50 Years

50 Years

Yesterday, 02/12/2012, I attended a 50th year anniversary for the Birmingham, AL church of Grace Communion International, http://www.gci.org/.  CGI used to be known as the Worldwide Church of God, when I first knew it, and before that, the Radio Church of God…  The Radio Church of God was a big thing at one time, on the forefront of new technology….  The Radio….  Imagine a church today being called, The Internet Church of God, and people all over the world listening to the internet videos of an authoritative and charismatic preacher….  Radio then, was what internet is now…..

I have mentioned some of my personal life in previous writings, so I will hopefully not dwell on the personal matters too much this time…  I feel it is necessary to mention, however, that when visiting the 50th anniversary celebration of the Birmingham, AL, WCG (there is/was also one in Birmingham UK) that many memories were reactivated.  Some say you can’t go back, perhaps to your old high school friends you grew up with, but I say one can go back…  After all, God Himself can go backwards and forwards in time, and due to his image in us, we also can go at least backwards in time as we reminisce our past.

I was a naive teenager when I arrived in Birmingham, AL, in 1967, just after and during the civil rights movement.  I was straight off the farm… I still knew how to drive a tractor, take care of cattle and hogs, and such stuff as that…  I came to Birmingham, a city perhaps as Joan Baez would sing, of diamonds and rust… to attend Samford University.  Folk music was my favorite type of music.  I listened to it on my portable radio, like I did listen to this Herbert Armstrong, and his son, Garner Ted Armstrong fellows, as well as other “religious” fellows of other opinions….   Nothing rang a bell in my heart as a teenager like the radio broadcasts of the Worldwide Church of God, and the singing of Joan Baez, and other folk musicians…  It was food to my soul….

I feel I was called into fellowship with the people in this church, mainly through some of the young people I met in it, a few of which I saw again at this 50th anniversary… We were young… We were naive, now we are old, less naive, but still naive, to think I suppose, that everything will be OK, if we just love one another…  We were young together, now we are old together… Most of us have moved on from that organization by now…. Some have remained allegiant to hierarchical organizations, and Sabbitarian  organizations, and some of us, like me, still believe in Peace and Nonviolence….  I personally have moved on from hierarchy, thinking it is best for the Kingdom of God to be exhibited in serving under, not over, others, and moved on from literal Sabbitarianism, now believing that Today is the day of our rest, and coming to Jesus Christ for our rest is the fulfillment of this one of the 10 commandments….  But hold to my dreams of Peace, Nonviolence, and Social Justice…. After all, even if we have been called into a cult, a cult is not all wrong….  Or, maybe it is…. Maybe according to orthodox apologetics, we should bow down to civil governments and serve them whith our whole heart….

It just so happens that I am reminded of an article, “Lessons from Vietnam”, by Bill Lane, which was reprinted in the March 2012 magazine, “Sojourners”, http://sojo.net/, which by the way, is celebrating their 40th year in existence.  The original article was printed in 1973, a little after my youthful first flush of naiveté’….  I quote:

“I have been subject so long to a Christian leadership that has spoken of living by faith, of the cost of discipleship, of how hard it is to follow Christ, of never being ashamed of the gospel, of taking up one’s cross. I have listened to scores of challenging preachers and teachers talk about Christ asking for all of a person’s allegiance.

Now I understand that all of this talk, which I took so seriously, has amounted to nothing more than a clearing of the throat and a shuffling of papers. The church has spiritualized out of existence the demands that Jesus made so concrete and immediate. When the crisis comes, the real message of the Christian establishment emerges: Do what you have to do to get by. Keep peace with the powers and forces that rule this nation. Don’t get involved. Maintain respectability. Be conformed to this world.

One of the deepest scars from this war for me is this: I will never again be able to bring to the church my child-like trust, my boyish zeal, my naive teachability.  I have been stunned into silence and disbelief by the precision with which my Christian brothers and sisters and leaders have affirmed not only the authority of the state to rule (which I also accept), but the unquestionable morality of government policy.

Bill Lane was a contributing editor to The Post American, the precursor to Sojourners, when this article appeared.”

The above is more music to my soul… Like diamonds and rust…. I hear those words from the past; I still believe them, I still experience them as I attempt to share my still radical, after all these years, beliefs in Peace and Nonviolence, disfellowshipped  for such foolishness and naiveté’ even today by “religious” organizations and parachurch ministries…

But I think one can go back, go back to one’s roots, to commune, to love, to hug, those who have shared the same journey in life, however right, however wrong, and renew our commitment to suffer for what is lacking in Jesus as we fulfill it through our own suffering…  It is the way….. To suffer, to return to historic Christian roots, pre Constantine, roots of Peace with God and man the early Christians suffered and died for, now nearly 2,000 years ago….

I would say, don’t listen to the Powers and what they say about going to war with other nations… e.g. Iran and such fellows….. These Powers have lied before….

Did that make you mad?


John Cooper


Your Will be Done

Your Will be Done….

I can only imagine how often each day these words are repeated, “Your Will be Done”… After all, this phrase is a part of the Christian “Lord’s Prayer.”

