Friday, October 03, 2008


(This one's for Eavan.)

Sometimes the topics for these blogs just jump out and grab me! Today I was waylaid by two phrases which, when I googled them, came up opposed to each other in subtle ways. They’re both phrases out of the Abramic tribal context, meaning the OT Bible. One is “the beloved community” and the other is “the saving remnant.

Consider this:
“Thursday, March 13, 2008
The Beloved Community: Theme for the 2008 Festival
The theme for the 2008 Carolina Mountains Literary Festival is "The Beloved Community," a phrase made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as expanded by the distinguished Georgia novelist and short story writer Anthony Grooms. Writers and artists, Grooms believes, can and should play a vital role in advancing understanding, reconciliation and redemption among the nation’s many racial, ethnic and cultural interests.”

As it happens, my attention has been very much on part of a small “beloved community” (which includes a little dog they are fighting to keep alive) in the Carolina Mountains.

"The beloved community is not a utopia, but a place where the barriers between people gradually come down and where the citizens make a constant effort to address even the most difficult problems of ordinary people. It is above all else an idealistic community."
- Jim Lawson
(Thankx to “The Inclusion Press” at

The other phrase was “The Saving Remnant.” I’ll quote at length from a website Google brought up:

"In an essay on this subject, 11 Albert Jay Nock identified the few who understand this problem as members of what he, following the Book of Isaiah, called the Saving Remnant, in which he placed Plato and Marcus Aurelius along with the Hebrew prophet. To structure his analysis, Nock rendered Isaiah into modern English. (The time of Isaiah was after the rule of King Uzziah of Israel, who reigned for fifty-two years (808-756 B.C.), a period of notable prosperity.) Nock relates:

'In the year of Uzziah's death, the Lord commissioned the prophet to go out and warn the people of the wrath to come. "Tell them what a worthless lot they are," He said. "Tell them what is wrong, and why, and what is going to happen unless they have a change of heart and straighten up. Don't mince matters. Make it clear that they are positively down to their last chance. Give it to them good and strong, and keep on giving it to them. I suppose perhaps I ought to tell you," He added, "that it won't do any good. The official class and their intelligentsia will turn up their noses at you, and the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction, and you will probably be lucky if you get out with your life.

'Isaiah had been very willing to take on the job; in fact, he had asked for it; but this prospect put a new face on the situation. It raised the obvious question why, if all that were so, if the enterprise were to be a failure from the start, was there any sense in starting it? "Ah," the Lord said, "you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up, because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society, and meanwhile your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it.'" 12

Unlike Isaiah's concept of the saving remnant as the "obscure, unorganized, inarticulate" residue that happens to survive catastrophe, our concept of a transformative, enlightening group in this essay refers to a deliberately created, carefully developed grouping with advanced knowledge and capability that will enable them to create a higher social order.

The only viable way for this to occur is for an advanced group to constitute itself as a "saving remnant" that will leaven the larger culture with its higher knowledge and power, creating a commonwealth.

And there you have it: the root of fascism: hatred of “the obscure, unorganized, inarticulate" residue and deadly fear that they might be a part of it. The self-defined "enlightened group" will take over for God. They'll kill the "mud-bloods." (Did I say I've just watched all the Harry Potter movies?)

The true Beloved Community tries to bring everyone into the tent. The non-Biblical saving remnant appoints themselves judge, jury and executioner. They push all but themselves into the tent and set it on fire. Scary stuff. Elections put the spotlight on these two warring ideas, one based on tolerance and inclusion (which is what the US is supposed to be about) and the other based on elitism and control. (I needn't tell you who they are.)

Maybe an illustration from my past as a minister is useful. I once did a lot of pulpit supply and one of my favorite congregations was a small town bunch of older folks with pioneer roots who hadn’t left their New Testament Christian roots. (No Isaiah.) Another one was a brand new group of young, aggressive, secular, computer techies determined to show the world they were better than anyone else. Though they wanted a church building of their own, they could only afford to rent a school. When a nonconformist argued with him, they held their meetings upstairs because this rebel was in a wheelchair and there was no elevator. But the rebel went up the stairs on his backside and crawled to the meeting -- I saw him. This second group, to get a building of their own (probably so they could lock people out!), made a predatory coup on the older congregation with the historic church. They simply joined, ran for leadership, and took over. I thought they would destroy everything in that quiet little beloved community

The motto of that older church was symbolized by a mobile that hung in the sanctuary. It was an illustration of a quote from an Edwin Markham poem:
“He drew a circle that shut me out --
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.”

So what happened? The pioneer congregation lived out their quote. They accepted the energy and know-how of the young techies, put their arms around them and calmed them down. They were BOTH the Beloved Community and the true Saving Remnant. You might say that it was BECAUSE they were a true Beloved Community that they were a true Saving Remnant.

I hope it works on small dogs who are very old. Going to the dogs is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the original Isaiah is the one that says the "wolf shall live with the sheep, and the leopard lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall grow up together, and a little child shall lead them." (Ch.11, v.6-7) The little dog has been doing it for quite a while.

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