More Lies From Our Government

This Week’s Bogus Unemployment Report Is a Sin Against Us All

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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take back your country

I have always believed that being a good Christian means standing up against social and economic injustice. After all, being religious without putting one’s faith into action is like calling oneself a Democrat or Republican without ever voting. The Bible says in the New Testament, “Faith without works is dead”, and I’m a firm believer in putting that into practice. One social injustice that I wrote about in my 2011 book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” was the outsourcing overseas of what used to be good American middle class jobs. I have some ideas about what is wrong or unjust in this great country of ours, and the following is just one example of what I would like to see fixed within society at large. I am talking about this week’s federal government’s press release that puts American unemployment at 4.6%. This simply hilarious number is being peddled to the American people at a time when only 61% of American adults are working. So, we’re supposed to believe America has 4.6% unemployment while over one third of our workforce has given up looking for work out of sheer discouragement!

Now that Washington is waking up to the destructive impact of outsourcing good middle class jobs overseas, something the American people have known about for years, globalism’s advocates have decided this facade of lies has to be maintained by the elite 1% at all costs. The Wall Street Journal, a supposed bastion of truth, recently stated that “the fact is that for every job outsourced to Bangalore, nearly two jobs are created in Buffalo and other American cities.” I bet “Buffalo and other American cities” would like to know where these jobs are. On October 25, 2011, 60 Minutes had a program on unemployment in Silicon Valley, where formerly high-earning professionals have been out of work for two years and, today, cannot even find part-time $9 an hour jobs at Target.

The claim that jobs outsourced by US corporations increases domestic employment in the US is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American public (excluding the biggest one, which is the so-called “Federal Reserve”). Based on a bit of research that I have done from an economics standpoint, I can tell you that our country’s governmental and business leaders have reached this erroneous conclusion by counting the growth in multinational jobs in the U.S. without adjusting the data to reflect the acquisition of existing firms by multinationals, and for existing firms who have turned themselves into multinationals by establishing foreign operations for the first time. There is no new multinational employment in the U.S. Absolutely zero. Existing employment simply moved into the multinational category from a change in the status of firms to multinational. American workers have become expendable because corporate America has decided they are too expensive to keep around. I know this to be true because it once happened to me.

The jobs that replaced the ones that were outsourced overseas for pennies on the dollar consist of waitresses and bartenders, health care workers, social services, retail clerks, and while the bubble lasted, construction. These are not the high-tech, high-paying jobs that the “New Economy” promised, and they are not jobs that can be associated with global corporations. Moreover, these domestic service jobs are themselves scarce. Just ask anybody trying to find one. Until this past year the construction jobs had all but vanished. Did you ever wonder how it was possible to have simultaneously millions of new good-paying middle class jobs and virtually the worst income inequality in the developed world, with all income gains accruing to the mega-rich? Or was that just me?

Education is no longer the solution it once was. For example, we already have more engineers than we have jobs for them due to outsourcing. A Philadelphia marketing and research firm called “Twentysomething” found that 85% of recent college graduates planned to move back home with parents. Even if members of the “boomerang generation” find jobs, the jobs don’t pay enough to support an independent existence. And let’s not forget that nearly all of these recent graduates have student loans with payoff balances in the tens of thousands of dollars. This in turn ruins their credit, which makes finding employment even more difficult. Reporters repeat the lie that the unemployment rate is 4.6%. The government’s own more inclusive rate stands at 17%. Statistician John Williams, who counts unemployment the way it is supposed to be counted, finds the unemployment rate to be 22%. In my 2012 book, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”, I estimated the total unemployment rate to be 24%. Near the end of 2016 as I write this, total unemployment plus under-employment remains stuck at roughly the same figure.

To keep our eyes off the loss of jobs to outsourcing, policymakers and their minions in the financial press blame US unemployment on alleged currency manipulation by China and on the financial crisis. The financial crisis itself is blamed by conservatives on low-income Americans who took out mortgages that they could not afford, and on US “entitlement” programs. In other words, the problem is China and the greedy American poor who tried to live above their means, or who are allegedly too lazy to work. With this being the American mindset, you can see why nothing is being done to save the US economy.

We need to stop blaming poor people and minorities for America’s problems. If anyone wants to know what is wrong with our country, the answers are located inside the D.C. Beltway, and they are there in abundance. This country can end or greatly limit unemployment, homelessness, poverty and economic inequality by simply reeducating its population. The Bible says in the Old Testament, “The people perish for a lack of knowledge”, and it’s ever so true even after all the centuries that have gone by. The US is the only remaining developed country that does not do this for its citizens. The same can and should be done today, and I think it should also be a jumping-off point for overhauling or replacing the US public school system.

Take all the long-term unemployed, particularly older workers like I was, and send them back to school for up to two years (four year programs would be available at extra cost using my idea), and allow them to earn the degree, diploma or professional certification of their choice. Do the same for all parolees, as well as all homeless individuals who are judged healthy enough to work – anyone who might otherwise find it nearly impossible to find employment. Should the taxpayers pick up the tab for this? No way, let corporate America be compelled by law to pay for the retraining of these still-valuable US workers! If they can afford to send our jobs overseas for pennies on the dollar, then paying for up to 2 years of school to teach new trades to anyone who wants retraining should similarly only cost them pennies on the dollar relative to their exorbitant annual profits. Moreover, these multinational corporations already engage in enough tax dodging and evasion to pay for all of it!

There is a price to be paid for social and economic injustice, and it’s a steep price too. Human being are driven by, among many other things, a desire for achievement, or to better one’s lot in life. Those who see opportunities to improve themselves or their situation are by nature predisposed to take advantage of that opportunity, whatever it might be. So, when people find themselves being denied opportunities to succeed, along with the rewards that accompany that success, they resent it. It hurts our feelings because it seems as if we are being punished for wanting to better ourselves, as if we have done something wrong. There are those who might say, “This is something that’s beyond my control”. But I continue to maintain that only happens when one capitulates to that ‘something’, whatever it may be. But if we band together and fight the 1% elitists, we have them outnumbered by 99 to 1, and I predict that is exactly what will happen if our new president sells out to Wall Street like he seems to be doing. As the late president Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make a violent revolt inevitable.”

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Less Is More During This Year’s Holidays

Making Do With Less In A Season of Excess

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone as the Christmas holidays approach, it is time for all of us to change our focus from the acquisition of material wealth to that of intangible enrichment, such as our health, well being, peace of mind and contentment. Everywhere we go we find ourselves surrounded by a bombardment of mass media, mass marketing and corporate sponsorship. The average American gets knocked over with endless commercials from the time they get up until they lay back down at night, especially our children. The existence of a near-constant stream of subliminal messaging through the mass media is common knowledge, and all of it is to our detriment! All the while, it costs a fortune to buy anything these days, even groceries! In contrast, I grew up in a 1,200 square feet house that cost $18,000.00 when it was built in 1954. Today we are surrounded – hemmed in is more like it – by opulence and wealth on a magnitude never before seen in the history of human civilization, even to the point that many of us have begun to take it all for granted. It makes me wonder if losing some of this excess wealth might do some of us a lot of good.

