The US Economy Is A Scam

Wells Fargo, the Problem With Capitalism, and the Bible

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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I was alive and kicking back in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell, and in the ensuing years when Communism imploded all across Russia, and Red China soon after. The American political and military leadership smugly congratulated one another when Communism fell. “Well, looks like we won the Cold War”, they said among themselves. What nobody realized at the time was that America was going to be next. It’s just that it’s taking a lot longer for that to play out over here. America has an ‘ace in the hole’ that the USSR never had – free enterprise. I’m strongly in favor of free enterprise and private ownership. I always have been, so I’m no communist or socialist, but what I disapprove of is when our economic system gets abused by people whose greed is out of control. These are a set of financial predators who are in need of arrest and restraint!

As a result of these occurrences, the capitalist economic system is ripe for a collapse reminiscent of Communism’s collapse a quarter century ago. Interest on America’s national debt is accruing faster than than the principal can be paid down. Our country is buried under a mountain of debt from which it is impossible to extricate ourselves. The fault for this lies with the so-called ‘Federal Reserve’, which in fact is neither. The Constitution of the United States says in Article 1, Section 8, “The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, …. coin money and regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin….”. Nowhere does it say “print money”, nor does it say anything about a Federal Reserve. Real money must be coined, not printed, and only Congress is authorized to coin money by the Constitution. The very existence of the Federal Reserve is unconstitutional! The so-called ‘national debt’ is a scam, a fraud, a federal crime and an assault on the freedom of all Americans everywhere! The Federal Reserve is something that clearly needs to be stopped, and preferably nationalized. Fortunately, “we the people” probably won’t need to stage a revolt to make this occur. Like Soviet Russia, capitalism will collapse on its own. It won’t need any help. I can sum up the reason why in one little word – debt.

Not only is debt and the accompanying compounded interest reaching a point of no return, America is faced with the indisputable fact that the super-power era is at its end as far as world history is concerned. Nations in other parts of the world, particularly in emerging economies, have started to figure out that mutual cooperation for profit is in everyone’s best interests. Unfortunately, my country, the venerable USA, has yet to get the message. The US refuses to abandon its war-based and debt-based economy, because if it does, it would be tantamount to voluntary relinquishing America’s role as the sole remaining super power. The nail in the coffin of American ‘supremacy’ will be the forcible replacement of the US dollar as the world’s standard currency. Russia and Red China have already signed the trade and economic treaties to accomplish this, it’s a done deal. It’s only a matter of time as to how long this will take to play out.

But the war is also being waged right here at home, a fact that millions of Americans are just now beginning to wake up to. People’s bank accounts are being raided by the very banks that purport to serve them as loyal customers. The most notable example of this was this past week’s disclosure by the US Department of Justice of Wells Fargo Bank opening multiple accounts in its customers’ names, unbeknownst to those customers, and getting commissions and bonuses as a result of this nefarious and fraudulent financial activity. In an article posted Wednesday Sept 21, 2016 on CNN.com written by Walter Einenkel, he wrote:

A couple of weeks ago, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $185 million in penalties for perpetrating a massive fraud on customers. Wells Fargo executives boasted that they had fired 5,300 workers involved in improprieties, but not a single executive was punished. In fact, executives that literally oversaw the departments where the gargantuan fraud was committed were very well compensated, and lauded. Yesterday, Wells Fargo CEO — and blame-game champion — John Stumpf went in front of a Senate Banking Committee where he was rightfully castigated by Senator Elizabeth Warren for his “gutless leadership.” Part of Stumpf’s “apology” was to say that Wells Fargo didn’t do this as much as bad apples did it. It’s a similar defense used by people who murder citizens.”

Now CNN Money is hearing from former Wells Fargo (WFC) workers around the country who tried to put a stop to these illegal tactics. Almost half a dozen workers who spoke with us say they paid dearly for trying to do the right thing: they were fired. “They ruined my life,” Bill Bado, a former Wells Fargo banker in Pennsylvania, told CNN Money. Bado not only refused orders to open phony bank and credit accounts. The New Jersey man called an ethics hot-line and sent an email to human resources in September 2013, flagging unethical sales activities he was being instructed to do.”

Eight days after that email, a copy of which CNN Money obtained, Bado was terminated. The stated reason? Tardiness…. Retaliating against whistle blowers is a major breach of trust. Ethics hot-lines are exactly the kind of safeguards put in place to prevent illegal activity from taking place and provide refuge to employees from dangerous work environments….”

Another six former Wells Fargo employees told CNN Money they witnessed similar behavior at Wells Fargo — even though the company has a policy in place that is supposed to prevent retaliation against whistle blowers. CNN Money has taken steps to confirm that the workers who spoke anonymously did work at Wells Fargo and in some cases interviewed colleagues who corroborated their reports. It’s possible Wells Fargo could face legal consequences for any retaliation that occurred against employees who called the ethics line …. It is clearly against the law for any company (or executives of such companies) to try to suppress whistle blowing,” Harvey Pitt, former chairman of the SEC, told CNN Money in an email…”.

As you can clearly see, America’s financial system is making all the money it can, every way they possibly can, because they know this collapse is coming. That’s why stuff like the shenanigans over at Wells Fargo is going on behind the scenes. The whole stinking system is corrupt from top to bottom, and people are figuring it out in growing numbers. Whatever you do, if you have an account with Wells Fargo, move your money to a credit union. Unlike banks, credit unions are non-profits, and they’re far more personalized than banks. But it’s not just a violation of our laws that our financial system is a criminal enterprise, it’s a violation of God’s laws too. And not just the criminal and civil violations mentioned above, either. Let me take you to the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament, chapter 22, beginning at verse 22:

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 among you 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, because his 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, for I am compassionate.”

