Clarence Jordan was a Southern gentleman born deep in the farming fields of Talbot County, Ga. Now, if you have never heard of Talbot County, don’t sweat it. Not many people have; not in recent years, anyway. But if you haven’t heard of Clarence Jordan, that is your tremendous loss.
Growing up in the Deep South, Jordan was witness to bitter racism and acts of injustice against African-Americans that were as numerous as the Georgia cotton bolls. But Clarence, by God’s grace, refused to become a participant. He could not understand how anyone could hate a man simply “because of the color of skin God Almighty gave to him.”
What made the dissonance even more striking for Clarence was that many of the more zealous racists were prominent Christians. They were the very people with whom he attended church. But rather than blaming God and running away from religion because of the hard-heartedness of others, he boldly embraced faith.
After earning a degree in agriculture from the University of Georgia, he completed his doctoral studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Then he returned to those same Georgia fields, those same racist communities, and those same friends and neighbors. And once there, he created a countercultural, redemptive community just outside the town of Americus, named Koinonia Farms.
Koinonia is the Greek word for “community.” And Jordan set out to create just that: A farming community where men and women, blacks and whites, rich and poor would live together under the parenthood of God, using love as a substitute for violence, and sharing their possessions with the poor.
This was no utopia, however. Clarence was hated for his beliefs of equality. His fields were sabotaged with salt. His fruit stands were fire bombed. His pecan trees were cut down. The local communities instituted an embargo against his crops. Gun shots were often fired into his home late at night from the street. But through it all, Clarence persevered.