By Bren Dubay
How does this sound? — A fund is set up for the purpose of buying one million acres of land to hold in trust. This land is divided into, say, 1,000 one-thousand-acre farms or 500 two-thousand-acre farms or some such combination thereof. Two, three or four families come together to live on each and to farm the land in partnership. These families have no mortgage to pay since the land is held in trust. After paying their property taxes, farming, and living expenses, there are monies left over to donate to the fund so that more land can be purchased to create more farms.
Perhaps the fund establishes a lending library for the major equipment needed to run a farming operation. The equipment is to be shared among the farms. The librarians are those with the know-how to maintain those machines and keep them in good running order.
And, oh, yes, housing is needed for the people so they have a place to live on these farms. The fund is also charged with the responsibility of financing the cost of building them with non-interest loans. Volunteers and those who will live in the houses come together to construct them. Monies coming in from these loans are used to give additional non-interest loans so more houses can be built.
How is the fund to get the money to do all this? Beg. From the people who have, from the wealthy who have more than a small surplus, from organizations, and especially from churches. Churches are a major target — “All those churches that are agonizing about what they can do—[let’s] give them an opportunity to do something … ask them to put into the [fund] an amount equal to the cost of their own sanctuary.”
How does all this sound? Pie in the sky? Farfetched? Impossible? Ridiculous? This was Clarence Jordan’s Fund for Humanity idea. He died in 1969 just as the first house was being built. The Fund had purchased no acreage yet — it held in trust only what farm land Koinonia had donated for the purposes of getting the revolution off the ground. It was “a revolution built around buying the land back for humanity, a revolution applying peaceful economic means in order to reassert that the land is God’s gift to all people, and that it should be used justly.”
Much good came from the Fund for Humanity. Koinonia Partnership Housing built 192 houses in Sumter County. Habitat for Humanity was born from Koinonia Partnership Housing in 1976, and the Fuller Center for Housing in 2005. Both of these organizations have gone on to do incredible work regarding providing simple, decent homes for families. Important, yes, no argument there, but housing was only a portion of Jordan’s vision. He said again and again, “We’ve got to think big. This is not a time for spiritual pygmies. We’re living in a land of giants, and pygmies seldom have influence on giants. We’re going to have to think in gigantic terms. I know the extremities man without God can be driven to. But this is God’s world and we’ve got to think about it and reorder it along those lines.”
Is this a vision whose time has come? We now know more about the degradation of the Earth than in Clarence’s time. We are experiencing climate change and it is visceral. The need for equality, for economic and social justice is on our lips and in hearts on a scale larger perhaps than ever before. To meet these problems, we have to be creative. We need a spiritual imagination. We need dreamers and doers, like Clarence Jordan, Millard Fuller, and so many others, to think outside the box. We cannot look to the world that created these problems for solutions. We need to imagine better ways of doing things.
Is it time to make the idea of the Fund for Humanity a reality? Clarence Jordan’s charisma and powerful intellect have left this world. Millard Fuller, the master fundraiser who took the partnership housing idea on from Koinonia to build Habitat and the Fuller Center, is gone as well. Can this vision be realized without them?
Jordan wanted small groups of people to live in community on the land and wanted them to practice a way of life together where sharing is central. That has not gone. It is right here at Koinonia. We are doing it. Clarence felt people could be taught to share and for the Fund to truly work, that lesson would have to be taught again and again and again. He was a master teacher but there are people here who could teach this.
But how to get the capital without Clarence and Millard? Who is reading this? Do you have ideas about how? Do you have the means to make a donation to get the vision going?
Is it time? Can you imagine?
All quotes taken from The Cotton Patch Evidence by Dallas Lee. You may purchase copies of this book through Koinonia’s online store here.