Ukraine

Ukraine

I was grazing on the Internet today, spending a little downtime after a day of trying to play some golf, and taking a nap, and working some too… In the process I was thinking about just one of the current hot spots in the world that has the possibility to develop into a melting point, similar to the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown that was also in the Ukraine.

 

In the process, I looked into this web site, http://kubik.org/ukraine/03-02-14.html which is the web site of Victor Kubik, the President of the United Church of God, which is a split off of the Worldwide Church of God, now called Grace Communion International. I knew some of the founders of United Church of God personally, especially Ray Wooten, who recently died, as a personal friend. Victor Kubik is from the Ukraine, as you will see in checking the link out. I especially like the map he presented, and actually had forgotten Ukraine also adjoins Romania.

 

Ukraine is a historic Christian nation, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Christianity_in_Ukraine, as is Russia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_Russia. Valdimir Putin proclaims to be a Christian, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3d_yxJhmjk, and President Obama also claims to be a Christian, http://crossmap.christianpost.com/news/president-obama-affirms-jesus-as-his-savior-and-lord-stands-for-religious-freedom-at-the-62nd-national-prayer-breakfast-8829. I know all these links would take a long time to research, but I wanted to document this premise that the leaders of both nations are self proclaimed Christians. It is crucial to me that Christians recognize one another, and refuse to go to war with one another. It seems that every time there is a political disagreement since 325 AD that Christians as a whole line right up behind the Politics of this fallen world, and not the Politics of the Kingdom of God ruled by the Crucified and Risen Jesus.

 

Perhaps Putin and Obama are not Christians as some view themselves as Christians, and perhaps Russian Orthodoxy is not viewed as highly in America as Roman Catholicism in the West or various split offs of the two most ancient Christian religions mentioned, but I am reminded in consideration of our two predominately “Christian” nations again facing off for war of the dreams of Jesus. I believe that Jesus had dreams of his followers to actually love one another, and that the whole world would be a better place because of the shining light, the salt and light of his followers exuding their love for one another. To me, this love means we absolutely refuse to kill one another, or any other human, for that matter. (However, I am just a Pacifist.) I believe that Jesus dreamed of his followers even loving their enemies, even of other faith based traditions. I believe it is apparent that men are incapable of ruling one another based upon any other government principle than this love relationship, of ruling “under” and serving, not ruling “over” and abusing one another. I believe hatred and selfishness is why the world suffers so much and is in so much pain while awaiting a better Kingdom to come.

 

We all have dreams that do not work out so well in this life. Nations have dreams, people of all faiths have dreams of peace, and a better world for their children. I have had dreams too, which appear to have failed… One of the dreams I have, which has historically failed for thousands of years, is to dream of peace, as Jesus did, as Tolstoy and Rasputin of Russia, as Martin Luther King and Einstein and many others have dreamed. This Peace will never happen, in my view until those who call themselves “Christians” first give up hate and embrace the love for each other Jesus dreamed of.

 

The Christian season of Lent just began a few days ago in this year of 2014. This is the season some Christians give up things to help in their worship of Jesus and preparation of the celebration of Easter.

 

Why don’t Christians give up hate for Lent, at least? Why don’t Christians give up violence as a solution to their disagreements? And war, and threats of war, let’s give them up for Lent, at least. I need to do it too. Recently I have had bad thoughts about someone whom I think has taken advantage of me. I need to let go of these bitter thoughts and feelings. When we fail to love each other, it is hate. When nations of the world, whether Christian or not, but especially when they are Christian, line up their warships and nuclear warheads, it cannot be fulfilling the dreams of Jesus for a better Kingdom to come… Unless, we blast ourselves to kingdom come, that is…

 

You have just read my analysis of the situation in Ukraine, which would apply to other hotspots in the world too… Peace and love is the way, there is no other way…

 

John Cooper
http://www.jcooperforpeace.org

Bookworm

Bookworm

I recall that my brother, David Cooper, used to call me a “Bookworm” when we were growing up… I liked books, and read a lot, one reason I suppose, was that we grew up poor without a TV in the home until after I left for college. Books were my entertainment. I cannot recall studying that much, but I would check books out of the Marshall, IL Jr. High Library, reading Isaac Asimov science fiction books, about all the horse books, like Black Stallion, and nearly everything I could get my hands upon…

 
I really valued books… Recently, I think I may have valued them too highly, at least for monetary value, for the type of books I have. I have suffered some reversals the past few years, some of which are causing me to evaluate declaring Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. In Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, one has to put a value on things one wants to keep, and pay it back to the Bankruptcy Court in 5 years. In the paperwork I filled out, I used the value of $250 for “Books, mostly old, relating to woodworking, religious books given to me by the church I was a pastor in, etc.” I have hundreds of books, as Ben Talmage, to whom I gave some of my duplicates will tell you. I think I valued them much too highly… It is hard for me to even give away the duplicates I received when another pastor of the denomination I used to serve died and his family gave them to me, knowing I liked books.

