Alabama Dreamin

Alabama Dreamin

Somewhere in the news a week or so ago I glimpsed at a report that some DACA Dreamers[1] had come to the U.S. Congress and attempted to wash the feet of congressmen outside the congressional offices.

A week or so went by and a quiet urging came to my mind that this is a wonderful idea for the whole State of Alabama, a State that is viewed by some as solid red, and less than progressive in social causes.  What can be done?  I brought the idea to my church, the Roman Catholic Church in Tuscaloosa, and copied several people who work with the Hispanic communities and other immigrants on the idea of having a footwashing event for and by the Dreamers in our midst.  I emailed to a contact in the Mobile Archdiocese and a contact in the Birmingham Archdiocese who work with the Dreamers and copied the Fellowship of Reconciliation[2] which I am a member of and which has been involved in non-violent social causes such as the Civil Rights Movement for decades.

I am merely offering my voice and the idea that came to me for a non-violent footwashing event or events organized and conducted by what we in the United States call Dreamers.  As a little background, we who are Christians will soon be celebrating Easter and just before Easter, before the Passover, some unusual to some events are recorded to have taken place, like Footwashing.[3] Footwashing has an ancient tradition and is viewed by some as a Sacrament.  A type of this tradition is observed by Roman Catholics on Holy Thursday.[4]

Mary Magdalene is said to have said to have done it with tears of love and remorse.  Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus is said to have done it too.[5]  Both women did it to Jesus and wiped His feet with their hair.  Jesus washed His disciples’ feet too.[6]  Jesus tells his disciples, if we consider ourselves to be disciples, to do it to, to one another.  Is this real?  Is it figurative? Is it both?  Footwashing does not have to be done in church, it can be done anywhere.  It can be done in our imagination too, which may be about as far as this idea goes at this time.

My vision, my dream for Alabama and I wish I could dream the whole world, is that we would want to wash each other’s feet all around the world, in North and South Korea, in Syria, In Yemen, Iran, and Qatar, Ethiopia, and everywhere.  I know this is all and grad idea that we should love one another and love our enemies, just like that, but forgive me, please, I am just Dreaming.

Let’s start little – just where we are…  All it takes is two pans, two towels, two gallons of water, a little Spirit, a little Love, to get the job done.  If a person cannot afford that, and some can’t in the world, take some tears with you and your hair, or your shirt off your back to dry another’s feet and just do it.  Do it to people you love and people you don’t love.  You ain’t gonna wash no feet if you got no Love. [Sic]

As for Alabama, I dream that this idea, this dream, would be seed for greater action beyond out State, and beyond politics and helpful to all immigrants.  I dream the Dreamers would take up this cause and offer to wash the feet of those in power, speaking to the powers,[7] and symbolically telling those powers, be they congress people, police, religious powers, educational powers, all powers, that we are here to serve you, that we love the United States, and all nations for that matter.  Let us serve you, pay our taxes, contribute to our society, support our families off the welfare system.  We want to work.  We want to love one another.  We believe America will be great again when America can love again.

Maybe, I am just Dreamin…

 

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DREAM_Act

[2] https://forusa.org/

[3] https://www.zionlutherannj.net/footwashing-in-the-old-and-new-testament-the-graeco-roman-world-the-early-church-and-the-liturgy-2/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maundy_Thursday

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anointing_of_Jesus

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_washing

[7] http://www.quaker.org/sttp.html

Enslaved to War: A Grace Solution

Enslaved to War:  A Grace Solution

Looking back upon the one thing that stands out most to me regarding the four books we are reading and studying so far this Spring semester, I am most impressed by Dr. Gerald G. May’s insight in his book, “Additions and Grace” that we are all addicted.   May states that “we all suffer from both repression and addiction (p 2).  He says “To be alive is to be addicted, and to be alive and addicted is to stand in need of grace.” (p. 11).  These addictions attack our desires and in effect keep us from our true desire for freedom and our infused desire for unity with God and our desire for God.  At first I partially dismissed the premise that we are all addicted but in view that as Ignation thinkers we are to be willing to give up everything to live only in the love and grace of God, I realized that is something to accept, in view of spiritual and or actual poverty, to realize I am still holding to some inordinate attachments myself.  I am a mixed bag of goods with my own attachments still clinging in some ways, and in some ways partially dispensed of.

