Beloved Community

On Peter Mommsen’s “The Prophet We Need Now,” Spring 2018: Peter Mommsen implies Josiah Royce had no respect for Christ, and that seemed a bit unfair to me.

Royce (1855–1916) was an American philosopher who was concerned with questions of religion and the philosophy of community. Although he never joined a church, Royce was deeply familiar with scripture and understood that humankind needed to be saved from its fallen nature.

In fact, he had great respect for the early Christian communities and their foundation on Christ’s teachings, as vividly described in Paul’s epistles. “To Paul’s mind,” Royce wrote, “[Christ’s] mission was divine. He both knew and loved his community before it existed on earth; for his foreknowledge was one with that of the God whose will he came to accomplish. On earth he called into this community its first members. He suffered and died that it might have life. Through his death and in his life the community lives. He is now identical with the spirit of this community.”

Royce considered these consciously cooperative communities to be full of grace, and in pondering their meaning he came to think of them as a prime example of what he called the “beloved community.” He later developed this concept in his book, The Problem of Christianity, which was to influence Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of the beloved community as the goal of the civil rights movement.

George Albertz, Rifton, NY

Who Is My Neighbor?

On D. L. Mayfield’s “For the Love of Neighbor,” Spring 2018: I’m a member of a small, rural, mostly white church in the South. I wanted to share a really encouraging moment that happened a week ago in a committee meeting at church. I told my husband I wanted to send D. L. Mayfield’s article to this committee to start a conversation, but he wasn’t hopeful. “It won’t do any good,” he said. “You’ll just make people mad.” Well, I sent it anyway.

What a surprise at our next committee meeting when the woman leading our devotional read the Good Samaritan story out of Luke. She then said, “I am so glad I read that article. It is really challenging me. As one of those people who has supported building a wall and limiting Muslim immigration, I had never considered that my neighbor might be someone who lived outside of the United States. I’m rethinking everything now.”

I was floored! And excited. We had a really good conversation after she opened up the conversation in such a vulnerable way. Minds can change and challenging conversations can happen!

Grace (location withheld)