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Brundage himselfappears to be a convinced sociaHst, and tiiis perspective aUows him to teU Ruskin's story with passion. Though Brundage does not think die communitarians had die right solution to problems ofAmerican poHtical economy, he credits them widi asking many of die right questions and acknowledges the sacrifices and achievements of the Ruskinites. By explaining contradictions in the cooperative vision, on the other hand, Brundage makes a convincing case that American sociaHsts came to a rational decision to abandon communitarian views. PerhapsA Socialist Utopia draws the wrong lessons from the Ruskin experience. But Brundage is right that smaU, intentional communities teU us something significant about the nature ofsociety in the United States and in the South. Interracialism and Christian Community in the Postwar South The Story of Koinonia Farm By Tracy Elaine KMeyer University Press ofVirginia, 1997 236 pp. Cloth, $35.00 Reviewed by W. Fltzhugh Brundage, associate professor of history at the University of Florida and the audior ofA Socialist Utopia in the New South: The Ruskin Colonies ofTennessee and Georgia. In die most unUkely of places—southwest Georgia—a smaU group of Christian communitarians have labored for the past half-century to create a community committed to racial feUowship and Christian cooperation. The significance ofthe experiment, caUed Koinonia, beHes its smaU membership. So radical was the community's interraciaUsm during the 195os and 1960s diat it attracted both national attention and violent retribution from local white supremacists. In the 1970s Koinonians again captured national attention by founding Habitat for Humanity . Beyond holding interest because of these accompHshments, the story of Koinonia offers glimpses ofthe possibUities for indigenous acts ofsocial experimentation by whites in a region and at a time when such acts were rare indeed. Tracy Elaine KMeyer explains how and why a handful of members of the Southern Baptist Church, a church best known for individuaHstic reHgion and stern moral conformity, strayed so far from the fold that they launched an interracial Christian cooperative community. Despite powerful traditions and docReviews 7 5 trines that seemingly precluded most social or poHtical activism, die white Baptist church did stress the equality of beHevers and the need to evangeHze tirelessly. Both of these doctrines, according to KMeyer, were central to the impulse to found Koinonia. The founders also drew inspiration from the southern variant of the Social Gospel, which encouraged southern Christians to apply their reUgious beUefs to contemporary social conditions and problems. More than a fusion ofdiffuse ideas circulatingwithin soudiern Protestantism, Koinonia was an expression of the beUefs of its founder and most important member, Clarence L. Jordan. Born in 1912 and raised Baptist in rural Georgia, Jordan from an early age experienced discomfort over the treatment of local blacks. In time his deepening reHgious faith overwhelmed his early interest in agriculture, and by the time he graduated from the University of Georgia he had determined that God had wiUed diat he should be a preacher. WhUe attending the Soudiern Baptist Theological Seminary during the 1930s he simultaneously delved into the early Christian tradition and threw himself into mission work in LouisvUle. There he also met Martin England, a missionary and feUow Baptist who was interested in experimental agricultural cooperatives. To England's idea of agricultural communes where poverty and class struggle would be dissolved, Jordan added the pursuit ofinterracial brotherhood. Just such a "community of spirit" or "koinonia"(a Greek word from Acts) was what Jordan hungered for and what he beHeved the modern age needed. In 1942Jordan and England founded their experiment in Christian Uving on a düapidated farm in Sumter County, Georgia. Initially, the community consisted only ofEngland,Jordan, and their famiHes. But a smaU number ofyoung Baptists who heard Jordan speak during coUege campus tours soon bolstered die community . As the membership grew (KMeyer is not forthcoming about the community 's specific size at any given moment), they launched a succession of agricultural and spiritual projects intended to address die needs of dieir white and especiaUy dieir black neighbors. Koinonians offered Hteracy classes, organized Bible schools, and taught modern farming techniques whüe simultaneously organizing their communal Hfe around the pursuit ofequaUty and brotherhood. The quiet interraciaHsm practiced at Koinonia attracted Httle overt...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 75-78
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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