People sue each other, abuse each other, cause violence to each other, take advantage of each other, run in political office against each other, make business deals with each other, but seldom is heard, in these contexts, the phrase, Thy Will be Done…
Whose will?

In the context of the prayer mentioned, it is God’s will we are speaking of, not our wills. I have even heard lately that people sue about human wills…. Some sue so that human wills will be interpreted to match what their own will is. What about God’s will? I imagine the question of what is God’s will in these matters never, absolutely, never, ever, even occurs to these people….

Those of us who are the tired, perhaps old and sick, mentally ill, suffering from Alzheimer’s, abused, downtrodden, homeless, orphans, victims of warfare, domestic violence, hungry, or otherwise rat upon, sat upon, spat upon, I believe can say this phrase with more meaning and feeling.

Say it, or ask it? Could your will be done in our lives, now?

We, who are Christians, believe we now have Eternal Life, and God’s will will be definitely done in our future communion with God.

I don’t know if “Your will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer is actually a question… It seems to be a statement, actually, that God is listening for us to state…. “Your Will be Done.” It is as if God is going to do it because we say it… Or, is God going to do it anyway? I don’t know… I think God is going to do it, I hope God is going to do it, to do His will in our life, not our own will, but His will,  in the lives of those we love, including hopefully in the lives of our enemies, whom we are supposed to also love, and in the lives and arena of the whole world, may we say, may we ask, your will be done? After all, we really need this, God, and really should want your will, not ours, in the whole world, including our own little circles…

Anyway, either way, I just want to tell you, God, that I love you…. I am a little concerned, a little afraid, but I ask, your will be done…. Or is it a statement… a statement of fact? Which is it? Or, is it both?

Either way, we say sometimes, “Your will be done”, and ask sometimes, will “Your will be done?” We also even sing, as in the following link, “Your will be done.”


Grace & Peace,

John Cooper

Our Father

Our Father

I often use the outline of prayer, or at least one of the prayers models of Jesus when I pray.  I no longer recite the outline found in Matthew 6 by rote memory over and over for a certain number of times as I grew up doing in the Roman Catholic Church.  Now, I concentrate on each of the statements in the prayer model and LISTEN to what meaning is given me as well as just asking about the various statements in the prayer.  One morning this week while listening to the “our Father” part some points came to me, some of which have come before, and some of which are new to me.

1.) “Our” Father is not just “my” Father… He is also “your” Father.

2.) What does “our” Father do?  “Our” Father offers us his unconditional love, but not only that, Our father means more to us.

3.) “Our” Father also supplies our needs, our food, our clothes, our need for love, our need for companionship, our need for peace, our need for trust, our needs, all of them, in many ways, in all places, at all times…

4.) But, “Our” Father does even more; our Father trains us, our Father draws us unto himself, into his arms. Our Father gives us direction in life, our Father designs into us, each of us, skills and personalities which are different from each other, but still a reflection of his being, his essence, his image.  This is our Father.

5.) “Our” Father not only loves us, but disciplines us, and our Father chastises us and corrects us when we step outside, If we can ever do that, of our Father’s will.  (I will have more to say about this point later…)

6.) “Our” Father….. You may by now have noticed a lot of “Our” Fathers being mentioned so far, but this is not vain repetition…. “Our” Father implies a communal meaning… Our Father is Your Father, Our Father is our Enemy’s father, although our enemy may not even know Our Father.  Yet…  We, as brothers and sisters, (yes, I believe our Father thinks we are human brothers and sisters), are fighting each other against our Father’s desire.

7.) “Our” Father… While listening, it came to me that just the other day I was in communal prayer with some others… We were praying from the Psalms, using Psalms 136 and 137 as our prayer model.  You may wish to look up these Psalms and read them.  If so, please notice the repetition in Psalms 136 of “for His steadfast love endures forever.”  This phrase is repeated 26 times, apparently a congregational response to the worship leader, like is done in the Roman Catholic Church, “for His steadfast love endures forever,” “for His steadfast love endures forever,” etc….  26 times.  We all know, then, by now, that our Father’s steadfast love endures forever.

Lastly, I want to mention, that our communal prayer leader also chose Psalm 137 to read in conjunction with Psalm 136.  Psalm 137 ends with:

Ps 137:8-9

8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy is he who repays you

for what you have done to us —

9 he who seizes your infants

and dashes them against the rocks.


The leader, knowing me, and my beliefs in Peace and Nonviolence, poked a little fun at me, saying “This is for John’s benefit.”  I advised him I could help him understand this and indeed, just the day before, that I had shared a couple of CDs regarding things such as this with one of my Muslim friends with whom I have discussed such things about God.  Many of us wonder, and are perplexed with such things, that our Father’s love could endure forever, then see how our God seemingly approves of little babies heads being dashed against rocks, apparently taking joy in this vengeance.  Later, in the New Testament, we see Jesus dying on the cross for all mankind, both friend and enemy….

I said no more…. I did not even feel like praying, just thinking that some would believe that “our” father, MY Father, could imply God takes pleasure in dashing little babies against rocks…  This is not the God I know whose exact being, representation and substance was revealed to us in Jesus Christ.  I do not believe this is the God who lives in me, and in whom I live, and have my being.

