Cotton Patch Evidence: Ch.1 “Derailed”

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.



About reallifepastor

I'm a pastor who's working out her faith...just like everyone else.
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2 Responses to Cotton Patch Evidence: Ch.1 “Derailed”

  1. Diane says:

    Regarding your question: “Can someone like me live a life like the one Clarence Jordan lived….or does it take someone especially spiritually gifted like Clarence was?”

    That question reminded me of a statement in Jim Kennedy’s September 9 devotion:
    “Sometimes it is long before God calls someone out for that work which God designed and has been preparing them for.”
    So, while Clarence Jordan was able to see clearer than most while he was still a young man, maybe there is hope for even someone as old as I am. And, maybe I have been helpful in a spiritual way a few places along the road when I didn’t even know I was helpful. (I suspect the reverse of this is true, too – – that sometimes when I thought I was being helpful, I wasn’t.)

    Regarding your comment: “Would I have questioned racism as a woman in the 1960s? I don’t know, I don’t know.”

    That one I can definitely answer for myself because I was there: I did NOT question racism as a young woman in the 1960’s. I was busy with school and then, later, with children, and my concerns were personal. It amazes me now that I didn’t question, but the fact is that I did not. It is so easy to see the status quo as being OK, or even right, or, at the very least, to see it all as somebody else’s business. Clarence Jordan was up close to the issue, even when he was very young. Maybe that was part of his blessing. Many of us experienced only separation and the issue was abstract for us.

    A parallel I think about is current concerns with the GLBT community. I might be unthinking again had God not placed me square in the middle with a lesbian daughter. I have a good friend, smart, kind, a wonderful individual, but she just doesn’t get it. It’s not part of her personal life, and she doesn’t see the discrimination. Her thought is that we should see everybody the same and that any attention is seeking special privileges. You have to BE there to see differently.

    Back to Clarence Jordan, he WAS there and he did know the pain of his neighbors. Again, maybe that was his blessing.

    • Diane, I love what you say about it taking longer for some of us to “get it” than others (Moses was 80 when God called him; Abraham was 75!). It also makes sense that the place to begin our lives of justice and authentic faith-living is right at home. Your words are convincing me to look more closely around me to see where a good word for justice–or even simple kindness–might need be spoken. Thanks.

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