 
Oh, that reminds me of another “book time.” This goes back to the time I was having a religious transformation experience while I was in college at Samford University. (Oh, I used to work in the Rare Book Library there.) I came to Alabama to attend Samford University, where my uncle, Dr. Everett Lemeron, taught accounting and other business related subjects. I lived with him, and my aunt (by blood) Gladys Lemeron in their home in Cahaba Heights, a city close to Birmingham and Samford University. This made it easier on me to pay my way through school in those days, where it never occurred to me to get a loan, if one could have back then… Anyway, after a year at Samford, I got this “buggy” idea (to my aunt) (a devout Nazarene who grew up in the Free Methodist tradition) to observe the 10 commandments. Now that entailed my ceasing to help out around the house on family work day, Saturday, which happens to be the Sabbath… Also, to exacerbate the conflict, I was beginning to understand some of Jesus’ ethics, such as to “Love your enemies, do good to those who despitefully use you,” etc. on the path I had been taking since my late teens of becoming a conscientious objector, which I am to this day, although I am no longer a Sabbitarian after practicing that law for about 25 years before coming to an understanding of the New Covenant.

 

This Spiritual transformation got me kicked out of the house in early 1969, I believe, by my aunt and I had to load up all my possessions in my 1959 VW. This is the VW that I used to drive around Samford University with a plastic sign on the front bumper, “Make Love, not War.” I had no one interested in the Love part at that school, and I had the sign stolen from me apparently by an irate Samford student concerned about the War part of it. :):) This is the VW I used to haul away my earthly possessions. It took only two trips to haul my possession away to a guest pool house I rented up on Alford Avenue on top of Shades Mountain. I acquired a new push button phone, a red one. The phone number was 205-822-8922. Don’t dial that! I mostly hauled away books….. I had lost of them back then too…

 
But I gave away most of the books at a another transition point in my life. I later moved into a home owned by the family of a Worldwide Church of God friend, Kay Kimbrough, at 305 Woodward Road, in Midfield, AL not with Kay, but several of us young Worldwide Church of God boys, including Larry Carter, and Donnie Parker. This was the Birmingham bachelor house for the young men in the church, including nearly all who passed though from all over the country. Everyone was welcome, and I shared everything I had with everyone who needed it, including fish for breakfast (just like Jesus???) because that is all I had on that day. The fish was steamed in my Wearever cookware I sold to single working girls back then, but that is a whole another story..?:):) Some of our guests did not like fish for breakfast, so they went to the local Shoney’s….

 

Back to the books…. Donnie Parker, apparently surmising how much I valued my books, kept bugging me to give up my books because they were secular, and not religious books… He wagered with me that I should throw away all my books because they were vanity… I wagered back that if I could do 100 pushups he would give me all his Bibles (he had quite a collection and all kinds of translations) I would throw away my books and his Bibles would be mine. I won, having grown up on the farm, working hard. I was strong back then.. Donnie was a couch potato and could barely do one push up back then. I disposed of my books, throwing them in the trash, all except three or four thick ones which were propping up the end of a used bed I had that had a broken leg.

 

I have never really planned on making another transition in life and giving up everything again, including my books, especially not at 65 years old, which I turned on January 15th, 2014. I have listed some things I would like to keep, like half the home Wink and I have completely paid for, and some personal hand tools, and a chest of drawers my Great Great Grandfather Alexander Hinkle, who was a cabinet maker too, and a farmer, and also a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and six chairs he made. The books, $250…I valued them too highly again, apparently… I already sold all my big woodworking equipment, and gave the money to a bank I owed to nearly pay off my line of credit, which they responded to by closing my line of credit, making my problems worse that before… Oh well… The idea I have in life is now to ask, Does it rust? If it rusts, don’t value it so highly… Don’t cling to it… I think Jesus had some things to say about that, even saying it about Silver and Gold, which according to Jesus, rusts… Scientists are apparently unaware of that idea, that Silver and Gold Rusts, but some scientists who do not know this may not know Jesus and may not know that everything has a radioactive half life and when viewed in the lenses of eternity, are not really worth keeping… Also, thieves can break in and steal them. It is loving one another that needs to be valued, even one’s enemies, according to this Jesus person… That is what will last… I have even been arguing with prestigious religious people who may not really understand such matters lately… It is hard on one to understand such things…. One has to give up ones prized possessions, and be willing to carry crosses around, and to die, and to bleed all under the altar at the foot of various punishing instruments, like the U.S. economy, greed, capitalism, rampant consumerism, and various military industrial complexes, and such things as crosses we agree to bear as we are transformed by Spiritual substances (homoousios) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/270595/homoousios which will never rust.