Even with this self-realization, I am also conflicted with those sins and addictions of my society at large.  Due to this personal and societal complicacy I am not free to desire only God’s love and grace.  Even to explain it this way makes me realize I have not accepted my own responsibility for evil and if I am concerned so much, why don’t I just STOP IT, or at least stop my part of it?  For instance, take our society’s love of war, for our main example in this reflection.  What am I to do about it?  Originally I thought of entitling this reflection “War Junkie”, or “Addicted to War”, or War and Grace”.  However, these names have already been used by others who recognize the same problem that I have chosen to discuss.

I am complicit with our nation’s war mentality which some believe insures our freedom and creates peace.  The prior statement, ensuring peace by war, to maintain a nation, is exactly opposite of Jesus’ instructions to love our enemies and do good to those who despitefully use us in seeking the inner Peace and Kingdom He was really discussing.  Dr. May echoes rule 98 of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises when he states “detachment does just the opposite.  It seems liberation of desire, an enhancement of passion, the freedom to love with all one’s being, and the willingness to bear the pain such love can bring.” (p.15).  The Spex, rule 98 promotes the willingness to bear all wrongs.  It is this suffering love that brings detachment and personal freedom as it is greased by the wheels of grace.

See:

(098)

Eternal Lord of All Things

Eternal Lord of all things, in the presence of Thy infinite goodness, and of Thy glorious mother, and of all the saints of Thy heavenly court, this is the offering of myself which I make with Thy favor and help. I protest that it is my earnest desire and my deliberate choice, provided only it is for Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all wrongs and all abuse and all poverty, both actual and spiritual, should Thy most holy majesty deign to choose and admit me to such a state and way of life (http://spex.ignatianspirituality.com/SpiritualExercises/Puhl#marker-p101)

True freedom is the freedom to love one another, including our enemy.  If we maintain our addictions to war and killing this is what May describes as a security addiction (p.31).  May states, “we can and should trust in God for our ultimate security” and he speaks of relaxing our grip about lessor sources of security.  So, why has religion, including Christianity as a whole, including the institutional Roman Catholic Church, which I attend, supported war in the past, even calling it “just” war?  Why do some Jesuit institutions of higher learning support ROTC programs on campus and teach little about non-violence?  Also, why do I pay my taxes, 60% or so which go to support of war, not including hidden taxes we are not considering? Complicacy, is that why?

Satan does not want us to realize we are in slavery.  We deny we are in slavery.  You may deny it and may be mad at me now as you read this.  I deny my own slavery in many ways too.  We are at war with Satan, not flesh and blood, and generally do not know it or admit it.  War, the myth of redemptive violence to establish “freedom” is really enslavement to Satan’s original desires and intentions for us. It separates us from God’s love and grace, whatever addiction we are battling. We defend our addictions and enslavement to war, killing, and redemptive violence with repression, rationalization, and denial.

Tomorrow we will quit, just after we win the battle.  Our minds have been tricked and we have been addicted.  Our only solution is to quit it, and quit it now.  But how?    We are in collusion with the system, we are complicit.  There is no easy way out perhaps until we hit “rock bottom” as may happen one day.  How do we confess our own sins and the sins of a nation?  How do we stop the mind tricks?  How do we STOP IT NOW!?  I am not so sure I know.  May states “our motivations are always mixed and our hearts are never completely pure (p. 108).  It is not just war, but all our addictions to which we are enslaved.  Maybe one day we have hit rock bottom, then we can STOP IT.  Maybe, when the Kingdom comes.