As you can clearly see, it is immoral in the sight of God to charge interest beyond the borrower’s ability to pay. It is also wrong for lenders to take everything but the clothes off their customer’s back, which happens with disturbing frequency. Yet this is exactly the situation the entire world is currently faced with. We have the Federal Reserve in the US, the British “Royal Family” in the UK, and the Rothschilds in Europe who basically control the world’s flow of money and liquid assets. Just beneath them in the economic pecking order are the elite rich, government and corporate leadership, and religious denominations of various kinds. But the remainder of us, “the 99%”, have little or nothing. Economic inequality has become like a ticking time bomb across the globe. There are simply so many angry, frustrated, disenfranchised and often disenchanted individuals like ourselves who are hungry and thirsty for real change that the fuse on this socioeconomic time bomb has already been lit. Our entire capitalist, debt-based economic system is based on something the Bible said was a great sin nearly 3,500 years ago. The Bible does not change, and neither does God! By incurring a debt that currently stands at $17 or $18 trillion, America is reaping what it has sown. God says to America, “You want debt, do ya? Well all right, then, I’m going to give you a trainload of it!” Is it any wonder we are in the shape we are in? We are bankrupt, we have been for a very long time, and it’s our own fault. Although the US government has been concealing the true extent of this indebtedness from its citizens, the people are catching on quickly. Our government has declared war on its own citizens, and the soldiers are none other than police offers who are sworn to protect and serve. Instead, they harass and intimidate all they come into contact with, and they routinely kill unarmed citizens just because they can. This cannot continue indefinitely, and the standoff between the police and the rest of the country continues to escalate. The fuse has been lit. And there is a very large powder keg at the end of it.

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Just released by Author Rev. Paul J. Bern…..

DCIM100MEDIA

Didn’t God Make That Plant to Begin With?

It’s finally here!! The latest offering from Rev. Paul J. Bern; “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible Or Not?” Reveals the “war on drugs” for the race-based, legislated criminal enterprise that it really is, shatters the myths about the allegedly addictive properties of marijuana, exposes America’s prison-for-profit prison and court systems. Goes into great detail about the huge economic benefits of legalizing marijuana and its sister plant, hemp. Written by a nondenominational Christian minister and blogger, this book uses the Bible to provide a simple explanation for why marijuana criminalization is a sin against God. This book shoots the “War On Drugs” right out of the sky while proving conclusively that the ‘drug war’ is actually an all-out war on the American people. Our time to rise up has come!! Making its debut at only $19.95; buy it now at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J1X7802 or at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

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To All My Haters, This Bud’s For You

My Open Letter to All Offended “Christians”

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

open_minds

Dear Offended Christians,

 

All of my regular weekly readers know by now that I can – and have – posted commentaries on my blogs, my website, and social media that has been sharply critical of the mainstream churches – both Protestant and Catholic – here in the US. While I have received praise from many of my readers for these postings, I have also been on the receiving end of no small amount of vehement condemnation from numerous ‘religious’ individuals, combined with weathering criticism from many (but not all) atheists. I’ve been told I’m going to hell when I die, I’ve been accused of voluntary stupidity, I’ve been verbally assaulted and abused on social media, and I’ve even had my personal safety threatened. So far, nobody has made good on any of those threats, which doesn’t surprise me at all. Still in all, I’m terribly sorry that I hurt your feelings. None of us likes to be criticized, so I totally get it. I feel badly about that. I know I’ve said some pretty hard words to many of you “Christian” folks, and maybe I’ve been somewhat less than gentle in my delivery, but that happens when you’re tired. And I am really freaking tired! Allow me to list all of the ways I am fed up to here with the hypocrisy shown by so many ‘religious’ people!

[1] You wrap yourselves up in the cross, your piety is second to none, and yet you have seemingly forgotten to read the Book you proclaim to set your moral compass to. I’m tired of hearing you telling gay people that they can’t simultaneously be both gay and followers of Christ. You quote Romans chapter 1, verses 26-27 and Levitical law when you condemn gay people, but you forget the counsel of the apostle James when he wrote: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2: 12-13) Instead of judging gay people, why not show them some mercy and compassion? Moreover, I’m tired of you regularly dispensing damnation on the queer community, and then offering empty “thoughts and prayers” before resuming your normal schedule.

[2] I’m tired of arrogant pulpit bullies who believe they’re entitled to tell people where they can pee, who they can marry, and whether they really love Jesus or not. I’m particularly tired of your demands for 10% of my income. You’re not going to get one stinking penny from me! After all, you preachers spend much of your churches’ proceeds on yourselves and your wicked and vain desires. You buy luxury cars for yourselves and your wives and live in extravagant homes while people sleep in their cars as they and their children go hungry. Rest assured that your punishment is coming, and it will be most severe!!

[3] I’m tired of you being more outraged by red coffee cups at Starbucks, or school and department store restrooms, than by poverty, racism and America’s crumbling school systems. Ditto for the hypocrisy of your homophobia, all that institutionalized racism, and the anti-science sentiments of many Christian groups. God gave you a brain! Try using the damn thing once in a while! You’d be surprised at how well it works. Thinking with your emotions instead of your brain always ends badly for you anyway. If you were using your head, you would be able to remember that.

[4] I am thoroughly exasperated with your simultaneous condemnation of abortion while you beat your war drums. The US military has killed 2 million people in the Vietnam War and 1 million more innocent civilians in Iraq. The fact that all those dead Iraqis were Muslim is besides the point. Have you forgotten what Jesus said at the Sermon On the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”? (Matt. 5: 9) Yes, it’s true, there are roughly 50,000 abortions performed each year in the US alone, not counting the rest of the world. While I am by no means pro-abortion, I refuse to condemn those women who have abortions for the same reasons as #1 above. Why? Because there are two main reasons why women are having abortions. First, the last time I checked, a month’s supply of birth control pills costs many hundreds of dollars here in America thanks to our greed-based medical care system. Second, if America’s employers paid a living wage, a lot more women could afford to use birth control, hence fewer abortions. Oh that’s right – America doesn’t have any more jobs that pay a living wage because our brilliant leaders outsourced all the good-paying jobs overseas for pennies on the dollar so they could make a whole lot more money!!

