The Heart of the Black Madonna

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Beloved Community

I write this essay during a dramatic time in world history. As an American, I am uniquely aware of the influence my nation and her people have in the world. During the last several years, due to many reasons, the social fabric of my country has been seemingly pulling apart. Long simmering tensions are pitting people against each other, in the midst of arguments between pundits, politicians and communities, random acts of mass violence erupt everywhere shattering the lives of everyday people and their families. On March 24th, a movement inspired by one mass shooting in Florida erupted in rallies, protests and marches across the globe. While communities of Latino and Blacks suffer with daily state sponsored as well as criminal and domestic gun violence, for some reason when large groups of suburban people are gunned down, there is more attention paid to the latter. There were very vocal calls for participation in democracy so that legislation and regulations be put in place. But a deeper theme was present in these mass marches across the globe; a recognition that we are a community of human beings. No matter the class or background of a community enduring violence, the pain is the same. The healing and prevention of this horror must, as the organizers say, be met with a complete diverse community joining hands and hearts as one. Love, one of the speakers said, is truly the only way we can meet this challenge, morality another speaker yelled, needs to be the basis of our participation in democracy.

We learn through history that the Black Madonnas came to the European Continent through the hands of returning Knights Templar during the age of the Crusades. The ideals of this order of warrior knights were many, but one of the more intriguing aspects of their many tasks was to create a culture that could contain the Christ. Their motto was “Not I but the Christ within.” On the continent, the Templars funded the building of Cathedrals, Schools, the Arts and hospitals. Their vast land holdings employed countless people, and all proceeds were to go to the community of their Order as well as the secular community at large. The order collapsed for many reasons, but the main ideal, that of creating a culture that could contain the Christ endures in many forms.

Another ideal of the Templars was the notion of freedom, equality and fraternity (which I like to call “community”) This ideal is actually very Christian, as after the Incarnation and Resurrection, we Christians are called to live our lives in a community of free and equal beings. In Anthroposophical Christology, the Incarnation and Passion is seen as a cosmic event. Before the Incarnation, Humanity was so bogged down in materialism, connection with the Spiritual World was extremely difficult. By Christ’s deed, he transformed matter. Steiner says that at the moment of the death on the cross, Earth shown like a glittering jewel in the cosmos, for it had transformed into a spiritualized being able to contain Divinity after a long sojourn away from source. This act also equalized all of Humanity. Before Christ’s Passion, only an elite group of Initiates could access Divinity. After the Passion, a direct channel was opened to Divinity and Humanity could through it’s own free effort reach out once again. In essence, we all became equal containers for the Christ.

The early Christian Communities reflected this recognition of equality. In fact, one of the things that impressed the locals surrounding Christian Communities was the kindness and equality offered to everyone who came in contact with them. It actually was a selling point so to speak that the lowliest slave had equal status with the most powerful king. Christ’s statement found in Matthew 25, that what ever you do to the least of the members of the community, you do to him also was a guiding principle, and is the foundation of many social justice movements to this day.

As I watched the rallies and interviews, listened to the pundits and participated in spirit with the prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral the night before the rallies, it was clear that people are thirsting for justice, but they are also crying out for the violence to stop. The focus was on gun control and legislation. Some hints were given regarding how hopelessness tempts people to turn to violence, and that the community at large needs to address economic injustice. One speaker said that if a fraction of what the US spends on the military was put into communities, what a difference that would make to health care, education and economic justice. In some ways I have always reflected that the nation with the worlds largest expenditure on an institution and hardware for war, war being socially acceptable mechanized slaughter, it only makes sense that we are turning violence onto ourselves, with the most vulnerable being targeted with numbing regularity. 

One of the speakers at the rally in Washington DC was from an organization called “The Positive Peace Warrior Network” This network is steeped in the values of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr, whose concepts of the Beloved Community are the foundation of the network. Dr. King said in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize

“After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time - the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

At the heart of the notion of the Beloved Community is, according to the King Center’s website :

The Beloved Community was Dr. King’s vision for a reconciled society that has found true, positive peace and justice for all people.  This is a world where people of all races, genders, cultures and generations are living in unity with each other.

For me, the Beloved Community is a deep call and framework for how cultures can be a container for the Christ. 

The solution to eradicating violence of all kinds has many tactics, but legislation is only one part. The other is to foster the recognition that our fellow human being, regardless of externals or beliefs, is truly a member of our Divine Community on Earth. If we treated everyone we meet with the recognition that they were containers of Christ, how would we act?

Blessings on your journey.

Here is the link to the Positive Peace Warrior Network :

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