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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

4/6/2018, 7:35 a.m.
Fifty years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, the world honors his legacy ...

Fifty years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968, the world honors his legacy and leadership in civil rights activism to bring freedom, equality and justice to all people.

Dr. King believed in the inherent worth of all people and sought through nonviolence to fight against racism, poverty and militarism, all barriers to living in what he called the “Beloved Community.” The “Beloved Community,” he detailed, is a place where all people can share in the bounty of the Earth.

On the anniversary of his death, the Richmond Free Press asked five area thought leaders:

Have we achieved Dr. King’s “Beloved Community”?

Rev. Roaf

Rev. Roaf

The Rev. Phoebe A. Roaf, rector, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

As we remember the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, have the goals he so powerfully articulated been accomplished?

One of the concepts developed by Dr. King is the “Beloved Community,” a future when all needs will be fulfilled as humanity shares Earth’s resources. In the Beloved Community, poverty, bigotry and war are eradicated.

Dr. King was convinced that the Beloved Community could be achieved. He devoted himself to promulgating this vision of God’s kingdom here on Earth. Others, inspired by his vision, have pursued Dr. King’s legacy to the present time.

Yet, considering the state of affairs in the city of Richmond, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States, we have fallen woefully short of the Beloved Community that Dr. King imagined. In Metro Richmond, men and women stand on street corners holding handmade signs requesting assistance. Public schoolteachers labor in poorly maintained buildings. The nightly news includes stories of violent confrontations between loved ones as well as total strangers. Mass shootings have become commonplace events. Income inequality continues to widen in the United States.

These conditions indicate the Beloved Community has not been achieved. Fifty years after Dr. King’s death, his vision remains a dream. However, why are we surprised at this fact? My faith teaches that the Beloved Community cannot be fully experienced this side of the grave. All of our needs will be fulfilled when our souls are reunited with God.

I face the future with a sense of hope because I do not carry the burden of perfecting society alone. Many others share the load. For example, the March for Our Lives events on March 24 demonstrate that today’s youths are just as committed to the Beloved Community as their counterparts who spearheaded the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s.

Dr. King dedicated his life to making our country a better place. What is asked of each of us is to do the best we can, as imperfect as our efforts may be.

At the end of Dr. King’s life, I envision the Lord telling him, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). The question is not whether we have accomplished the Beloved Community. Rather, the question is when you and I reach the end of our lives, will God say the same to us?