Please excuse me, I just realized I probably hurt your feelings yet again, Mr. and Mrs. Churchperson. So I really do get that your feelings are hurt. I understand that you’re offended, and that’s not my intention. The thing is, if you’re going to tell an entire segment of the population that they’re going to Hell simply for existing, and if you’re going to continually target those people through the Church and the Law and your social media accounts, don’t get angry with me when I tell you you’re being hateful and judgmental and ignorant. It could be worse. At least I’m not damning you for all eternity. You know, like you do to others every day of the year?

Sincerely,

A Very Tired Christian

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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Five Hundred Dead Cannot Be Ignored

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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The United States of America, together with the city of Chicago, has passed a gruesome and heinous milestone this past week. As of this past Friday, September 9th, 2016, 500 people have been shot to death in Chicago so far this year, and we have just over three and a half months to go before the end of the year. This damnable statistic is a scathing indictment of American “society” in general, and the city of Chicago in particular. As of this writing I do not know anyone who has relocated, or who has plans to relocate, to Chicago for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t take a blooming genius to figure out why – the average citizen living in Chicago has a greater chance of being shot than US military personnel do in Afghanistan or Iraq. Only Syria would be a scarier place to live right now, and that’s nothing for Chicago to brag about. But it’s not just Chicago, as I wrote above. These shooting deaths are an absolutely horrific portrait of American society.

There are many who say the proliferation of guns and the gun culture in America that accompanies it is the culprit. Take all the guns off the streets, they say, and the problem of excessive gun violence will be solved. To me, quite frankly, this ‘solution’ is laughable for its naivety and ignorance of the Constitution. You might say, “What do you mean, naive?” Simply put, I find it astonishingly naive that anyone would assume that outlawing guns would solve the gun violence problem. You see, the people doing all the shooting are exhibiting criminal behavior. Criminals don’t obey laws to begin with, so the net effect of outlawing gun ownership would be that only outlaws and the police would be armed. The remainder of us, the other 98%, would be reduced to moving targets. If there is anyone out there who thinks the police shootings would stop, or that gun violence would cease, if the general public were to be disarmed, they had better think twice – and very carefully too! Moreover, with a disarmed population robberies, sex crimes, and domestic terrorism would increase exponentially since only outlaws would have weapons. A disarmed public would only embolden all the predators out there, not to mention all the trigger-crazy police. Moreover, an infamous man once famously said, “The first step to taking over a country is to disarm its citizens”. That infamous man was Adolf Hitler. Josef Stalin did the same thing in Russia from the mid-1920’s to the early 1930’s. Look it up.

Then there is the problem with the US Constitution, or more accurately the interpretation thereof. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution reads as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. There it is in black and white, folks, from our supreme law of the land, the Constitution of the United States. So now we can see that the only way for the government – law enforcement in this case – to legally take away our primary means of self-protection would be to change the Constitution. That would mean calling for a Constitutional convention consisting of Congress and representatives of the President and his Cabinet, something not likely to happen without a citizen’s revolt. Yet by the same token, a revolution is exactly what America needs for such reforms to take place. While I personally do not own any firearms – something I’ve been rethinking lately – I am very much a pro-2nd-amendment kind of guy.

I can see two main reasons for all the gun violence. The first I can sum up in two words – anger management, or more accurately the lack thereof on the part of all too many Americans of all races, enthnicities and complexions. Too many people are using their emotions instead of their minds for processing thoughts and feelings. The second I can sum up in one word – greed! There are too many people trying to shake down too many others for a quick, easy profit. The fact that much of this stems from the lack of economic opportunity, combined with wages that are on par with the 1960’s, changes nothing. Allow me to share a few examples of what the Bible says about this. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul; let’s swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse” – my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; for their feet rush into sin, and they are swift to shed blood.” (Proverbs chapter 1, verses 8-16) These verses remind me of the gang problem here in the US, which is substantial to be sure. As you know, youth plus a sense of belonging, minus any positive role models at home, and minus any real chance at economic or educational opportunities, equals future gang members. If our youth can’t find the love, acceptance and guidance they need from home and church, they will go and get it somewhere else.

But there is more to America’s anger management issues. Much of the gun violence Chicago and other American cities are experiencing is due to hot-tempered individuals – those who don’t stop and think before they act. Once again, as a Web minister and Christian blogger, I consider it my duty as well as being part of my job description to point out what the Bible has to say about this. Rather than pontificate about this, I will let the Word of God speak for me. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver, and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace it; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.” (Proverbs chapter 3, verses 13-18) People react emotionally instead of thoughtfully because they allow evil things like greed, pride and a bad temper to rule over them, as it is written: “A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.” (Proverbs 10: 23) But isn’t there more to it than just that, you ask? You’re right, it’s more than just a lack of understanding. Some people need to grow up and learn to control their tempers, and to cease provoking others. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”. (Proverbs 15: 1) And again it is written in that same Book of Proverbs: “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” (Proverbs 15: 18)

But at the end of the day, the reasons for gun violence have one common denominator – a lack of love. Hatred has replaced love in a world that can’t stop hating because it doesn’t know how. The reason some people don’t know how to stop hating nor how to start loving is because they refuse to take the Bible and its teachings seriously. Moreover, there is no love because there is no trust due to fear – people are afraid to trust one another because they’re afraid if they do they might miss out on something beneficial, having forgotten that mutual trust is itself beneficial, as is mutual love. The apostle John put it best when he wrote: “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: that we should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1st John chapter 3, verses 11-16) But Jesus said it best of all. “’Teacher, what is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second one is like it; love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.’” (Matthew chapter 22, verses 36-40)

So this is how we can stop all the gun violence in Chicago and all across the country. Love your neighbor as yourself, a commandment from Christ that should be taken to heart, but sadly it is not for a disturbingly large cross-section of the population. Read the Bible and start taking it seriously! Follow Jesus instead of the desires of your belly, your sex drive, and your emotions. Use your brain for thinking, not your heart. And may the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding be with you all!