This brings us back to the point I said I would speak more of, that “our” Father also disciplines us.  I believe this discipline is and Organismic discipline, that if we, or our enemy, refuse to LISTEN to God’s teaching as an individual, or as a nation, (which, it appears the United States is refusing to do, as well as every other nation), we are refusing that God, who lets us in our God given Free Will, do as we desire and our sins are disciplined in a natural, organic way.  God apparently turns us over to our own devices, and those of Satan, and demons, and natural circumstances and events as He withdraws His protection from us, (remember – deliver us from Evil phrase?) for our correction, just as he did with Job, and those demons bash little children against the rocks..  I believe that God also disciplines even our enemy.  When the enemy, the Babylonians, were too cruel in their punishment to the Israelites, God turned the Babylonians over to the Medes and Persians, (assuming I remember my history correctly) I believe this is what God is describing, (Descriptive), or Predicting, (Predictive), not prescribing, or actually causing it to happen. It will happen, as a natural, organic punishment, not a divine punishment.  God did not do it…  Medes and Persians did it in this case.  I believe our Father releases us to our own desires, our own wishes, and as He does so, he is weeping for us, and for our enemy…  It was not God who would be Happy about this travesty…  It was the crazed and madden perpetrators who would take warped pleasure in perpetuating this Myth of Redemptive Violence, in which 99% of the world believes, and 1% do not believe.  All the while, as our Father watches this travesty of blood spattered rocks and little babies heads crushed, bleeding, and dying.  God is crying, for both Babylon, and us, and for those who are doing such things to both of us.

I believe in these circumstances we can also listen to the words of Jesus, dying  on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  I believe His steadfast loves endures forever.  I believe our Father loves us…  (For, His steadfast Love endures forever…)

Even more, it is not just our Father, whose loving kindness endures forever, it is that our Father IS love..  Love is who he is, not just what he does…  Love is the essence of His being… This is predominately the story of the Old Covenant, (that God is a loving and just God) and clearly the story of the New Covenant, of Jesus Christ, with whose clear lens of Grace, in Christ, we can look backward to some of the clouded and less clear Scriptures in the Old Covenant.  We still see through the glass darkly, but hopefully, not as darkly as we would without the Light of Christ…..

Grace & Peace,

John Cooper


Puppy Love

Puppy Love

On the lighter side, at work this week, a cute little puppy was found by our receptionist and office manager walking in the street in front of our office… In order to protect him from traffic, he was brought in to our showroom. We tried to find out who he belonged to for the whole day. I and everyone in our business took an immediate liking to him, however, I knew the TROUBLE he would present…
Dogs are not like cats… Cats can take care of themselves… They are perhaps ambivalent about this subject of LOVE. They can be trained to use litter boxes… Dogs mostly need to be walked outside for their needs periodically at all hours of the day and night… TROUBLE…. I knew it….
Our office manager also took an immediate liking to the puppy, probably because the puppy was “so cute” and gave us his unconditional love… I liked him too, but knew a dog’s place is outside, not in a kitchen and bath showroom. Everyone else liked the dog… I just knew, if we could not find his owner, he would have to be walked, so I went to purchase a leash to keep him under control, spending $20.
I went to get lunch for some of us, and, as it turned out, WE FED THE PUPPY from our store bought lunch, knowing all along that would be a mistake… We knew he would use the bathroom on our showroom floor, which he did, but our office manager (who would not want her name to be shared), faithfully cleaned it up.. He did… She did…
After nearly the whole day of trying to find out who the puppy belonged to, and I did my best to help find out, little was done at work except for everyone to share in love for the puppy and him for us… Late in the day it was discovered that the puppy belonged to a neighbor across the street, who was at work. We returned the puppy. Case closed, right? Really? After all, the thankful owner locked the puppy up on his back porch so he could not escape…
Next day, right about lunch time, I was just outside the door and across the street, while his master was at work, trotted the puppy, on all fours, coming over for lunch with us…. We again welcomed him in, so he would not be run over by a terrible vehicle. Our office manager was very happy to see him again, being he had previously offered such unconditional love to us… The owner was away at work again, so we kept him most of the rest of the day… The owner sent food via a friend and a puppy cage, into which we just did not have the heart to put him… He took leaks on the floor, and things like that, and our office manager faithfully cleaned it all up…
One time he got under my feet without my knowing it, and I stepped on his foot, reminding me of the rat upon, sat upon, spat upon, I recently wrote of, the ones Jesus spoke of in the sermon on the mount. Maybe puppies were there listening too…. He screeched out and limped off, but just a little while later, HE LOVED ME AGAIN, ANYWAY…
I got to thinking, what is it that is designed into these puppy things? Is it unconditional love? Would we, as humans, be better to learn something from it? What if we happen to be helpless, like the puppy, if we belong to no one, no family, no church, no country, will we be loved unconditionally? Will we love others unconditionally? What is it about this unconditional love, anyway, that seems to be so attractive and such an integral part of our psyche, at least an awareness of it, whether we have it, get it, or do it? Also, what about this feeding thing, that seems to bring these unconditional lovers back to us again, at least around lunch time? It seems we all naturally just stop everything we are doing and admire it, if it is a puppy, or a baby in a mother’s arms, even our supposed enemy’s baby, that coos and smiles at us, and we offer our love and respect in return…. Also, when we hurt the unconditional lover, they just love us anyway….
Could this even be a key to our worldwide problems? this unconditional love thing, puppy love… I went to lunch today with one of my Iranian friends… I forgot to ask him… Do they have puppies in Iran? Do they have cooing babies in Iran? I think they do… Why don’t we exhaust all means, as the theory of “just” war tells us, and go over there and take a puppy to lunch, or hold a cooing baby, and them to us, and to Israel, and everywhere, for that matter? I know it is so naive to be thinking like this, (and less profitable to the military industrial complexes), or to think that God would love us unconditionally, just like this, or that we should feed our own food, under the table, to helpless, homeless people whom, we might believe, know nothing of God… Really?
What if God is watching you through the eyes of this puppy, this baby, or the one you think is your enemy, as you step upon him, set upon him, spat upon him, rat upon him, or, let us be frank, kill him and urinate upon him? Could God be watching…. to see what we will do…? All of this, just on the lighter side, without benefit of Scriptural proof texting, after all, it is just puppy love… Or is it?

