Friday, December 21, 2012


I wrote the following in 2008.  I suppose it is a good time to take stock of our own inner beings.  The nation, indeed the whole world mourns, but we need to do more than talk about guns and folks with behaviors we have labeled.  We need to look deep within.  All of us and ask one simple question.  How did we become such a violent people?  From our interactions with others to horrors we can't explain, we are a violent people that inhabit this earth.  Maybe if we followed more closely in the footprints of the Peacemaker we would become a more peaceful people.

FOOTPRINTS of HIS SON /January 17, 2008
It is three in the morning here in Glen Alpine, North Carolina and it is snowing outside. Everything is turning white. How I wish my insides were as white as the outside looks right now, but they are not. Lawrence Wright, a Texan, is the author of the book Saints & Sinners. He also wrote City Children, Country Summer: A Story of Ghetto Children Among the Amish.

I often ask myself am I a saint or a sinner? Good or bad? Growing up with a father who was a minister, missionary, and high school principal among other teaching and educational positions and having a mother who was a school teacher (they are both deceased) does not allow one the luxury of avoiding the question. So I am forced to try to answer the question in some fashion. Let me tell you about three men I wish I was more like in some ways. You may be surprised because they are not very famous, but they are my trifecta.
First, my father Lester J. Cooper (1919-1989) not because he was a minister or missionary or educator, but because he taught me how to learn, to love philosophy, and he loved the dirt. When we got to the mission field in 1960 conditions in southern Africa were dangerous for people of my skin color. Since I am white it was decided that I would have to stay on the mission station 100 miles from the nearest town and that the missionaries would teach me. The other missionary kids seemed to do fine, but I was a problem so Dad taught me. The main thing he taught me was how to learn, and a byproduct of that was a love for philosophy. He grew up in the hills of Kentucky and had dirt in his veins. He had a garden, fruit trees, and grape vines etc. on his little lot in College Park, GA. Until he was no longer able just before his death.

Second, is Will Davis Campbell who was a major supporter of the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi. Born July 18, 1924, in Amite County, Mississippi, Campbell grew up in Liberty, Mississippi — a town name fitting for what Campbell wanted to find through his work as a Civil Rights activist and a preacher. Campbell earned his A.B. at Wake Forest College and a B.D. from Yale. He was a Baptist preacher in Taylor, Louisiana, for two years before taking the position of Director of Religious Life at the University of Mississippi from 1954 to 1956. Forced to leave the university because of his ardent Civil Rights participation, Campbell served on the National Council of Churches in New York as a race relations consultant. Campbell worked closely with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and Andrew Young towards bettering race relations. Today, he continues his pursuit of spiritual and racial liberty as a pastor in Tennessee. Campbell's Brother to a Dragonfly earned him the Lillian Smith Prize, the Christopher Award, and a National Book Award nomination. The Glad River won a first-place award from the Friends of American Writers in 1982. His works have also won a Lyndhurst Prize and an Alex Haley Award.

Third, is Don West (1906-1992) In a book review written by Rachel Rubin this native of the North Georgia mountains who worked in in the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia is described by her like this, “West is widely viewed as one of the most compelling political and literary figures of the Southern Appalachians during the middle of the twentieth century. She goes on to say, “Don West was a poet, a promoter of mountain music, a minister, a labor organizer, an educator, a leftist activist, an amateur historian and a firm advocate for grass-roots mountain people and traditional regional values.” Could there be any higher praise for a life well lived?

What do these three have in common? They were all three ministers and teachers. They all three believed deeply in their mission.

Am I a saint or a sinner? The truth is someone else gets to decide. For now the folks who watch me live my life can decide for themselves, but ultimately I will be judged by my Creator and on that day I must rely on the hope found in His Grace. Until then all I can do is try to walk in the footprints of His Son.
You can reach me directly at