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free audio-book giveaway to the first 25 customers!

occupy the world!

occupy the world!

Free audio-book introductory offer! “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”, a new audio-book from Audible (an Amazon company) by Rev. Paul J. Bern; Written in the style of an investigative reporter, this explosive nonfiction book is simply one the most exhaustive, comprehensive books about the history and anthology of “Occupy Wall St.” published so far. This is the definitive book on the state of American political dissent in the early 21st century, and it ends with a prediction of mass civil unrest in the US and other capitalist countries due to the extreme concentration of wealth in favor of the top 1%. Pro-Occupy; anti-government; very dissident. Now only $6.95, get yours at https://www.amazon.com/Occupying-America-Shall-Overcome-Whistleblower/dp/B01KAUAPP4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473190008&sr=1-1&keywords=occupying+america%3A+we+shall+overcome Remaining coupon codes NAEP2F26NFPKE, TNFTE6K6K9QM9, FE2ATTK8UDCB6, S3K6PCTBC3HMJ, MH8S6ZWU9FBB7, URGP6JZLEN2PT, SSLGCT4YLQA6C, U643E8HT238EJ, PHUXT7UCH7NW9, XTQFPCDF8LME4, H8MF8QLNPRHND YWLK9NLAECRXA RPGED3KZ7Y63T 2W3B6ETSNX5WC JA9ZFRTRSMG4W, WLH55HJ79RLSZ, KK5WYS5UB595P, QDPN9L96GB7JZ, 7935UGA4F5D9X, K97LUBPUBYFS7, KSCH82MB8EFGA, AE3CMXZD2ZDE5, QUCL5KP86MEM5, HFPM95CFP437U, PT3JANFEA768U

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Paying a living wage: who wins?

And some still say raising the minimum wage is something we can’t afford?? They ought to read this!

Prog Chik

According to Gravity Payment’s CEO Dan Price, everyone wins. After raising the minimum wage of his employees to $70,000/year–and cutting his own salary to the same–Gravity Payment’s profits have soared.

“I want the scorecard we have as business leaders to be not about money, but about purpose, impact, and service,” he says. “I want those to be the things that we judge ourselves on.”

And Gravity’s employees are happier–they’re sticking with the company and having babies:

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Colin Kaepernick, Patriotism, and the Star Spangled Banner

The Star Spangled Banner, Colin Kaepernick,

and the Christian Anti-patriot Movement

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the National Anthem this past week – twice so far as of this writing, and I’m observing others who are starting to join him – is something that bears careful thought and quiet contemplation on the part of all Americans. Kaepernick has enraged many, but there are even more people who are saying, “It’s about time” with regard to his actions. Since the feelings and reasons run deep on both sides, so do my own. Like the vast majority of other Americans, I truly love my country. The US is and always will be the land of opportunity where free enterprise and private ownership reign supreme. But I am profoundly ashamed of my government. Let me count the reasons why.

[1] One million dead Iraqi civilians. Since 1991, the US military – or the American Empire, as I call it – has “accidentally” killed a million Iraqi civilians. That’s twice as many people as there are within the city limits of Atlanta where I live and work. If another country were to so much as attempt to do the same to a million US civilians, we’d be at war!

[2] 25%. That’s the number of American school children who go to bed hungry each night. For a country that is allegedly the greatest country in the world, that is simply inexcusable!

[3] One out of five. That’s the number of US military personnel who return home after their tour of duty who suffer from permanent psychiatric disabilities as a result of the performance of their duties. Everybody is dancing around the question that needs to be asked – WHY?? Why do 20% of those who go off to fight the American Empire’s wars come home with their minds permanently broken and their souls shattered?? Maybe it’s from killing people. Ever think of that? What if I’m right, and I think I am in at least some of the cases? There would be one good way to end all that, to put it to a stop permanently. Stop all the wars. End all the bloodshed. Besides, we Americans need those troops here at home to help protect us from the federal government.

[4] Nine Hundred Eighty Six. That’s the number of unarmed civilians that were killed by the police in 2015 (source: Washington Post). This has been going on for decades, but the Lame Stream Media had been deliberately suppressing these stories until they became so numerous it was no longer possible to do so. When we add up the number of unarmed persons shot, ‘tasered’ and killed by the police over the last three decades, the numbers run well into the tens of thousands.

[5] America excels at incarceration. There are more people in jails or prisons here in the United States than there are in the rest of the world combined! To say this is nothing to be proud of would be a gross understatement. Moreover, 56% of all those incarcerated are there for nonviolent drug offenses. The ‘war on drugs’ is a farce, it can’t be won, and it is based on racism and prison for profit, not ‘law and order’. As such, the Drug War deserves to fail.

So what do we do to turn all these ugly facts into past history? End all the wars and covert meddling (which the CIA seems to be addicted to) and bring home whatever troops we can. Close entire military bases whenever possible. Shut down and disband NATO, since it no longer serves any purpose (unless, of course, you’re part of the top 1% of the economic class). Raise the minimum wage to get our children fed, to lift people out of poverty, and to empty the welfare and SNAP benefits rosters. End the drug war – legalize, regulate and tax cannabis for medical and personal use (although several currently illegal drugs should stay that way, such as heroin). There are so many things we can do differently for the betterment of ourselves and our country. But how do we approach it on a personal level? What’s the starting point? Allow me to elaborate on a couple examples.

