Category Archives: antiwar

It’s Been 50 Years, and Things Are Worse Than Ever

After Vietnam” 50 Years Later

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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MLK1

The fiftieth anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s much-beloved (right wing extremists excluded) speech, “After Vietnam” occurred this past week. To commemorate this famous speech I will be posting this slightly condensed version today, particularly in view of the fact that it is at least as relevant today as it was back then.

MLK’s “After Vietnam” Speech at Riverside Church, Harlem, N.Y. (1967)

I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers…. And of course, it’s always good to come back to Riverside church. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it is always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit. I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I’m in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on. And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burning of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church – the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate – leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight. I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in the successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans. Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor – both black and white – through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.

So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such. Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years – especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask – and rightly so – what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent. For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear….

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: ‘Vietnam’. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be – are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land…. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I’m speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men – for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

And finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place, I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son-ship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers. And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization. After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States’ influence and then by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace…..

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor. Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak of the – for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours. This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:

Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism (unquote).

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

[1] End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.


[2] Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.


[3] Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.


[4] Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.


[5] Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country, if necessary. Meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible. As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection…. Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisers in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing – embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response…. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate – ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message – of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history. And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when “justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

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Part Two of Another Warning From God

Another Warning to America From God (part 2)

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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Jesus in the clouds

Last week when I finished my message, I left off at verse 6 of Isaiah chapter 24, fully intending that my message as I perceived it from the Lord was over and done with. But, as I wrote in last week’s message, I felt the prompting of the Lord as I put forth His message, which I take no credit for. I give Jesus all the credit instead. But I am adding a second part to last week’s commentary because some additional warning is needed with respect to the United States. Frankly, not enough people are paying attention to what God is trying to say to us all, and those who do pay attention don’t always take these warnings as seriously as they should! I know, I know, there are a few out there who think I’m crazy, stupid, or both. Lord knows I’ve been called all kinds of things in the six years that this website and my blog have been on the Web. But I don’t care so long as I have the opportunity to preach and teach about the man in the Glory, Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior! Plus, I discharge my duties as such with a distinctly leftist interpretation, which is more in line with the teachings of Christ as well as the acts of the early Church than the contemporary conservative slant on Christendom. As a colleague of mine likes to put it, it’s the same old gospel using new methods of evangelism and new ways of teaching, but it’s all still the same Jesus.

As we left off last week, the prophet Isaiah had prophesied that the earth would be burned up, and that very few will escape. So this week allow me to further expound on the prophet’s pronouncements over the fate of our civilization, as well as for that of the US. “The new wine dries up and the vine withers; all the merrymakers groan. The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled, and the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. No longer do they drink wine with a song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers. The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred. In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished from the earth. The city is left in ruins; its gate is battered to pieces. So it will be on the earth and among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, or as when gleanings are left after the grape harvest.” (Isaiah 24, verses 7-13)

I can sum this up in 3 little words: The party’s over! Whole vats of new wine will evaporate because there is no one to drink it. The vines on which the grapes grow will wither because there is no one to tend to them. “The merrymakers groan” because the party is over and they nothing left but mean hangovers. “The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled, and the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. No longer do they drink wine with a song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers.” This country, and particularly its highly vaunted capitalist economy, is about to be decimated! Please so not misinterpret my meaning here – I mean no offense, nor do I wish to appear unpatriotic, hateful or intolerant. Moreover, I am no communist either! But all we have to do is examine the meaning of these words and we realize their direct application to modern America. The partying has stopped because of a big, ugly buzz-kill that has hit the entire world, starting with the USA. This will occur one of three ways – a nuclear war, an economic collapse, or some kind of unprecedented natural disaster that will pretty much trash the entire United States, and you can probably include at least some of Canada as well. As we read on, we find out the destruction will be even worse than that.

The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred. In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished from the earth.” This makes me wonder what it was that put such an abrupt end to all the festivities. Well, since it takes money to throw such big and lavish parties, something must have made the money run out. The only thing that could do that would be some kind of economic calamity, and a thoroughly disastrous one at that! I don’t care to speculate on how that could occur, since many others already have. “The city is left in ruins; its gate is battered to pieces. So it will be on the earth and among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten.” What city is this? Nobody knows for sure. Some say New York, still others Washington D.C., still others say it’s Jerusalem. The beating of olive trees is an ancient way of harvesting – (what else?) – olives. The olive tree is synonymous in Scripture with the greater Church. There are those who say it’s a symbol for the nation of Israel, and they are correct in their assessment. But this includes those non-Jews who are “grafted in” as the apostle Paul wrote. Meaning, both Jew and Gentile will be saved together, and that by a Jewish Messiah! And now let me add just 3 more verses to complete this week’s message.

