The Heart of the Black Madonna

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Black Madonna, The Beloved Community and The March on Washington

This year is a year of many anniversaries in the United States of America. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law in 1863, making this year the sesquicentennial celebration. On August 28, 2013, we will also be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. The original march was led by a core of distinguished labor, religious and social activists of the day including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. By some estimations was one of the most historic gatherings ever to assemble on the Mall of our nation's capitol.

We all know about the most famous words of the speech given by Dr. King, but what many forget about this monumental event in our history, is that the march was actually entitled The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. 

When you ask people who attended this march in 1963 what they remember, most say a feeling of wholeness, of inclusion. They felt proud to be participating in the ideals of the United States  of America, where it is our ideal all people are created equal. It is also the law, and this march was to ask our government to make sure that everyone, regardless of race would be treated equally in our nation. For one day, it was as if everyone was in a big community of equals, celebrating the greatness of the highest aspects of civilization.

Only a few weeks later, the nation was stunned by the murder of four young girls whilst they were attending Sunday School.

 Cynthia Wesley, 14, Denise McNair, 11, Carol Robertson, 14 and Addie Mae Collins, 14 were murdered at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama. Two young boys who participated in the unrest following the bombings were also killed by police for throwing rocks. Virgil Wade, 13 and Johnny Robinson,  16 were shot as they protested the bombing of the Church and other racial injustices in Birmingham. Alabama was one of the most segregated states in the nation at that time, the most resistant to change, and the most violent towards it's African American citizens. It was given the nick name "bombing-ham" because so many Black Churches, homes and businesses were the target of vicious racially motivated attacks. When you watch the newsreels of those violent days, and how viciously mostly young teenagers were attacked because they simply wanted to sit at a lunch counter or ride on a bus, it makes one wonder what causes one group of people to be so cruel to another.

It seemed incomprehensible that in only a couple of weeks after the peaceful and poignant March on Washington, where there were pleas and models of the highest degree of civil behavior to recognize the human dignity in every person regardless of race, that such a savage act could be perpetrated on a house of worship, killing innocent young girls readying for Sunday School.

In many ways, the death of those girls turned the tide of the Civil Rights Movement. While lynching had been going on for centuries, the entire nation was woken up by having to look at the injustices of racism when they witnessed the cruelty of these murders. Nothing was hidden in this atrocity. The terrible loss of these children in full view of the nation, changed the tide of the Civil Rights movement.

I have often pondered the nature of human relationships. We often hear, "we are all one." On some level this makes sense, but it is far from being a reality. As some people like to say, "some of us are more equal than others." 

There are many ideals that Dr. King proclaimed, but the one I find most meaningful was his passion for the Beloved Community.

"Our goal is to create a beloved community andthis will require a qualitative change in our soulsas well as a quantitative change in our lives." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Speaking to his supporters at the end of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1956, Martin Luther King, Jr., declared that their common goal was not simply the end of segregation as an institution. Rather, "the end is reconciliation, the end is redemption, the end is the creation of the beloved community." Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. 

“The Beloved Community” is a term that was first coined in the early days of the 20th Century by the philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce, who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Scholars point to King's development of this concept as stemming from his deep roots in the Christian Biblical tradition. One example was of Christ's washing of his disciples feet, with the request to wash one anothers feet and to set an example.

My concept of the Beloved Community comes from my understanding of the Christ event. How through the deed on Golgotha, the blood of the Christ was shed and transformed all of matter. This deed was not done for a certain group, it was done for all of creation, all of humanity. Before the Christ event, only the elite initiates had access to divinity, after the Christ event, all were made equal, all had access to the divine. If we recognize the Christ in the other, how would we treat one another? 

My guiding verse as a Christian is Matthew 25:40 "What ever you did to the least of my brethren, you did to me also." In a sense, each time we encounter another person, we are actually encountering another member of the "Beloved Community" of Christ.

The main agents that carried the Black Madonna's to the European Continent, and some would say to the Americas, were the Knights Templar. The Ideal of the Knights Templar was to create a culture that could contain the Christ. The Templars knew they were living at a time when the age of instinctual wisdom and direct living connection humans had with the Spiritual and Natural world was coming to an end. The new age the Templars and other high Christian Initiates anticipated was the age of conscious Love. Art and beauty was invitation to be in a community with free and equal people. I believe that the Templars were instrumental in the discovery of the Americas by the Europeans with the hope of creating true, Christian Ideals of Democracy, where we all lived as equals, in freedom and community. The only way to do that is through love of our fellow human being.

Dr. King carried this Christ inspired model of community, one where there was reconciliation and love among all different types of people. Because, in the truest way, we are all equal before God. We are all loved equally. Only with reconciliation can the cycle of violence come to an end.

We have fallen very short of this ideal of the Beloved Community, but I think this is what people experienced on the Mall 50 years ago. I have experienced this in anti war marches as well as great gathering  of humanity with the purpose of doing good.

Let us re-dedicate our selves to the Beloved Community. Thank you so much Dr King, for your sacrifice, and for seeing the Christ in all you met.

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