Love, Grace, Peace,

John Cooper

What is Social Justice?


Social Justice

Below is a response to an inquiry I received today asking about my beliefs in Social Justice… Today, the day some in our culture set aside to respect the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, is a good day to consider this question…

What is Social Justice?

Hello XXXX,

I can agree with you, after giving it a little thought, that equal justice does mean that everyone is treated equally under the law….I believe that if we are to understand Social Justice, it is helpful to look to the Roman Catholic Church who, it seems to me, has a long record of attempting to care for the poor, the disadvantaged, the hungry, naked and sick… I can recall the words of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, who if I quote her correctly, said of her church, the Catholic church, “Throughout history the Catholic Church has been the spotless bride of Christ and the Whore of Babylon”, and on another occasion, “She is a Whore, but she is my mother”, I think we will be less than honest if we do not read the history of our own churches and organizations and our own actions or lack of action in the same way. To me, Social Justice is looking at each human being as a beautiful human being created with a “spark”, as the Quakers would say it, of God in them…. Or, as we may understand it, created in the image of God…. If mankind is created in the image of God, as I would hope you would agree, then mankind is deserving of our dignity and respect… Jesus came to preach a Gospel of the Kingdom of God… He opened the scroll of Isaiah and read:

Luke 4:18-21

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll , gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

To me, what Jesus read is Social Justice…. I believe we need a year of release, a Jubilee year, to which Jesus referred…. A year where prisoners are released, debts are forgiven, the oppressed are freed… I believe Dr. King envisioned this also that oppression would be justified…… I cannot imagine a more authoritative definition of social justice than that of Jesus, founded upon Hebrew Scriptures, than this… This is the essence of Social Justice…. Look to the Sermon on the Mount, Blessed are…

Matt 5:1-10
5:1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Dallas Willard, in his book, “The Divine Conspiracy”, spoke of Jesus opening up the Kingdom of God to the Rat upon, the Sat upon, the Spat upon…. (look to about page 100, if I recall properly)..

This is Social Justice…. The Rat upon, the Sat upon, the Spat upon, even us who are called to be peacemakers, and are thus vilified by political conservatives in most all nations, who ascribe to the Myth of Redemptive Violence…

Therefore, may I ask, why would anyone who has a heart for Jesus’ words have a problem with Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, such as this:

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Also, why would any individual, any nation, conservative, or liberal political system, or any church, not want to mention in respect and dignity, the contribution of Dr. Martin Luther King to our culture and society, and world, as he echoed the ethics of Jesus, as I understand those ethics of Social Justice and Freedom, to the world?

Oh, and I should add… equal justice is under the law, as you say, but I would add, Social Justice is under Grace….

This is how I see it…

Grace & Peace…..


Circles of Peace 2012

Circles of Peace 2012

As the New Year begins, I have been thinking about the direction Circles of Peace, an affiliate of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, needs to travel in for the upcoming year.

I feel we made some progress in 2011, but the progress was not as rapid as it could have been.

Concerning some recent positive notes, Alina Coryell wrote and published our Circles of Peace web site http://tuscaloosacirclesofpeace.blogspot.com/, which is an excellent source for education and reference into ways of peace, nonviolence, and social justice. We were blessed to be able to host Dr. Mark Johnson, the United States Director of Fellowship of Reconciliation, http://forusa.org/, in our home and host a small group where he shared developments of that organization and conducted a lively discussion. We began a book club and discussed “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd and began reading “When Religion Becomes Lethal”, by Charles Kimball. In another specialized setting David Frinfrock discussed how Christians should interface with Muslims. Also, Alina wrote an article for the FOR newsletter which goes to FOR chapters throughout the United States discussing our local Circles of Peace group. Perhaps most importantly, we were accepted into official status as an Affiliate of the Fellowship of Reconciliation by the U.S. board of directors.