The floodgates of the heavens are opened, the foundations of the earth shake. The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken. The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls – never to rise again. In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below.” (Isaiah 24, verses 18-21)

The floodgates of the heavens have opened? Was Isaiah writing about a torrential rain? Actually, the Bible gives us the answer back at the end of the New Testament, in Revelation chapter 8, verse 7: “The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.” The “floodgates of the heavens” isn’t rain, it’s a meteor shower! It describes the “first trumpet” in Revelation 8 to a tee! Hail and fire literally rain down upon the earth, and it’s mixed with blood, meaning there will be a lot of casualties. A third of the trees will be burned up by the widely scattered meteorites, exacerbating climate change. Moreover, there won’t be any grass left, which will be a death sentence for half the insect life on the earth, and every kind of earthworm will go extinct. Not a pretty scene, to be sure. Humankind will soon suffer a disturbingly similar fate.

“…. the foundations of the earth shake. The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken.” Without a doubt, Isaiah was writing about a massive earthquake of Biblical proportions. This too can be found in Revelation, but further back in chapter 6, verses 12-14: “I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sack cloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.” These two prophecies were written down nearly 900 years apart, and yet they match up nearly perfectly! Here you can see a good example of how it pays off to study God’s Word. You can’t find these hidden nuggets of truth unless you dig for them!

Mountains and islands are thrown out of place, or leveled altogether, wrote Isaiah. This is bad news for countries like Japan, New Zealand, and Iceland, and even worse for small ones like Jamaica, the Bahamas, Diego Garcia, the Falklands, and numerous others. Small island nations, as well as entire coastal areas and the state of Florida, would be decimated. The same goes for most of Central America and Indonesia, and neither of America’s coasts would be spared. “The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls – never to rise again. In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below.” Much of our current civilization is going to be destroyed, although I believe there will be substantial sized pockets of survivors throughout the globe. However, I don’t believe any of the survivors will be in any coastal areas.

What did Isaiah mean when he wrote, “the guilt of its rebellion”? Did he mean ‘nonconformity’, that those who fail to conform to the Bible and to religion will be punished or even killed? If some Christian “fundamentalists” are to be believed, yes, but I don’t agree with those people about that plus a few other things that I’ll overlook for now. It’s talking about the United States, which brings me to my conclusion. “The rebellion” is a reference to Capitalism, which started in the US after WWII and has since spread globally. As you will recall from one of my weekly commentaries from a few weeks ago, capitalism is considered a sin against God and others (see Exodus 22: 21-27). To apply this directly to modern life, God considers the charging of interest on goods and services (excluding government) to be immoral because it amounts to exploitation of the needy and those who have suffered misfortune. This, by the way, includes mortgages, car loans, and the whole gamut of “financial services” – stocks, bonds, futures, commodities, etc. They all amount to legalized gambling!

Although the US will eventually recover from this series of natural disasters, as will the remainder of the world, the economic system will be shot to pieces and most infrastructure will be destroyed. Hundreds of millions will be dead, and there’s not much I can say about that to make it sound or read any better. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the fate that awaits America if she does not change her ways. This is what will happen to the whole world if we don’t repent and turn away from sin, or if we don’t dedicate our lives to God and to the service of humanity, or both. But if we turn away from our errant behavior, and if America turns away from waging global war and its debt-based economic system and replaces them both with something sustainable, then God may yet relent and allow us to live in the absence of calamity and disaster. The ultimate decision is ours.

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The Last Thing We Need Is More Nuclear Weapons. Time For a Reality Check.

Trump’s Demand for More Nukes, the Ongoing Obscenity of War, and Its Contradiction With Authentic Christianity

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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stopping_war

Just this past week, president Donald Trump stated that the US must be “top of the pack” in nuclear weapons capability. Trump has expressed concern that the United States has fallen behind in its nuclear weapons capacity and that he would like to “restore its supremacy”. In a Reuters interview conducted in the Oval Office this past Thursday, Trump said the US needed to revive its nuclear arsenal. “I am the first one that would like to see nobody have any nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power,” Trump said. The comments were his first on the US nuclear arsenal since taking office last month. In December – hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to enhance his country’s nuclear forces – Trump tweeted that the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” In that event, I think the first two people who need to “come to their senses” are Presidents Trump and Putin, and especially Trump. It is not hard to see why.

The war in Afghanistan lasted more than 11 years. The original reason for the US military invasion was to hunt down and capture or kill Osama Bin Laden as the chief perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks. The reason it took the US military more than a decade to find him was because they were looking in the wrong country. Oops, sorry Mr. or Mrs. taxpayer, we got the right guy but we had the wrong address. Oh well! At the height of its military operations, the United States was spending $60 billion per month on the twin wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is not counting all the other bases the US military now has in well over 140 countries around the world, such as Germany, Japan, Okinawa, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Diego Garcia and Kuwait, to name a few of the major ones. A stepped up nuclear arms program is the ultimate escalation. The main reason Hillary Clinton didn’t get elected was because people were so concerned about her being such a war hawk. Many were afraid she would have gotten us into World War Three. Could it be that president Trump is going to turn around and do the same thing?