 
Back to the books… I am going to pick up about 20 books that I was unable to give away tomorrow, Sunday, one of the days I now worship God on, along with Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday too, the 7th day of the week.. I plan to offer them to Greg Rogers, another pastor friend of mine, and see if would like to have them.

 
I am thinking too about another book, the Book of Life, mentioned toward the back of another book I value, the New Testament. I think my name is written in it, and yours too… I think toward the end of this book, the Everlasting Grace and Love of God is also mentioned, where the City is mentioned, that has gates that are always open, and great big loudspeakers sounding out, Come… Come, even to the worst of our enemies, even to those not yet in the book of life, even perhaps to the fallen angels who may be able to be transformed… It is a city that values such things as Gold, which is used to pave streets until it rusts again and has to be reknewed….

 

Bookworms, as my brother David said of me… I hope to always be one… and listed in one, especially one…:):)

 

Love and Peace, Forever…

 

John Cooper
http://www.jcooperforpeace.org/

Another Face of Joy

Another Face of Joy

I recently read Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium,” his first Apostolic Letter. The letter may be viewed at http://www.vatican.va/phome_en.htm.

As a former Roman Catholic and Nondenominational Evangelical Christian I am overjoyed at Pope Francis’ ethics and in particular, this recent letter.  My hope is that Pope Francis will reknew (I know, deliberately wrong spelling) the Catholic Church. I even feel called to come back to the Catholic Church, at least part time, to see how all of this is unfolding among individual Catholic communities. It is all because of Pope Francis that I feel called to do this.

My view of the Gospel is that the Gospel is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ which results in Peace and Salvation for all who believe. Pope Francis in some cases refers to the Gospel in relationship to the Crucified and Risen Christ. I agree to this definition also. I quote a section of his letter below:

“The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded. That is what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people (Lk 2:10). The Book of Revelation speaks of “an eternal Gospel to pro¬claim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tongue and tribe and people (Rev 14:6).”i

I too, hear the Universal call of the Gospel as Pope Francis states, as a Gospel of joy for all, and none is excluded, but all are included in the message of the Gospel. I am excited that the leader of the world’s largest Christian system, of over a billion individuals would speak in these inclusive terms and physically and mentally demonstrate his compassion for all mankind, even those who are not of his particular fold, and also those of other religious systems and non religious people.

I will write a type of review of Pope Francis’ Exhortation following, along with my own free form comments.

Humans everywhere, of all beliefs are always looking for Joy. For Christians, Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit which is believed to be an internal gift, not something we merit of your own goodness. To put another face of joy into humanity is always good. The face Pope Francis is highlighting is the face of joy we can experience, as a result of following God’s will for us, that of going into the world, and sharing the Gospel, or Good News.
Pope Francis seems to put early emphasis on works of mercy that result from our joyfully sharing the Gospel. To me, these works are very good when they arise from the inner motivation of the gift of Grace freely given to us by the Holy Spirit and proceeding from the Father and the Son, who live in us all and we in him, One God.
I read Pope Francis as deploring violence in the cities of God, and later in his letter actually speaking of the Gospel of Peace.

“The Church proclaims “the Gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15) and she wishes to cooperate with all national and international authorities in safeguarding this immense universal good. By preaching Jesus Christ, who is himself peace (cf. Eph 2:14), the new evangelization calls on every baptized person to be a peacemaker and a credible witness to a reconciled life.”ii

It is very Good News to me to hear a leader of Christianity speaking out for the Gospel of Peace. I have long felt a calling to proclaim this Gospel of Peace, and regularly do so, but I have been rebuffed by Evangelical Christianity at nearly every point. I keep sharing, however, and also write about the Gospel of Peace on my blog site, http://www.jcooperforpeace.org. As a Body of Believers who deplores violence to the unborn, the Catholic Church, it is music to my ears to hear of the Gospel of Peace from the Christian leader of that system.
To me, it is a perfect time, today, for Pope Francis to set a vision of the Gospel of Peace, the Gospel of Salvation, and the Gospel of the Kingdom, one Gospel, as a Gospel that is to bring Peace to the world, as much as possible now, and certainly when Jesus returns, and always when Jesus comes to us now in this life. I cite in this regard:

Luke 2:8-15

8 That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! 11 The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others — the armies of heaven — praising God:

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to all whom God favors.”
NLT

Above we see the Good News of Joy for all mankind concerning the Peace God wishes for all whom he favors, which to me would be inclusive of all mankind, since Jesus came to suffer and die for all mankind’s sins. Whether all mankind will hear and understand this Good News and believe is another matter for discussion, but personally, I hope so, once they see the crucified and risen Christ, and it is a Joy to me to assist in sharing this Gospel.

