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When I was in the second or third grade, I did not know the meaning of ecumenical. It was a fact of life.  The Presbyterian Church would hold a summer Vacation Bible School and most of the children of the town would attend.  The Christian Church would have a program of Gospel Singers, and all denominations would attend.  The Methodists or Baptists would hold a Revival and all denominations would attend.  The Baptists would hold baptisms in the Christian Church and all the churches worked in unison and not at cross purposes, if you will excuse the pun.

Now my grandfather, Reverend Henry (H. I.) Cook was a Baptist minister, as was his father and grandfather and he did his best to promote unity in the community and to discourage others from criticizing other religious congregations.

One year, either 1933 or 1934, the Methodist Church on Easy Street was holding a revival and the visiting Methodist preacher was called "Cyclone Mac".   I was there with my mother, who kept punching me with her elbow to keep me awake.   I guess I tired of looking at the picture of Isaac on the altar, with his father, Abraham over him preparing to sacrifice him and wondering how the poor little lamb was going to get out of that briar patch.  I happened to look back and saw my father come into the church and hang his pistol belt on the hooks for coats at the back of the church.   At that time, my father, Roy L. Cook was the Chief of Police of the Town of Matoaka.  I managed to stay awake, thanks to my mother's nudging and everyone thought he had preached a wonderful sermon.

My grandfather, H. I. and "Cyclone Mac" became fast friends but with tongue in cheek accused each of "living in sin".  You see, "Cyclone Mac" smoked big, black cigars and my grandfather chewed tobacco.   You must remember that at this time the United States Marine Corps had an allowance of one spittoon per Company.  Grandfather thought smoking cigars was a sin and "Cyclone Mac" thought the same thing about chewing tobacco, or so they said to each other.  Now this is the only discord I ever saw of disagreement between the churches of the town and it was not voiced in their pulpits.

I am of the mind that grandfather was right.  Cigar smoke burns peoples eyes and leaves a smell wherever the smoker has been.  Chewing tobacco, on the other hand tends to promote marital harmony because if a temper flares, the chewer has to spit, which gives him time to cool down and it is probably the reason so many marriages lasted as long as they did.  Besides, a tobacco chewer never started a forest fire.

Today, we hear of congregations being at each others throats and after all these years, we read of "ecumenical movements".  These people should, particularly Baptists, remember the plight of their churches before the Revolutionary War and the role their actions in this war resulted in the First Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion.  Implicit in this is principle that even though we disagree with the choice of others, we should respect this choice.

Some demagogues and I include some ministers, seek to capitalize on these differences, sow distrust and suspicion on others and do their best to widen the gap between religious groups and others in society.  The only justification for this action on their part that I can see is "There's money in it."

Perhaps this is best fought by remembering the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."


Lt. Col. Henry T. Cook, USMC (Ret.)