Archive for February, 2012

To many evangelicals and conservative Catholics today, the term the separation of church and state is seen as something dangerous for the country. However, if we take a look back at history, these were some of the groups that pushed hardest to have the separation of church and state, because they were being persecuted by the state churches.

In fact, Jefferson’s famous letter that held the ideas of the separation of church and state was not written to agnostic leaders who were concerned about religion in the public square. No, it was written to the Danbury Baptists, who had previously written to Jefferson about their desire for religious liberty in the State of Connecticut.

Jefferson responded with the famous words, “…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

Catholics were another minority who were persecuted by some states in the early colonies. The separation of church and state was essential to them being granted religious freedom. Both the Baptists (and other “evangelical” groups) and Catholics were the minorities, and for many of them, Jefferson and his hope to build a wall between church and state was heroic and a gift from God.

It is amazing to see many modern day conservative evangelicals and Catholics decrying the separation of Church and State and actually fighting to limit religious freedom and break down the barrier of church and state, whether it is freedom to build mosques and Islamic religious centers, pushing for government funding for private religious institutions, trying to make church teachings the law of the land, and using theological litmus tests for political office.

Santorum, Gingrich, and the other conservatives who decry the separation of Church and State, should review the history surrounding the issue and realize that the separation of church and state is there to protect all people from theocratic government, both religious and non-religious people. For those who are pushing a more theocratic or religiously based government, they need to realize that in doing so, they are going against the hard fought victories of many of those who went before them.


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“War is Hell, and Christ did not come to justify the creation of Hell on earth by his disciples. The justification of war may be compatible with some religions and philosophies, but it is not compatible with the nonviolent teaching of Jesus. I was wrong. And to those of whatever nationality or religion who have been hurt because I fell under the influence of the father of lies, I say with my whole heart and soul I am sorry. I beg forgiveness.”

These were the words of Father George Zabelka, who had served as the U.S. Navy chaplain in the Pacific for the forces that would drop the atomic bomb. He spoke out years later in regret for his choice to essentially “bless the bombs” that would destroy thousands upon thousands of lives.

As the rhetoric picks up towards another war with Iran, the U.S. church has a choice. They can choose to be the voice of empire and war, making another pre-emptive attack “sacred” or they can stand with a prophetic voice and state that those who live by the sword will die by the sword, and if our country wants to follow the path of militarism, we too will come to ruin.

Regarding the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many in the U.S. church were largely supportive of the war, with a minority standing with a prophetic and decrying the militarism and violence. Of course, in the eyes of the rest of his world, the name of Jesus is cursed when his church uses him to promote and defend their nationalistic wars. Instead of loving our enemies, we have said it is morally acceptable to kill them. We have said that pre-emptive attacks are justified, out of the slight possibility that our enemy could pose a threat in the future.

I hope and pray that in this new conflict, the U.S. church will not be cowardly and remain silent or even worse, play the role of warmonger and openly push and support a new war. Instead, I pray they choose the way of peace, the way of Jesus, and realize that this war is not the answer.

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All the talk recently has been about how the dollar is going to fall, and the U.S. is heading towards massive economic decline. This should not come as any surprise. All great empires eventually fall, whether it was the Romans or Greeks or more recently, the Spanish or British. Many see this as the end of the world, an Armageddon that is coming. However, if we choose to look it from another perspective, it is possible that the U.S. decline could actually be what rescues the country from the direction in which it is going.

My favorite podcast, Common Sense, is by a man named Dan Carlin. On his latest show he was talking about this issue. He brought up an interesting point. If you went and asked the average citizen in Great Britain, Spain, or France whether they would have rather lived in the time of the imperial greatness of their country or now, what would they say? Undoubtedly, the majority would say they prefer their government the way it is now. Imperial power and might may make a country look great on paper, but it does not necessarily mean it is in the best interest of its citizens.

Usually the most important and positive changes that have occurred in history have come in times of distress. It took the Great Depression to cause the U.S. government to limit the powers of big business and set up a responsible welfare system. It was in times of economic peril that some of the most important progressive reform was passed.

If the U.S. does start heading for a massive decline and the dollar drops  as many people suspect, the U.S. will be forced to stop being the empire of the world. The massive and insane military spending will simply no longer be a choice. The giveaways and handouts to the wealthy and corporations will be feasibly impossible. The irresponsibility of what the government has become will not be accepted. Perhaps, we will actually get democracy if the U.S. government’s power declines.

It doesn’t mean the U.S. will cease to exist, but it will have to go through some hard times like all great empires when they fall. However, hopefully, we can be like so many other countries that were able to make positive changes after their empires fell, they had stop worrying about controlling the world and they could actually listen to and respond to the voice of the people.

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In my classes, we have been discussing the Mexican-American War in the mid 19th Century. If you had to pick the most unjustified war in U.S. History, this conflict would certainly rank at the very top. It was a war that was waged by the U.S. for more land while they attempted to keep the illusion  of being the victim.

Essentially, many in the U.S, especially President James K. Polk, wanted to expand U.S. territory in the modern day southwest, and they were going to find whatever possible way to do so. However, it would look bad to just blatantly and unjustifiably strike another country. So, Polk decided that the U.S. would provoke Mexico into firing the first shot to make them seem like the aggressors. They sent troops into land that was still “disputed” after the Texas Revolution (where Texas was essentially stolen from the Mexican government), but which Mexico considered their own land. They tried setting up a military fort. Polk knew this was a move that would provoke the Mexican government. Some American troops were killed by the Mexican army, and Polk came to the Congress with the message that the U.S. had been attacked, and war was the only option.

In reality, it was a war solely to spread land; the hope of many southerners was that it would give more land for the expansion of slavery. Though some resisted the war, especially in the North, in the end most of the country walked in step out of fear of not appearing patriotic and fought a greedy and unjustified fight for the lands which are now the southwestern United States.

Here is how one of the U.S. Colonel’s, Colonel Hitchcock, put it,

“ I have said from the first that the United States are the aggressors..We have not one particle of right to be here…It looks as if the government sent a small force on purpose to bring on a war, so as to have a pretext for taking California and as much of this country as it chooses.”

I think there is a deep relation between what happened with Mexico and what is happening with Iran. The U.S. has Iran surrounded on all sides, especially with the strong presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are putting sanctions on Iran and convincing other nations to do the same. U.S. politicians are making startling remarks about attacking Iran. We are spying on them and flying over their airspace. In short…we are provoking them. Many are hoping that Iran will attack some U.S. or Israeli vessel, thus giving justification for the war on the grounds of us “defending ourselves”.

To paint Iran as the aggressor is simply mind blowing, but when that day comes and war begins, I fear many will simply drink the Kool-Aid of the media and support a war, all the while willfully ignorant of the steps that led to the war. We look back on history and say how dishonest Polk was in his dealings with Mexico and with the American public. However, it seems we have not learned from our mistakes. We are heading to another unjustified war, where though we are the aggressors, we will be able to paint ourselves as the innocent victims.

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