In the setting of this vision of Peace and proclaiming the inclusiveness of the Gospel, I hope Pope Francis will provide even more confessions of Guilt of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the terrible sins of the Church, (It is not just the Catholic Church,) regarding the post Constantinian destruction of Sanctified human adult life in the Inquisition, the killings of Moslems, and Christians, and the lack of nonviolent actions concerning the killings of Jews and others in World War II, in Nazi Germany. The Church’s support of the Just War Theory, (although it is not a Doctrine of the Church,) needs to be disregarded in relationship to the Gospel, and other confessions as may be needed. Hopefully, Pope Francis will lead the Roman Catholic Church back to Early Roots Christianity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_early_Christianity It is a Joy that the Gospel proclaims the forgiveness of all sins, both our own individual sins, and those of corporate religious and national and political bodies. Some believe even the fallen Powers may be redeemed if they accept the Gospel. The author, Walter Wink, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Wink has written books concerning the possible redemption of the Powers which lie behind human systems.

As a Church that values human life, and life of every kind, I feel this is a perfect opportunity for the Roman Catholic Church, under the leadership of Pope Francis, to divest itself of all conjoining relationships with political Powers and return to its Early Roots. Likewise, all Christian churches should divest themselves of political alliances and concentrate on preaching the Gospel. Te Politics of the Kingdom of God is what the Church, (and all religious systems,) need to focus upon. In joyfully sharing the Gospel, no Catholic should ever want to take a human life in warfare. In response to the Gospel, the time to stop killing for all who believe and share the Gospel, is now. The visible and tangible expressions of Pope Francis and every Christian Believer’s love for one another, and our enemies, Catholic and non-Catholics is the way the seeds of the Gospel are joyously shared… It is these Joyful expressions of love by which others know the Gospel has been preached.

Speaking of Joy, I concur with Pope Francis’ vision of the Image of God being in all mankind, not just in Catholics, and not just in Christians or adherents to one’s own individual religious system. The Quakers, whom I am particularly fond of, believed that there is a spark of God in every man and that the proof of this is that if there is anything a person does, that he feels sorry for, it is proof of the indwelling spark of the Spirit. I quote Pope Francis:

“If we are to share our lives with others and generously give of ourselves, we also have to realize that every person is worthy of our giving. Not for their physical appearance, their abilities, their language, their way of thinking, or for any satisfaction that we might receive, but rather because they are God’s handiwork, his creation. God created that person in his image, and he or she reflects something of God’s glory. Every human being is the object of God’s infinite tenderness, and he himself is present in their lives. Jesus offered his precious blood on the cross for that person. Appearances notwithstanding, every person is immensely holy and deserves our love. Consequently, if I can help at least one per¬son to have a better life, that already justifies the offering of my life. It is a wonderful thing to be God’s faithful people. We achieve fulfilment when we break down walls and our heart is filled with faces and names!”iii

Challenging Catholics to take joy in Evangelicalism by Love and the Gospel of Peace, in place of the sword, is a very good challenge for all, in these days where the Myth of Redemptive Violence is still being believed even after millennia of proof that this method of “making peace” has never and will never ultimately work.

I also appreciate Pope Francis’ many references to the Grace of God. One instance is cited below:
“Non-Christians, by God’s gracious initiative, when they are faithful to their own consciences, can live “justified by the grace of God”,199 and thus be “associated to the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ”.200 But due to the sacsacramental dimension of sanctifying grace, God’s working in them tends to produce signs and rites, sacred expressions which in turn bring others to a communitarian experience of journeying to¬wards God.201″iv

To me, Pope Francis comes very close to the Biblical text at the heart of Protestant Evangelicals’ beliefs,

Eph 2:6-10
6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
NIV

I understand that our works are a response to Grace, not the cause of our Salvation, and I believe Pope Francis is quite Universally minded in his understanding of Grace, although he gives adequate expressions to the necessity of accompanying works. Perhaps St. Francis is thinking of the early Church Father, Origen, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origen. At any rate, Pope Francis seems to me very progressive in his thinking processes compared to recent Popes. He states:

“We know that “evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man’s concrete life, both personal and social”.146 This is the principle of universality intrinsic to the Gospel, for the Father desires the salvation of every man and woman, and his saving plan consists in “gathering up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10).”v