Maybe we should begin to ask ourselves some basic questions about our lives and how we are living them, while we’re engaging in fisticuffs for that new microwave-toaster-oven-walk-in-freezer we’ve been saving our pennies for. For example, why would any of us want a newer car when there is probably nothing mechanically wrong with the one we drive now? And why would any of us want a bigger house when the one we are currently living in is fine? The answer in both cases is that American society is, for lack of a better word, programmed to be upwardly mobile. This happens partly due to social pressure on the part of our peers as well as economic pressure from corporate America, with the accompanying least common denominator being pure greed. Our society here in the US, from our current and terrible medical care system to the dangerously overextended banking system, to the well-established debt-based capitalist economic system that keeps us all enslaved, is based on greed for the accumulation of material goods and the hoarding of cash and assets for “investment” or “retirement” purposes, two euphemisms for “I’ve got more than you have”.

Owing to the fact that there are 2.5 billion people, or roughly a third of the earth’s population, who live on less than $2.00 per day, it has been getting clearer to watchful eyes from everywhere that the hoarding of wealth by the developed and established countries is increasingly happening at the expense of other less fortunate third-world countries. The unending influx of economic refugees from Mexico and Central America to the US is only one example of dozens globally. The more recent mass migrations from Syria and Iraq are another. Increasingly larger amounts of money are being hoarded by an ever smaller minority of elitists worldwide. Some people in this group are for the most part engaged in legitimate enterprises, while others are either drug cartels or just flat-out organized criminals. Capitalism’s holy grail, the quest for never-ending profit, has devolved into a monster – composed of endless debt and infinite compounded interest – that is consuming itself, that is unsustainable, and that is therefore ultimately self-destructive. Its impending self-destruction also means that it is harmful to the rest of us when it implodes or otherwise collapses, constituting a real and present threat to us all.

As a result of growing hunger on the part of many of us who are disillusioned with the old school, debt-driven, for-profit business and government, people are beginning to explore other ways of living and to develop new values for a less growth-oriented community. I myself am a part of this movement, having moved from the suburbs to the inner city here in Atlanta where I live, and relying mostly on public transit to get around. Although I’m disabled and don’t own a car any more, the lifestyle changes I have made over the last few years have transformed my life. First of all, I’m no longer stuck in Atlanta traffic, and so I seldom get stressed out over much of anything. The buses and trains go at a gentler pace, and I find this rejuvenating. I leave whenever I feel like it, and come back home the same way. But the most practical part of using public transit is that not owning a vehicle saves me at least $10,000 dollars annually by the time I include insurance and maintenance, and that’s for an entry-level car. It also gives me a very small carbon footprint so I can set a good example for others to follow.

Besides, in Genesis chapter one it says that God created man to “subdue the earth”, which includes caring for it. In that regard, mankind has done an atrocious job of taking care of the planet that God gave us to live on, a planet that God created specifically for us. Mankind has the collective responsibility to care for and nurture this planet we live on! Whenever we pollute our environment, and especially when whole countries threaten one another with nuclear annihilation, we show utter contempt for God’s creations! Those who pollute the earth are spitting in the face of God, and they will be held accountable!! In the interim, one of the best ways to begin to repair the earth’s damaged environment would be to move to the city and rent, sell or park our cars, and take public transit, ride bikes, or walk. In other words, doing this would be a way that we can all honor God. Add to this the fact that walking or bike riding is very good for our health, and we have sufficient motivation to begin working toward this goal. As you have guessed, I do a fair amount of walking myself, and I’m better off because of it!

Others are exploring additional ways to simplify their lifestyles and to get by on less stuff than they were formerly accustomed and still be contented. The Bible tells us “to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil. 4:11). The apostle Paul wrote that he “has learned the secret to be contented” (Phil. 4:12), and that “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1st Tim. 6:6). Many people are opting for smaller, more practical living quarters. One acquaintance of mine from the church I attend and serve as a musician has done something similar to that. When the family car reached the end of its life and they didn’t have enough money to replace it with a newer model, they moved out of their suburban apartment into a dwelling where the bus stop is 100 feet away. It’s a slightly smaller house than where they had been living, but it gave them the added benefit of becoming a closer family — both literally and figuratively. By moving to a smaller house, this family of four was forced to be around each other more often, which they discovered they actually enjoyed. They essentially traded excess space that they really didn’t need for togetherness and inter-connectivity. Everybody should want that deal!

At the heart of this story lies a deeper critique of the American obsession with consumption and the “bigger is better” mantra. Many Americans shun the word “sacrifice,” but studies find that trading stuff for time with people quite often makes us happier, healthier, and more sustainable. I can cite one of my favorite scientific findings: When we act altruistically (volunteer, donate to charity, etc.), we get the same neurological high in our brains that food and sex impart. Being good really does feel good. Welcome to conscious consumption: It’s not just about what we buy (even if it is fair-trade, organic, local), it’s also about being intentional with what we already own and cutting out the excess. On a related note, because of the recent recession, Americans are buying less, but doing more. The Department of Labor, keeping tabs on how people spend their time, found that Americans were cooking at home or participating in “organizational, civic and religious activities” 30% more in 2015 than in 2010.

So what can we do immediately to begin a cooperative movement to begin to rejuvenate the earth? Cook at home more and eat out less. Get involved in politics. Going green in every possible way, up to and including doing without a car? Definitely! Let’s replace our antiquated power grid with one that is low voltage and wireless. Those are some hopeful and meaningful signs of progress toward sustainable, climate-friendly cities in a totally green future. Can my crusade for unconditional equality, and for social and economic equity encourage a bigger shift toward conscious consumption and green living? I certainly hope so.

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Our new president, the Bible, and racism in America

President Trump, Racism in America, and the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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Lately I have received a little negative feedback from some of my Christian readers saying that I should not be trying to blend religion and politics because it causes too much controversy. Interestingly enough, I’m not hearing any of that from my secular readers on this blog, nor on my other one, the 99% Blog (on WordPress.com or Blogspot.com). Same thing goes for my website, if you’re not already there. I have thought about this issue with considerable deliberation, and I have gone back and re-read some of what my Bible has to say about that. I use three different versions to study from, too, just to make sure I get things as close to being right as I can. Let me sum up my conclusion to this issue in just this one sentence: The two primary reasons Jesus was put to death on the cross was because he preached against organized government and organized religion. For what other reason did he say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me”?

You may say to yourself, “That’s all fine, but what does this have to do with mixing religion and politics”? Well, in a way, my above quote covers the religious aspect of this. For a quote from the Bible about the political side of this, with religion blended in, let’s go over to Matthew’s gospel chapter 23, verses 2-4, and I quote: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on man’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Isn’t that what’s been happening today? Religious leaders demand ten percent of people’s incomes so they can afford to buy jet fuel for their planes and remodel their 50,000 square foot mansions. Police officers enforce the law on one hand while shooting unarmed people for committing minor traffic violations with the other. Our governments make the laws and administer our country, state and local governments, yet government corruption is well known, especially at the federal level. Jesus blended religion with politics, and there are many more examples besides this one. If Jesus did it then I as his follower, messenger and ambassador will do the same.

