THE BELOVED COMMUNITY: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today

Charles Marsh, Author . Basic Books $26 (291p) ISBN 978-0-465-04415-3

In this ambitious, wide-ranging book, Marsh, a religion professor at the University of Virginia, argues that the Civil Rights movement was, at its core, a Christian attempt to forge a "beloved community" of believers who identify with the poor and dispossessed and seek justice on their behalf. As his alternative telling unfolds, he introduces readers to a Martin Luther King Jr. they may not recognize (one who looked forward to a life of privilege and comfort until he was forced into leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott), as well as lesser-known figures such as Koinonia farm founder Clarence Jordan and Voices of Calvary founder John Perkins. Both of these men, like many others featured in the book, came to activism by way of Christian faith and belie the popular notion of "the civil rights movement as a secular movement that used religion to its advantage." Marsh laces his narrative with powerful critiques of secularism—among both activists and academics—and of white evangelical Christians for shallow, ineffectual concern for the poor and for people of color. He ends on a positive note, however, citing example after example of contemporary Christians eschewing lives of middle-class comfort in favor of attempts to build the beloved community in the most troubled corners of America. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/13/2004
Release date: 12/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 292 pages - 978-0-465-04416-0
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