In other personal efforts, Alina began a “Poetry for Peace” contest, and John Cooper began his personal blog site, https://jcooperforpeace.wordpress.com/ and has written and posted nearly 20 blogs relating to Peace, Nonviolence, and Social Justice. John has also been working on a personal basis with several individuals to discuss, teach, and share the ethics of Peace, nonviolence, and social justice. I will also mention personal prayer efforts in this regard. I am sure others have acted in personal ways to further the advancement of such goals also, and if you will share them with us, we will add your efforts to our chronicle of events. Our efforts are not only as a group, but our efforts are more importantly individually inspired as our goal to enable you is imagined.

I feel our group based efforts were interrupted, however, in many ways. It is not convenient to attempt to stop what we are already involved in and meet as a Circles of Peace group, especially since so many of us have other things going, our families, other friends, churches, sports, education, jobs, and other groups with which we interface. I for instance, have been quite busy, as many others, with responses to the April 28th tornado. I am a founder and on the Board of Directors and Executive Council of Compassion Coalition, which has served in response to the disaster. None of us can do everything, but all of us can do just a little and our combined efforts will make a difference.

Perhaps also, a book club is a little over exuberant and challenging given how busy many are and how our culture has moved from this type of education to more internet and media based venues. I am thinking, and I need your input, that we need to simplify our meetings, perhaps drop the book club idea, and meet to perhaps discuss a simpler article or watch and discuss a You Tube video, such as one by Shane Claiborne, or Walter Wink, Dr. Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, John Howard Yoder, and others who have made a difference in Peace, Nonviolence, and Social Justice.

Please offer your input regarding these matters. We can offer our home once per month as a setting for these things if others will share in any food preparation, if any. We can also meet and just have chips and drinks if that would be better. Tuesday nights and Thursday nights are good, and

a Sunday afternoon would be good also… We need to know the best times, especially for those with children. If at night, would maybe 6:30 to 8 PM work?

Let’s also look forward to the upcoming New Year. What are your personal goals? What should our Circles of Peace group Goals be? Let’s discuss this and please offer your suggestions. How do you plan to learn more about Peace and Nonviolence and Social Justice, and share your gifts in these areas with others? I believe we need to define our Statement of Purposes or together reaffirm they are the same as FOR’s (http://forusa.org/content/statement-purpose) which our Advisory Council, consisting of John Cooper, Mirza Beg, Alina Coryell, Fran Viselli, and Patrick Coryell, have thought would be close enough to ours that we would become officially affiliated rather than going through the arduous task of creating and entirely new organization. By the way, remember that as an Affiliate of FOR, we are able to use their tax exempt 501 c 3, status and accept charitable donations.

Let us examine our individual and group goals in view of the statement of purpose linked above. You may also individually sign it and become a member of FOR individually if you wish. You will be in good company if you do. Dr. Martin Luther King was a member, Albert Einstein, Walter Wink, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, several Nobel Peace prize laureates’ and many others, who share(d) in the vision of Peace and Reconciliation, have been and are members. Maybe one of your goals could be to become and individual member of FOR this year. Perhaps one of your goals may be to just decide if you are personally going to be able to participate with us at all, and let us know if you would like to take a Sabbatical for a while…. There is no compulsion in this. We understand if this cannot be a priority in your life at this stage.

I do wonder if the upcoming year is going to bring even more need for those who believe and act in Peace, Nonviolence, and Social Justice. We have seen several largely nonviolent movements in the Arab world, and some not so much nonviolent that have changed our world’s political landscape. We have seen the United States withdraw from Iraq, but remain in Afghanistan. We also have an upcoming election. In some years and nations with upcoming elections we see peoples brought into wars. Perhaps knowingly or unknowingly it seems the ruling party is more likely to be reelected in times of war. I will not predict anything or say much else, except that I wonder if Iran may be the next hot spot on earth. I believe there are unseen powers and forces that influence these matters.

We, however, can attempt to influence others for Peace, if only one individual at a time. Maybe it is just your child, to teach him not to join the military, or go to war. Maybe it is your grandchildren, or the international student, or your parents. Maybe your goal is to live at Peace with God, or at Peace with yourself, or your neighbor, or those in your church. We have to start somewhere. Maybe you are in the back of your mind against the whole idea of Peace and Nonviolence and Social Justice… Well, that is a start just to admit it to yourself and make your stand. I am reminded of the atheist who does not believe in God. They are really believers… They believe there is no God. They admit it and know it, but they may not know they are “believers” in no God. We all believe something.

I want to fill you in on my personal goals for the upcoming year. I and Mirza Beg plan to speak to Crossroads at the University of Alabama and offer to join with them in teaching a class on Peace and Nonviolence based upon Coleman McCarthy’s “Class in Nonviolence” textbook. I plan to take an additional night of the month at our home to teach the same class. I would like to ask you to come to this class in addition to the Circles of Peace monthly meeting, if you can. I also hope to teach the same class in a prison setting and another class for released prisoners, perhaps at C.A. Fred Technical School at West End. I just decided while writing this I am going to offer to teach Peace at the local Catholic Church too, mainly in response to Pope Benedict XVI message today.