Which brings me to the topic of this week – our newly installed government. One of Donald Trump’s first appointees has been one Steve Bannon, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart.com, a right wing fringe website that can be so radical at times that it makes Alex Jones and Infowars.com look like child’s play. On CNN’s website Saturday morning, they had this to say, “Steve Bannon has no regrets. The ex-Breitbart executive, who serves as Trump’s chief strategist for the new administration, told The Hollywood Reporter that “darkness is good.” “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they (liberals) get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing,” he said in an interview published Friday, his first outside of Breitbart since the election.

Darkness is good? Satan equals power? Just as bad, this man idolizes Darth Vader and regards former vice president Dick Cheney as a role model?? I don’t know about you, but I am deeply concerned about Mr Bannon being in charge of anything in America’s government. What does the Bible say about this, and about people like Steve Bannon (and there’s plenty of them)? “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness instead of the light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done he has done through God.” (John 3: 19-21) Need more proof? You got it, and again I quote: “This is the message we have heard from him that we declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1st John 1: 5-7)

Now, let me tie all this together with one more quote from Scripture, this time from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” (Isaiah 5: 20-21) Although I have the greatest respect for Donald Trump, I have serious misgivings about his choice of Steve Bannon for his Chief of Staff, a man who is apparently quite proud of his ties to the so-called “White Nationalist Movement” and other right-wing extremist groups. The White Nationalists are basically the KKK with a fresh 21st century style makeover, and their political leanings are decidedly Nazi in nature. Many of these people openly admire Adolf Hitler, which tells us everything we need to know about all these people.

Steve Bannon is a demonic racist, pure and simple. Donald Trump knows that, or he certainly should, and evidently that does not bother him. Well, it bothers me a whole lot! The last thing America needs is a throwback to the bad old days of Jim Crow, the John Birch Society and the Ku Klux Klan. President Trump’s nomination of former senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general is nearly as bad. I grant you that Mr. Sessions is no neo-Nazi, but he’s still a redneck from Alabama who has little or no regard for people of color. The Bible has more than a few things to say about racism, and it’s all bad. Let me give you a couple examples: “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded him”. (1st John 2: 9-11)

OK, now that we have seen what the apostle John wrote about hateful people – and especially those who normalize that hatred and who try to make it seem acceptable – let’s see what Jesus himself had to say about it: “But I say if you are angry with someone you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. But if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” (Matt. 5: 22) So what Jesus was saying was these three things:

[1] Whatever level of anger we show towards our brothers and sisters, God will show right back to us.

[2] In whatever way we are abusive towards others whom we perceive to be inferior to ourselves, the ruling authorities will punish us accordingly in the same way, and deservedly so!

[3] When we curse others, we ultimately curse ourselves because the same God created us all in his image and likeness. Showing contempt for God’s creations is equally contemptuous in God’s sight.

In closing, I will confidently predict this one thing – if the new Trump administration starts showing contempt towards or begins to mistreat minorities and people of color, or if any attempt is made to begin massive deportations of undocumented aliens back to their home countries, there is going to be major civil unrest the likes of which have not been seen in over a generation. If fact, these protests will rival, and probably surpass, the antiwar protests of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. So if the new administration doesn’t get its act together and stops staffing our federal government with a bunch of nasty haters, and if the minimum wage is not raised substantially, there may well be political unrest all across the country soon. People are hungry and thirsty for change, and they’re all tired of government corruption and ineptitude! The main positive thing I can truly say about the incoming Trump administration is his pledge to normalize US-Russian relations, a process that has already begun. As a result, America and Russia are both breathing a sigh of relief, and I suspect the Lord is too. But there must not be even the appearance of racism and favoritism in our incoming presidential administration, or president Trump will have to answer to the people for it!

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Did America just avoid disaster? Only time will tell.

Did We Just Avert World War Three?

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

endless war

With the 2016 election new receding into America’s and the world’s rear view mirror, I find myself taking stock of the current political situation so I can get my bearings straight. We have just been through a tumultuous election that has changed the course of the entire globe. Two things remain certain – Donald Trump shocked everybody when he won the presidential election, and like him or not, he is determined to change the course of America. And, a change of course is not only what America needed, it has been long overdue. Having said that, let me quickly add that I was no Trump supporter. I was initially for Bernie Sanders, and when that didn’t pan out, I ended up casting a protest vote for Trump. I was going to vote for Jill Stein, but she wasn’t on the ballot here in Georgia. As far as I was concerned, she was the only remaining choice, and that’s all I care to say about that. Debating who should have won the election is not this week’s topic.

Although Barack Obama got a lot of good things accomplished during his 8 years in office, there were three things he did that I didn’t like. The first was ‘Obama-care’. It was not necessary to reinvent health care in America in order to have national health insurance. All we have to do is put the whole country on Medicare. Then let’s take every citizen on Medicaid, Obama-care and VA Health Care and roll them over into Medicare. Once that is completed, we should simply defund all three of the latter, saving the country a total of about $3.5 trillion annually, give or take. Last but not least, as a budget-cutting measure, the people working in those bureaucracies will, for the most part, have to be let go. When all those government workers object to that, and they surely will, let’s remind them that when they stand back and allow corporate America to export all the good middle class jobs overseas, they ultimately eliminate their own jobs.

The second thing president Obama did that I didn’t like was his treatment of, and his relationship with, Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Obama treated Putin like they were still on the streets of Chicago, like a feud between gang leaders. Sorry to have to point this out to all the Obama fans, but it looks to me like Vladimir Putin is pretty much out of Obama’s league. US troops on the ground in Syria, a ring of US military bases in eastern Europe near Russia’s western border, adding US missile bases in Poland and Romania, and US naval incursions in the Baltic sea and elsewhere, are not the way to improve relations between America and Russia! This is one of the ways president Obama has taken the world closer to a world war. President-elect Trump has stated that he will renew and reinvigorate US relations with Russia. I am nervously watching to see if Donald Trump follows through on that promise. I sure hope he does.

The third thing I disliked about the Obama administration was his open dislike for Israel. By handling US-Israeli relations as poorly as he did, he isolates Israel, which is God’s chosen land and people. This will undoubtedly escalate tensions in the Middle East that can result in World War Three as prophesied about in the Bible (see Revelation chapter 18, Jeremiah chapter 51 and other places for the actual prophecies). This has been reckless conduct on his part, which could tarnish his legacy as president after he leaves office. Only time will tell, but on these points, president Obama’s apparent attempts to intimidate Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu have blown up in his face at the end of his presidency. As before, this could diminish his legacy as president after he leaves office.

But at the end of the day, America has elected an outsider, a troubleshooter from the business world and a successful businessman in his own right, to start running things in Washington. Being out of the political mainstream gives Donald Trump and America an opportunity for passing some badly needed reforms, a chance to reboot the country, and to do something about our economy, which is not in nearly as good a shape as the media portrays it. Barack Obama promised us “change you can believe in”. We got change all right, but not like the American people envisioned at all. Hopefully Donald Trump will take the opportunity God has given him to institute some real change for the better.

What kind of real change, you may ask? Trump has already named a few things that sound promising. Replacing Obama-care while keeping some of the best parts, congressional term limits, tight new regulations for the lobbyist ‘industry’ in Washington, vastly improved relations between Russia and America, ditto for Israel, labeling Red China a “currency manipulator”, and many others. By doing all these things, president Trump seems to be getting his new administration off on the right foot. But if he does this correctly, he can avert an all-out war between the US and Russia, which would be disastrous for the entire world. It’s not hard to see why. If the US and Russia were to go to war, Red China would come in on Russia’s side. That’s because China and Russia signed a mutual defense and trade treaty just last year in the summer of 2015. If Russia and China were to attack the US simultaneously, America’s survival would be in doubt. The only thing for certain in that case would be the world’s population being cut just about in half, and the same goes for all the wildlife.