I agree here that Salvation is for every man. I cannot say that every man will be saved, and I do not say that Pope Francis is saying that here. I would like to believe that every man will be saved, and I hope once Jesus draws all men to himself, that the beauty and love of the Crucified and Risen Christ, as Pope Francis also explains the Gospel will result in many hearts turning to God. To me, the Joy of Evangelization rests in the saving Grace of God, and efforts of Evangelization are never over until Jesus has executed his “time” to draw all men to himself…

One of the concerns Pope Francis expresses in his Apostolic Letter is the relationship of the economy to Joyfully Evangelizing the world. To me, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God which is beyond political systems, should change political systems so that our economies look more and more like Jesus would have them look. To this end Pope Francis states:

“We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.
205.
I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world!”vi

I am reminded of the Mennonite teacher, John Howard Yoder, and his book, “The Politics of Jesus.” In a nutshell, according to my recollection from reading the book, the ethics of Jesus and the Kingdom of God in Early Roots Christianity radically changed the political systems of the world, including the Roman Empire. The radical changes so endangered the Empire, with all these Christians loving one another, which in itself is sharing the Gospel, and refusing to join the Powers’ ethics of Redemptive Violence, that the Powers offered the Church the sword, and the Church accepted, and began to use the sword to supposedly advance the Gospel, in many cases disregarding unconditional, self sacrificial love for all men. Apparently the Church of that time, the Roman Catholic Church, neglected to consider that Jesus had already refused the same ploy from Satan, when Satan offered Jesus rulership over the earth. Jesus refused. The Church accepted. Then, the Church began to use the sword to advance the Gospel, since it had been given the sword, and began to make up its own rules of “just” war, etc…

Therefore, when Pope Francis speaks of no longer trusting the unseen and invisible hand of the market, I can imagine that the Powers are really disturbed… Talk like that is Jesus talk like when Jesus began to proclaim the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, the release of prisoners, and the year of Jubilee… The Powers kill humans for speaking like that… They killed God, Jesus too, but Jesus rose again and has overcome these Powers. Pope Francis has already rattled the heads of both invisible Powers and human economic powers. They have squealed like stuck pigs… I pray for the protection of Pope Francis and that the Highest of all Powers, Allah, God, will protect him until his mission is done, which may be the radical changing of the Roman Catholic Church, including the economic wrongs involved with the Vatican economy.

Although my comments regarding Evangelii Gaudium have thus far been overwhelmingly positive, even though I was raised Catholic, I view Pope Francis’ ending of his letter and the inclusion of the Mother Mary as a “tack on” thought to Catholicize his letter…He states:
“With the Holy Spirit, Mary is always present in the midst of the people. She joined the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and thus made possible the missionary outburst which took place at Pentecost. She is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization.”vii
I cannot personally agree with this statement. To believe it would certainly stretch my envelope and my understanding of Theology all out of shape. That’s OK though, I am imagine my beliefs in Peace and Nonviolence also stretch Pope Francis’ envelope too, and certainly stretch the envelope of the historic Roman Catholic Church as a whole, with exceptions such as Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, and other Catholic Pacifists excluded.

On the other hand, Pope Francis is stretching a lot of peoples’ envelopes all out of shape… Young people seem to love him, Moslems seem to love him, Atheists even seem to love him… I love him too and felt an immediate conjoining of Spirits as soon as I realized who he was and is. I pray for the continued advancement of the Gospel, and the reformation of the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of Pope Francis.

Grace & Peace,

John Cooper
http://www.jcooperforpeace.org/

i “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis, 2013 – Sect. 23
ii Ibid., 239
iii Ibid., 274
iv Ibid., 254
v Ibid., 181
vi Ibid., 204

vii Ibid., 284

Reflections and Shadows

Reflections and Shadows

2013-09-25 12.18.16

I visited Birmingham, AL this past week while calling on a casket distributor and some funeral homes attempting to get a new phase of our business, Simple Way Coffin, http://www.simplewaycoffin.com going.  I drove by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, http://bcri.org/index.html which is just across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church http://www.16thstreetbaptist.org/ and noticed in Kelly Ingram Park what is referred to as the “Four Spirits Statue.” http://www.wbhm.org/News/2013/fourspiritsstatue.

 

I drove on by and I believe a Spirit urged me to come back, to take a picture, and to stop in the middle of the day and spend time in reflecting on the meaning of this statue and the history and sacrifice depicted here and in the surrounding buildings and park.  Perhaps a Spirit will urge you to stop what you are doing and think about these things too…  The picture above and the links above are enough for long periods of study.  You may wish to spend a whole day visiting this area, the museums and church and park and statue, and to think…..  Thinking, meditation, and reflection may be becoming lost arts in our fast paced society.  I wish you well if you decide to attain to these disciplines.