Mennonite Worker Communities in places like Minnesota, Pennsylvania and others hold worship services and a picnic every Fourth of July. But, instead of extolling the virtues of America, they called attention to its faults. Singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” is out. Reflecting on the contradictions between the Gospel of Christ and the American Dream are in. “We thank you, O God, for the good things we enjoy in our lives,” reads a prayer the Mennonite community recites each year, “but lament that our abundance has brought destitution to sisters and brothers throughout the Earth.” These people are, basically, Christian Anti-patriots. Their movement, which has grown more vocal in recent years, is simply an honest way to read – and live out – Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence. But it’s hard to look at groups like The Mennonite Community and not see an implicit criticism of God-and-country cheer-leading by mainstream Christians and ripples of centuries-old church-state tensions. Some anti-patriots come from pacifist Anabaptist traditions, such as the Mennonite Church. Others come from evangelical backgrounds but have rejected their counterparts’ often unreserved patriotism and embraced liberal-leaning communities like Red Letter Christians and JesusRadicals.com. They may differ on theological details, but they hold at least two beliefs in common: You cannot serve both God and country, and you cannot serve both God and money.

Anabaptists such as Mennonites and the Amish were persecuted by state churches in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, and their descendants bear a lasting suspicion of human authorities. Many an Amish and Mennonite home keeps a copy of “The Martyr’s Mirror,” a book thick with testimonies of Anabaptists burned at the stake of orthodoxy. The book’s subtitle refers to the martyrs as “defenseless Christians,” a nod to Anabaptists’ belief that when Jesus called on Christians to turn the other cheek, he was quite serious. None of the Anabaptist groups are anti-American. They are typically grateful for the religious freedom permitted in the United States. Still, in 2011, Goshen College, a Mennonite school in Indiana, banned the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting events because, according to the college’s president, the lyrics were too violent. It may be difficult for some Americans to understand why their countrymen would disassociate themselves from patriotism. What’s the harm in celebrating Independence Day, anyway?

It is easy to judge Islam for the actions of a relative few ‘jihadists’. Yet when millions of Americans — a vast majority of them claiming the Christian faith — were complicit with slavery, indigenous genocide, and continued economic exploitation, we suddenly see them as separate from our faith. Jesus called his followers to Christian service and humility, which are the opposite of nationalistic rituals performed on the Fourth of July. A heightened devotion to the nation can cause a lot of confusion abroad when people see claims of a Christian America alongside a long American history of slavery, economic inequality and overheated Hollywood sexuality and violence. I have received quite a few comments about how I should leave this country if I ‘hate’ it so much, even to the point of calling me a ‘traitor’. And yet I love America, but I’m not willing to compromise my values as a servant of my only King, the nonviolent revolutionary — Christ Jesus. My train of thought on patriotic things would be: A love for the people of our country is not a bad thing, but why should we stop at America’s border?

There have been some other non-patriotic gatherings in major cities, such as the Los Angeles Catholic Worker’s “Mourn on the Fourth of July” peace march in 2008. Still, the non-patriot movement remains small. Everyone knows that other folks think like them, but it isn’t like there are a lot of congregations that self-identify as being non-patriotic. That’s especially true for evangelicals, who lead the country in patriotic fervor. More than 80% of white evangelicals believe that God has granted the United States a “special role” in history, according to a survey released June 27 of this year by the Public Religion Research Institute. More than two-thirds of white evangelicals say they are “very proud” to be an American, outstripping every other religious group polled. So it’s not surprising that some conservative Christians find the alliance of progressive evangelicals and non-patriotic Americans troubling, or even dangerous.

But, I disagree with the ‘conservative’, patriotic Christians on US military force, which they insist is required to maintain order worldwide. Non-patriot Christians, they point out, are naive not to consider the ill effects should the United States abdicate its military power. They would argue, “What would the alternatives be if the USA didn’t exist or withdrew from the world stage? Almost certainly a more dangerous, more anarchic, more repressive, less prosperous world with less opportunity for the poor to escape poverty”. Do I agree with every major policy of our government? No way! Jesus’ identification with the poor, the sick, his teaching, “Love your enemies”, and his refusal to take power when he was here on earth the first time are incompatible with the utterly corrupt political and economic system of the United States. Let’s face it — the Sermon on the Mount makes for lousy foreign or public policy. We can’t have it both ways. That’s why I too choose the ways of peace while standing against war and its inherent immorality. We are all faced with the choice of taking sides with Christ, or of annihilation. Just like Colin Kaepernick chose to stand on the side of justice.

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What’s Gone Wrong With Our Churches?

Three Reasons Millennials Are Abandoning Christianity

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

live together or perish

Chances are that if you are in your 20’s or 30’s, you are not a church member. Polling is now a highly sophisticated industry, and religious organizations are being fed some irrefutable numbers about what is happening among their congregations. In a single generation, the Catholic and Christian church dropout rate across all denominations has increased five-fold. The Barna Group, a leading research evangelical Christian organization based in Ventura, California that focuses on the intersection of faith and culture, says 80 percent of the young people raised in a church will be “disengaged” before they are 30. The fault for this lies with those same denominations, and particularly their leadership as far as I am concerned. These churches – and I’m not going to name any denomination in particular – and their members spend every Sunday morning being religious for an hour, and then spend the rest of the week doing whatever suits them. They call themselves Christians while isolating themselves from the very people they are supposed to be ministering to! We as believers are charged with this very duty, as Jesus has taught us: “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark chapter 16, verses 15-16) As to whether one believes or not, that is between them and God. My responsibility lies with teaching about Jesus Christ and the Bible. I cannot force anyone to believe, since force is never the way of Christ anyway. But the outcome of disbelief is clearly spelled out.

