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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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I would guess that the majority of the people involved with the new Occupy Wall Street Movement voted for Obama 2008. They were hoping, like so many of us, that real change could be made in the country by electing different political leaders. The country now is waking up to the reality that the whole system is rigged, and that we need a massive structural change in how we do government-simply hoping for a change because of who is elected president or which party controls Congress is no longer sufficient.

We have a system that has become so corrupt that no matter what party is elected, the special interests and corporations soon find their way into the system and set up their own rules. While certainly individual politicians bare partial responsibility for this system, ultimately we should not be upset with them; they cannot work honestly or justly when the whole system is designed to weed them out if they do. No, the ultimate problem is not the Republican leaders of the Democratic leaders; the ultimate problem is that we have a democracy in name only. When you allow corporations and special interests to give unlimited money to advertising for candidates, you are essentially letting them buy votes. You cannot call that type of country a democracy; it is nothing but a mere oligarchy. Until this is changed, needed reforms will never happen in the U.S. Healthcare in the U.S. will never be just because drug companies and private insurance will make sure that costs stay at outrageously high levels. Wars will continue to be fought because war profiteers and arms industries will create a new conflict we “have” to become involved in. Wall Street will never be reformed, because the banks have so many lobbyists in the halls of Washington that it would make Jefferson turn over in his grave.

If we want real change, we now realize the system has to be changed. The constitution has to be amended. No corporate funds should go to any political campaign and corporate lobbyists should be banned from the halls of Washington; it is a mockery of our democratic republic. Once this happens, so many of the other issues people are fighting for would fall into place and a more just society would begin to form.

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In his famous book, Johnny Get Your Gun, Dalton Tumbo makes a very interesting point, “America fought a war for liberty in 1776. lots of guys died. And in the end does America have any more liberty than Canada or Australia who didn’t fight at all?..maybe a lot of guys with wives and kids died in 1776 when they didn’t need to die at all.”

As I am teaching U.S. History, it is amazing how ingrained the belief that the U.S. Revolution was completely justified and worth the bloodshed is in the minds of many students. The question I have as a U.S. citizen and teachers is what kind of message are we sending to our young people? What are we telling them about justifying war and violence? Are we continuing to choose war and conflict in the present because it is glorified in our history?

The reality is that during the Revolutionary War, a large majority of colonists were either Loyalists or did not want to take side in the conflict between the colonies and England. This is a fact that is often obscured in U.S. History. We want to make it sound like everyone was supporting the war effort; they were all just longing for freedom. The reality is that the revolution started by a small group of radicals in Massachusetts and eventually was spread to the other colonies, with many people resisting the revolution.

On one hand, I agree with the goal of the Patriots for self-government. They wanted to be free from the rule of Parliament and the Monarchy, and I truly believed they were justified in that desire. However, should we be teaching our students that this desire was worth the enormous bloodshed? In the end, where does the justification for violence end? There are lot of people that are being heavily oppressed by our own corrupted government and a financial system that favors the very few at the expense of the many. Are they justified to shed blood in the name of their freedom? Of course, all people in the U.S. government would say absolutely not. However, if we follow out the logic and justification of the Revolution, the answer would have to be yes.

We need to teach our young people that violence just creates more violence. Maybe one of the reasons our country has been bathed in so much violence is because from the very beginning we have taught that violence is justified. Perhaps for us to avoid more errors like the War in Iraq and a never ending War on Terror, we need to realize that violence is not a viable solution to create change. There is a greater way. Let’s teach our children the way of Jesus on the Sermon of the Mount. Let’s teach them the way of Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. Real change can come without hate and violence; it can come through love, determination, and a desire for peace and justice among all men.

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“Lord, protect our decisions, because making Decision is a way of praying. Give us the courage after our doubts, to be able to choose between one road and another. May our YES always be a YES and our NO always be a NO. Once we have chosen our road, may we never look back nor allow our soul to be eaten away by remorse.”-Paulo Coelho

There is a time to pass through a period of self doubt. There should be a time when we look back and reflect on our decisions we are making in our life. However, we should not live in that space. There comes a time where we need to make a decision and go with it, with the positives and negatives, gains and losses which are sure to come.

We live in a day of many choices. Most people in the past did not have much choice when it came to a career; you simply did what your father or your mother did. Most people did not even have much of a choice when it came to marriage. The bride or groom was usually selected for you, or at the best you chose the close family friend (or distant relative) that you had been with since the day of your birth.

Today, we have tons of choices. We go to the supermarket, and we have 100 different choices to choose from. We think that this abundance of choice makes us happy, but often leads to indecisiveness and an inability to be happy with our choices. The same is true in our careers, relationships, and big choices in life.

There is a time and place where we need to simply put the second guessing of our lives behind and simply follow the path that we have been put in to the best of our abilities. If we feel we should make a large change in our life, we should pursue it; however, we should never live our lives looking backwards with regret. So often our past successes and failures, keep us from being happy where we are at in this very moment. So much thinking of what “could have been” keeps us from experiencing joy and peace in this very moment.

Jesus told us told us that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed we could move mountains in our lives. However, the mountains will never move, greatness will never come, and our dreams will be realized if we cannot learn to move beyond regret, remorse, and second guessing and living fully and freely with the choices we have made. Let us seek the Spirit to help to make beautiful choices with our lives and the strength to not look back, but rather move forward, once those decisions have been made.

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There has been a backlash in much of the Christian community against relativism. However, it is often been replaced by something that can also be dangerous-absolute moral rules. Relativism can be dangerous by giving any type of idea, no matter how unethical or immoral, some type of credence. Absolute morals on the other hand, often mean not doing the most caring and ethical thing in a given situation, and are the direct opposite of what Christ called us to-Freedom.

