Clarence Jordan

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When the Jordans and Englands bought a farm in Georgia in 1942, it would become a “demonstration plot” for the “God movement”—the reign of God, which threatens and overturns the world’s social order.

Clarence Jordan, a southern Baptist preacher, became convinced that the New Testament demanded Christ’s disciples to demonstrate racial equality, nonviolence, and radical stewardship together in a life of community and common work. He helped to establish Koinonia Farm, and right from the start hired a local man, a former sharecropper, to help him and Martin England with the farming. They worked and ate all their meals together, breaking Southern tradition, and because of this they would be harassed , threatened and assaulted by the Ku Klux Klan and other racisits.

With courage and daring, disarming wit and creative initiative, Jordan and his racially integrated community lived a “life in scorn of the consequences.” A decade later, Koinonia Farm would consist of nineteen adults and twenty-two children, including the four Jordan children.

Despite quiet growth, life at Koinonia was never easy. During the Second World War, neighbors resented and opposed their pacifist convictions. They heaped verbal abuse, and local children physical abuse, on the Jordan children. The community was under constant watch, even kicked out of their local Baptist church.

On July 26, 1956, dynamite tore through Koinonia’s roadside market. Soon afterward, an all-out boycott of all Koinonia products ensued. The day after Christmas, night riders sprayed bullets into the farm’s gas pump, and on New Year’s Day 1957 they aimed toward its homes and ripped down the sign at the entrance with bullets. The attacks would escalate, with more bombings, more bullets, with cross burnings and lies from neighbors accusing Koinonia of fomenting hatred that in turn led to violence.

But Jordan and the community, following Jesus’ command to love one’s enemies, refused to retaliate. Despite support from a few local neighbors and several folks around the county (including Dorothy Day), Koinonia was being economically strangled to death. Yet new ideas and ventures (e.g., Georgia pecans and peanuts by mail order and the beginnings of Habitat), along with the wider civil rights movement and Jordan’s source of inspiration, the New Testament, and his unique translation (The Cotton Patch Version of Paul’s Epistles) Koinonia not only established itself but continued to grow.

Eventually, the outright attacks against the community ceased, but Jordan’s presence still provoked local hatred. Jordan died of a heart attack in October of 1969 at the age of 57. He died alone, his burial was simple. But his legacy continued, inspiring countless others to put into deeds the teachings of the One who brought and still brings the God movement.

Adapted from, “A Life in Scorn of the Consequences” by Joyce Hollyday, in Clarence Jordan: Essential Writings (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY: 2003)

Submitted by Charles Moore