Being Built Together as the Beloved Community (Print Newsletter Articles)

The Fall 2017 newsletter reflected on Being Built Together as the Beloved Community. Here are the articles shared with us: 

  • Being Built Together as the Beloved Community - Marie Benner-Rhoades
  • Building the Beloved Community - Aaron Saari
  • Intersectionality and the Beloved CommunityHeidi Gross and Amaha Sellassie
  • Scripture Reflection: Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV -  Barbara Avent
  • Environmental Justice: A Case Study for the Beloved Community - Annika Harley, OEP Environmental Justice Intern
  • Dayton OH: Organizing for the Beloved Community - Emily Parsons, OEP Racial Justice Intern


Being Built Together as the Beloved Community - Marie Benner-Rhoades

On Earth Peace has been issuing a lot of statements this year- responses to current events, calls to action, signing petitions, and invitations to prayer; standing beside, walking with, and following [black and brown] leaders of today’s movements for justice and peace.  We do this as we are being built together as the Beloved Community, and this is why it’s important that we continue to do so:

  • The call to be a Beloved Community has historically been a call from leaders of color [the systemically oppressed] calling the world to live more fully into the Kingdom of God.
  • We must decentralize the power of white fragility to become our focus and instead allow the efforts of building justice and peace to motivate and unify us.
  • “…we must lay down our racial bribes, join hands with people of all colors who are not content to wait for change to trickle down, and say to those who would stand in our way: Accept all of us or none.” – Michelle Alexander, New Jim Crow pg 258
  • As followers of Jesus [a leader of color], we must recognize that his ministry too included making statements, calls for actions, and deep prayer in response to the oppressions of his day.

Of course, statement making is not the end.  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said this following the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1956, “…the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”

 On Earth Peace does seek the reconciliation of Christ that is the creation of the Beloved Community.  We long to meet challenges and concerns with care and agape, but also with transparency, equity, and faithfulness, so that “a new relationship comes into being between the oppressed and the oppressor” (Martin Luther King Jr., 1959).


Building the Beloved Community - Aaron Saari

I am a pastor, writer, and social justice activist living in Yellow Springs, Ohio, home of the Antioch College Radicals (class of ’02!). Currently, I’m in the only doctoral program in the world that focuses on MLK’s Beloved Community (BC). It is important to know that King did not come up with the phrase, a 19th century cleric named Josiah Royce did. But King earned it a place in popular consciousness. The BC, he believed, is the only workable step toward fully addressing the sins of prejudice and systemic oppression. But how?

BC begins with Kingian Nonviolence, but this is also an inexact phrase. Bayard Rustin, a self-avowed community and celibate gay man, was the architect of nonviolent resistance as practiced during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ‘60s. The Kings still had guns when they came to Montgomery, a city they picked deliberately to work on race relations not knowing how quickly they’d find themselves at the heart of the bus boycott. Armed bodyguards protected their home. Rustin told King that unless he committed to nonviolence completely, no one would follow him. King listened.

It is my own work on BC that led me to On Earth Peace. Social justice circles make interesting Venn diagrams, and after a few emails and a FaceTime chat, I found myself at a Kingian Nonviolence intensive with Matt Guynn. After two days, I had a total social justice crush on Matt and I knew I had found another organization committed to Kingian principles.  

BC is easy to talk about and but difficult to do. The organization we’ve launched, The Beloved Community Project of Yellow Springs (BCP), develops events around education, art, music, food, and activism. Our membership includes a trans* man and a niqab-wearing, African-American Muslim woman. That doesn’t happen overnight. Here are some core principles we follow:

  1. Identify a need within the community not being addressed. Create space for people who are not afforded other avenues to be heard or to belong. Then try to connect them with those in positions of influence. BC is a network; if you have privilege, use it.

  2. Don’t pretend that there are not differences between people, or that we can “live and let live.” Too often people who are already vulnerable and exposed are told that a space is safe when it is not, or when “safe” means we’ll smile instead of sneer as we deny your basic humanity. Don’t promise safety if you can’t deliver, and know what it means for your context. Trans safety and Muslim safety are not identical.  

  3. Don’t be motivated by money, but don’t underestimate its importance. Help create ways in which people who have time and talent, but not treasure, can still give meaningfully through the organization. We commission art and songs, and plan to have a silent auction at the end of the year; that art transfers to money the artist has given. 

  4. Don’t speak about experiences not your own, especially if there are those within the larger community who can do so authentically. Don’t center the wrong people or appropriate identities. 

  5. You’ll make mistakes. Apologize when appropriate, listen, speak your truth, pray together, learn, and then move forward. Don’t brush things under the rug, but don’t dwell, either. 


Intersectionality and the Beloved Community - Heidi Gross and Amaha Sellassie

Intersectionality is a word that seems to be popping up with more frequency in conversations around anti-racism and anti-oppression. It evokes a sense of connectedness which feels good, given how divisive these conversations can often feel. But it’s important to know that intersectionality means a very specific thing, and comes from a particular moment.

Legal scholar Kimberlé W. Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” in 1989 to examine how different types of discrimination often interact. She created the term when a group of Black women sued General Motors for employment discrimination on the grounds of intersecting race and gender discrimination. GM’s initiatives to hire women had resulted in the hiring of white women, and initiatives to hire Black people had resulted in the hiring of Black men...leaving Black women out. When the courts refused to recognize this “compound” discrimination, Crenshaw and others developed ways to highlight how discriminatory practices and policies fall more heavily on some people than others—especially through certain overlapping social identities.

