Every good Baptist needs to read Cotton Patch for the Kingdom, the newest book about Clarence Jordan and Koinonia Farm. It’s a painful reminder of the racial meanness that oozed from Baptist churches, and a hopeful witness of what God can do with a transformed life.
It’s a painful reminder of the racial meanness that oozed from Baptist churches, and a hopeful witness of what God can do with a transformed life.
Some 33 years ago, Jordan died in his study where he was translating John 8. He was only 58. Yet Koinonia Farm still thrives and Jordan’s writings still feed hungry souls.
When Millard Fuller, founder and president of Habitat for Humanity, asked Jordan’s wife, Florence, for suggestions about what passages he should read at the funeral, she said, “Read any of it, Millard. He loved it all.”
Indeed Jordan loved the Bible. He loved it enough to live it in an interracial, agrarian community and to translate most of the New Testament into Southern English.
The book’s author, Ann Louise Coble, retells Jordan’s story and underscores the idea that the community was really “a demonstration plot for the kingdom of God.”
Coble, a professor of Christian education and religion at Westminster College, leans on Dallas Lee’s The Cotton Patch Evidence, Henlee Barnette’s Clarence Jordan: Turning Dreams into Deeds and Joel Snider’s The Cotton Patch Gospel. She also relies on Jordan’s own published and unpublished writings.
Cotton Patch for the Kingdom is an easy, memorable read that weaves the KKK, Hutterites, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Jimmy Carter into the narrative. It looks critically at the issue of biblical translation and discloses Jordan’s own “battle fatigue.”
Coble points out that Jordan sought to build a biblical society, not a utopian one. “Jordan was keenly aware of the sinfulness of human nature, and he did not expect Koinonia Farm to be a perfect community,” she writes.
Pastors and Sunday School teachers will find enough striking stories, remarkable quotes and good theology to justify the book’s modest expense.
But don’t stop with ordering this book. Order all of Jordan’s books.
As a long-time Sunday School teacher, I vouch for his versions of the New Testament as study tools and know their teaching value. In fact, I think a Baptist church media center can only be considered first-rate if it has Jordan’s New Testament works.
Robert Parham is BCE’s executive director.