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Born May 18, 1953; got saved at Truett Memorial BC in Hayesville, NC 1959. On rigged ballot which I did not rig got Most Intellectual class of 71, Gaffney High School. Furman Grad, Sociology major but it was little tougher than Auburn football players had Had three dates with beautiful women the summer of 1978. Did not marry any of em. Never married anybody cause what was available was undesirable and what was desirable was unaffordable. Unlucky in love as they say and even still it is sometimes heartbreaking. Had a Pakistani Jr. Davis Cupper on the Ropes the summer of 84, City Courts, Rome Georgia I've a baby sitter, watched peoples homes while they were away on Vacation. Freelance writer, local consultant, screenwriter, and the best damn substitute teacher of Floyd County Georgia in mid 80's according to an anonymous kid passed me on main street a few years later when I went back to get a sandwich at Schroeders. Had some good moments in Collinsville as well. Ask Casey Mattox at if he will be honest about it. I try my best to make it to Bridges BBQ in Shelby NC at least four times a year.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Dogma is the Drama

   In late September 2012 with the invitation of two dear friends of Collinsville Alabama I attended a celebration of Koinonia Farms and the origins of Habitat for Humanity in Americus Ga. John Morgan and wife Susan Weaver have been with HfH since their marriage in 2007, he the UVA grad and son of the local Baptist minister and wife daughter of an influential family in Guntersville Alabama who had a 25 year career as football coach and math teacher in Collinsville.

    I met Ansley Quiros in passing at that momentous event and what follows is part of that occasion. The following is in the Hopper to be published by Christian Ethics Today, a progressive Baptist quarterly, in the next couple weeks or so. Editor Pat Anderson also is a Furman grad.  


    My father was the pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Gaffney,  South Carolina from 1962 to 1978, the church only six years old when my Dad arrived, a mission of the FBC Gaffney. I graduated High school there in 1971, the third year of integration of a school roughly 60/40 white to black and was on the bi-racial committee my senior year.

       The last four years of our family's stay got a little dicey over matters of race. Long story short several families were disgruntled we pretty much had an open door policy at the pastorium with a paved driveway and basketball goal and anybody of any color was welcome in reasonable hours. I am proud to have played with the cousins of the great David Thompson, themselves the uncles of later to be Southern Conference Basketball player of the year Donald Simms, the mixed race grandson of future south Governor Riley's best friend of Greenville, Don Gannt.  Riley became President Clinton's Secretary of Education.

      My sister came home from Mars Hill the fall of 76 with a group who had been on a mission trip with her to Baltimore and a couple friends, a missionary's son and a black basketball player. Things got more tense after that and we were headed to Knoxville Tn by summer of 78.

    I was writing some provocative unsolicited opinion pieces in the local paper and it got to the point where a relative of an outspoken resistor to the Fox's agenda came looking for me one late afternoon. I was out of the neighborhood when this former Freedom of Choice School board member came calling down Wilkinsville Hwy, but placed a phone call to him later . Upshot was if I didn't quiet down and let his sister and her group have their way in the church he would "stand on my toes and beat my ass into the ground".

      One other memorable quote of that late spring of 78 came from a former leader in the local Klan who donated the land for the pastorium right behind Bethany, the house our family lived in 14 of the 16 years. I asked the fellow, Joe, if my Daddy had tried to integrate Bethany in 65 what would you have done. He said I woulda shot him. I said what do you think about him now. He said, I Love the damn preacher. If somebody tried to harm him now, they would have to go through my ass to get to him.

     So it is with some existential understanding I come to my fellow Furman grad Ansley Quiros wonderful new book, God With Us.

    Quiros takes a deep dive into the Civil Rights struggle of 1965 in Americus Ga, home of Martin England and Clarence Jordan's Koinonia Farms. Just seven miles from President Carter's Plains Georgia, it is also the place the Baptist preacher's son Marshall Frady spotlighted in his piece on white race progressive Warren Fortson, an attorney and First Methodist Church Sunday School teacher who was run out of town for taking a moderate stance on the upheaval in 65.

     In her provocatively titled introduction "Sweet Jesus and the Unbearable Madness" Quiros does a magificent job covering the territory of Civil rights era studies to date. She cites Dorothy Sayers 1931 effort The Dogma is the Drama to get at what Flannery Oconnor searched the underbelly of  forces that motivate people into action when communities are in conflict. Conceding her debt to Charles Marsh of UVA's Project on Lived Theology, she takes his prescription for reckoning and reconciliation as the thesis of her book, while telling a nonfiction version of a John Grisham southern drama. Here she is in the guts of her book in her own words.

         Quiros says Marsh describes lived theology as a probing and careful narration of life inside the movement of God in the social world....Lived theology effectively expands what can be categorized as theological, and who can be a "theologian". Theology belongs not only to Barth and Aquinas but also to a more 'varied cast of everyday sinners and saints'

         In a chapter a piece on the white churches of Lee Street in Americus in 65 , she drives home the point of just how much the laity mastered the concept of local church autonomy to control their whites only policy. To the frustration of the pastor Harold Collins, at one time called a coward by Koinonia founder Clarence Jordan, he moderated his ideals of equality on the altar of Baptist church polity of majority rule. The Methodists weren't any better and got international condemnation after a famous picture of several men  with locked arms standing on the steps of the church forbidding a kneel in demonstration of folks from entering their house of worship one Sunday morning. That picture evoked a cartoon In the LA time that caricatured these church leaders as hooded Klansman.

     Collins left the church in frustration and defeat but was called back about 15 years later when the church adopted an open door policy.

