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The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, From the Civil Rights Movement to Today 1st Edition

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465044153
ISBN-10: 0465044158
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this ambitious, wide-ranging book, Marsh, a religion professor at the University of Virginia, argues that the Civil Rights movement was, at its core, a Christian attempt to forge a "beloved community" of believers who identify with the poor and dispossessed and seek justice on their behalf. As his alternative telling unfolds, he introduces readers to a Martin Luther King Jr. they may not recognize (one who looked forward to a life of privilege and comfort until he was forced into leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott), as well as lesser-known figures such as Koinonia farm founder Clarence Jordan and Voices of Calvary founder John Perkins. Both of these men, like many others featured in the book, came to activism by way of Christian faith and belie the popular notion of "the civil rights movement as a secular movement that used religion to its advantage." Marsh laces his narrative with powerful critiques of secularism—among both activists and academics—and of white evangelical Christians for shallow, ineffectual concern for the poor and for people of color. He ends on a positive note, however, citing example after example of contemporary Christians eschewing lives of middle-class comfort in favor of attempts to build the beloved community in the most troubled corners of America.
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From Booklist

Marsh brings fresh perspective to the civil rights movement and the role of religion in social reform. Lamenting efforts by historians to secularize the civil rights movement, Marsh asserts that Christian principles of healing, reconciliation, and redemption were at the heart of the movement. Martin Luther King Jr and others sought not just social justice and national redemption but the "creation of the beloved community" to include citizens of all races living in peace and overcoming a long history of hatred and oppression. Marsh explores the theology behind the more radical approach of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the intentional interracial communities that continued efforts at reconciling religion and social reform. Recounting the struggles for racial justice and the spiritual tumult engendered in that search, Marsh offers personal portraits of courage rooted in faith as well as the ongoing debates about personal relationships with Christ and liberation theology and continued tensions between fundamentalists and social progressives. This fascinating, compelling book will appeal to readers with broad interests in religion and social justice. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1st edition (December 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465044158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465044153
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #960,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Marsh is the Commonwealth Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia and director of the Project on Lived Theology. He was born in Mobile, Alabama and educated at Harvard University Divinity School and the University of Virginia. Support for his recent "Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer" (Knopf, 2014) came from a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts and the American Academy in Berlin, where he served as the Ellen Marie Gorrissen Fellow. His books include the memoir "The Last Days" (Basic Books, 2000), and "God's Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights" (Princeton 1997), which won the 1998 Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By S. Wispelwey on March 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
'The Beloved Community' should be required reading for anyone even peripherally interested in issues of social justice, the civil rights movement, and "moral values" - especially for how all three intersect in carefully processed and thorough arguments as they do here. I've had no problem recommending it to college professors (for their classes), friends, and colleagues - and so far a nice handful of them have picked it up and agreed with my opinion of the book. In light of the 2004 Election, the blather made about "moral values" (and what constitutes a 'moral value') and the splash made by Jim Wallis's 'God's Politics' - I'd say I'm more glad Marsh's book came my way in terms of relevancy, weight, and approach.

While it may seem at first glance that this is no more than a "history book" written to prove a point, to stop there and say it doesn't have a "vision for America" would come up short. Marsh's deeply rooted and researched (all backed up by copious notes/bibliography) historical approach serves as a unique and ultimately more vibrant catalyst for the future by the time I worked my way up to present day.

I'd love to keep writing about it - but suffice it to say - 'The Beloved Community' makes the last 50 years compelling and relevant in America in the stories about the Civil Rights Movement and all its diverse characters (the chapters on MLK, L'Abri, and John Perkins especially grabbed me).
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By M. STUART on March 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If there were a way to give all Americans a required readinglist, this book would be at the top. Not to diminish the enjoyment of reading Marsh's eloquent writing and gripping storytelling, but the Beloved Community communicates several extremely important socio-historical lessons. In addition, the nebulous term "faith," which has been thrown around in political rhetoric and sappy talk shows, takes on a powerful definition in the real, concrete historical events and characters of the civil rights movement. Much of the unique value in this book is Marsh's ability to connect the civil rights movement of the 1950s & `60s with today's torch-carriers of the vision for beloved community. Those who work for civil rights today (whether on a broad political level or at the simple grassroots level of volunteering at the local shelter) will be challenged by the determined, sturdy spirit of the early civil rights leaders who had such assurance of God's will for social healing that they endured external persecution and internal conflict without abandoning the vision. At the same time, today's leaders will be encouraged by Marsh's account of other contemporary activists seeking redemptive reform in society through the church (if not in the church, as well).

Since we cannot have a universal required reading list, then this book will already be an easy choice for anyone working, volunteering, or advocating for social justice and healing. It will be a convicting book for American Christians who will see that faith really does move mountains and then wonder if we are living so boldly. This book would be a great tool for discussion groups or Bible studies as it provides a balance of thick historical narration and intelligible commentary, leaving room for others to apply meaning and relevancy themselves. Finally, the Beloved Community will also appeal to anyone who appreciates history, sociology, or theology.
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Format: Hardcover
In his book, Marsh argues that the civil rights movement is often portrayed by historians as a movement that co-opted religion for its purposes (4). Instead, Marsh seeks to root much of the civil rights movement in the stream of Christianity as a “theological drama (6).” In so doing, Marsh seeks to invigorate his reader to embrace the social vision of Christianity centered around the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and animated by the practices of forgiveness, reconciliation and non-violence that characterized the leaders of the civil rights movement (6). Marsh sustains this call to his reader through the lively stories he tells of the faith and hope in Jesus Christ possessed by leaders of the civil rights movement from Martin Luther King, Jr. to John Perkins.

It is within these stories like that of the bus boycott in Montgomery that we catch a glimpse the creation of a new community – centered around the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: “It is true as we struggle for freedom in America we will have to boycott at times. But we must remember that as we boycott that the boycott is not an end within itself…. [The] end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community (48).”

Reconciliation is something that God is doing in the world through Christ – work that does not require our efforts; yet it is a work anyone who is Christ is called to participate in. In reconciling all things to Himself, God, is opening a space for humanity to a feast with the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The beloved community is not characterized by the social norms of the world but by Christ. That is, those who are in Christ are no longer Greek nor Jew, Male nor Female, slave nor free, but one in Christ (c.f. Gal 3:28).
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