Intersectionality reminds us to consider all identities at play in a given situation.  While a key to having an intersectional lens is acknowledging the presence of multiple identities simultaneously, there are five which are more salient known as master statuses: race, gender, age, class, and sexual orientation. These are master statuses because not only do we all have them, they are often more visible and therefore influence our access to opportunity and resources.

The Anti-Racism Transformation Team (ARTT) has helped the OEP board do work looking at gender, race and age, for example. It’s important to note the ways that oppressive structures are at play as the board works together. An essential part of this is recognizing the ways that sexist patterns might affect the white women on the board differently than the women of color, because racism is also at play. And sexist and ageist patterns work together to affect the young women on the board differently than middle-aged or older women, because ageism is also at play. Considering only the sexist patterns would leave out an important understanding of how oppression is running.

One of us recently heard someone say, “We’re all in this together. Women need to show up at Black Lives Matter protests. People of color should be at the women’s march.” The problem with framing it like this is that it implies all women are white, and assumes all Black people are men. It erases Black women from the equation. Similarly, too often women of color have been asked to put part of their identity aside, told to stifle their naming of racism within feminist movements, or sexism within racial justice movements. But liberation movements will never be successful if they prioritize certain oppressions over others.

King’s call to create the Beloved Community requires an intersectional lens. Intersectionality is a reminder that we must always recognize the wholeness of people, all the different identities they bring to the table, and how those interact with one another. To fail to do so is to fail to honor the fullness of a person’s identities and lived experiences, and impedes our progress to a fully inclusive and justice-filled world.

On Earth Peace does seek the reconciliation of Christ that is the creation of the Beloved Community.  We long to meet challenges and concerns with care and agape, but also with transparency, equity, and faithfulness, so that “a new relationship comes into being between the oppressed and the oppressor” (Martin Luther King Jr., 1959).


Scripture Reflection: Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV - Barbara Avent

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household built on the foundation of the apostles  and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Ephesians 2: verse 19  clearly states that we people, in the Body of Jesus Christ, are more alike than different. Therefore, we are not foreigners or aliens (different people), yet we can walk hand in hand as God’s people in God’s household. We know that the disciples and apostles were anointed and appointed by the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ resurrection.  They went out and about, teaching people about Jesus’ life, his Good Works, and the healing miracles he performed.

Now, we can accept that Jesus is the “chief cornerstone” of our bodies’ foundation.  Therefore we have access to the Kingdom of the Living God, which dwells within us as the Holy Temple of the Lord.  Today, people can come together in Jesus Christ, as we work together building our Spiritual foundation, helping to joyously create our ”New Jerusalem” on Earth as each one of us.


Environmental Justice: A Case Study for the Beloved Community - Annika Harley, OEP Environmental Justice Intern

OEP Environmental Justice (OEP-EJ) is a community of people and organizations connecting and mobilizing on specific cases of environmental injustice, environmental racism, and ecofeminism around the world. We define environmental justice using the EPA’s definition which focuses on fair treatment and fair distribution of environmental consequences to all people regardless of race, origin, gender, and income.

One such case of Environmental injustice is seen in the Amazon region of Ecuador. Sixty billion gallons of toxic wastewater were dumped into the Ecuadorian Amazon over the course of 30 years by the oil giant Texaco, now known as Chevron. Although Chevron has removed its assets from the Ecuadorian Amazon, the health, economic, and cultural damage, continue to persist. Due to this environmental disaster the rates of cancer, miscarriages, and birth defects have skyrocketed to over 100 percent higher than the other non-contaminated provinces of Ecuador. Further side effects of the contamination are seen in the economy and in the local cultures.  Since the intentional dumping of the wastewater, the economy has crashed and the culture has greatly changed and turned away from its origins. The case has been litigated 3 times: The first court case was in Ecuador where indigenous people won, however, Chevron had already pulled out their assets and did not pay. The second case, held in the US, was won by Chevron simply due to a technicality. Today, the case is being litigated in Toronto Canada. The evidence is clear, Chevron is guilty, yet the company has spent more money on litigations than it would cost to clean up the contaminated regions of the Amazon.  

Environmental Justice is the intersection of social issues and environmental issues. On Earth Peace Environmental Justice is a community dedicated to unearthing the environmental injustices all around the world. One area of focus is Flint, Michigan, where the drinking water for primarily neighborhoods of color has been contaminated for years. The local government is aware of the crisis and yet the problem has not been resolved. Another focus of environmental injustice is Palestine. Israeli occupation has caused Palestinians to live in environmental wastelands and has deprived them of the basic necessities of life, most of all including access to clean plentiful water. Lastly, the Dakota Access Pipeline is another focus site of OEP-EJ.

To be a part of OEP-EnvironmentalJustice, join us on Facebook.


Dayton OH: Organizing for the Beloved Community - Emily Parsons, OEP Racial Justice Intern

As the racial justice organizer for Miami Valley, my work spans a large area of Southwest Ohio. There is a lot of ground to cover to create a beloved community. My work requires me to collaborate and support local groups and organizations, in hopes that the community can come together in solidarity. I am hoping that the growing network of churches and activists in the area can create a beloved community together. Hopefully the most successful bridge between all the local organizations in the Miami Valley and churches of various denomination, will occur through the Peace Dayton campaign. Hundreds of groups in the Dayton area have collaborated to celebrate peace, justice, and community. The OEP Racial Justice Miami Valley is hosting a Feast for Peace and taking donations for Racial Justice. Now, a black-led racial justice organization. This event embodies the ideology of the beloved community, by bringing people together and sharing food, discussion, and support for one another. Through the success of the Feast for Peace, I am hoping to follow-up with everyone who attends to strengthen connection and foster relationships that will resemble the beloved community.

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