The Beloved Community and Fair Housing

The concept of the beloved community was originally developed by the 20th century philosopher and theologian and the founder of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Josiah Royce. Royce once famously said that, “Every proposed reform, every moral deed, is to be tested by whether and to what extent it contributes to the realization of the Beloved Community… When one cannot find the ‘beloved community,’ she needs to take steps to create it and if there is not evidence of the existence of such a community than the rule to live by is To Act So As To Hasten Its Coming.” In other words, it is up to each of us to build the beloved community when it does not exist.

Since it’s origination, the idea of the beloved community has resonated with people of all faith traditions because it speaks to values deeply held and widely shared by us all. All historic faith traditions share an ideal of humankind living with one another in harmony. In other words, the ideal of the beloved community. Love, human dignity, compassion and equality are values that have moved people of faith to better their communities and be a voice for the marginalized.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. popularized the term ‘beloved community’ by defining the creation of the beloved community as the ultimate aim of the Civil Rights Movement. The future Dr. King envisioned was a place free from discrimination and segregation, particularly in housing. Dr. King understood that housing discrimination and residential segregation was the foundation for many of the inequalities of our society and a direct contradiction to the value of the beloved community – inclusivity, mutual respect, equality and justice — and that fair housing was the cornerstone of a just society.

Dr. King once said, “Our goal is to create a beloved community, and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” In other words, to create the beloved community requires not only winning hearts and minds, but also instituting policies that would allow for the creation of inclusive communities.

Today, the creation of the beloved community continues to be the goal of civil rights movements and justice seekers across the country. The beloved community is an ideology of action, where people of faith and those committed to social justice can join together to work toward a more just future. In the words of Dr. King, “With every ounce of energy, we must continue to rid this nation of the incubus of segregation. But we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community.”