Archive for September, 2011

There is a Season, Turn, Turn, Turn…

September 30, 2011

The season is turning again. You can feel it in the air, and you can see it in the leaves. You can feel it in the chill each morning and in every evening when the sun goes down just a little sooner each night.

Turn, turn, turn. The season is turning, not only with the weather, but for me as well. I have spent the past season living and working on the family plot on Roper Rd. just north of Cumming, GA. The farm house has seen a lot of changes in just the past couple of weeks, not to mention the last three months. This is only a part of the reason I haven’t updated the blog in so long; I’ve had my days full and in the evenings I have been loathe to spend the hour or more up at the Kroger at Greens Corners that it takes to come up with something to type about and then actually type it.

But tomorrow: turn, turn, turn; there is a season, turn, turn, turn; and a time for every purpose under heaven.

In the morning I’ll be driving down through Americus to the Koinonia Partners farm, where folks of all stripes have been farming and discussing the Kingdom of God together for well-nigh 70 years. I’ll be spending this next season on “that hippie commune” (as some have lovingly called it) helping in the farm chores, discussing christian discipleship, and learning just about everything there is to know about pecans (correctly pronounced PEE-cans, as I’ve been told).

For those readers of mine who don’t know, the Koinonia Partners farm has been in THE premiere mail-order pecan farming outfit coming out of Americus, GA, ever since some time in the 50’s, when they essentially invented this market, by necessity, after the local community banded together to boycott their unseemly regard for the equal treatment of African Americans. See, Koinonia was founded as a “demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God,” and what that meant to its founders (and to its inhabitants today, for that matter) was treating people as people, with equal dignity  as children of God, and without regard for the color of their skin. Well, in rural south Georgia, under the genteel southern sensibilities of Jim Crow segregation, treating niggers like people just wasn’t something that most folks were ready and willing to do. You must understand.

So they organized this here boycott. Nobody in Americus was to buy, sell, or trade with the Koinonia Partners, so long as they persisted in their backwards, communist, integrationist agenda. It was for the good of the wider community, after all. Well, the folks at Koinonia weren’t about to compromise in their historically victorious–though contemporarily controversial–interpretation of the Good News that God revealed through Jesus Christ. They decided that the only solution to this impasse was to “ship the nuts out of Georgia.” So that’s just what they did. They started a mail-order business, reaching across the nation, that has thrived ever since. Times do seem to change however, as just a year or so ago, the Koinonia farm was recognized as a business pioneer by the Americus Chamber of Commerce, the very same body which organized the afore-mentioned boycott some 60 years prior. Indeed: turn, turn, turn.

Koinonia also happens to be the birthplace of Habitat for Humanity, believe it or not. Habitat’s founder, Millard Fuller, lived at Koininia with his wife, Linda, and kids for a few years in the 60’s, leaving behind a lucrative but hollow career as a lawyer to live in christian community and work together with two of Koinonia’s founders, Clarence and Florence Jordan. During this time, Millard and Clarence saw the poverty in Sumter County and realized that they and their fellow Koinonians could serve God in their neighbors by building them better housing with the resources they had available to them. It was from these humble beginnings that Millard was eventually sent out from Koinonia to establish the international mission that has helped so many millions into the present day. So no, Jimmy Carter didn’t found Habitat for Humanity. Common misconception. He is much more famous than Millard, and he’s from the same area. Plains, GA is only about 7 miles from Americus. But Jimmy only started volunteering with and advocating for Habitat after his presidency. Habitat had been around a few years already by that time.

Anyway, for the next three months or so, I’ll be focusing my blogging efforts toward the daily/weekly goings on at the Koinonia farm, and on the personal, spiritual, and agricultural lessons I’ll be learning while I’m there. I hope you’ll check back here with some frequency. I’ll try to be good about posting at least one blog a week, maybe more if I’m able.

Should you wish to learn more about the Koinonia Partners farm and what they are currently doing, or if you feel like visiting, you can go to their website, at www.koinoniapartners.org. It’s definitely worth the trip, though you’ll need to give them a couple weeks’ notice, so that they can arrange the proper hospitality for someone like you.

And of course, you are more than welcome to send me a care package. Just mail it to:

Mitch Roper
c/o Koinonia Partners
1324 GA Hwy 49 S.
Americus, GA  31719

Disclaimer: by no means whatsoever should you feel obligated to do so. Anything I get will be a complete surprise and will be greatly appreciated. Mainly I just wanted to make sure that anyone needing to reach me has my new address. But if you do feel like sending me something, far be it for me to deter you from doing so.

Lastly–you know I couldn’t leave this out–you can watch an early performance of The Byrds’ hit song, from which the title of this post was derived, below.

So, until next time, may the peace of Christ (and a little discomfort) be with you!

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Are you ready for combat?

September 2, 2011

This oversized tractor-trailer dominated my view on the morning of Friday, April 15, 2011 as I stepped outside of the Presbyterian Student Center to check the mailbox. I know now that this is a reference to the new Nike “Pro Combat” uniforms that the Bulldogs will be playing in tomorrow in their season opener against Boise State at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. But back in April, I had no idea. Just what is this all about? I wondered, more distracted by the vehicle’s size and its location–directly in front of the PSC’s driveway, blocking the entrance for anyone who might be turning left into the parking lot as they traveled north on Lumpkin Street–to notice at first glance what was written in size 5,000 font across the side.

NIKE FOOTBALL: PREPARE FOR COMBAT.

Interesting.

Y’know, College Football season officially starts tomorrow. Prepare for combat, indeed.

