Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Way to Work Off that Unfortunate Public Urination Citation

(i really probably should come up with a classier, more respectful working title for this blog entry...)

To offset the slightly heavy and topical nature of what I am about to blog about, I will throw some fluff your way first:

1. OMG, did you hear about Tony Romo playing in that one golf tournament? And Jessica like totally showed up and they totally went to see Heart in concert while they were in town? Heart? Yeah. Heart. I bet Tony Romo was all “These chicks are like Zepplin. Where’s the Bud Light mister tent? This koozie ain’t gonna refill itself.”

2. I found a shop in North Park that sells a line of dresses supposedly designed by Selma Hayek for girls whose up-top meat doesn’t fit in Forever XXI’s meth-tastic A-cup restrictions. So if you’re a 34DD and you are tired of wearing baggy grandma sweater dresses in the summer, I’ve got you covered. Well, that is Salma Hayek has us covered. No more wandering the techno-pumping fashion whore-outlets of the mall trying to figure out which corner of the food court will offer the best implement with which you will be able to administer your own improvised mastectomy in order to find a pretty dress.

Alright, that out of the way I actually kind of want to blog about something that’s been pinging off they grey matter of my mind for some time. As some of you may know, I hail from a small and rural area of southwest Georgia. Both sides of my family all come from small towns within 100 miles of each other none of which you will have ever heard of unless you are Ray Charles (in which case you really have pulled a fast one on all of us) or Jimmy Carter. Towns like Plains (Carter’s hometown), Americus, Valdosta, Warwick (my hometown), Leesburg, Albany (Ray Charles’ hometown), Cordele (Watermelon Capital of the World!), Tifton, Andersonville (famous Civil War site and cemetery where my grandfather is buried), Waycross (Gram Parson’s hometown) are all barely dots on a state road map. But one of the most fascinating pieces of US history to be centered in southwest Georgia is something that, sadly, hardly anyone I meet seems to know much about. When I say “hardly anyone” I can actually be more specific. Dave Little. So far, in the years that it has come up in conversation, Dave Little (standup comedian of dubious distinction, whatever that may mean) was the only person who knew exactly what I was talking about.

What I am talking about is Clarence Jordan and Koinonia and the Cotton Patch Gospel series which was all based out of a farm just outside of Americus. Sorry for linking Wikipedia and its’ user-generated content but it’s just the way us lazy, no-good kids are these days. If you’re even lazier and no-gooder than me and don’t feel like clicking on that link and reading, here’s the super butchered slacker/blogger version:

Clarence Jordan was born into a quite wealthy family in Southern Georgia. But instead of becoming a rich asshole (TM me 2008), he got a degree in agriculture from University of Georgia to help poor sharecroppers and then later a doctorate in theology (Greek New Testament) all with the intentions of using his education to help the poor. So in 1942, he and his wife and another couple buy a farm outside of Americus and building upon a theory called Koinonia (as Patton Oswalt would say here, “Calm down hippies, I’m gonna take you through Mordor but lead you right back to the Shire”) which was based upon the idea of interracial communal farming. Pretty simple, right? Oh right, this is where I remind you it’s rural Georgia in the 1940’s. The farm was a success with property being communally owned and well-run and the number of families moving there to participate in the farming steadily growing each year. This, of course, made good Christian white people really angry and made them do things like hang nooses in trees on the farm and burn down the buildings on the farms’ property. Kind of like a really extreme housewarming party. Clarence Jordan asked President Eisenhower for federal protection but Eisenhower looked at his watch and went “ooooooh man, bro I would totally help you but I like totally have this thing that I’m supposed to be at and….” instead handed the job off to the State of Georgia. Who protected Koinania by investigating the farm as being a Communist training camp. Neat! During this time, instead of participating in the civil war marches and demonstrations of the day, Jordan wrote a series of translations of the New Testament aimed at essentially poor, illiterate sharecroppers called The Cotton Patch Gospels. Far off locations were traded for towns in Georgia and cumbersome Bible words that still to this day are weird and annoying to me were switched out for colloquialisms. And bear in mind, I am typing all of this as someone who tends to be incredibly leery of exuberant bursts of unsolicited religion.

A couple that moved to Koinania in the 1960s because it seemed like a fuzzy, do-gooder kind of place decided that they could take the concept a little further and utilize some of the downtime and spare sets of hands around the farm to do some good by going out into the community to volunteer to build homes for other poor families outside the confines of the farm. This was assuming that people outside the farm would stop trying to shoot at them or screaming “Commie pinkos, go home!” long enough for them to nail up some trim or what have you. The idea caught on and it became Habitat for Humanity which is still based out of Americus today.

The reason why I’ve whipped you with all of this is that I’ve started to realize that spending, gasp, a whole entire day helping build a house would not be too much to ask. Now I’ve documented on at least one occasion how inept I can be when it comes to anything more complicated than caulking guns. Clearly, I’m gonna need some help here. To sign up a team, you actually have to do so months in advance so I am starting to put together an All-Star lineup. Just think of the community service hours you will get shaved off your probation! Think about how deep those girls are going to think you are when you brag at the bar later that night about how moved you were when you realized you made a difference in a family’s life. Think about how funny it will be to see that guy with that really expensive haircut in a dumb looking hard hat.

So anyways, I have rambled on (see, we’re back at the Shire my little web-footed ones) but I am trying to get a coordinated idea of when this will happen and who can commit. If you are interested in reading more about Clarence Jordan, The Cotton Patch Gospels, Koinania, Habitat for Humanity or whatever just click on some of these links.

I love you, buttholes.

A PBS documentary about all of this

An interesting Habitat for Humanity article

Clarence Jordan: Essential Writings

Southern Poverty Law Center


aaron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Nelson said...

Awesome post! I'm here at Koinonia right now. Been here since May 2008 and will be here at least through June 2009. Would love to invite you (and anyone else) to come by for a day or a week or two for a visit!

Thanks again for just an awesome post! You really nailed the history and "feel" of the place.

Jerry Nelson
Koinonia Farm

Bethany Anderson said...

I'm totally in - I've got a couple of dates I'll be gone in the next couple months, but let me know!

Brett said...

yer funny

kt said...

not to sound shallow after that post - but which store is it that us motorboat-type-girls can find said dresses?

amandacobra said...

The store/line is called Mango. It's a Spanish company. Here in Dallas, it's in NorthPark upstairs next to Sephora (DEAR GOD HELP US ALL).

They're bigger in Europe so it's probably easier for you Ur-o-Peans. Damn you. We saved you in the war.

Bethany Anderson said...

Oh dear...

Clothes for girls with to the Mothership Sephora?