 

In those days then President John F. Kennedy responded the day after the killings by saying, “If these cruel and tragic events can only awaken that city and state – if they can only awaken this entire nation to a realization of the folly of racial injustice and hatred and violence, then it is not too late for all concerned to unite in steps toward peaceful progress before more lives are lost.”

President Kennedy’s words still ring true for those who believe in Racial Reconciliation, Social Justice, and the ethics of Peace and Nonviolence.  Surely these words ring true also for the rest of the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, and multitudes of other bombing tragedies that occur so often they are not in the news, and are, unless extra brutal, passed on by without reflection of the folly of attempting to overcome Evil with more Evil, Hatred with more Hatred, and Falsehood with more Falsehood.

 

Open the picture up full screen and take some time to think about these matters….  Read the links… Read the names….  I will mention just a few of my reflections….

 

It was a sunny day; notice the shadows cast by the gentle rays of the Fall sun….  Notice the landscaping, flowers and other statues in the exquisitely well-kept park…  Notice the 6 doves released in my view to God above, who keeps in my view the Spirits of all mankind, those who subscribe to our personal religious systems, and those who subscribe to other systems too…  Or, who subscribe to no systems…  Notice the girls have no defense systems.  What good would a gun, a sword, or any method of overcoming Evil with more Evil have done?  Overcoming Evil with Good is all they could possibly have done, and are actually still doing..  6 Spirits… These 4 girls died, but the same day two other girls died…  The girls are in the process of physical development… They were only 11 to 14 years old… I can only imagine they still occasionally played with dolls, and I cannot imagine they had seen much violence on TV back then that is now our steady diet.  “Gunsmoke,” and Matt Dillon was about as violent as it got on TV back then.  In those days the news was sanitized, as it is now in the United States.  No blood, no guts on TV….  The terrible wars we were in back then…  The public was protected from seeing people actually die… We still are, basically… We do not see the results of our long range missiles, and Drones….   It could be your own girls…  What would stop anyone with a heart of Evil from killing your children, or killing you?

 

Notice what appears to be a cloth under the kneeling girl… Is she praying?  Should we pray too?  I thought later that I should have offered to pray with another woman who was there taking pictures too… Do our prayers matter?  Does God hear our prayers?  What could we pray for?  For forgiveness? For Peace? For Justice? For ourselves and our own sins? Notice the kneeling girl is not wearing shoes….  The shoes are in the shadows on the ground… Is this Holy Ground?  Where are the other girl’s shoes, the girl that is reaching to the doves, or perhaps reaching to heaven?  Where are the shoes?  Really poor people do not have shoes…  The girl sitting on the bench has a book in her lap… Is that a Bible?  I imagine so…  I imagine she believed the words of the Bible…  I imagine other things too, that God is Good, that Justice will be done, not retribtative Justice, but Justice to restore and draw us all to God, including the killers of these little girls.  Including us too… Our own hands are not clean who benefit from the injustice done to black slaves and the injustice we as a nation do in other parts of the world…  Including Presidents and the CIA who do it too…  Including me, who used to pay taxes to support warfare.  I say used to; now I am living under the level that requires me to pay Federal taxes…  But, there are all those hidden taxes…  It is these systems we all grow up in, including those systems of our perceived enemies,  including the four little girls…  Men’s systems that are less than perfect, that are not “Exceptional.”  Except Exceptionally Evil, they are…

 

Therefore, we look to a better Kingdom, a better system, as these little girls seem to be looking… Maybe there will come a better Kingdom…  Maybe if we just go to a hilltop we can envision it from far off…  Just to look at it as our father Abraham, not to enter it yet…  Maybe there will be a Millennium on earth and these little girls will be resurrected to live in it, to grow up, have families of their own, and to forgive their killers….  You may say there is no hope, no future, but I disagree…  The statues told me that there is a hope and a future for those who at least pause to reflect upon the shadows of the past that haunt us…

 

Grace, Peace,

 

John Cooper

Do not Think of Yourselves as Better

Do not think of Yourselves as better

I was thinking about this Sunday, in a Bible Study of the Christian New Testament book of Romans….  It came to mind that one needs to listen to the poem by Thomas Merton, a Catholic Monk, who was a  fellow member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation as I am now, and a believer in the Gospel of Peace and non-violence…

The phrases that I was thinking of were “obeyed perfectly” and “do not think of ourselves better because we burn up friends and enemies with long range missiles…”
This seems significant in today’s society, where we can launch drones from long ranges away, and missiles, and nuclear weapons, and never look into the eyes of those we condemn to destruction.  We were taught all these practices on TV, from little children on… Overcome Evil with violence, not Good… Overcoming Evil with violence has not “worked” in thousands of years, since Cain killed Abel…

I confess my own conceit and plan to write a confession of my conceit as soon as possible… I think as Christians, we should all confess our conceit, if we think of ourselves “more highly,” or better, or as “Americans.” If we think of ourselves “more highly,” or “better,” let us confess…..  All we have been given in Christ as Christians are gifts.. We are not better….  We are not more intelligent…. We are so vain… so stupid, compared to the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, “God.”