If Trump succeeds in normalizing relations with Russia like he has stated, he can reverse the course America is on with respect to its relations with Russia. He can turn Vladimir Putin from a suspicious rival into a friend and trading partner. In so doing, he would largely negate the threat Red China poses to America. In short, he would avert what was shaping up to be world war three. He could transform himself from a brash capitalist to a peacemaker. Jesus talked about that in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the ‘sons of God’.” (Matt. 5: 7) Let’s hope these words from our Lord and Savior can be fulfilled in a Trump presidency.

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Our country treats us like crap. Everybody knows that, but here’s where I get down to details.

Seven Grievous Sins America’s Leaders Commit Against Their Own People, and What the Bible Says About That

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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As the 2016 presidential race mercifully winds down, they are some things that need to be said about those in charge, and why every incumbent candidate or political party deserves to be voted out of office. The US is in such a state of disarray as I write this that we, the voters, need to start all over again on a clean sheet of paper. I can think of lots of things I’d like to see happen. Get the corporate and lobbyist money out of politics and outlaw the greed by overturning Citizens United and imposing Congressional term limits. Call off all the endless wars, close the bases and bring our troops home. The American people will soon need them to protect us from the government anyway. Cut the need for welfare and food assistance programs by doubling the minimum wage to a realistic level and offering free higher education without qualification. Offer low cost single payer health care by putting the whole country on Medicare, including those on Medicaid and Obama-care, and then abolish the latter two. It’s really not difficult to figure out what’s needed, all that’s required is some implementation on the part of Congress and our incoming president. If, that is, these crooks would get out of the office of their ‘lobbyist dujour‘ long enough to go to the House or Senate floor and vote on something once in a while!

I have assembled a list of every gut-wrenching, visceral injustice currently being committed by the very people that have been entrusted with the responsible and prudent leadership of what used to be the greatest country in the world, the USA., with a few interjections along the way from the Word of God regarding these matters. It has been my observation for some time now that the underpaid US workers that do have jobs, combined with the unemployed and sometimes even homeless American population, none of whom are able to find any work at all, are a ticking time bomb hidden in plain sight across America. The following is a listing of the abuses being heaped upon us, when in fact we deserve no such thing! The list doesn’t include our most grievous offenses, those of military and economic warfare against the rest of the world. Sinful enough is our own behavior at home because too many people aren’t holding their legislators – and the president – accountable enough. Let’s go over a few examples:

1. Sins against children

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for them to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves’.” (Luke 17: 1-3) Perhaps “sanctity of life” ends at birth. According to Census Bureau figures, one out of every five American children lives in poverty. For blacks and Hispanics, it’s one out of every three. UNICEF has reported that the U.S. has a higher child poverty rate than every industrialized country except Romania. We are near the bottom in all measures of inequality that affect our children, including material well-being, health, and education. One more fact before I move on: 1 out of every 4 American school children will rely on food stamps at some point while they’re growing up for their sustenance and nutrition. In communities of color, this figure jumps to a truly shocking – and outrageous – 1 out of 2.

2. Sins against the poor

Now listen, all you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days! Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have flattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you.” (James 5: 1-6) The U.S. poverty rate grew from 11.3% to 15.0%, a 30% jump, in just the last 11 years. The impact was felt primarily by minorities and women. The median wealth for single black and Hispanic women is shockingly low, at just over $1000.00 (compared to $41,500 for single white women). Even more shocking – For every dollar of non-home wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent. Despite the continued economic assault on already-poor Americans, the number of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cases has dropped by 60 percent over the last 16 years.

3. Sins against students

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6: 4) Students at all levels have been losing their nation’s support. States reduced their education budgets by $12.7 billion in 2012, and here in 2016 the majority of states will be cutting spending even more. At higher educational levels, Americans are paying much more than students in other countries. Only 38% of college expenses come from public funding, compared to 70% in other wealthier “first world” countries. While other nations continue to offer free tuition, with the recognition that education leads to long-term prosperity, the U.S. system has become more incorporated, to the point that expensive programs like nursing, engineering, and computer science have been eliminated to cut costs. The profit motive has blocked the path to academic excellence. But the worst part of America’s treatment of its students has been the greed-driven debacle of over $1 trillion in predatory student loan debts, much of which can never be repaid. The same graduates who are obligated to repay those debts are the ones who can’t find jobs, or who wind up working at jobs for which they are grossly overqualified. When you enrage a nation’s youth, the seeds of insurrection have already been sown. All it will take is one good storm to make those seeds sprout, and the 2nd American Revolution will be underway. And yes, it is coming, you can be sure of that.

4. Sins against the middle class

Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, for the cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” (Exodus 20: 21-27) The middle class, to say the least, is shrinking. In fact, America’s middle class is slowly being liquidated. In 2011, according to a Pew Research analysis, 51% of the nation’s households earned from two-thirds to double the national median income. In the 1970s it was 61%. One-quarter of America’s workers are now making less than $22,000 a year, the poverty line for a family of four as of 2012. Thirty million Americans are making between $7.25 (minimum wage) and $10.00 per hour. With the transition of middle-class workers to low-income status, entrepreneurship is disappearing. Innovation doesn’t come from the upper class. A recent study found that less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs came from very rich or very poor backgrounds. Small business creators come from the hard-working, risk-taking, nothing-to-lose middle of America, but their entrepreneurial numbers are down – over 50% since 1977.

5. Sins against the common good

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1st Peter 2: 9-10) A recent Tax Justice Network report placed total hidden offshore assets at somewhere between $21 trillion and $32 trillion. With about 40% of the world’s most mega-rich individuals in the U.S., up to $12.8 trillion of untaxed revenue sits overseas. Based on a historical 6% rate of return, this is a tax loss of up to $300 billion per year, money that should be paying for the public needs of education and infrastructure. Tax avoidance is so appealing that 1,700 Americans renounced their citizenship last year. The American Thinker Blog argued that “the U.S. tax code is so oppressive that smart and successful people are compelled to renounce their citizenship in order to keep more of their own hard-earned wages.” Hard-earned, in truth, by the thousands of contributors to their financial success.

6. Sins against nature

Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell among the Israelites.” (Numbers 35: 33-34) Has it ever occurred to anyone that God lives on the land he creates? What we’re doing to the land, the water and the air, we do to God. A number of studies show that investment in renewable energy will create many more jobs than the fossil fuel industry. And the investment will certainly pay off over the coming decades. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory analysis determined that “renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today… are more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050.” But now the prospect of cheap natural gas is leading us back to a dirty form of energy independence, with a continuing reliance on fossil fuels, and on the “fracking” technology that despoils our land and pollutes our water and air. The national commitment and political will needed for the long-term health of our nation is more elusive than ever.

