A Short Sketch of my Life and Thought

Kenneth Cauthen

Companion Volume to Born into the Wrong World Published

The Beauty of Ordinary Lives is a 42 page tribute to my parents, a companion volume and supplement to my autobiography Born into the Wrong World. It is  available at Lulu.com and  at

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From the Preface:

       I was fortunate in that I chose my parents well. John Wilfred Cauthen and Nancy Beulah Harris Cauthen were ordinary folks from rural Georgia. They taught me what unconditional love was by their words and actions.  I will be forever grateful to these wonderful people who demonstrated the beauty of ordinary lives. This little booklet is a loving tribute to them. I focus on their last years as they confronted the necessity of giving up the home they loved and moving to a nursing home to spend the rest of their days.
        Suitcases in the car, it was time. Mother held the kitty and said a long, sad, lingering farewell to her "Baby." My Dad gave me a big, tight hug, flung wide his long, skinny arms, and exclaimed with passionate resignation, "Goodbye, old house." I led one and then the other to the car, put the old, ugly wheelchair that had been Rosalie's in the trunk, and got in beside them. We all took one last look at their home place and drove off. When we arrived, Mother remembered something Rosalie had said when she came to make this her home years before. "This is the place where you come to wait to die."
    Some time ago my Mother told me about a couple several years ago stopping in their driveway and coming to the door. They asked directions to the nursing home where we now sat. In the back seat of that car sitting very still and drawn up was a sad, unsmiling old grey-haired woman looking very scared and downcast. It took little imagination to figure out what was going on. Now I sat at the door of this same unwanted but needed refuge, somewhere to live that was not and could not be home, a place both forbidding and welcoming, a sanctuary that promised care and safety without ceasing to be dreaded as the place you go when nowhere else will do, where you don't want to go but go anyway because you have to, the place where you come to wait to die.

Announcing the Publication of the Revised Standard Version of My Autobiography

From the Back Cover:
Born into the Wrong World is the story of a country boy from the rural, segregated South who grew up among farmers and millhands. Kenneth Cauthen has spent a  lifetime trying to make sense of life and its mysteries. He has always been troubled that there is so much suffering and injustice and puzzled that  we do so little about it. He defends the view of a limited, suffering God as the only credible way to explain why the world is not better than it is.

Born in 1930, Cauthen’s life covers a span from the Great Depression to the Age of Terror. This memoir  views his seventy plus years  in the context of these tumultuous decades. His evocative descriptions of childhood in the country are marked with humor and appreciative feeling as he talks about outdoor toilets, life in a small Baptist church, the eccentricities of colorful individuals, the family grocery store, and the sights, sounds, and smells of that rustic time long ago. He speaks candidly of early sexual trauma and the pain caused by parental conflict.

It is all here –  his life experiences with all their sorrows and joys,  inner struggles, his brief  career as a pastor who barely escaped dismissal over the race issue, his four decades as a professor of  theology and author,  his first marriage, family life, episodes of depression,  a devastating divorce, a happy second  marriage, his theological development and mature thought, his ambivalence about the church, and his social and political views.

The author says, “I have laughed a lot and cried a lot. Humor and tears have  kept me sane. I wanted to conclude with an account of my funeral, but I was not willing to meet the publisher’s deadline.”

Kenneth Cauthen is the John Price Crozer Griffith emeritus Professor of Theology, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, New York. He is the author  of  twenty books, including The Impact of American Religious Liberalism, which was the standard text in the field for a quarter of a century.

I was born in rural Georgia and grew up among farmers and textile mill workers. My parents were ambitious that I continue with my education, and following my graduation from Zebulon High School, I headed off to college. After a year at South Georgia College, I transferred to Mercer University. Having been infected by a call to the Baptist ministry, I pursued this urge by journeying North and entering Yale Divinity School. After graduating, I received a call to a Baptist church in a small town. I was successful at that task, although my views on the race question almost led to my dismissal. But I was nevertheless able to earn a Master's degree from Emory University before enrolling in Vanderbilt University to pursue a Ph. D. in Religious Studies. I accepted a teaching job at Mercer University, where I remained for four years.

Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, was in need of a professor of theology and offered the job to me. Reluctantly I left the South but eagerly responded to the opportunity to specialize in theological topics rather than span the variety of subjects that my college teaching required. There I remained for nine years until the authorities at Crozer decided we should merge with Colgate-Rochester/Bexley Hall in Rochester, NY. ROCHESTER, NEW YORK! That was a destination that I had never dreamed of in my wildest fantasies but found it a pleasant place except for the LONG winters and ALL THAT SNOW! I shall never forget the measurement -- 142 inches of snow that first season in the land of Kodak and Xerox.

There I remained until I retired. Space does not permit, and merciful compassion on my part does not allow, the recital of how many lectures, faculty meetings, student exams, and term papers occupied my days and nights during all those years, not to mention the financial crises, faculty disputes, and graduation ceremonies, at which time we annually released a new crop of ministers upon an unsuspecting world.

*At least my Mother, my Wife, and my Children think so!