Listen to the link below, and hear the prophet speak…

http://archive.org/details/ThomasMertonChantToBeUsedInProcessionsAroundASiteWithFurnaces

Let us look into the eyes of those we refuse to love as Jesus loved, not launching long range missiles of suffering and damnation upon them… Would it be better to quickly destroy them as in Annihilationism… :):)

It is better to listen to the poem…

It is possible this will be of significance in the next few days…

Oh,  just thinking some more… I am sure this classic proof text for those who believe in war and killing will be covered but possibly completely out of context with the whole book of Romans which concerns submission and obedience to God first, then those in authority secondly:

Romans 13

13:1 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. ”

NIV

I deliberately did not quote this verse in context, but let us be sure we obey perfectly, God, that is, not men, and let us certainly not think of ourselves as better….
Grace & Peace

 

John

Taking Sides

Taking Sides

For those who believe in overcoming evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love, of any religion, system, or creed, I wrote the following to one of my friends…  Do we need to “take sides,” or take the side of overcoming evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love, as Peace Pilgrim proclaimed?

“All I am saying is it is just a terrible mess when anyone attempts to overcome evil with more evil, violence with more violence, falsehood with more falsehood, hatred with more hatred… On either side of this, and on all sides of everything, resorting to the Myth of Redemptive Violence is the way of the world since Cain killed Able, and has never “worked,” although mankind keeps trying it over and over and over again and again in place of the clear Godly Gospel message which includes overcoming Evil with Good, as Jesus did on the cross… This message of the cross is the central focus point to solve the world’s problems.

As Christians, we can “DO this” as is indicated in the observance of the remembrance and the reality of Jesus’ death on the cross which we as Christians need to DO often, since we seem to not be able to remember for long Jesus’ core message to “Love one another as I have loved you,” and to overcome Evil with Good, not more Evil. If we as Christians cannot remember it, DO it, BE it, and shine this as a light on the hilltop, not hiding it under bushel baskets, afraid to preach this message of the Gospel of Peace, how can we expect Goodness to arrive magically from any non Christian political system? In Egypt, anywhere, including the NON Christian political system in the United States…

Make sense?

What do you think?”

John Cooper
Tuscaloosa, AL

In Rembrance

In Remembrance

I apologize in advance for being so boring, but the last two articles I have posted on my blog site, “New Covenant”, and “I Cried too, Mr. President.” are still giving me remembrance of the event Jesus instituted in his remembrance. Now I am remembering how I choose to remember others. I am sure this is a common human experience and others use the same methods…. I have in my possession a chest of drawers form my Great Great Grandfather, Alexander Hinkle, as well as 6 of the chairs he made as a cabinet maker in Salem, IN. (He was a farmer and a cabinet maker, as I am a cabinet maker,) and was a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Salem, IN.) I have pictures of his and my father’s progeny also. I have items from my mother’s household, items from my Aunt, Gladys Lemeron, and my step Uncle, Kenneth Cooper, the McCulley side of my family, and various other articles of remembrance by which I personally chose to remember my relatives. I am certain you know what I mean and probably also have articles of remembrance from your varied relatives.

These mementos are real… They are physical… We can touch them, we can feel them, we can connect with them and wonder and remember…. (I had in the essays posted to my blog site questioned if we believe the gifts Jesus left us, are real.)

 
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he returns.” (I Cor 11)

 
I wonder why the furniture we can touch and feel, and the pictures we look at and the memories we have personally experienced seem so “real?” Are Spiritual things not real? Maybe Spiritual things are actually more real, and we just do not realize it.

So, now I want to take off on a tangent, if you will allow… Stop right there…. Think about this…

 

 

Stop Right There 2012-12-27_07-26-33_739

This Picture is a remembrance to me of an art auction for our local Tuscaloosa, AL Jewish Synagogue’s building fund for their new temple which has now been constructed. I contributed a Tiger Woods serigraph to the auction which was organized by Toby Whitman, who served on the board of Compassion Coalition with me. I knew at the time that Toby had a terminal disease, cancer of the brain, and would most likely soon die, which she did, but she was as enthusiastic and cheerful as ever, as I always remembered her to be. I bought it, just to remember the event. I also was thinking how diametrically opposite the picture’s  message was to that of Jesus, who was radically inclusive of women in his ministry, allowing them to wash his feet, pour oil over his head, and all those things. Women just seemed to love Jesus…

I purchased another picture at the same Jewish Art auction….

