Happy Birthday Clarence! Sunday, July 29 would be the 100th birthday of Clarence Jordan, civil rights hero and co-founder of Koinonia Farm. He was a farmer, author, and scholar, and he was instrumental in the birth of Habitat for Humanity. Koinonia has been a prophetic community of blacks and whites living together in a segregated USA that continues to inspire folks to be reconcilers today.
Next month, Ill be joining President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn down in Georgia, along with lots of other great folks — for the Clarence Jordan Symposium (September 28-29). Tickets are a little steep (its a fundraiser for Koinonia), but you can get them at a discounted rate on here.
Among the many lasting contributions Clarence made is a critique of how we have sugar-coated the cross. There is a classic story of Jordan walking into a very wealthy congregation with a shiny, new, large gold cross. When the church elders told him how much it had cost, bought with a gift from a generous donor, Clarence remarked: That sure is a lot of money. I heard you used to be able to get a cross for free.
Another good quote of Clarences, comparing the brutality of the cross to the violence of lynching: there just isnt any word in our vocabulary which adequately translates the Greek word for ‘crucifixion.’ Our are so shined, so polished, so respectable that to be impaled on one of them would seem to be a blessed experience. We have thus emptied the term ‘crucifixion’ of its original content of terrific emotion, of violence, of indignity and stigma, of defeat. I have translated it as ‘lynching, ‘ well aware that this is not technically correct. Jesus was officially tried and legally condemned, elements generally lacking in a lynching. But having observed the operation of Southern ‘justice, ‘ and at times having been its victim, I can testify that more people have been lynched ‘by judicial action’ than by unofficial ropes. Pilate at least had the courage and the honesty to publicly wash his hands and disavow all legal responsibility. ‘See to it yourselves, ‘ he told the mob. And they did. They crucified him in Judea and they strung him up in Georgia, with a noose tied to a pine tree.
That seems like a heavy note to end on so heres a final quote reflecting the Koinonia vision as it inspired Dr. King (these are Kings words from the famous I have a dream speech that are thought to have been provoked by Jordan and Koinonia Farm):
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I HOPE TO SEE SOME OF YOU DOWN ON THE RED HILLS OF GEORGIA IN SEPTEMBER AS WE CELEBRATE CLARENCE JORDAN AND KOINONIA FARM.
Shane Claiborne is a prominent author, speaker, activist, and founding member of the Simple Way. He is one of the compilers of , a new resource to unite people in prayer and action. Shane is also helping develop a network called Friends Without Borderswhich creates opportunities for folks to come together and work together for justice from around the world.