7. Sins against common sense

Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud: To you, oh men, I cry out. I raise my voice to all mankind; you who are simple, gain prudence, you who are foolish, gain understanding. Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. To the discerning, all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge. Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge more than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” (Proverbs 8: 1-11) The economic deception began, at least in the modern age, with Milton Friedman, who said “The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people… He moves fastest who moves alone.” This unflagging adherence to egocentric free enterprise individualism is consistent with Social Darwinism, the belief that survival of the fittest (richest) will somehow benefit society, and that the millions of people suffering from financial malfeasance are simply lacking the motivation to help themselves. Social Darwinism is a feel-good delusion for those at the top. Or, as described by John Kenneth Galbraith, a continuing “search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” A mainstay of the Progressive Movement is that a strong society will create opportunities for a greater number of people, thereby leading to more instances of individual success. This is the common sense attitude that has been suppressed by conservatives for over 30 years. I’m hoping this election year will change that paradigm. But if not, open revolt will be the American people’s only remaining option.

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This just arrived at the White House and every church in America, all at once…..

If God Sent An Email To Our Leaders

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

food-not-war

Given the state of affairs of leadership in general throughout the world, and particularly here in the US with the current crop of Christian “leaders” such as Sarah Pailin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckaby and Michelle Bachman, I can’t help but wonder what God must be thinking about all this. As you recall, Mr. Romney stated during the closing days of his 2012 presidential campaign that, if elected president, his first act as chief executive would be to launch an airstrike on Iran. Keep in mind that this is the same guy who is opposed to abortion and who calls himself “pro-life”. He fights for the rights of the unborn, but if you’re already alive and living in Iran, you’re toast. Go figure.

Of course, if you live in Syria, where the government is slaughtering the governed and where there is no oil, you’re on your own. Yet in Iraq, where there is plenty of oil, we have occupied that country since 2003 while killing over 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians, over half of whom were women and children. But that war was supposed to be different because we toppled a terrible dictator. Never mind that that same dictator, none other than Saddam Hussein himself, was a former CIA collaborator and “asset”. So much for loyalty among allies. Yes, that’s what our country has been doing in the Middle East since Gulf War 1 in 1990-91. And it is the American military-industrial-incarceration complex that has been doing this same thing throughout the globe since the Cold War of the 20th century.

Meanwhile here at home, one person in five depends on SNAP benefits to eat. Lots of people can’t afford medical care or insurance so they show up at emergency rooms, only when they absolutely have to, knowing that the medical bills they are about to incur will bankrupt them. Twenty four million Americans can’t find sufficient work (if any), but since they can’t afford to go back to school and get retrained because of the staggering cost of America’s for-profit higher education system, they remain stuck in their situation with no relief in sight. As I wrote in my first book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” (scroll down after clicking the link), our country has more than enough money to pay for lifetime medical care and higher education for every single American who wants either or both. All they have to do is call off all the endless wars and bring our troops home.

As I explained in this 2011 book, if the US government took all the money that is spent in just one day on the wars/occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan and put it into an interest-bearing bank account, there would be ample funding for 4-year college educations for every school kid in America from pre-K through high school, including tuition, books, housing, food and transportation. Internet too. Yeah, just one day’s war expenditures would do that. Besides, there is sufficient legal precedent in doing this very thing in the form of the GI Bill that was passed by Congress after the end of World War 2. If they could reeducate G.I.’s back then (and that law remains in effect), they can do it for everybody now.

But what do we have instead? Overseas military adventures purely for the sake of economic domination by the US against any country regardless of cost. This is not just unsustainable, it is sheer madness! Our government has been taken over by a bunch of psychopaths. They operate from behind the scenes bent on world conquest at any cost, failing to understand that the “superpower” era is over, and they are an integral part of the so-called “new world order”. Unless they are stopped they will take the world over the brink of the abyss of World War 3. Yet these people are, by and large, religious conservatives of one church denomination or another. Their counterparts in the Muslim world are similarly conservative religious fundamentalists. Only their names for God are different. Yet, as far as I am concerned, there is only one true God who is undoubtedly far greater than the sum of all the world’s different religious faiths combined. If this very same almighty God, who is “The Great I Am”, sent us an email about all this mess down here on earth, I think it would be worded something like this:

“My children, I appear before you now to bestow upon you a supplemental to the New Testament. I offer this directly to the peoples of earth, without intermediary, cleric, or agent of any kind. Circumstances have compelled me to sever all ties, contracts and assignments with my earthly representatives. I have been, in fact, very dissatisfied with their performance of their duties for some time. Children get molested in some churches, adultery runs rampant in others, while still others have turned their churches into businesses and have enriched themselves with material possessions beyond all reason. You pastors and evangelists who drive around in cars with six-figure price tags while flying around in your own jets, you know who you are. There’s nothing wrong with having a nice car and a comfortable house, but a good bit of that plane money should have been used to feed the poor and house the homeless, whom you are ignoring. But the rape of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and other crimes committed in my name by the USA, not counting the additional war plans they have made, has forced my hand. All my earthly representatives are now terminated! They no longer speak for me.”

“Humankind, however, remains in my affections and always shall. But it would be remiss of me not to explain why I have taken such drastic measures. War displeases me. Five thousand years of war among the humans over the right way to pronounce my name, not to mention the earth’s resources which I gave you, has exhausted my patience. I will no longer be responsible for any more murders committed under color of my authority. Although I do not require that you worship me in any certain way, I much prefer that you who claim to believe in me should put some legs on your faith. It’s good when you fast and pray, but it’s far better to go and find someone in need and doing whatever you can to help him or her.”

“Someone who goes to church every Sunday but does nothing more during the week is not as faithful in my eyes as someone who donates to charity, who volunteers their free time, who is a role model for the fatherless, or who visits the sick, the elderly and the prisoner, and someone who is a defender of the widow, the orphan, the homeless, the mentally ill, and other vulnerable individuals. I created you with a divine spark, in my image. But you persist in snuffing out that spark and destroying that image in those who don’t agree with you about whether or not it is permitted to draw my face. Until you prove you can worship the divine spark I put in all of you, and desist from the mayhem and slaughter that you love more than me, I will summarily reject and disallow all your claims to my providence.”

“You have banded yourselves into tribes, nations and races and the results have not been pleasing to my eye. I take some responsibility for this distressing development; I should not have given you an earth so large. But had I started with a smaller Eden, you would have corrupted and polluted it until it became uninhabitable millenia ago. You have proven your refusal to understand the panoply of laws and wisdom I laid down for you when I set you upon the earth. I have been mistranslated by your spirit guides and abused by your leaders. Perhaps I was too complex. Let us try to simplify. Respect my creation and all the inhabitants thereof. Any so-called religious leader who tells you otherwise is a false prophet and does not represent me, my brethren or any part of my Kingdom which is to surely come.”

“Those of you who find comfort in organized religion may continue to do so. I understand – I created you as vessels for love and love rejoices in the presence of others. Keep your churches, mosques and synagogues, but cease your bickering. And remember, when you engage in bloodletting in My name, you commit blasphemy. I realize that in severing my ties with so many of the sects, denominations and “holy men” that you rely upon for moral guidance, I have created confusion where there was once certainty in your souls. But that cannot be helped. Your certainties were almost certainly wrong and most certainly misapplied.”