For some time now, I’ve had my own thoughts about the social class categories that American society shares with the caste system in India. For a quick and dirty (though by no means scholarly) explanation of that system, you can go here. Just what do I mean by that? I mean that, here in America, we have certain social classes that everyone knows about, which in their own ways could roughly compare to the castes of Indian society. I’m not trying to say that class/caste sociology in America is anywhere similar to that in India–I’ve never been there, so I wouldn’t know–but that we have certain classes which could be seen as lining up with those of India’s castes. Let me demonstrate.

 At the top, we have Brahmins, the religious leaders. True, not everyone in America is religious, but among those who are, and even those who aren’t many religious leaders in our society are held at a distance, revered even, as being somehow different than the rest of us. Below that, you have the Kshatriya caste, which is composed of the rulers and the warriors. I’m going to  skip over my American comparison to this one for a moment, because this will actually constitute the majority of the discussion, as you’ll see. Below the Kshatriya caste we have the Viasya–the business owners, the bankers, the local politicians. Those in this social stratum in America enjoy some of the “preferred” status afforded to the higher levels in society, but are close enough to the “average Joe” that they aren’t held at an arm’s length. You might even invite them to your Labor Day cookout, or you’d feel good about being invited to theirs. This level really constitutes the Middle Class, or perhaps what the Middle Class is supposed to be. It’s sad to say that these days the true “Middle Class” worker seems to be a vanishing breed. Which brings me to the Sudras, the unskilled workers. While the origins of the caste might have reserved this status for field hands and servants, I’d venture to say that for the purposes of this comparison, this class includes just about anyone who works in a cubicle for a company whose owner they’ve never met. I’m not trying to say that folks with computer skills are “unskilled;” in fact, what I’m saying has more to do with how we view these skilled workers than anything else. In our technologically-immersed (read: technology-dependent) society, being a “skilled” worker gets you less mileage than it used to. This is also an area where the analogy breaks down a bit. There are truly “unskilled’ workers in our society, and then there are those with education and skills, who still find that their options are more limited than perhaps they should be. Take my friend Chris, who has years of experience as an IT and a knack for graphic design:  he works in a restaurant, like so many others. Finally, below everyone, are the pariahs of society, the untouchables. While In India this caste may be reserved for only the most hapless folks–lepers, for example–in America the untouchables are the homeless, the addicted, and those we suspect of being “illegals.” I find it fitting that this caste, of any, was labeled in the above diagram as “Children of God.” But that discussion is for another time. I’ll now return to the Kshatriya class, the rulers and the warriors.

Our highest government officials, our celebrities (those who rule our cultural lives), and even the heads of certain financial institutions (those who rule our fiscal lives) are in many ways held upon a pedestal in our society. So too, are our warriors. Our men and women in uniform, from those in the Armed Forces to our policemen and firemen, are often shown in various situations on TV in slow motion, or on billboards with some inspiring words off to the side. These warriors of ours, who defend our way of life from intruders, are honored for their service, and well they should be, for their duty is tremendous.

In recent years however–I’m thinking, oh, about a decade or so–I’ve noticed a heightened cultural sensitivity to the jobs these men and women have. It can be seen in the ubiquitous yellow ribbons adorning vehicles up and down the freeway, or in the special attention our servicemen and women receive in television advertisements and when boarding commercial airliners (“Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to take the opportunity to ask you to show your appreciation for all of our men and women in uniform who will be flying with us today,” followed by sometimes raucous applause).

While I do not begrudge this special treatment, or hope to suggest in any way that these servicemen and women are not to be thanked or honored for their sacrifices, I find it telling that in the years since 2001, when our impenetrable sense of American privilege was shattered on that bright September morning, we have taken it as a matter of course to elevate and even exalt  only the role of the warrior class in our society. So let me ask you this, in full recognition of the sacrifices and service that our military and law enforcement personnel give us all: when was the last time you saw someone stop in public to thank someone wearing a pair of scrubs? I wonder what sort of national catastrophe it might take for us to embark upon so fierce a campaign to honor our schoolteachers and hospital workers, for all the sacrifices and service they give us, as we have for the last decade to honor our military men and women.

This is the big question I wanted to challenge you with today, the big question I’ve been ruminating over for about two weeks, when it first came up over diner with my parents.

But what does any of this have to do with Nike Football, Mitch?

I also wanted to challenge you in this way: what if the exaltation of the military mindset is so prevalent in our society that we don’t even realize we are turning our athletes into warriors? Not literally, of course, but culturally–subtly–and in so doing we are reinforcing the very militant mindset that has given rise to anti-muslim, anti-immigrant, and generally anti-foreign sentiment that now pervades our American social psyche?

NIKE FOOTBALL: PREPARE FOR COMBAT.

“Football strategy is like war-time strategy,” I once heard a moderately drunken gentlemen in his late 50’s slur to his buddy behind me in the stands of Sanford Stadium. Inside the sporting arena, even refined gentlemen are allowed to hate, despise, and wish death upon the enemy members of the opposing team. I’m sorry, did I say ‘allowed?’ I meant to say ‘encouraged.’  And perhaps this discussion is the long-foregone conclusion of the irony I noted at the old man’s remarks on that September day some seven years ago. The sports rivalry is perhaps the last bastion of “us/them” hatred left disguised in our civil society, and I only want to unmask it, and call it what it is. This, so as to approach it more cautiously, more intentionally, and not get carried away with the reckless abandon that I used to, especially on Georgia Football Gamedays.

That being said, Go Dawgs. Sic ’em.

Until next time, may the Peace of Christ (and a little discomfort) be with you!