      The Lee Street Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians, these tall steeple congregations were indicative of white churches across the south as most readers of this review are well aware. The Duke Civil Rights narrator and historian, Tim Tyson in his Blood of Emmett Till published earlier in 2018 has a startling segment on just how fast White Citizens Councils spread across the Deep South after Brown v board starting with just several 100 people in a small province of Mississippi in 1954 to almost a quarter million members in two years, most of them recruited in the civic clubs, the Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis chapters, the places where the deacons and elders in the influential congregations came from in those days.

          A few years ago the former Gov of Georgia, Roy Barnes said one of the Dreams of Lee Atwater was to have every voter in the South in a booth with a choice between a black Democrat and a White Republican. Robert Wuthnow explores the aftermath of Atwater's early 80's "nigger memo" in the book Rough Country, a strategy spotlighted in Jill Lepore's magnificent new history of America, These Truths. Lepore gets what Quiros is talking about as her chapter Battle Lines shines a light on the Birch Society mentored Phyliss Schlafly and her Eagle Forum over the direction of the GOP the last 50 years.

      Schafly was hardwired to the leadership and right wing network of the Takeover of the Southern Baptist convention.           

           One of the reverberations of this book that will have legs entangles the chatter in the wake of Furman and Southern Seminary's look at their slaveholding founders, most of whom were the same people as Southern grew out of Furman. Some at Furman are convinced there is a headlong dash to secularism at the school just a few decades after the official break with the SC SBC and the threat of fundamentalism and their Seeking Abraham report--google the 40 page document online--is cover for some other designs. In her introduction Sweet Jesus ... Quiros has some words of advice for those at Furman who may be caught up in identity politics and too much political correctness.

     Speaking to "secular snobbery" in academic studies of the Civil Rights era  She says early on: "Besides being poor scholarship, historian's marginalization of unsavory religious views has perpetuated an overly simplistic, triumphalist narrative of the civil rights movement, one that misses the heart of the struggle".  

      Quiros in her early 30s shows promise for many conversations in the center and the margins of the progressive Baptist movement for some time to come. In the fall of 2018 she wrote a major piece published in the Washington Post about fundamentalist Southern Baptists in the town of Luverne Alabama and how they were preternaturally disposed to the Trump Base. The fall of 2017 she had a presentation at Furman on three Paladins key to the Civil Rights milieu of Americus, Marshall Frady,  Martin England and Harold Collins.

     Other than England, there is only incidental coverage of Frady and Collins in God With Us. If there is a reprint I hope publishers can find a way to include her Furman Presentation. Speaking as a crusade of One, I have been adamant Frady and England deserve notice on what I hope is a third pole celebrating Furman greats at Fluor Field--home of single A Red Sox baseball--downtown Greenville. And in 15 to twenty years wouldn't surprise me if Dr. Quiros is on a fourth pole or added to one of the three I hope by that time continues to stand.  

    As of early January you can read the introduction of Quiros book by entering the url      

Post Script  
       I am hoping the above and this blog will be shared by the 17 member Seeking Abraham Committee of Furman which I have addressed on this blog and will again soon. The initiative which has its detractors, I'm convinced has considerable merit though I have some reservations as well. It comes on the  heels of a 2015 booklet commemorating 50 years of Desegregation at Furman. A 15 page article there is by Furman history proff Courtney Tollison, a force in her own right in Upstate SC as a grad of Christ Church Episcopal prep school as well as Furman, now married to a major benefactor family of Furman, the Hartnesses of the Pepsi Cola distributorship there; Pepsi part of the politically conservative Frito Lay, Herman Lay network.  

     Here is a promising paragraph of the Abraham document--you can read the 50 page doc online with simple google search--of a 50 page document. Here on page 13....Quoting We approach these steps with grace: that individual conscience enriches us, making forgiveness and redemption possible. Somebody outside the task force, steeped in University History, disagreed with a potential recommendation because of a lack of commitment to this process. The best response, on behalf of the Task Force, was just to say "I hear you", and let that communicative gap be marked. The goal is not to immediately convert anybody's viewpoint. Rather, we incentivize the journey of reflection and dialogue on our own time. End Quote

      Seeking Abraham is only a starting point in my opinion for conversations at Furman. As startling in places as the initiative is, I hope Furman follows through with ongoing conversations of the likes of conservative political families like Nixon's southern Strategist Harry Dent whose Daughter, Dolly was there at Furman a couple years in my day. Atwater's daughter Salley is a recent grad. Clayte Hubbard '18 Father Mike recent speaker of the House in Bama who with the Republican Handshake flipped the state in 2010 Blue to Red. Lauren Cooley a disciple of Anne Coulter was shaped in the Ft Lauderdale Church of Billy Graham's Grandson Tully Tchvidjian.

    And now Christ Church and GWU alum Timmons is the successor of Trey Gowdy in the US Congressional District that includes Furman and Wofford. The basketball arena at Furman is named for Timmons family, his father a 40s Grad.

    It will be interesting to see how Timmons defines himself on the spectrum of First Baptist Church Spartanburg Truth for a New Generation conferences and world view as distinct to the liberal arts education values of Furman and Wofford. Informed by Lepore, and Quiros I am looking forward to that conversation between now and the SC Presidential primary of 2020

    Tollison, like Quiros, did an outstanding job with the politics of the SC SBC in her report in the Desegregation booklet. Wuthnow and Lepore are self evident for updated conversations at Furman worthy of the legacy of Marshall Frady, Martin England, LD Johnson and now Quiros.


Blogger Zak Khan said...

Good post.:)

7:33 AM  

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