Hospitality Student at Auburn University
and Member of the Presbyterian Community
By: Rance Parker
Katelyn Finch, an active member of the Presbyterian community and a sophomore at Auburn University, attended an interfaith dialogue held at Auburn’s First Presbyterian Church on Sept. 12. In our interview, Finch explains how her religious community is working toward Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s global vision of “The Beloved Community”, the role that Dr. King’s concept plays in her life, and how the recent uptick in domestic terrorism could corrupt the development of diverse communities.
Q: What does “The Beloved Community” mean to you?
A: This past week was my first involvement with that group, but when I was reading about the group and what they do it really appealed to me because interfaith interactions are really important to me and my faith and what I do with the church.
Q: How are you, as an individual, becoming a part of “The Beloved Community”?
A: I’m mainly becoming a part through my everyday interactions. I’ll talk with just about anyone about anything and I try to get involved with those events that are inter-relational and have interfaith dialogue.
Q: As an active member of Auburn’s Presbyterian community, how is your church working toward Dr. King’s vision?
A: Presbyterian (U.S.A.) is very liberal and very much involved with other religious groups. We tend to not keep to ourselves and we tend to not only keep interest in our own denomination. We try to do things with other churches as much as we can because we believe in a community of all believers. Not just Christians, not just Catholics or Protestants, or Methodists versus Baptists. We’re a community that involves everyone.
Q: As a hospitality major, how do your personal goals as a student align with Dr. King’s ideology? How does that play into your career?
A: My long-term goal is to be a wedding planner, so my wedding planning won’t be restricted to just Christian weddings held in churches; they’ll involve people from all backgrounds. When I’m advertising things I try, like already with photography, to reach a general spectrum of different people. I’ll encourage everyone to help anyone plan any kind of event.
Q: According to The King Center’s website, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized that “conflict was an inevitable part of human experience” but also that “no conflict need erupt in violence.” In your opinion, is global nonviolence an achievable goal?
A: I thought about this a lot last semester when I was taking World History II. We had to read about Confucianism and Marxism and stuff like that. I think it’s possible. For the people that are really violent and that are going to continue to be violent, restraining that may be hard. Also, self-defense might be an okay form of violence, but violence isn’t okay in general.
Q: Is comprehensive nonviolence achievable at a local level in Auburn?
A: Yes, definitely. Just having conversations with people can change how people think and how they operate. You can have a simple conversation with someone without it getting violent and they become a better person because of it, and that improves the community.
Q: Dr. King and “The Beloved Community” are usually associated with religion and especially with Christianity. Will this hinder Dr King’s vision of universal acceptance?
A: Yes and no. Having religion tied to it is going to include a lot of people because people usually have some kind of faith. Also, because the idea is named “The Beloved Community” I don’t think that it is going to immediately turn away any agnostic people or atheistic people.
Q: You don’t think that someone who is agnostic or atheistic would be averse to a concept rooted in religious ideology?
A: I mean, there are a lot of people who agree with Dr. King that aren’t Christian. They agree with the idea of treating a human being like a human being. I don’t know if they would necessarily join a “Beloved Community”, because sometimes it is more faith-oriented, but I think
they may not be opposed to it.
Q: According to Peter Bergen, a national security analyst for CNN, and Randall Rogan, a terrorism expert at Wake Forest University, domestic terrorism attacks by far-right extremists have increased recently. To what extent does domestic terrorism impede the development of “The Beloved Community”?
A: It almost makes people scared to gather in mass groups of different organizations, especially when a lot of these attacks are targeted toward Islam and Judaism. There was that bombing in Birmingham of that Baptist church in like the ‘60s, but recently it seems to be more non-Christian things. Maybe Christians will be kind of scared to gather with people of other faiths, but at the same time I think it motivates people who don’t want to live in fear to get to know different religions or faiths.
Q: When considering that the recent domestic attacks are usually motivated by a far-right ideology and also that Alabama was the second-most conservative state in the 2016 presidential election according to the World Population Review’s website, do you think that becoming “The Beloved Community” should be more of a priority for Alabama and Auburn’s residents?
A: Logically, yes. If a majority of the population has the tendency to think that way, then it should be more involved and outward. I don’t think Auburn has much of a problem, in that Auburn is the most diverse place I have ever been as far as different churches and different places of worship. Where I live I just recently found out where a Jewish synagogue was; I had no idea that it was there. I don’t know about Auburn in particular, but maybe some of the more remote places in Alabama that don’t have as much exposure to stuff like that. The people that do those things are on a weird level of intelligence and usually haven’t been exposed to different ideas or anything.