It is already pretty late for some prisoners, but now is a better time than never to learn about Peace, Nonviolence, and Social Justice. Prisoners should have been taught before, in their homes, in their schools, in their churches, in their workplace, but now is better than never.

Now is also better than never for you to personally decide what you are going to do this upcoming year.

I not too long ago read Coleman McCarthy’s “I’d Rather Teach Peace.” I hope you will read it too. Mr. McCarthy has been teaching peace for many years. He has influenced quite a number of students. This endeavor however is going to take more than just one man, teaching Peace. Jesus taught Peace, and he expected his followers to follow him in teaching peace. There is even such a thing as the Gospel of Peace. Ask your pastor about it. If he does not know what it is, learn what it is and tell him about it. Unfortunately, teaching Peace appears not to be a popular thing to do in our culture, not in churches, not in homes, not in schools, or anywhere. Try it sometime. Advise you pastor that you would like to teach Peace, nonviolence, and Social Justice, and see just how far that goes… Tell the school your children go to that you would like to see Peace taught around here….

Let me know what they say….

At least today, the leader of over a billion Christians, Pope Benedict XVI, came out and made a stand for teaching peace:

(Reuters) – Humanity faces a decisive challenge – educating new generations in justice and peace in order to avoid the violent tragedies of the past, Pope Benedict said in his New Year address on Sunday.

Benedict, 84, marked his seventh New Year as pope by celebrating a Mass for several thousand people in St Peter’s Basilica on the day the Roman Catholic Church calls its annual World Day of Peace.

The pope said this year’s theme, “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace,” is a task for every generation following the two world wars in the 20th century and other conflicts since.


In conclusion, hope springs Eternal…. Perhaps in 2012 something is about to actually change…. Perhaps the change can begin with you, with me, with us together, as we join, ever hopeful, that Circles of Peace replicate, that Peace is given a chance….

John Cooper


I Will Draw

I Will Draw

Wink and I just spent several days of delightful Holiday time with an affirmed atheist.   (Don’t worry, I will ask for this person’s permission before publishing this essay…..)

We have actually done such things many times before and always enjoy the warmth and companionship of other beautiful human beings, whether believers in God, or not…  I think God (some might say, if there is a God), also enjoys such companionship; so should we…  I believe that God is good and loves his creation unconditionally, and so should we…  Unfortunately, on David Letterman’s Top Ten list of what one thinks of when “Christian”, or “God Believer”, is perhaps imagined to be given, I cannot imagine that unconditional love is on that list.  For instance, say Christian, say Jewish, say Muslim, and will the first thing you think of be unconditional love?  Would it be anywhere on the Top Ten list?  Just asking….

I try not to push my spiritual beliefs on others, even though my radical thinking sometimes causes others consternation……  I admit it… I am a flawed, less than perfect human being…  I am not a popular person, no one I know of is following after me to listen to my insane (according to some) babbling:):)  I am gullible, and try to believe the best in humans, often to my detriment, but I hope I can always, with God’s help, offer my unconditional love to everyone….  I am most often hurt, and disappointed, but I guess I like it that way…

I have been imagining over the weekend how God gives us space…  Space to choose him, space and time to accept him…  No altar calls for God….  Just time, just space, and I really believe God has plenty of time and space on hand, unlike we humans…..  Unlike we humans, he does not need a notch in his six gun for every person he has loved, or called, or…… Drawn……

Which brings to mind what I have been thinking about…..

John 12:28-34

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”  33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”


Now you have it…. John is hearing voices again….:):)

However, here we see others heard voices also, voices, apparently from an angel, voices from heaven…..  OH, and the voice of this Jesus, who states that ” But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”

Draw all men?  Draw Greek men?  Draw Jewish men?  Draw Chinese men? Draw American Indian men?  Keep in mind there were no “Christian” men at that time…  Draw unbelieving men? Draw atheist men?  All men? Really?

I already know you are thinking, that John is just a Universalist, and he thinks everyone will be saved….  Actually, I would like to be a Universalist, and I would like for everyone to be saved, but I have some cognitive dissonance regarding that matter…

I do believe with all my heart and all my mind that God will draw all men, without compulsion, as the Islamist might say, to himself…  I want to believe it…. I do believe it…. Some who are reading this say that is just not what it means, to draw all men, just like that… They do not want that to happen….  I do…

It is possible that everyone will not accept that drawing, that given a free choice to believe or not to believe, some will just say no…..  I hope not, but I do see some possibilities of that scenario…  But, I can only imagine, that in this drawing process, whether it be now, whether it be tomorrow, next month, next year, at the end of a human being’s consciousness, or, when a human being is resurrected at a future time an place, having never been yet drawn by God, that it will be beautiful, beaconing, Irresistible, Graceful, pure, Holy, Loving, and True…  I think it will have something to do with Cruciform Love, that I just wrote about….. But still, a choice… a willing, free, noncompulsory choice….

