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


Who is John Cooper?

Who is John Cooper?

John grew up in a large Catholic farm family in central Eastern Illinois, about 15 miles West of Terre Haute, Indiana, between two small towns, Marshall, IL, and Paris, IL.

His boyhood days were spent working with his Father and Uncles, who both owned farmland, and walking in the woods, seeing the beauty of nature, and living close to it.  He grew up poor, but had plenty of food to eat.  He attended school in the Marshall, Illinois school system, graduating in 1967.

John used to love to fight, winning all but one fight he was in, when the whole Marshall, IL basketball team got hold of him at once, slamming his head into the gym floor because John had beaten up one of the tallest and biggest basketball players.  He was also avid reader, (his brother, David referred to him as a “bookworm”), perhaps he read so much because his family could not afford a TV until after he left home.  There was no indoor plumbing or running water in the Cooper home either, until John left home.  He excelled in school and decided to attend Samford University, in Birmingham, AL, largely because his uncle by marriage, Dr. Everett Lemeron, taught accounting and business there.  His plans were to be a psychologist, getting his Doctorate at the University of Alabama, and perhaps working at the VA hospital in Tuscaloosa, AL, which was and is a VA mental health facility.

Things did not quite work out that way however…..  In the last two years of High School, John entered the beginnings of a conversion experience that brought him to crisis of conscious regarding what he had been taught form childhood regarding many facets of religion and faith.  He had been fully supportive of his nation’s war ethics before this crisis of conscience began to occur.

John attended Samford University in 1967 and 1968, while living with his aunt and uncle, working part time, and paying for his own education with funds he had saved working on the farm in Illinois for his uncles. His uncles, and the whole McCulley family, proclaimed that one should not work in the fields on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath, even though the many animals they owned had to be taken care of…  In the final year of high school, he came to knowledge that Saturday, the seventh day of the week, is actually the Sabbath, and has been, from creation….  Having been raised with a high regard for the 10 Commandments as being normative for Christians, upon this discovery, he began to have a crisis of conscience regarding this matter…  In beginning his studies of the Christian Bible, John began to see other ethical problems with the systems (Kosmos) of the world, and the teachings of Jesus, one of which regarded the ethics of warfare which seemed to him diametrical opposite the teachings of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, whom John understands to be the exact representation of God, the essence of his being…

Therefore, John began to observe the Sabbath on Saturday, and other Old Covenant Feast Days, and often spoke of the personal conflict he had with warfare, during this period of the Vietnam war.  He was kicked out of his aunt’s home for observing the Sabbath, (on Saturday) and had to find a place to live and pay for on his own.  He could not afford to continue his education at Samford University and choose to take action upon the new beliefs he had come to understand.  He became a member of the a Sabbitarian church with historic peace church roots at that time, and began attending church in Birmingham, AL.  Also, during this time he was convicted to apply for conscientious objector status, and received paperwork from his draft board to approve his request.  He served two years of alternative service in Birmingham, AL, beginning at Spain Rehabilitation Center, caring for people who had been paralyzed.  While there, he moved into the University of Alabama, Birmingham, Cabinet Shop, and found he was gifted in and enjoyed woodworking.  He decided to enter a carrier in this field and in Ca. 1977. After moving to Tuscaloosa, AL he established Cooper Cabinet Shop, where he still works today.  In addition, he established Cooper Wood Specialties, which currently imports cabinetry from China.  Business links for the companies he has help found are: http://www.cooperwoodspecialties.net/; http://www.coopercabinets.com/; http://www.tuscaloosacabinetgroup.com/.

John met Wynema Walters at a church picnic, and after a period, they were married in 1973.  John and Wink have no children, although both have numerous nieces and nephews.  John was an avid tennis player until he was 42, then he took up golf and has played that game ever since.  He would rather be a sports participant than and observer….

