I’m a litte past my first week of Sept deadline, but here are few reflections–and questions!–from my reading of ch.1 of Dallas Lee’s biography/history of Clarence Jordan and Koinonia Farm.
It’s great to get the backstory on Clarence…how he was always a bit “detached” from his family, how he had the gift of verbal sparring from early on, how his nick name was “Grump.”
Lee charts well Clarence’s evolution from a wondering Southern child to a thoughtful, faithful man from the South…his ability at a young age to see the hypocrisy of a man singing “Love Lifted Me” at church one night and torturing a prisoner the next…his decision to pursue agriculture, rather than law, so as to help his African American neighbors…his decision to resign his commission in the ROTC because “Jesus was going one way and he was going the other”…his decision to follow God’s call to preach.
On the one hand, I am glad to get this background on Clarence; it gves a good sense of where his strong commitments to the faith of Jesus and racial and economic justice began. As with any of us, understanding Clarence’s past sheds helpful light on where he went in the rest of his life. That information is helpful.
On the other hand, reading about Clarence’s past makes me wonder about my own. As Lee draws the picture, Clarence was always a little different, kind of special. Though Lee is careful to say that some of the things Clarence likely was feeling as a child and teenager he probably wasn’t abe to articulate, still…it seems like he was a very perceptive child. I just don’t know that I would have been (or was) that perceptive.
Adorning the wall of our staircase here at home is a photograph of “the old home place” in Oglethorpe County, Georgia (just a few miles from Athens, where Clarence attended UGA). The centerpiece of the old home place is a large farmhouse. The place was sold a few years ago, but prior to that, that old house–even for those of us who only visited a couple of times–that place represented home. I don’t remember my maternal grandmother; she died just before my fifth birthday. But when the old folks talked about my grandmother growing up there, or Uncles Arthur and Leo, Aunts Inez and Henrietta…I could see them all in my mind, playing, working, eating, sitting in the yard swings talking.
Then, when I got my copy of the family history, I learned that the old farmhoue that I so loved had been built by slaves, slaves owned by my family.
That fact haunts me…it haunts me because I don’t know that I would have questioned the institution of slavery had I grown up at the old home place when the farmhouse was built. Would I have questioned racism as a 19th c. woman? Would I have questioned racism as a woman in the 1960s? I don’t know, I don’t know.
The bigger question for me is, Can someone like me live a life like the one Clarence Jordan lived….or does it take someone especially spiritually gifted like Clarence was?
What about you? Having read this first chapter, do you think Clarence Jordan is someone you can emulate, or only admire from afar? Is it possible for just anyone to live Christian faith as he did?
Another question….Do you remember anything from your childhood that struck you as unfair? Maybe it was your first encounter with injustice… How has that encounter shaped–or not–your faith life in adulthood?
Okay…ch.1. Let me hear from you! I’ll get to ch. 2 later this week.