Some say, (Jesus, actually), that God knows every bird that falls to the earth….  I can only imagine that if a beautiful human being makes a choice not to be drawn into this love, this substance in whom we are to live and have our being, that God will see it, and regret it, and cry about it, and grieve….  For a while anyway, then all tears will be wiped away, and joy and love and peace and harmony and happiness will reign in a new Kingdom, forever, and ever…

God so loved…..

John Cooper


Peace on Earth

Peace on Earth

(From the Manger to the Cross)

As I write at this time of the year, near Christmas, 2011, I am reminded of words often heard around this time each year….

Luke 2:8-15

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”


We see angels announcing the Peace God wants to bring to us, to all the earth, to all people on the earth through this birth of Jesus. Paul, also in another place, speaks of this desire of God to bring peace to people groups, and by extension, all people groups:

Eph 2:14-18

14 For he himself is our peace , who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace , 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.


We see a major mission of Jesus is to bring us forgiveness of sins and Peace with God, and each other, bringing people groups who were estranged in the past together to live in peace and love with one another. In fact, Jesus claims to be our peace, the source of this peace, the same source the Angels sang about when they sang at the manger.

We can see that one of Jesus’ principle concerns throughout his life on earth was this peace. If one is going to share the important things he wants to pass along to as his heritage to others, it is often done just preceding one’s death… Jesus is no different:

John 14:25-27

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.


Soon we find Jesus coming to do what he was born to do, to bleed and die for our sins. We see eyes of peace in Jesus nonviolent, (on his part) practices in the Garden of Gethsemane…

Matt 26:48-56

49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

50 Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

55 At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.


Jesus, advises his followers to put the sword back, that he has legions of angels he can call on if he wishes to use violent means to accomplish peace. And, it would have worked, but only temporarily, for that time and place only. Nothing would have been solved in defeating Evil permanently. Maybe some of these waiting angels were the same angels who sang “Peace of Earth” at the Manger…. Maybe they were actually on call, waiting for God’s beaconing, to see how God would bring peace to this world, through his own bloody death, burial, and resurrection, or perhaps they would be called upon to put down earthly political forces and bring about a temporal kingdom on earth now… Maybe they did not actually know what God was doing… Maybe some of us who are Christians now do not know fully how this is being done either, not yet…

I read an article in the most recent Sojourner’s magazine recently, entitled, “The Way of Peace and Grace”, (http://www.sojo.net/magazine)written by Derek Flood, p. 46, who states:

“Paul’s conversion from religious violence to the way of grace in Christ became the interpretive lens through which he sub-sequentially read all of scripture. This enabled him to sort through the Hebrew Bible’s competing narratives, rejecting the way of violence he had formerly held, and zeroing in on the scriptures that pointed to God’s grace revealed in Christ.

If we wish as Christians to adopt Paul’s way of interpreting scripture, then we need to learn to read our Bibles with that same grace-shaped focus. This is not a matter of picking and choosing which verses one likes, but rather of coming to have the mind of Christ – spending time with Jesus, and growing to care about the things he cares about. Through this relational formation – not only by studying the words of Jesus, but living them – we learn to recognize what reflects Christ and Jesus’ way of cruciform love.”

Cruciform love is the way to Peace on Earth, the lens of Grace toward us, given by the suffering, loving, dying, bleeding, and now living God in Jesus. This is the way of cruciform love.

Maybe the angels who came to sing “Peace on Earth” at the Nativity Scene, and returned to heaven, were in the legions of angels watching from heaven through giant lens of Grace when the sword was put away… Maybe the angels thought, “We have swords, like the ones we used at the Garden of Eden, we can use them in this garden also, (or that they could use the same swords used in the book of Judges,) Let’s be ready, we can be there in an instant, but, Jesus said “”put away the sword””, He said “No More” Let us just wait, and see how this Peace on earth is to be brought to the earth by Jesus”

They may have been watching to see if they might be called to defeat Evil finally and for all at that time, but I think they found Evil was to be defeated finally, once and for all on the cross, that Evil was to be defeated by Good, that all people groups were to be brought to peace through good, by good, by suffering love, by cruciform love….

So, when we sing “Peace on Earth”, or when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, or for peace in our individual lives, and peace for our children, for our families, for our nation, for our world, let us remember who brought it, how it was brought, how much it cost, and look at scripture, at other beautiful human beings who are fellow travelers with us, from all people groups, through these same eyes of Grace and Peace that must be the eyes of Jesus, still peering down to us from the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”

Oh, them?? That is me… Them is us…

Love, Grace, and Peace,

John Cooper


Who is the Strongest?

Who is strongest?

I just read the obituary of the Mother of one of my classmates in Marshall High School, Marshall Illinois, the class of 1967… That will give you a clue as to how old I am….  My classmate’s name is Dan Garner, and his mother, who just died is Emma Faye Garner.  She was born in 1928.  According to her obituary in the Terre Haute, IN, Tribune, she “She was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and friend to many. She loved to quilt, sew and read and enjoyed the simple things of life.”