 

 

2012-12-27_07-27-52_793

 

 

I remember bidding directly against Toby on this serigraph in a light hearted and friendly way… Sandy Koufax was Jewish. Toby of course, was Jewish… As a boy I saw Sandy Koufax pitch in the World Series. I also remembered him stand up for his religious beliefs in spite of persecution and refuse to pitch on the Jewish High Sabbath of Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, which in Biblical terms is the Sabbath of Sabbaths, a day to fast and repent, a day when the High Priest went once per year into the Holy of Holies…

 

I had to make a stand for my Spiritual beliefs in the ethics of Jesus in the late 1960’s myself, choosing to observe the Sabbath and the Biblical Holydays as a Christian, and choosing to refuse to go to war and becoming a conscientious objector to war myself. For perhaps 25 years I observed this same Holydays as Sandy Koufax, and refused to play tournament tennis, which was at that time my passion, on even the weekly Sabbath, the 7th, Day of the week… Since that time, I have found my rest and my Peace in Jesus, not in the observance of days, times, and seasons, but I still hold to the ethics of Jesus regarding Peace and Nonviolence. I explain this because I admired Sandy Koufax even before the beginnings of my conversion experiences.

 

I remember that I won the auction against Toby… It is hanging on our showroom wall… She wanted the picture bad, but I wanted it worser… :):)

 

Now, back to remembrances… What about the remembrances of Jesus, and what Jesus asked us to observe to remember him? “Do this,” Jesus said… But, would Jesus want Toby to do this, to take the “symbols” or the “real” remembrances of him in communion with ALL of mankind? No women may have been aloud (:):)) at the Lord’s supper, way back then, but I can only believe they would be allowed now…. Speaking of the Lord’s Supper, is it just for Christians, and not for all mankind? Would a Jew like Toby be welcomed by Jesus? To me, one can read Scriptures that say yes, and Scriptures that say no, but I ask you….

 

How many Christians were at the Lord’s first Communion? 12? None? I say, none, that they were all Jewish, and not yet True Believers, and that the Holy Spirit did not come upon them until 50 days later, (or, 49 depending upon inclusive or exclusive counting methods)…However, I believe Jesus has included all of mankind in his invitation to the table… If one does not yet believe, Jesus “symbols” are “real” enough to bring about that belief, given enough time and space, which God has plenty of….

 
I have personally taken communion with avowed atheists, such as Rong Li, and Muslims, such as Jamaal, from Yemen. I have taken first communion with new believers, like Mariko. They took it, and they did not just keel over dead, or get sick and die…. I believe Jesus wants all mankind to remember him. Nor do I get sick and die when I take the “real” blood and body of Jesus in communion with my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of the rules made up by men. That stated, however, in no way do I take this matter lightly. I believe this is a “real” remembrance, a Spiritual remembrance, more “real” than if it were merely a physical one, and of much more importance and value than placing a picture on a wall, for instance. To me, I am not worthy, no one is worthy, except by the Grace of God which is poured out upon the whole world, all whom God loves, which Grace, not of our own merit, supernaturally makes us worthy. To me, all men are included in this magnanimous love of God. I cannot imagine Jesus would refuse the bread and wine, gifts of remembrance, to any person who wants to receive them. Paul might have excluded unbelievers or Jews, at times in his life, or those danged wommenz :):), and at other times I believe he would have included all… Refer to his advice regarding meat sacrificed to idols… In one place yes, in another place, no. To me, it is all yeses with Jesus. Jesus gave his body and his blood for all, and he gave his symbols of remembrance to as yet unbelieving Jews, including Judas…. Only Judas died… Oh well…. We all have to die sometime, it may as well be right after receiving the body and blood of Jesus. That is the best of times to die…. Also, it is good reason to live again…

 

 

Oh, and one more thing, regarding “believers” who are the only ones to partake of this remembrance, according to the vast majority of “Christian” systems…., where does anyone say that? Does Jesus say it? Does Paul say it? Paul’s advice is to not partake of these remembrances unworthily… If you are not a believer, I believe if you really care about observing this remembrance, these gifts are real enough, and the Spiritual forces behind them are “real” enough to help you to become a believer! If not, you may soon die, and become a believer via other means…. :(:(

 

 

I remember Toby, we remember Jesus, I submit God remembers all of us, every one of use, and our Spirits return to God who gave them. Maybe these symbols of remembrance we are speaking of are leaves of the healings of all peoples, of all nations, of the world, all of it… really?

 

 

John Cooper
Tuscaloosa, AL