John Cooper

Social Desolation

Social Desolation: The Occupation of the American Mind

            I have been in a funk lately, actually from the day I knew Donald Trump would be the President of the United States; I have been in a funk.  My funk at times seems to be only worsening.  I don’t think I am the only one who is in a funk.  Our nation is in a funk too.  I believe the constant stream of lies, the minimization of the poor, the lack of care for refugees, and our constant state of war is subconsciously taking its toll on the American psyche, creating anxiety in the soul of America.

The occupation of the American mind by the disordinate affections of consumerism, material riches, pride, militarism, and the cult of the self has created the anxiety of mind that refuses to recognize God’s presence in everything, every human being, and God’s presence even in our enemies whom we, if we are Christians, subconsciously know we are supposed to love.

Recently, in my morning meditations, I read:

“The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.” (Matt. 13:20-22)

            Anxiety… This is me.  This is us.  This is the United States.

I have most of my adult life tried to be apolitical, leaving the political systems up to God, who is supposed to order the powers over these systems, but I have never been as anxious about the state of affairs in the world as I am now.  I know I should not be anxious, but the lies, filth and profanity spewing out of the mouths of some in leadership just have gotten me down.  Since first writing about these matters, it seems every day matters only seem to get worse.  North Korean missiles fly through the air, and tough retaliatory words concerning the fire and fury of nuclear warfare fly back through the airwaves.  There are a few leaders in the world who seem to be level headed, like Angel Merkel of Germany, Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Pope Francis, but at least two other world leaders who have their fingers on nuclear codes, just do not look like Jesus to me.  Nor, would it seem they understand or practice the ethics of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 5 from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

I expressed my frustrations and my sin of anxiety with my Spiritual Director recently, and his suggestion was that in place of being less involved, (apolitical) perhaps I should be more involved.  I believe it is time for America, and the world, for that matter, to return to God, and recognize God in others, not continuing the endless quest to solve the world’s problems with the Myth of Redemptive Violence, which can also be violence of the heart, violence of the mouth, or violence of the eyes, in addition to the violence of perpetual warfare and killing, as my own nation, and many other nations seem to support.

In my Ignatian studies, I came across the following text I will quote from “finding God in all things” by William A. Barry, S.J. which, of course, would ask us to find God within our political systems, within our enemies, and I suppose I will have to admit, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un too.  I quote:

“This social desolations shows itself in a feeling of futility before what seem to be intractable problems of our complex world.  Those who find themselves in such a state, a gnawing sense of futility, about the world in general and about the particular institutions, to which they belong, need to be freed by the Lord just as much as the addict or habitual sinner needs to be freed by the Lord.  The gnawing feeling saps life and vitality from them and keeps them from the freedom of the sons and daughters of God.

When they do let the Lord of life free them, what s the result?  They feel astonished at the enormity of God’s love for them in this sinful world.  They know that in spite of all the horror, the Lord has not abandoned his people.  In spite of the stupidity and evil, in spite of institutional injustice, the human spirit is not crushed and defeated.  The powers of darkness have not prevailed.  As a result they feel themselves empowered to try to do their part in the social injustices in which they have participated.”  (pp. 63 & 64)

Therefore, I too am trying to take action, to do my part, to do something that may help to bring myself back to how God views Donald Trump, Kim Jon-un and others, how God views our enemies, and how God views me, as beloved sinners.  I believe we need to seek the common ground of recognizing the Image of God in all mankind.  Having a conscious is the indication we are humans, and that God’s Image is in us.  Seeing God in all mankind is a step to relieving our anxieties and reaching out for our human potential.

Social Desolation is a worthy term to describe what is happening to us, but I am going to try to recognize God’s presence in our political systems, in our nation, and in the people in positions of power, but I also want to speak to them, and tell them that they just do not look very godly to me, and that I think they are wrong, very wrong, and so am I wrong who is complicit with them in by paying my taxes, at least half of which go to support the evils of our society, such as warfare.

On a better note, in the quest for finding God in all things, it is encouraging to see the protest movements against racism and to see all those who care about their fellow human being in attempting to rescue and serve those affected by hurricane Harvey.  Therefore, as William Barry, whom I quoted said, “The powers of darkness have not prevailed,” although, these powers seem to be doing everything possible to occupy, meaning inhabit, the American Mind.  Let us actively resist this attempted Social and personal Desolation with all our being as we cry out to God for His help.