John remained in the same church fellowship, now renamed Grace Communion, International, http://www.gci.org/ He served in many offices such as deacon, (his wife, Wink, was also an ordained deaconess), Elder, and Co-pastor….  When this church as a group began to understand the New Covenant around 1994.  John just could not understand how the 10 commandments could be abolished and the New Covenant could be a replacement for, not an addition to, the Old Covenant, at first, and studied and prayed late into the night until he too finally, after about six months, he began to understand these matters…  John still respects individual’s choice to observe days, times, and food laws if that is their understanding…

John now attends Grace Church in Tuscaloosa, (http://www.gracenews.org/index.php) where the thought of something like Circles of Peace has brewed in his mind for several years.  Having met resistance in the community to his ideas regarding Peace and Nonviolence, he put those thoughts on the shelf for a while as he became active in other venues such as assisting the International student community in Tuscaloosa…. He also helped in the formation of Compassion Coalition, with others in the community, an organization to organize faith based groups across religious divides to assist in disaster relief.  He served on the board, and as Executive Director for over two years, and is still serving on the board and the Executive Council of this organization.  Circles of Peace FOR, (http://tuscaloosacirclesofpeace.blogspot.com/) is an officially recognized Affiliate of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest active Peace, Non-violent, and Social Justice organization still active in these areas in the world.  (http://forusa.org/)

John now feels strongly his calling is to serve in the area of Peace, Social Justice, and Nonviolence, helping to return the Christian community to its historic peaceful roots, and to develop common ground across religious divides of all types to bring peaceful cooperation to our community, the nation, and the world.

He has been planting the seeds of peace, social justice, and nonviolence for many years, struggling against resistance, but hoping to garner the vision of a younger generation to help bring peace, mutual love and respect, to other people and religious groups in this world, before we destroy ourselves with hate, and it is too late…

Grace AND Peace

Re-coupling Grace and Peace

I often wonder if Christianity would be more effective if it returned to its Historic Roots….

I got to thinking about all this again, as I am wont to do….  It seems to me that a foundational problem in Christianity is the de-coupling of what seemed to be a very important association by the Apostle Paul, as well as Peter and John, concerning Grace AND Peace.  Many greetings are dressed with the term grace and peace….

It seems both Grace and Peace together were very important as a pair in the early Christian Church as seeds of the Kingdom of God and the Gospel, including the Gospel of Peace were preached….  Maybe it was because they had warfare back then….  Maybe because a commitment to Grace and Peace and refusing to worship the Emperor and the military-political systems of the day could result in becoming lion feed……  Don’t we have warfare now also?

Some are aware of my concerns for Peace, Social Justice, and Nonviolence….  I believe we find all three of these concerns as also concerns of the Early Christian church up until around 170 AD, at which time the teachings of the foundational fathers of the church dimmed, and in Ca. 320 AD, the Christian church allied with Constantine and became the official Roman religion.

Since that time, it seems the subject of Grace has been well studied, and preached, partially by the less than perfect and less than grace filled individuals such as Martin Luther and Calvin….  As far as I know, those adhering to nonviolence, such as the early Anabaptists, were actually persecuted and even killed for their beliefs, often by the very “Christians” who espoused the Grace of God most adamantly… (I have the book, “Martyr’s Mirror”, for instance, that chronicles some of these events.)  So were the Muslims, for that matter….. How about the Jews also????  So were they…. And, the Aztecs, to whom it was agreed they were cannibals, so we could kill them…  I hate to bring this up, but; Where are all the American Indians?

Has anything really changed, even today in our largely Post Christian society?  When we think of Grace, how many of us think of Grace AND Peace?  If we study the Gospel of Grace so much, why not also study the Gospel of Peace?  Now, I like Grace a lot, but I also like Peace….  I recall the word of the Poem, “Fire and Ice”, by Robert Frost…

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great,

And would suffice.

Therefore, not for destruction, but for living eternally, it seems to me that if I can like Grace, and I can also like Peace….