“But do not despair, my children, for I have not abandoned you. There is a little piece of me inside all of you, a fail-safe guide to good and evil, a moral compass that never leaves you, a true voice you can hear amid the storms of fire that drive you mad with hatred and confusion. It is called your conscience and it always points upward. Follow it and you will be walking in my light. Ignore it and you’ll be lost in the darkness cast by your own shadow. Here is your New, New Testament, starting with Commandment One:”

I have given you a conscience. Use it.”

Sort that out to my satisfaction and maybe next millennium we can talk about the dietary laws.”

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Fighting back against the powers that have enslaved us

Ways to Fight Back Against an Evil and Dangerous World

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

money_2_help

America’s electoral process plows ahead towards what could turn out to be a Constitutional meltdown, although I sure hope not. Meanwhile, ever greater numbers of our senior citizens live into their 100’s while mired in poverty. The horrific specter of terrorism rears its ugly head as it spreads globally, threatening everything in its path over, ironically, religious differences. One priest/minister saves lepers and drives out demons, another abuses kids. One Nazi ran the ovens while others hid Jews. There’s life and death, positive and negative, good and bad in all kinds of folks, even the ‘bad’ ones. And when we marvel at those contradictions we have a ready explanation. There’s good and bad everywhere, in all races, nations, societies. We have yet to bridge our differences in race or culture or nationality or faith, but at least we can all agree on that simple truth while we continue to work on all the others.

We live in a 21st century of instant communication, jumbo jets, knowledge and computing power that grow exponentially, and everything on social media all the time. Nations are beginning to blur; races, ethnicities and various nationalities are mixing, our globe has shrunk to an overheated marble, yet the world seems more fractured than ever. So much divides us while so much more scares us half to death, like the ever-present threat of nuclear war, or a sudden and unexpected job layoff. What unites us? Religion? It could, but having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is much better, because it can unite us all when put into practice, as it is written, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2nd Timothy chapter 2, verses 11-13) Meaning that Jesus Christ, as always, is and has the answers we are all searching for. The maximum number of true Gods is only one. Yet we’ve been waging wars for millennia over what to call him and whether he likes his picture shown or not. But while religions, unfortunately, can’t agree on the real nature of God, they’re remarkably close on people. There is near universal agreement on what makes a good one.

Be kind to people, treat your neighbors well, be hospitable to strangers, pray for your enemies instead of attacking them, love one another, live honestly, and a dozen other virtues seem to comprise the teachings of Jesus. Its a definition of being as close to ‘the perfect human’ as we can possibly be. All societies agree on them without exception. It’s as plain as daytime in the Bible, starting with the four gospels. Humankind has been speaking these words since the first philosopher carved cuneiform into clay.

We must have an instinctive sense of goodness taught by our parents, teachers, pastors and all others who chip in to get the next generation on the right path in life. Goodness is not born into us. The Bible reprimands us that, “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans 3: 22-23). Rather than saying we are all sinners, which is still ever so true, let me put this in a more modern context. We – every last one of us, all of humanity, myself included – are born with a natural enmity towards our Creator. We are like disobedient children, wild horses that cannot be broken in, or dogs that cannot be trained. Not all of us are particularly grateful for being alive, some simply presume they’re supposed to be here.

Moreover, since God made us all with a free will, we are prone to abuse it without considering the consequences first. Many of us have no relationship with God at all, for various reasons that I will decline to judge, at least for now. That’s what “sinful nature” means. We also agree on what makes a bad person: The manipulator, the cheater, the bully, the taker, the liar, the murderer and the thief. We know who we are. The vast majority of us try not to hurt people. We try not to cheat, lie and steal and we’re ashamed of ourselves when life drives us to those ends, or when things don’t go according to plan. We profess peace on earth and goodwill towards men, yet we Americans in particular look the other way while the USDoD continues to stockpile nuclear weapons. And for ten thousand years we’ve let the bad people push us around and tell us what to do and whom to do it to. We’ve let them dominate us because they were mean and ruthless enough to force us, and we were too soft or lazy to stop them until they did terrible damage. We should not ever hesitate to stop evil people.

Bad people are very hard to ignore. You can’t avoid a bad person if he or she happens to be your boss at work. And that happens a lot, because bad people seem disproportionately to occupy corner offices and seats on the Board of Directors. They know how to play the cynical, cold hearted game of office politics. That can be rough on you if you work with them. But the worst people also know how to play the high-stakes game of real politics, and that’s rough on everybody. Bad people hate, and they convince ordinary good people to hate the same things. Oh sure, there are always a few saints who rise above the evil that bad people do, and they usually die for it. We know about them posthumously from the Bible (Christ’s crucifixion, the story of Stephen in Acts 6, 7 & 8, etc.), the King and Kennedy assassinations of the 1960’s, stories about 9/11, and books about the Holocaust.

But those aren’t good people, they’re great people, and we can’t count on them because they don’t come along every day. But there are always plain old good people around, because there’s good and bad in all kinds. To borrow a truism, the only reason bad people succeed is because good people stand by and do nothing. And so this is a call to arms for good people everywhere! We have to stop following the bad people immediately! Without us, bad people lose their power, bad governments lose their legitimacy, ditto for these huge corporations that pollute the earth and poison our food and water. Does anyone reading this who believes in a Higher Power seriously believe that God has not seen all this? Is there anyone remaining who does not understand that God is sitting back waiting for just the right time, just the right set of circumstances and for the worst possible moment to unleash the fury he has stored up for those who know only violence, death and cruelty??

Good people everywhere, I’m speaking to every one of you. We need to go on strike against the world! Let’s tell the bullies and haters they no longer exist as far as we’re concerned. Let’s tell the warmongers we refuse to go to foreign lands and fight their wars, because we don’t want to have to kill any more people for the benefit of a few. Let’s laugh at the conspiracies of their ‘intelligence communities’, reject the twisted right wing-nut theories of “American exceptional-ism”, and refuse to be provoked by the aggression of small minorities. Let’s tell them we won’t play their deadly games anymore! Let’s tell them it’s over! We’re not going to buy their stuff any more, either!Let’s tell all the capitalists where they can go with all their junky merchandise, and exactly how to get there! Maybe we can give them an island where they can fight it out to their black hearts’ content. Greenland comes to mind, so does Antarctica. Maybe they’ll all just kill each other off there, on the island of the damned. Maybe then, and only then, the rest of us can finally have some peace and quiet.

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Are Russia and the USA Headed For Disaster?

The Confrontation Between Russia and the US Found In the Bible, and the Outcome Doesn’t Look Very Good For America

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

threat_from_washington

I’m quite sure everyone is well aware by now of the rising tensions between Russia and the United States over Syria, the Ukraine, and the Crimean peninsula. Although the roots of US-Russo tension go back to the late 1940’s, let me give a brief history of events between the two countries over the last 7 years or so. In March 2007, the U.S. announced plans to build an anti-ballistic missile defense installation in Poland along with a radar station in the Czech Republic. U.S. officials said that the system was intended to protect the United States and Europe from possible nuclear missile attacks by Iran or North Korea. Russia, however, viewed the new system as a potential threat. Vladimir Putin warned the U.S. that these new tensions could turn Europe into a “powder keg“. On 3 June 2007, Putin warned that if the U.S. built the missile defense system, Russia would consider targeting missiles at Poland and the Czech Republic. On 16 October 2007, Vladimir Putin visited Iran to discuss Russia’s aid to Iran’s nuclear power program and “insisted that the use of force was unacceptable.” Despite U.S.-Russia relations becoming strained during the Bush administration, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama struck a warm tone at the 2009 G20 summit in London and released a joint statement that promised a “fresh start” in U.S.-Russia relations.