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

 

 

 

 

 

The Seed is Sown

The Seed is Sown

(Matthew 9:32-38)

2016 Translation

 

            Jesus went out to conduct an assessment of the state of religion in his domain.  He went to all the churches, knocked on their doors, the Jewish Synagogues, the Baptist ones, the Catholic ones, the non-denominational ones, and the Islamic Mosques too.  He went to all of them in every town he could and met great big crowds of people who were looking for someone to lead them and to be President, but they were uncomfortable with all the choices available.  Jesus talked to them about an entirely different type of governmental system, one where there is no support for military systems, all the swords have been put up excepting some relics in museums, and the money that used to be spent on war is used to take care of sick people, to heal them, and to feed the hungry, build up hospitals and day care centers.  In this Kingdom, they use bricks and stones from walls torn down that used to separate people one from another.  Another great thing about this new political system that Jesus taught about, which he called “The Kingdom of God,” is that money was spent caring for the refugees of the old types of governmental systems who had no home or food because their jobs in the country where they lived and worked in factories making weapons of war and destruction had been done demolished.

Jesus really cared about these crowds and the refugees that were going to church in the churches he visited.  Jesus’ idea was that these people had been troubled and abandoned by the entire religious systems where they went to church every Saturday.  Jesus taught they needed to be harvested, along with those who do not go to church, like one harvests wheat.  Jesus prayed that more Mexicans would come and help in the harvest.  The Mexicans could see with Hispanic eyes which are very good and picking out grain from the field and separating the wheat from the chaff.  Jesus liked the Mexicans and anyone else who wanted to be a part of his harvest.  Jesus often thought about his illegal alien cousin, Ruth, the Moabitist, who was very good help in the harvest too.  This was way back before Jesus was born, but he heard all about it from his family history which his mother, Mary told him.

I think part of what Jesus is telling us here is that these religious systems of all kinds, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and others, are not all that bad.  After all, Jesus is telling us to go to the “harvest” for the Kingdom, not to plant the seed.  The seed has already been planted in these churches, It just needs to grow and be fed, and then be harvested.  He asks us to do the harvesting, not the calling, not the sowing.

Because of this great need for the harvest, Jesus brought workers for the Kingdom from Africa too, because people in Africa do not have so many TVs and have time to study the Sacred Scriptures.  In some countries people watch more TV than they do praying for the harvest and praying for peace, as Jesus asked.  One has a tendency to pray more when it is a life and death situation.  So, Jesus brought in a bunch of black Catholic priests from Africa to help with the harvest, and He even sent them across the sea into the united States.  They are good Priests, and they did not mind going to little towns either.  I saw one in Greenville, IL this past weekend.  I also saw one in a big city, Birmingham, AL, not too long ago.  I think these black priests must be everywhere.  Also those Mexican workers are everywhere.  They are the nearly the only ones who want to work in the harvest.  The Amish want to work too and are very good people, believing in Jesus and all of that.  The Amish love peace and the Kingdom of God too and hate warfare and killing.  But Amish cannot do much in the world because they go about in horses and buggies and like keeping things simple.  But, isn’t that what Jesus is asking us to do?  To just keep it simple, that is, to love one another, and to get out into the fields and bring in the harvest?  After all, He has already sown the seed, his very image, in every man and woman, and he is the one who makes this seed grow, not us.

 

Let’s just do it.. It is just that simple…

 

Grace & Peace,

 

John Cooper

 

 

 

Little Boy

Luke 7: 11-17

2016 Version

A PRAYER OF IMAGINATION

Little Boy

After a little while, Jesus went to a town called Nain with His apprentices and a great big crowd following Him.  Nain is a town just off the beach in Greece and a little dead boy had just washed up on the beach.  There was a war going on in Syria and his mother and the little boy were fleeing the war because the father had been killed by a bombing raid on a hospital.  The little boy drowned but the mother just barely made it to the shore alive.  They were having a funeral for the little boy who was the woman’s only son.  The little boy was all she had left on earth.  She had spent every penny she had on having the little wood casket made.  She had no money for flowers.

