Joshua Scott: Chaos or Community?

In 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? King describes the state of America’s race relations and proposes a unified way forward.

I recently reread this book, and King’s work rings ever true. We find ourselves in a world that increasingly eats division all three meals of the day and consumes hatred for dessert. There continues to be fighting, and division among denominations, political parties and ethnic groups, with the wage gap continuing to increase. The goal of unity increasingly seems like a mirage rather than an attainable goal. Fifty-four years later, we find ourselves asking an ancient yet relevant question: Will we choose chaos or community? Answering this question proves to be challenging for many of us as King supposes.

As King wrote: “Overwhelmingly America is still struggling with irresolution and contradictions. It has been sincere and even ardent in welcoming some change. But too quickly apathy and disinterest rise to the surface when the next logical steps are to be taken.” [1]

In our relations with each other, we continue to take steps forward then backward, choosing what we are comfortable with rather than what will prove unifying and harmonious for us all. As we celebrate Dr. King’s life and work, we do well to recognize his life, humanity and works, which have helped us in many ways. King is known as the Drum Major for Justice; but he was a tenacious fighter for equality, desiring it for everyone, but understanding that this was and is not what usually occurs in many instances, and to that end,

“Racial understanding is not something that we find but something that we must create.”[2]

The innovation of widespread racial harmony was the dream of Dr. King and many others who have been the recipients of racial dissonance in American and beyond. The question of whether we will choose chaos or community, asked by Dr. King, has sadly been answered by many affirming the option of chaos. King’s reality, like ours, was filled with racial disharmony; but he tightly held to the hope of harmony, reconciliation, equality and justice for all. Dr. King’s hope for harmony is declared in his famous I Have A Dream Speech as he shares:

“This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”[3]

King’s dream is a dream of hope, not only for America, but for our world. It is not enough for us to tolerate each other; we must appreciate, respect and love all of God’s creation. King offered us a challenge of hope and an invitation to the meaningful work of committing to racial harmony in all that we say and do. This is not easy work; it this is pride-shattering, privilege-breaking, intentional living that leads to equality as a way of life instead of an occasional hobby.

The memory of King asks for our hands and hearts to make his dream a reality. But we must choose community instead of chaos. Jesus lovingly communicated to his disciples in John 13:35 saying, “…by this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”[4] Love intertwined with hope and action is how we choose community.

Choosing community rather than chaos is the desire of Jesus and the fulfillment of the Gospel. Christ gave of himself to lead us into community with God. Christ sacrificed heavenly luxuries for earthly people to have an earthly and eternal community with God. Should not we sacrifice our comfort for a harmonious community with everyone? Our world needs courageous individuals who will choose love over hate and harmony over dissonance. We need more community, not more chaos.

The life of Dr. King continues to speak today. May the dream of racial justice and harmony become our reality in the days, months and years that lie ahead. And may we cling to the hope that Christ gives us to be courageous vessels used by God in the world to further daily the agenda of love, not hate.


[1] King, Martin Luther. Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
[2] Ibid.
[4] The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Reposted from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Blog.