In the past 20 years, the number of American people who say they have no religion has doubled and now exceeds 15 percent. Those numbers are concentrated in the under-30 population. The polling data continues to show that a dramatic exit is taking place from Christian churches, both in America and globally. Is it any wonder? There are too many churches I have been to that look more like fashion shows than places of worship. Many others insist that the members must “tithe” 10% of their income as specified in the Old Testament. Never mind what Jesus taught us, which was that he was the fulfillment of the Old Law (see Matthew 5: 17), the sacred Law of Moses, and that He continuously represents a new covenant between God and mankind. Yes, we should give to our churches as much as we can, when we can, but I disagree with the teaching that one’s donations must be exactly 10% each and every week. If that were the case, then only rich Christians could obey the law. That’s why I came to the conclusion many years ago that this teaching is a distortion of what the Bible says on this subject, meaning so-called tithing is a thinly veiled excuse for procuring the maximum amount of donations to church coffers. It’s all about the money. Then there are the Christian TV stations (speaking of money), which I used to watch some of them, where some of the women have enough makeup on for three people, and where some of the musicians are obviously gay and doing a poor job of hiding it. Still others are preaching the so-called “prosperity gospel”, which is a bogus teaching if there ever was one, and a gross distortion of what the Bible actually says about that topic.

While denominations across the board are acknowledging loss of membership, it is worse than they are reporting. Many churches report numbers based on baptized members, yet actual Sunday morning attendance doesn’t come close to those numbers. Once baptized, always a ‘listed’ Christian! Simply put, denominations are no longer a reliable source of membership information. If they can’t even be trusted for something as basic as accurate reporting regarding their attendance, is it any wonder good Christ-seeking people are leaving in disgust? The mega-church movement also has flattened, with people leaving as fast as they are recruited. The only real growth among Christians appears to be in the home church movement in which small groups of independent believers gather in a house to worship. While the polling numbers are in, the debate about the reasons for lack of attendance is only just beginning. When a pollster asks if a person has left the Christian Faith and a church, the answer is answered “yes” or “no.” However, when the pollster asks “why?,” the answers become mushy and the numbers lose their significance. Why, then, are people leaving churches so fast?

I am not a pollster, but rather an observer of the religious scene looking in from the outside. Speaking as an independent minister who is unaffiliated with any denominations, entirely too many churches today – from the pastor on down – have a credibility problem because of all the things that I mentioned above. My impressions are anecdotal and in no way scientific. I receive personal responses to my blogs and other postings, and I carry on conversations with a steady flow of people by e-mail. I strongly believe we Jesus worshipers and especially the clergy need to look at ourselves for at least some of the reasons for the decline in membership, and probably most of them. Allow me to offer three observations:

[1] Churches are no longer intellectually challenging, if they ever really were to start with. I can still remember being sent to Catholic school as a child and being “taught” not to think for myself, or to just obey. Christians who think for themselves are considered weird at best, or dangerous at worst in today’s churches. Obedience is good and personal independence is (allegedly) bad. Organized religion has always been like this and critical, independent thinkers like myself are shown the door without just cause way too often. More and more of our young people are college-educated, and in the future an overwhelming majority and will accept the challenge of post-high school education. They are thinking people who are expanding the limits of their curiosity and knowledge. Some of them will be the first American generation to establish outposts throughout our solar system, and eventually beyond. I have often wondered what will happen to organized religion when life is inevitably discovered on other planets and their moons. It is no surprise to me that these young people often conclude that they are not willing to accept the Church’s rigid catechism, an educational method that teaches all the right religious questions and the correct answers. As an educational tool, private religious schooling has become outdated and provides no challenge to students eager to question and discuss. Ministers must take the responsibility to re-establish themselves among the leaders of the intellectual community.

[2] Churches are no longer leaders in moral and ethical discussions. Young people have grown weary of churches that cannot get past issues such as homosexuality and abortion. Although I personally am not in favor of either abortion or gay marriage, God has given me enough wisdom to know I can’t persuade everybody to think like myself. Instead, I choose to follow the Bible, which warns us not to judge others (see Matthew 7: 1-5; James 2: 12-13; James 4: 11-12) and to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2: 12)! My job is to bring the good news message of Jesus Christ to everyone I can. I cannot ‘save’ souls, only Christ can do that. Once I have presented the message of the Gospel, I have fulfilled my responsibility. If the Gospel is presented any other way but that, it starts to sound like a sales pitch. Moreover, millennial Christian drop-outs are still very interested in alternatives to the selfish, hedonistic and violent society we live in. More and more, they are catching on to something I have been preaching and teaching for years – namely the unilateral rejection of materialism and the trappings of wealth, and a rejection of violence and hate. Success in life is not defined by how much money and possessions we have accumulated! That type of “success” is only an illusion. Instead, success in life depends on what kind of legacy we leave behind when we’re gone. Justice, fairness and compassion are supposed to be high on our agendas, and looking for opportunities to serve as a way of worshiping God should be the priority of people of good conscience. Life is all about how we treat other people as well as how devoted we are to serving the less fortunate. It’s not just about religion. Today’s generation of young people want to be involved in solving environmental problems, ending poverty and homelessness and their root causes, and in peacemaking. “Blessed are the peacemakers”, Jesus said, “for they shall be called ‘sons of the living God’.” (Matthew 5: 9)

In contrast, pizza parties and rock concerts – techniques that have been used to make churches appear more relevant to the young – are not high on the agenda of young people concerned about society’s deep-seated problems. In other words, too many churches are concerned about the hot-button issues of today, such as same-sex marriage or abortion, when the preachers should be talking about the extreme immorality of waging war! Or, how about pointing out the extreme immorality of 50,000 children per day dying of starvation globally? What about the fact that fully one fourth of the world’s population has no access to clean drinking water or electricity?? If the same amount of passion were devoted to protecting and upholding the living as has been said and written about protecting the unborn, the world would be a markedly better place in which to live. As for same-sex marriage or abortion, Jesus never said anything about either. The Bible does teach that being gay or bisexual is wrong, but it also warns us repeatedly not to judge other people. I don’t hang around gay people, nor do I approve of their “lifestyle” – as they call it – but that does not give me the right to hate gay people, nor is it an excuse to hold them in contempt, and never to condemn them. “Love your neighbor as yourself”. By showing disdain for gay people, I would lose all hope of ever persuading them to believe in Jesus and all he stands for.