In May 2012, Russian General Nikolay Yegorovich Makarov said that there is a possibility of a preemptive strike on missile defense sites in Eastern Europe, to apply pressure to the United States regarding Russia’s demands. In July 2012, two Tu-95 Bear bombers were intercepted by NORAD fighters in the air defense zone off the U.S. coast of Alaska, where they may have been practicing the targeting of Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base. Later in August 2012, it was revealed that an Akula-class submarine had conducted a patrol within the Gulf of Mexico without being detected, raising alarms of the U.S. Navy’s anti-submarine warfare capabilities. Following the collapse of the government of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine, in March 2014 Russia annexed Crimea on the basis of a controversial referendum. The U.S. submitted a UN Security Council resolution declaring the referendum to be illegal; it was vetoed by Russia on March 15 that same year; China abstained and the other 13 Security Council members voted for the resolution. As unrest spread into eastern Ukraine in the spring of 2014, relations between the U.S. and Russia worsened. Russian support for separatists fighting Ukrainian forces attracted U.S. sanctions. After one bout of sanctions announced by President Obama on July 16, 2014, Putin said sanctions were driving Russia into a corner that could bring relations between the two countries to a “dead-end”.

From March 2014 to 2016, six rounds of sanctions were imposed by the US, the EU, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Japan. Due to the situation concerning Ukraine, relations between the United States and Russia are at their worst since the end of the Cold war. In early October 2015, U.S. president Obama called the way Russia was conducting its military campaign in Syria a “recipe for disaster”; top U.S. military officials ruled out military cooperation with Russia in Syria. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and other senior U.S. officials said Russia’s campaign was primarily aimed at propping up Assad, whom U.S. president Barack Obama had repeatedly called upon to leave power. Since then there have been incidents where Russian aircraft have flown by, and narrowly missed, US Navy ships patrolling in the North Sea and the Caspian Sea. Russian military aircraft have been intercepted off the Alaskan and California coasts while they were probing Us military defenses. As tensions continue to rise between these two countries, the risk of a nuclear exchange greatly increases. Being a resident of a large metropolitan area, my only consolation in the event of a nuclear attack would be that my death would likely be instantaneous.

These worrisome trends can be found in the Bible in a number of places. Since much has been written and discussed about the Book of Revelation, with some of the teaching being very good and some not so much, I will bypass that for now. Today, I want to compare what is written in the Book of Jeremiah chapter 51 with current events, and I find some alarming similarities. For example, verses 6-9 read as follows: “Flee from Babylon! Run for your lives! Do not be destroyed because of her sins. It is time for the Lord’s vengeance; he will repay her what she deserves. Babylon was a gold cup in the Lord’s hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore they have now gone mad. Babylon will fall and be broken. Wail over her! Get balm for her pain; perhaps she can be healed. We would have healed Babylon, but she cannot be healed; let us leave her and each go to his own land, for her judgment reaches to the skies, it rises as high as the clouds.”

Babylon? What was the prophet Jeremiah writing about here? One thing for sure – it wasn’t the ancient Babylonian Empire, which had conquered ancient Israel by the time this was written. Although there are a number of places in the Bible that can be cross-referenced with this, one of the most extensive is in Revelation chapter 18. To sum it up, “mystery Babylon”, as it is called there, turns out to be the USA (please see http://wp.me/p4uvMi-ep for a fully detailed commentary, it’s just a 5-minute read). So when Jeremiah wrote that we should flee for our lives, it wasn’t just a suggestion. He was imploring all to whom this prophecy applied to get the heck out of there. A lot of Americans – thousands each month, both Christian and secular – have been going to live in other countries for quite some time now, and they are leaving in increasing numbers. Many of them say they made the decision to leave after reading Jeremiah 51. “Do not be destroyed because of her sins. It is time for the Lord’s vengeance; he will repay her what she deserves.” What sins was Jeremiah writing about here? Where should I start, I wonder? Polluting the earth would be one. The nations of the world, with China being the worst offender and America following close behind, have poisoned earth’s land and waters to the point that huge masses of animals are dying off all at once. More people suffer respiratory ailments, from asthma to lung cancer, due to air pollution than die each year from cigarette smoking!

Oppression would be another sin. According to Wikipedia, the US is currently involved in 75 conflicts all over the world. These wars of various types are all being fought over natural resources for the exclusive benefit of the American Empire and the super-rich elites who control it, to the complete detriment of everyone else. This American oppression continues unabated here at home too – just ask any person of color or other minorities and you’ll likely get an earful. The other, and biggest, sin is the eviction of God and Jesus Christ from our governments and our schools. If there are those who want “freedom from religion” as they call it, then that is entirely their affair. I will respect their beliefs so long as they respect mine and that of other Christian folks, that’s what the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution is there for. To prevent school-age kids from being taught about any theological subjects is a different matter altogether. That’s not what our Constitution says at all, and humankind has offended God in this regard whether they realize it or not! “…she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore they have now gone mad.” I don’t think Jeremiah was talking about alcoholic beverages here, I think he was referring to excessive wealth and profit – materialism, if you like – resulting from the US being the economic and military center of the world. After all, riches, fame and fortune can all be intoxicating as well, and even more so.

Babylon will fall and be broken… We would have healed Babylon, but she cannot be healed; … her judgment reaches to the skies, it rises as high as the clouds.” This could not be more clear. Other nations would have helped us out when America falls, but there will be nothing anyone can do. “Her judgment… rises as high as the clouds”. To me at least, this sure looks like Jeremiah was describing a large mushroom cloud from an atomic blast. As I said in the beginning, this looks very much like it’s not going to end well for the US. How far into the future this prophecy is, no one can say for sure. The rest of chapter 51 is equally inflammatory towards “Babylon”. Let me quote one more time from further down in this same chapter: “You who live by many waters and who are rich in treasures, your end has come, the time for you to be cut off. The Lord Almighty has sworn by himself: I will surely fill you with men, as with a swarm of locusts, and they will shout in triumph over you.” (Jeremiah 51: 13-14) “you who live by many waters” is an unmistakable reference to the USA. What other country is besides many waters (having two coasts) and rich in treasure? “To be cut off” means being cut down or pruned decisively, When written in reference to a country, people or nation it means military defeat. So this is unmistakable! We better start praying for America, that we would be spared her fate! We had better start praying for world peace as well, meaning the return of Jesus Christ, because without him there can be no peace. In the meantime, I’m considering applying for a passport, but I will still be praying while I wait for it to arrive.

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Thoughts on World Mental Health Week

mental health, it turns out, is everybody’s problem because it’s a part of living….

Asexuality in A Sexual World

This week is World Mental Health Week. LGBTQ+ issues and mental health are often tightly linked, considering that LGBT people (especially youth) are, according to mental health advocasy group, Beyond Blue, data showed that 36.2% of trans people and 24.4% of lesbian, gay or bisexual people:

met the  criteria for experiencing major depressive episodes.

