The Civil War Record of Sam Caton

Yesterday, I found my great-great-great-grandfather (Andrew Mason “Sam” Caton) in the 1907 Alabama Census of Confederate Soldiers. While I had previously found evidence of a 1st cousin 6x removed that was killed at the Battle of Murfreesboro and a great-great-great-grand uncle who died at the Battle of Chickamauga (both while fighting for the Confederacy), this was the first time I’d found a direct ancestor who served in the military during the Civil War. Continue reading The Civil War Record of Sam Caton

Consider the Cost

Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. (Matthew 20:22-24)

Almost 5 years ago, I was in Barnes & Noble, looking through the history and current events section, when I saw a book that was written by an ex-soldier who deserted the army and fled to Canada. The summary on the inside cover told how this man had enlisted in the military as a way to make a living and that he thought he would not be deployed unless World War III broke out. When George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, he was deployed there and eventually deserted. As a history teacher, it was unfathomable to me that anyone actually thought this way. By a conservative count, America has spent more than 1/4 of its history at war and averaged at least one major war every generation. And this doesn’t even count the various other military conflicts (Indian Wars, the invasion of Grenada, U.N. police actions in Kosovo and Somalia, etc.) in between those bigger wars. The idea that someone would enlist in the military as a way to get a free education, a good salary and benefits package, and a comfortable career, yet not expect to see combat at some point is just stupid. Someone wasn’t paying attention in history class. This guy wanted all the benefit of being part of the U.S. military without any of the risk. He enlisted without considering the cost.

I remembered that book as I read this passage in Matthew because really that’s exactly what’s happening here with James and John. In the preceding verses, they had their mother ask Jesus to give them a place of honor in his kingdom. Jesus, like an ethical army recruiter, tried to warn them of what they were asking. “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” is a loaded question that went back to what he had taught the disciples a few verses earlier: Continue reading Consider the Cost

Remember Iraq: A Cautionary Tale

The last U.S. troops left Iraq on Sunday, ending a nearly 9-year war that had become unpopular and divisive on the homefront in recent years, while costing the United States approximately $800 billion and 4,500 lives. My intent is not to argue whether the war was justified or not or whether it dragged on too long. History will be the judge of that. But lest we become too quick to dismiss the Iraq War as just an ugly chapter in our history and try to forget it, allow me to offer the following cautionary tale: Continue reading Remember Iraq: A Cautionary Tale