[3] Churches are no longer visionary for the reasons I have stated above. They have remained focused on offering rituals, dogma, pomp and circumstance, tied to perpetuating theologies while not bothering to explain to people how they should live once they have left church for yet another week. That’s because many of these theologies aren’t based on what the Bible says, and can even contradict it, and people who take the time to pick up their Bible and read it see right through that. Too much religion today is taught from the perspective and viewpoint of the extreme right-wing of American politics, and as before it is a glaring contradiction of the teachings of Christ. If the teachings of Jesus could be compared to modern political ideology, its closest comparison would be to what we call socialism today (see Acts. 2: 42-47; Acts 4: 32-37; 2nd Corinthians 8: 13-15). This is one Biblical fact that invariably infuriates the conservative extremists who have invaded America’s pulpits. Read the above passages of Scripture and you’ll see what I mean (If you have no Bible and want one, send your email address to webpreacher@pcmatl.org and I’ll send you a free one. Seriously.) People are figuring out that God is not a conservative Republican, and that he never was. For all these reasons, churches are no longer significant players in shaping the life of our communities. If priests, ministers and their churches will not lay out what the kingdom of God on earth might actually look like, young people will continue to look elsewhere for other models. In that sense, I don’t know who to be concerned about more – the young adults who are leaving churches, or the churches they are leaving behind. In the meantime, the rest of the world is rushing at top speed towards World War 3. Millions will be killed instantly in what is bound to be a nuclear conflagration, and then they’ll be out of time. Maybe we all will, who knows? The best we can do for now is to start praying – a lot – for peace.

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Bogus Prophets and the Truth

Wars, Rumors of Wars, and the Truth

by Pastor Paul J Bern

new-world-order

One of the things I did on my own behalf five years ago as I was looking for ways to cut my expenses was canceling my cable TV subscription. My reasons were partly economic, partly practical, and partly because of my Christian faith. I also had practical reasons. I was just getting started with my writing and blogging, so I no longer had time to watch TV. To me at least, there’s really nothing much on there worth watching, so why bother? Plus, the news and information channels such as Fox, CNN, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and so many others are filled with misinformation at best, and propaganda at worst. So, I started streaming videos off the Web, mainly from You Tube, Mypeace.tv and a few others. I have intentionally cut myself off from much of the world, just as it is written: “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world….” [John chapter 18, verse 36]. It is also a fact mainly known to Jesus followers that real Christians define intelligence differently than anyone else, as it is written: “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight…..” [1st Corinthians chapter 3, verses 18-19]. The apostle John, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, also had a comment or two in this regard when he wrote, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” [1st John chapter 2, verses 15-17, NIV]

These are the underlying reasons, my dear readers, why I have disconnected from the world (I no longer own a radio for the same reasons). There is one very noticeable difference between cable and network television and what’s being shown on the internet, besides the fact that much of it is free. I can sum it up in one word – truth!! The contrast between the news, information and even the entertainment on the Web compared to commercial TV and the movies is pretty stark. One of the most worrisome trends I’m seeing on the internet, however, is those who go overboard in search of the truth to such an extent that they damage their own credibility due to excess speculation about humankind’s future. The wild speculation about the timing of World War Three and with regard to End Times Prophecy are the two examples of what I mean by “worrisome trends”. Never mind all the misinformation. Let me set a few things straight.

First, and much to the discredit of organized religion, or “Christianity, Inc”, I often wonder why some of the answers to these questions are not being discussed in churches. All I hear in the majority of them are false doctrines such as the “pre-tribulation rapture” and the bizarre idea that Jesus wants us all to be rich. I can hardly find a church these days that teaches the truth of all these things except on the internet. The ugly truth is far worse than what is currently being ‘taught’. No wonder the church is not mentioned in Revelation directly, just the tribulation saints (see Rev. chapter 7, verses 9-14). The rest are being consumed in the great apostasy that will hit a peak once the Antichrist governmental system gets into full swing, and that will be happening in the near future. Have any of you other Christians brought up these subjects in church? I have and it does not go over well, but that doesn’t matter to me. Now is the time to speak out and expose false teaching on these subjects. One prime example of what I mean can be found in scripture in Revelation chapter 13, verses 1-5: “And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he gave great authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?’ The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months.”

Don’t worry, I’m not going to confuse or confound anyone with any long, drawn out explanations because none is necessary. “The Beast” symbolizes an extremely powerful nation. “The Sea” is a biblical metaphor for the sea of humanity. The “10 horns, 7 heads and 10 crowns” refers to a large international organization, most likely the countries that are the primary or founding members of the United Nations. “The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion.” What modern countries use those animals as their national symbols? Germany, Russia and Great Britain, in that order. The “fatal wound that had been healed” is presumably Germany, who lost WW2 but has since been rebuilt and revitalized. “The Dragon” is a synonym for the devil, or Satan. And who is “The Beast”? What does it say? “‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” This is a clear reference to the largest and by far most powerful military force the world has ever known – the United States!

What else could this be? “The beast” in the Book of Revelation is none other than the United States military, the American Empire, the US military-industrial-incarceration complex, or all of the above! I mean, it does not take a seminary or a university graduate to figure this stuff out!!