In the Gospel of Matthew, an interesting story is told of a time where Jesus’ disciples were condemned for breaking that absolute moral law of not working on the Sabbath,

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’[a] you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

When Jesus came to earth, he started a new Kingdom where people are no longer under the law. They are now under a deeper, more freeing, yet greatly more demanding paradigm-called the Kingdom of God. However, we like to live our lives like we are still under absolute moral rules. Let me give a few examples:

Lying- There have been people that have made the very important value of honesty into an absolute moral rule that can never be broken. A video was released during Delaware Senatorial Candidate, Christine O’Donnell, campaign with a show she had with Bill Mahr in the 90s. In the video she states it is always wrong to lie, even in the most extreme situations; the example was presented about Nazis looking for Jews, and she stated that there would have to be some resolution to the situation besides lying, because it is always wrong to not tell the truth. Really??? I remembered we had a similar discussion when I was in 9th grade, and many of the fellow students said it would still be a “sin” or “wrong” to lie in this situation. Even at a ninth grade level, I was simply dumbfounded. What type of system of morality do we have that allows innocence to possibly suffer for the sake of following in absolute moral law?

Violence- Though I definitely lean more towards more pacifist positions; I think there can also be a possible danger in them. I have read some books from Pacifists who say that they would not even use violence if it was for the cause of defending their own family. They refer to the Sermon on the Mount, and turn these new revelations of Jesus into strict moral codes. If someone was going after my wife or child, what kind of man would I be if I was not willing to use violence against that person to save them? I think the pacifists of the world are so needed and I deeply respect them. I have loved reading the works of such Pacifists as Leo Tolstoy. However, even something has amazing and pure as non-violence cannot be turned into an absolute moral values. The Sermon on the Mount shows a new way to live; if we turn into cold, inflexible laws, we are doing the words of Jesus a great disservice.

Laws and guidelines are important, please don’t get me wrong. But they are not there as the ultimate goal,; justice, goodness, and love are the ultimate goals. In those rare occasions where the guideposts of laws and rules we have been given interfere with the greater good, then there is a higher law. Jesus did not come to give us absolute moral values, he came to free us to live a pure, joyful, and grace filled life in the Kingdom of God.

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Sometimes the inequality of wealth is so disturbingly and blatantly displayed that we can’t help but notice-that is what happened today when I saw an article on a news outlet about a celebrities’ engagement ring. While our politicians are claiming how broke we are as a nation, how medical assistance needs to be cut, and how are debt is going out of control-the wealthy are paying the lowest taxes in decades and living in more extravagance than ever.

What is so disturbing about the reality star’s 2 million dollar engagement ring? It is the simple slap in the face; it presents the true reality that while the overwhelming majority of the population is fighting to get by, others are living in such luxury and excess that they can afford 2 million on an engagement ring. It is the fact that while Republican leaders complain about the “high tax” rates of the wealthy, the rest of the society is suffering.

The scary thing is that I don’t think we are even shocked or outraged much by this type of waste and excessive luxury. Back in the late 1800’s, when the extremely wealthy threw extravagant parties, they were often condemned by the greater public for their immoral flaunting of their wealth. Today we have whole shows and networks which are basically designed to show celebrities and the rich flaunting their wealth.

Instead of actually working for a more just society, we have basically resigned and accepted this disturbing excess of wealth. Hopefully, we will come to a point where we realize that extravagance and excess is not something we should worship, but rather that is a danger to having a true and just democratic society. As long as we worship wealth, we will never really confront the problems that we currently face.

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If I could think of the thing that could be the worst for Christianity in the United States (or really the name of Christianity around the world) it would be to have a “Christian” candidate run in 2012 against Obama. Let me clarify what I mean. There is no problem with the leader of the country being a Christian; most presidents including our current are part of the Christian faith. However, there is a big difference from having a private faith (which will obviously influence your political decisions) than being the representative of the “Christian” community.

This will be an issue in the upcoming Republican primaries. Many Christians, particularly evangelicals, are very clear that they want a strong “Christian” candidate for the White House-someone like a Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, or Sarah Palin. While I am not questioning any of these candidates faith, I am openly defiant in letting them to take the name of the “Christian” candidate, especially when many of the policies they are fighting for seem to be the opposite of just or compassionate. It was once stated that Christianity makes a great noun, but a very poor adjective. I couldn’t agree more. An upcoming election which pits the “Christian” candidate against the “Secular” candidate would do great damage to the name of Christ, not to mention greatly divide the church in the U.S. which is already highly divided by politics (and therefore, by race as well).

I have already seen polls where many Republicans won’t vote for someone like Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon. However, as a Christian, I think Mitt Romney would be much better for the name of Christianity than someone who wears their religion on their sleeve, not to be a light to the world but in order to garnish political support. Though as a progressive, someone like Romney concerns me because of the fact that he would be a much bigger challenge for Obama. For the sake of Christianity in society, I would much rather see him against Obama than the deemed “Christian” candidates.

Whether we like to admit or not, the policies of George W. Bush hurt the name of Christianity around the world. Though I do not think Bush came out as strongly as the “Christian” candidate as some of these others are doing, he was still perceived that way by the rest of the world. When he went on to wage an illegal war, permit torture, and hurt the poor at the expense of the wealthy, many around the world and the country associated his policies with the ideas of Christianity and the Bible. As a Christian, that makes me sad, I don’t want Bush, Obama, Huckabee, Palin, Clinton, or Pelosi being the face of Christianity. My prayer this election is that the cause of justice would win out and the person who really stands up for the poor and vulnerable as opposed to the rich and powerful will win out. However, even more, I pray that the beautiful message of salvation, justice, and grace that Jesus came to give will not be so deeply tarnished by politics where being the “Christian” candidate might just get you elected, even if it at the expense of the Kingdom of God.

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