Trans women under 30have the highest rate of mental health issues (59.3%).

Gays and lesbians had also been found to have significantly higher rates of anxiety (31% vs 14%sexual people also report having higher incidents of mental health issues at similar rates of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

One of the issues that are faced by asexual people is erasure – a lack of knowledge – or more likely – acceptance that people can be – and are – asexual. This is slowly, slowly changing, with a number of media outlets over the years doipng…

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The Human Catastrophe Called Aleppo

Weeping For Aleppo

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

thou_shalt_not_kill

The Syrian Civil War has been raging for five years now. It is, to say the least, a multifaceted conflict. Aleppo is the capitol city of Syria, with roughly the same population as Houston, Texas. One of the primary reasons it’s in the news a lot is because the rebel-held, eastern part is one of the hardest-hit areas of the war. We’re talking airstrikes and food, water and supply shortages affecting hundreds of thousands of people. There are a thousand reasons why you may not care about Aleppo. The question is, what’s the one reason why you would? Things that happen far away, to people we have never known from areas of the world we have no connection to, don’t hit us as hard as whatever is happening at home. So if you don’t particularly care about the Syrian civil war, or the crisis it’s created in places like the city of Aleppo, I think it’s high time you did. Even as you read this, the world is watching the exploding humanitarian catastrophe known as the Syrian civil war unfold in real time. But this disaster should surprise no one: It is the natural result of a series of policy decisions that led to the current diplomatic standoff. Step by step, the very nature of humanitarian access and relief has almost been redefined in Syria.

The Syrian civil war has laid bare a great deal, including the world’s unwillingness to intervene to stop civilians from being killed in their beds and on their streets, in a conflict that has pinned them down in their homes. Every time those close to the war think things have sunk as barbarically low as imaginable – from bombing convoys to starving towns – things get even worse. For many of those in the US government who have worked on Syria policy for years, the overwhelming sense of frustration has made the bloodshed nearly impossible to watch, in part because of its predictability. Grief-stricken families embracing in the rubble of what used to be their home – a home like any other, and probably similar to yours. Mothers and fathers crouching over their dead children as they sob uncontrollably together. A father and son, crushed in place under the wreckage of another airstrike. And these aren’t even among the most iconic images. This is every hour, every day. That’s five elementary school classrooms gone in a matter of days. That’s more children than you likely know by name. That’s only one week of fighting. When we say trapped, we mean Aleppo’s citizens literally cannot leave. Roads out of parts of the city are under constant attack. That doesn’t only mean people can’t leave, it means things can’t get in; things like food, water, medicine and fuel.

Take Houston off the map. Yes, the whole darn city. Or Atlanta, or Miami and then some. Do you live in Lansing, Michigan? Destroy it – four times over. That’s the number of people who have been killed in five years of fighting in Syria. It’s easy to think that, if things were really that bad, someone would surely be doing something about it. That’s the whole point. The world is trying and failing. The US can’t decide whether to authorize military action against the Syrian regime. Ceasefires designed to help bring aid to people trapped in war-torn areas only last a matter of days. The biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II drags on. The ghosts of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars still looms large in Washington, but the question is, what lessons has it offered? Without question the conflict has prevented the Obama administration from committing sustained resources to stopping the carnage. Officials in Washington who for years argued for greater intervention could never prove that further American action would make things on the ground in Syria better, not worse. And so the status quo prevailed. And that status quo was to do little to address the conflict’s root causes, but a great deal to fund help for refugees who were suffering the war’s effects. Meanwhile, the carnage has continued.

The United Nations once spoke of a responsibility to protect and defend. In 2009 it said that in the face of war crimes, when a state was miserably failing to protect its population, then the international community was prepared to take collective action in a “timely and decisive manner.” Yet there is nothing either timely or decisive about the world’s approach to Syria, which has become the theater in which global and regional actors pursue their own goals, with Syrian mothers and fathers trapped in cities under attack paying the price. But this piece is not about dueling political aims; it is about the shared misery of those on the ground and an international community that has failed them. What is life in Aleppo like now? Bombing in plain sight. Hospitals crushed under the weight of the injured and the dying. Food and water supplies dwindling. Medical supplies limited to almost nothing, leaving anesthesia near nonexistent and babies dying without functioning ventilators on the dirty floors of the few overwhelmed facilities that remain standing. And all of it is happening in real time as the city’s life and death is captured on social media and shared with the world. And yet the world seems to have stopped watching. And the international community is now shown to be impotent in the face of what the British ambassador to the United Nations termed “war crimes.”

That has been the pattern for years, only now the death toll is growing even higher and the “barbarism,” to quote Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, has grown more bold. For those on the ground in Aleppo and other areas under siege, it is clear that no one is prepared to stop the carnage everyone can see and many had predicted. The pictures may be on phones and screens within easy reach, but a solution to ending the bloodshed remains much further away. We don’t want to lose hope, but in the end if you look at the situation it seems hopeless, that we can’t do anything, so the world is just watching. People keep on dying and the situation continues to get worse and worse, with no end in sight, and no plan to help those children in Aleppo from facing death the next time they go outside to play on their streets. From the very beginning of this on-line ministry, this blog, and this website, I have vigorously opposed and vehemently stood against warfare in all its forms. There is no ideology that can justify mass murder, no economic or governmental policy that justifies terrorizing an entire populace, and at the end of the day that’s what warfare is! What’s all this killing for, for what purpose? If we pause to step back and examine the reasons for warfare, I see two little words coming to my mind – pillage and plunder. Or, if anyone prefers, criminal activity are two other words that could be substituted. Jesus summed this point up perfectly when He said, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”

Of course, I can practically hear all these ‘conservative Christians’ say these wars are necessary to address the perceived threat of militant Islam. They are likely excoriating me even as they read this (if any of them are actually reading this at all), stating that I’m not patriotic enough, or that if I don’t help kill more Muslims they will be at my doorstep to kill me. Problem is, this is the kind of thinking that gets wars started in the first place! Still others would – and do – say that if America doesn’t take a more aggressive stance in the Middle East in order to protect and defend “our” oil, that we will be cut off from “our” petroleum reserves and suffer a military and economic defeat of unimaginable proportions. The problem I have with that is the internal combustion engine is at the end of its useful life span. At the very least, America should have converted over to much cleaner-burning natural gas decades ago after the Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970’s. At best, the US should have engaged in a crash-program of developing battery and solar-powered cars and trucks, again starting decades ago, but no! There’s still too much oil in the ground for the ‘big oil’ companies to simply walk away from, there’s too much profit to be made! Never mind that all those car, bus and truck engines and slowly asphyxiating our planet – the only one we’ve got! Never mind that more people die from respiratory illnesses caused by pollution globally than from cigarette smoking! We Americans, I conclude, are indirectly responsible for the catastrophe of Aleppo. Those who support ‘blood for oil’ – mainly the US political, military and corporate systems and their respective organizations and entities, are accessories to the murder of hundreds of thousands just in Aleppo alone, not counting the remainder of Syria. Moreover, the fact that these are primarily Muslims who are dying is, to me at least, completely beside the point! And what is the point? Murder, no matter what the context or circumstances, is wrong. Period, end of story. And so, I sit here at home today and I silently weep. I, too, weep for Aleppo.

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