Jesus saw the funeral procession and the woman crying and Jesus cried too.  It just is not right, Jesus muttered in between tears as He went up to the coffin and felt the smooth wood.  The coffin was 5/4” thick cypress.  Jesus was a carpenter and He had made some similar to this one before.  It had hand cut dovetail joints.  This was like the coffin Pope John Paul II was buried in, but a much smaller one and this one was square, not trapezoid.

Even though tears were coming out of Jesus eyes, He told the woman, “Don’t cry”, and as He opened up the lid of the coffin, He said, “Little Boy, get up, I tell you”.  The little boy got up and started talking and Jesus helped him get out of the coffin, holding his little body in His arms he and gave the little boy back to his mother.

Everybody was filled with awe and they praised God, even though not all of them were Christians.   Some of these refugees were Muslims and some were Christians too, but they all praised God, “A great prophet has appeared among us” they said.  “God has come to save His people”.

They put the whole story up on the internet, and someone recorded it with their cell phone and put it on You Tube for all to see just how much Jesus loved the little boy and all the refugees for that matter.  Because of this mystical and mighty event, the whole world sustained from war for 49 days.

 

John Cooper

 

Peaceful Thoughts

Peaceful Thoughts

As a matter partially of time and chance this past week, I stopped by Panera Bread at a time of the day I would not normally be there because I was on my home to pick up a check out of my home office. I noticed as I sat down a Muslim man in the back of the restaurant. I have had several conversations with this man and his friend, Sammy, also a Muslim, when I used to go by Starbucks on the way to work early in the morning. (Since we were given a Keurig coffee machine, my Starbucks visits are virtually nil.) I noticed him sitting in the back of the restaurant in what appeared to be deep thought or meditation, so I did not greet him. After several minutes he came by me on the way apparently back from getting a drink refill and he asked my, knowing my beliefs in Peace and Nonviolence, this question:

“Have you had any Peaceful thoughts lately?”

“Yes, I have,” I said, and invited him to sit down with me at my table. I got out my small Samsung tablet and opened my You Version Bible App up to the place already in the memory, which I reflected on just the day before. I quote it below from Philippians 4:

1 And so, my most beloved and most desired brothers, my joy and my crown: stand firm in this way, in the Lord, most beloved.
2 I ask Euodia, and I beg Syntyche, to have the same understanding in the Lord.
3 And I also ask you, as my genuine companion, to assist those women who have labored with me in the Gospel, with Clement and the rest of my assistants, whose names are in the Book of Life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, rejoice.
5 Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is near.
6 Be anxious about nothing. But in all things, with prayer and supplication, with acts of thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God.
7 And so shall the peace of God, which exceeds all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Concerning the rest, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is chaste, whatever is just, whatever is holy, whatever is worthy to be loved, whatever is of good repute, if there is any virtue, if there is any praiseworthy discipline: meditate on these.
9 All the things that you have learned and accepted and heard and seen in me, do these. And so shall the God of peace be with you.
10 Now I rejoice in the Lord exceedingly, because finally, after some time, your feelings for me have flourished again, just as you formerly felt. For you had been preoccupied.
11 I am not saying this as if out of need. For I have learned that, in whatever state I am, it is sufficient.
12 I know how to be humbled, and I know how to abound. I am prepared for anything, anywhere: either to be full or to be hungry, either to have abundance or to endure scarcity.
13 Everything is possible in him who has strengthened me. (Emphasis is mine.)
The Muslim man studiously and respectfully silently read the text for several minutes in deep thought as I silently watched. After a while he looked up to me and said, “It is very Islamic, isn’t it?” “Yes, it is,” I agreed, and we started another long and mutually respectful and, by the way, Peaceful, conversation.

