must become aware of our own thinking and attitudes and have the discipline and courage to change. We are all guilty. We all belong to one class or another that dominates or exploits some other class, causing pain and oppression in the other class. For example, some of us are white, some of us are men, most of us here are of first world and European cultures, and all of us are in the human category. We must change and be willing to give up the privileges that derive from the domination of others. Then we can identify with the other, be sympathetic, and empathize with the other. Compassion, which we can feel and cultivate, will well up in our heart. Then we can reach down into our heart and with that compassion we will be able to lift up all the suffering and oppressed. Finally, we will be able to love all beings, everyone and everything, and so bring about Mac’s beloved community.
Elizabeth Farians, Ph.D., Recipient of the 1998 McCrackin Peace and Justice Award
(Remarks given at the first “Rev. McCrackin Day, June 27, 1998)
Elizabeth Jane Farians