There is much talk today about war being imminent. Granted, when it comes to the Middle East, war could break out at any time, nobody knows for sure. So you can forget about those who say they know the date of Jesus’ return, or that WW3 or a colossal economic crash is going to occur on a certain day. They either don’t know what they’re talking about, or they have ulterior motives for saying such things (like selling books, for example). Let’s not forget what Jesus taught: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels of heaven, or the Son, but only the Father”. (Matt. 24:36) But there are several other quotes directly from our Savior that may offer a clue about a certain time frame regarding Christ’s return. Jesus also said, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”, and, “The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him”. Moreover, when Jesus taught the parable of the wedding feast (see Matthew 22, verses 1 to 14), the groom arrived at midnight, and everyone had fallen asleep. When I combine the above quotes, the message is clear. He will arrive in the middle of the night to take his Bride home, and the world will have fallen asleep because it’s taking 2,000 years for this scenario to play itself out so that all prophecy can be fulfilled. Problem is – and this is where it gets interesting – if Christ comes in the middle of the night in Jerusalem, when I add up the time zone changes from Israel to the US, He would arrive here during afternoon rush hour. Wouldn’t that be something!

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What Does the Bible Say About the Role of Government?

Dispensing Justice and Promoting Healing

Are the Government’s Biblical Obligations

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

expect_resistance

This week I want to write about why implementing single-payer national health care is so important, and what the Bible says about that. The passage of so-called “Obama-care” a couple years ago makes this issue worse, not better. All the US government had to do was put the whole country on Medicare, and include all those on Medicaid as well. Then, we could just do away with Medicaid, saving the country roughly $650 billion per year! There is hardly a more controversial political battle in America today than that swirling around the role of government. The ideological sides have lined up, and the arguments rage about the size of government: How big, how small should it be? But I want to suggest that what size the government should be is the wrong question. A more useful discussion would be about the purposes of government and whether America’s is fulfilling them in a Christlike manner. So let’s put the politics to the side for the moment and look at what the Bible has to say about this topic.

The words of the apostle Paul in the 13th chapter of Romans are perhaps the most extensive teaching in the New Testament about the role and purposes of government. Paul says those purposes are twofold: to restrain evil by punishing evildoers and to serve peace and orderly conduct by rewarding good behavior. Civil authority is designed to be “God’s servant to do you good” as it is written: “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from the fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” (Romans 13, verses 3-5, NIV)

Today we might say ‘the common good’ is to be the focus and function of government. The Declaration of Independence defines this as being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The primary function of government is the care and welfare of its citizens”. According to the apostle Paul, the purpose of government is to protect from evil and promote the good, to punish the ‘takers’ while rewarding those who freely give. We are also obligated by law to pay taxes for those purposes. So to disobey, disrespect or circumvent good government is simply not a biblical position. Jesus summed this up very well during his ministry, as it is written: “Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap Him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher’, they said, ‘we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used to pay the tax’. They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s’, they replied. Then He said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar, and to God what is God’s.’ When they heard this they were amazed. So they left Him and went away”. (Matthew 22, verses 15-22)

First, government is supposed to protect its citizens’ safety and security. Crime and violence will always be a real and present danger in this world, and that’s why we have the police, who are meant to keep our streets, neighborhoods, and homes safe. Governments also need to protect their people judicially, and make sure our legal and court systems are procedural, just and fair. The biblical prophets regularly railed against corrupt court decisions and systems, in which the wealthy and powerful manipulate the legal processes for their own benefit and put the poor into greater debt or distress. The prophet Amos speaks directly to the courts (and government) when he says, “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts” (Amos 5:15 NIV). Again it is written, “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an honest or innocent person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous. Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.” (Exodus 23, verses 6-9)

But along with protecting, what should governments promote? The Law of Moses holds kings, rulers, judges, and employers accountable to the demands of justice and fairness, therefore promoting those values. And the Scriptures say that governmental authority is to protect the poor in particular. The biblical prophets are consistent and adamant in their condemnation of injustice to the poor, and frequently follow their statements by requiring the government to act justly. That prophetic expectation applies today to the governments of all lands and peoples. Jeremiah, speaking of King Josiah, said, “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.” Psalm 72 begins with a prayer for political leaders and the entire population: “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.”

There is a powerful vision here for promoting the common good — a vision of “righteous” prosperity for all the people, with special attention to the poor and to “deliverance” for the most vulnerable and needy, and even a concern for the land. The biblical understanding of justice is that the procedures must be fair and it demands unbiased courts (Exodus 23:2-8; Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17; 10:17-19). Immediately after denouncing Israel and Judah for the absence of justice, the prophet Isaiah condemned the way rich and powerful landowners have acquired all the land by pushing out small farmers when he wrote: “Now I will tell you what I am going to do in my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it. The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing: ‘Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants.’ (Isaiah 5:7-9, NIV). It is important to note that even though in this text the prophet does not say the powerful acted illegally, he nevertheless denounces the unfair outcome.

The real truth is that fair outcomes do not always match equal outcomes. The historical attempts by many communist governments to create equal outcomes in terms of social and economic status have dramatically shown the great dangers of how the concentration of power in a few government hands leads to totalitarian results. The theological reason for that is the presence and power of sin, and the inability of such fallible human creatures to create social utopias on earth. Yet the biblical prophets do hold their rulers, courts, judges, landowners and employers (even slave owners!) accountable to the values of fairness, justice, and even mercy. The theological reasons for that are, in fact, the same: the reality of evil and sin in the concentration of power — both political and economic — and the need to hold that power accountable, especially for the protection of the poor and the sick. So fair outcomes, and not necessarily equal ones, are the goal of governments. Governments should provide a check on powerful people, institutions, and interests in the society that, if left unchecked, might run over their fellow citizens, the economy, and certainly the poor. And coming to a better moral balance in achieving fiscal responsibility, while protecting the poor, should be a bipartisan effort. The radically anti-government ideology of the current right wing Tea Party/Republican ideology is simply contrary to a more biblical view of government. The need for checks and balances, the sinfulness of too much concentrated power in either the government or the market, and the responsibilities we have for serving the common good, are all the Biblical definitions of good and just government. Anything less is the same as poking your finger in God’s eye.

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