I told him about the Inter-Faith city wide Prayer Service I had attempted to activate a couple of months ago for the sake of the Refugees, both Christian and Muslim refugees and pointed him to my blog site, http://www.jcooperforpeace.org where I posted the Prayer Service. I told him my idea had already been shared with another of my Muslim friends, Mirza Beg, who was to forward it to the local Mosque, or Islamic Center as they call in here in Tuscaloosa. I asked him to talk it up and perhaps just a few of us could have a smaller event than the city wide event I had envisioned. Even though the Mayor of Tuscaloosa had agreed to help in any way he could, I could not garner support from the Christian churches I had contacted whom I was asking to host the event.

We continued our conversation and the Muslim man told me he had been looking into the Spirituality of the Native American Indians. One of the American Indian wise sayings, he said, is: “If God created you a crow, you do not have to become an Eagle.” I told him I liked that and many Indian Spiritual sayings and I had recently been through an 8 or 9 month St. Ignatian Spiritual Exercise Retreat. I told him of the many ways I personally think God can reveal himself to us humans, and concerning the Indians we were talking about, that God can reveal himself and to Indians as one walks in silence through the forest, even without a word written or spoken, God can do this, as one walks in Peace. I mentioned that to me, God has revealed himself sometimes as a Father, sometimes as a Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit, but still, I believe there is only one God. I shared my idea that one could take all the knowledge of the American Indians, and the Jewish religion, the Christian religion, and the Islamic religion, and all the knowledge of the Atheist religion, and put them all in a bucket, stir them all up and dump them into the ocean, and it would not be a drop in the ocean compared to the vast knowledge of an infinite God. He understood, and I mentioned again the Scripture we had just read, although I did not quote it again at that time. Here is a principle part of it below.

7 And so shall the peace of God, which exceeds all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

I don’t think he would have agreed exactly with the Jesus Christ part of it, but then, apparently many Christians do not believe it either, not understand it, in that many Christian folk like to be guarded by weapons, guns, and “Peacemaking” six-shooters, not by the Peace of God. It appears in America that the “tougher” and more one believes in guarding oneself, the better, especially in the Political realm.

I cannot share everything now, we talked about, this is already too long, but the point I want to highlight especially at this “season” of Christmas 2015 is this:

“Have you had any Peaceful thoughts lately?”

If you have not had any, I ask, why not? Could it be the Prince of the Power of the Air is getting through to us through the Media and the Political systems of this world? Why not turn off the Media for an hour or two a day and silently reflect upon your Scriptures, either your Hebrew ones, Christian ones, Islamic ones, or, even just take a silent walk in the woods, just like the Indians and reflect on the Peace God has very clearly said he came to give us, which goes beyond understanding. This Peace is a gift of Grace and Mercy. Yes, it does sound Islamic, but it sounded to Abraham, like a gracious and merciful God, before the Jewish people, before the Christian people, and before the Muslim people. It is a Grace that has extended to all Abraham’s offspring, which by extension is all mankind.

Have you had any Peaceful thoughts lately? Accept this gift, get some of it; Let this be the year of God’s favor for you…..

Grace and Peace,

John Cooper

Brother’s Blood

Brother’s Blood

In this terrible world of the past month and a half, let us not let Evil creep up on us and invite us to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…

Accepting what is evilly inspired…

Let us hear the cry of our brother’s blood rising up from the earth,

Let us be aware that a major culprit of the violence and killing of the past few weeks is religion…

Let us walk in the Garden with God, as did Adam, and Eve, before religion…

Let us believe in God, as did Abraham, before religion…

Religion is a temporary phenomenon in this world’s history…

Religion is created by man in his own image as a bridge to reach the One God whose Kingdom already lives in us, and we in Him…

Relationships with God, and each other, and the supernatural ability to hear our brother’s blood cry from the ground are primal gifts we should strive to possess….

Not to strive against each other,

I think we are our brother’s keeper, all of our brothers…

Listen to your brother’s blood, and the survivors of our brothers’ blood who have bled under the altar of Evil, and have gone before us…..

Grace & Peace,

John Cooper