For perishing people, (and all of us are perishing…) all of us who from birth have believed in the Myth of Redemptive Violence, from the God of Babylon, Marduk, on to the cartoons of Popeye and Pluto, to the solution to Evil offered by this world’s fallen governments, that is, we can solve violence, we can solve Evil, by killing it….  That fallen philosophy was not that of Jesus, nor of the Early Christian church…  The Jesus who suffered and died to defeat Evil.  The early Christian Church who followed in Jesus’ steps, also suffering and dying to defeat Evil, seemed to believe also in this other way, the way of peace and nonviolence.  Grace, AND Peace, if you will….

Why, we Christians actually consider it once per year, on average, and make some mention of it, generally around the Christmas season, we manage to add Peace to our vocabulary….  Grace, all the time, we need it.., but Peace, well… we do not seem to need it so much….

Therefore, let us call out today, for the Christian Church (and all people, for that matter) to return to Christianity’s Historic Roots, and to re-couple both Grace AND Peace.  Perhaps is so doing, we will regain the respect of unbelievers who see this separation of Grace and Peace, to be inconsistent with the ethics of Jesus, even if most of Christianity appears not to see this inconsistency, and blindly goes on in the systems of the world with which it is most comfortable.

Grace AND Peace,

John Cooper


Whose Business is It?

Whose Business is it?

This is a plea to our President, and others whose business it is assumed to be….

Whose business is it?

Is it your business to deliver us from Evil? Is it your business to enlist us in preemptive wars to kill and defeat our perceived enemies? Is it your business to spend our monetary resources of past and future generations by going into indebtedness to conquer Evil? If so, how is it working out for you?

I am reminded of an ancient prayer, now nearly 2,000 years old, spoken by those to whom many Christians declare their allegiance, primary allegiance, one would hope….

“Deliver us from Evil….”

It is a simple prayer, indeed, addressed to the one God of the universe to whom the allegiance of Jews, Christians, and Muslims all alike respect and claim to serve…

“Deliver us from Evil…”

Yes, we say this prayer, but do we really believe the God of the Universe has, or will actually “Deliver us from Evil”?

Do we not, by our actions, say and prefer to deliver ourselves from Evil? Do we not prefer to prepare our own guns, nuclear arsenals, and our minds steeped in our world’s influences, to deliver ourselves from Evil? If not, why spend Trillions of dollars and other monetary currencies in such preparedness to deliver our own selves form Evil?

At this time, August 19, 2011, the world apparently teeters on the brink of financial disaster, not being able to pay its debts to the future…. Can we ask this simple question?

In whom do we trust?

The United States has actually printed trillions of times, “In God we Trust”…


Is God the one in whom we trust?

If so, how about trusting Him to: “Deliver us from Evil”

The Christian proclaimers of the Kingdom of God, NOT of this world, would all hopefully agree in unison with our fellow Jewish and Islamic human beings, and all others created in God’s image, even including our enemies….

God, “Deliver us from Evil…”

God, we trust that you have already, do presently, and will in the future, “Deliver us from Evil..”

Some sensible people, although some would say, not so sensible, cry out…

“Whose business is it?”

It is God’s business to deliver us from Evil…

Some will say that God helps us to deliver ourselves from Evil, that we are to use our own logic and everything in our power as well as trust God to “Deliver us from Evil…” I cannot argue with that, and one would have to set one’s own limits of how far we might go in protecting ourselves and our families, but whatever the decision for oneself, and one’s community, for one”s city, for ones State, and for ones respective nation, and for the whole world, for that matter, we must come to the point eventually, do we actually trust God to “Deliver us from Evil”, or not?

If we do trust God, could we possibly reemploy some of our military resources and equipment to deliver food to Somalia, for instance? From a business point of view, would not this be more our business, to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, give comfort to the sick, to dress and keep the earth, and turn our swords effectively into plowshares? Maybe this would help cut the debt of the world if we give up so much trusting in ourselves to protect ourselves from Evil, and trust in God to:

“Deliver us from Evil”

John Cooper