I used to enjoy the simple things in life….  However, my life has gotten much more complicated over the years…  I used to enjoy walking in the woods, communing with nature, hitting rocks with the flat piece of wood I had crafted as a “baseball bat”, imagining I was going to be a major league baseball player like Mickey Mantle, or Stan Musial, or other stars of the early 1960’s… I liked to catch golf balls I would throw against the concrete steps of our front porch, and catch them as they would rocket by at several times the speed of a real baseball….  Simple things….

And I went to school…. There they taught me more complicated things…  Physics, Latin, Algebra, Biology, etc….. However, I was never taught how to enjoy the simple things….  I was never taught ethics or peace, not nonviolence, or social justice, for that matter… Just these things I would need to match the tests they had given me,  Algebra, Physics, Latin, (which you use when you become a scientist or doctorJJ), and Biology… Nothing about ethics, or Peace, or Nonviolence…  Not social justice, either…

Which reminds me, I used to love to fight too, another simple thing… The strongest wins…. Got that?  I used to like to fight the big and the strong… I felt bad, If I fought the weak and won… I remember slamming a weak person on his back onto a wrestling mat and knocking the wind out of him on time… I felt bad, nearly as bad as when I killed the mother possum who was carrying a litter with her, or when, out of frustration, I kicked a pig one time in the stomach and it died…  I slammed a very tall basketball player up against a locker one time and cut his head open after he picked a fight with me… I felt good… Until later on the whole basketball team got a hold of me and slammed my head against the gym floor and I had to be taken to the doctor to get my head sown up… (You can feel my scar now, if you wish)

Dan Garner was very tall also…  I think he was 6” 8” or more… I never got into a real fight with him, except once….  It was just an arm wrestling contest…. He was known to be very strong also… I think he was the tallest person in our class… Very, tall… Even taller than the basketball player I slammed up into the locker… Probably stronger, too…   Well, we had the arm wrestling contest to find out who was the strongest…. Me, or him?  Simple things…  It took a long time to settle this simple thing… we wrestled and wrestled, and after a very long, long time, we had to call it a draw….   We were out of time… This was the day I had to take my driver’s license test… I was 16 years old… I could barely lift my right arm up to the steering wheel, but I passed the test…

Simple things….

I know a lot of people think I am just too complicated, and I admit, I am…

Back to simple things…

Nations think in simple things… I am the strongest… I have 100 times more nuclear weapons than you… I can destroy you more than once, more than you need to be destroyed… I will shock you and cause you to be in awe of me…. My army can defeat your army… Shock and Awe…. I have power over you…. By my violence, I can make everything right……  OH, and God, is on our side…


The strongest wins, Really?

What about the Peacemaker?  Does he win in the end, really?

Why don’t we all just get Naked, and have an arm wrestling contest, President Obama, and whoever it is we are supposed to be fighting, (we just simply don’t even know the answer to that… Who is it?) Or, why is it?  Is it the weapons of mass destruction?  Is it to bring democracy to the whole world? Is it “freedom”?  Who is it, what is it?  This is a simple question… Can you answer it?

Let’s just have and arm wrestling contest, just like Dan Garner, and I, and let’s call it a draw and go on to take other tests that come up in life, like driver’s license tests, and tests to determine if we love one another or not; real tests, that mean something after all these years.. Do we love one another?  That is a better test than Algebra tests, Latin tests, as we have been taught to answer…

I love you, Dan Garner….

Love & Peace,

John Cooper


Don’t Let Nobody

Don’t Let Nobody

Can we, as Christians and Jews, support our largely Muslim brothers of the Arab world seeking freedom by largely nonviolent means?  Are they our brothers?

Let us think of Abraham, our common ancestor, either by blood or engrafting, and Ishmael, the son Abraham also loved…  Think how much God loved and Abraham loved and still loves Ishmael and his descendants….  Can we imagine what the world would be like now, if Ishmael had been accepted?  What if his descendants were accepted today?  Accepted by us, both Christians and Jews?  Can we see God’s love for our brothers in God in their struggle for peace, for freedom, and justice in order to set their identities free, from the largely self-appointed, unaccountable rulers, principalities, and powers over them?

To all who struggle in this world, may we say that God loves you?  To the rulers, to the principalities and powers who rule the kingdoms of this world, we call you back to the original goodness in which God created you…  Yet, you have fallen; yet you can be transformed….  We, who are Christians, hear Jesus’ cry on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”….  Rulers, principalities, powers, God loves you too….  Although God can constrain you in an instant by the Truth coming from His mouth, God is so patient to give you time, which seems to be running out now….

I am a follow of Jesus, and I only claim authority if my words are the same as His, but I am reminded, that Jesus tells us, that “Whoever does the will of God is my mother, bother, and sister”.. Note, no fathers are mentioned here…  Note that God is our Father, for all of us, and we know, or perhaps have heard, “God so loved the world that he gave his Son, that whoever believes………”  Maybe you already know the rest of the story….  I would only say, if God is your father, and you seek to do the will of the Father, I am your brother, and I love you, and hope your quest for freedom succeeds by nonviolent means….

I am reminded of the words of an American preacher, perhaps it was Billy Sunday, “Don’t let Nobody tell you god don’t love you, cause He do…”  Bad English, but the meaning is the same in any language…

Your Brother,

John Cooper

Circles of Peace