This leads to a fundamental question; why is our country’s leadership (because it’s not just president Trump) doing this? Why take a chance on a nuclear conflagration ever happening in the first place? Have we become collectively suicidal and homicidal? Look at the world from the standpoint of armaments. The USA is the world’s #1 arms manufacturer by far. This leads me to the conclusion that most of the arms being manufactured by other countries, such as Russia (the #2 arms manufacturer), are in place to counter the American threat. Too many Americans do not realize how much our country has frightened and damaged much of the world. We have the military and our elected politicians to blame, this happened on their watch! And now president Trump wants to ramp up nuclear arms production? I rebuke that in the name of Jesus, who said, “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword”!!

The notion of America being a superpower is a 20th century notion whose retirement date has long since arrived. With over 7 billion people currently inhabiting the earth, waging war has become counter-productive. It creates more problems than it solves, both in terms of human lives and in damage to the environment, which is already severely damaged and in need of extensive rejuvenation. Moreover, wars are almost never being fought for the reasons stated to the public. Let’s take Afghanistan as an example. The US military was allegedly there to find Osama Bin Laden, but the truth is that Afghanistan is a country with vast untapped natural resources, including enormous copper deposits. Meaning, all the fuss about Afghanistan’s poppy seed crop being a target of the ‘drug war’ here in the US is just a whitewash job on the American public. Upon closer examination of what has been happening there out of sight of the American people, it becomes apparent that it is none other than the CIA running the show. So when you see teenage gang members selling heroin on any given street corner in America, you can thank the CIA.

This is a stark contrast to what I have been teaching about being a people of peace for the last 6 years. It brings the US “war on terror” into sharp focus and sheds light on the criminality of the American Empire’s military machine and its illegal incursions into countries where it does not belong. The truth of the matter is that the U.S. position with respect to the dictators in the Arab world has been one of pure hypocrisy. We have supported these tyrants in the name of “stability” and the “war on terrorism” in exchange for easy access to their oil, but it has been a policy that has contributed mightily to the oppression of the people in those countries. This is a betrayal of our own revolutionary past, not to mention our fight against tyranny, as well as exacerbating the Islamic terrorism being used against us. Contrary to what is being reported in the Lame Stream Media, populist revolts in the Arab world have been non sectarian, grass roots and non ideological in every country they have occurred. That fact would seem to expose and make America’s policy in the “war on terrorism” while initiating wars in the Muslim world obsolete and absurd. Regarding this, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said during Bush 43’s second term in office, “Any secretary of defense who advises a president to engage in land wars with vast armies in foreign lands needs to have his head examined”. So going nuclear is now the new way to wage war? Go to Japan and find a few of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ask them whether nuclear war is a viable option, and see what they tell you!

The fact is Washington’s entire strategy of preemptive nuclear war and the whole “war on terrorism” is a ruse, a cruel invention concocted by neoconservatives and cold war warriors who were itching to replace the defunct Soviet Union with another enemy – otherwise the purpose for their existence would have to be called into question. Not only is the war on terror a reason for the American Empire to exist, it has become the only reason for its existence! It was and is a fantasy perpetrated by them and foisted on the American people. The ‘terrorist attacks’ perpetrated on 9/11 by rogue elements inside the US government has become the manufactured cause for endless war and is the real legacy of that fateful day. But in light of the unfolding “awakening” in much of the world, can there not be serious discussions in the White House and Pentagon of the absurdity of our continuing to fight wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Libya (not to mention the proxy war the CIA has been fighting against the Assad regime in Syria)? Secretary Gates’ comments allude to the insanity of fighting these wars (even if he put it in the context of new misadventures). From here it seems the U.S. resembles (in its ability to end its wars) a giant ship at sea that takes an excruciatingly long time to reverse course. Like the Viet Nam quagmire we seem stuck, committed to the non-winnable ‘endless war’ yet unwilling and unable to face reality. War is an ongoing obscenity, and America is addicted to it. It’s time for America, particularly those inside the Washington Beltway, to check it’s collective self into rehab. No more wars, and especially no more nukes!

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Of Refugees, Presidents and Scriptures

Immigration Issues, Progressive Christianity And The Golden Rule

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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After watching or hearing about all the back-and-forth from the Oval Office about president Trump’s 90-day immigration ban and subsequent court order temporarily suspending it this past week, I would first like to say that I have had a belly full of those who are ranting and raving about the flood of Muslim refugees who are entering Europe and America. I don’t talk, dress or worship as Muslims do either, but that does not give me license to hate them universally! In the first place, since I’m a Web minister and Christ follower it is impossible for me to hate, but I do not hesitate to voice strong disapproval of those who do. Those persons whose battle cry is, “GTHO” have forgotten – or chosen to ignore – that the United States is an entire nation of immigrants. Our country is a great melting pot for people of all nations, races, nationalities and faiths. It’s not like we’re being invaded by an army, although there are unquestionably some undesirable elements that must be rooted out. But we have law enforcement and intelligence agencies that take care of all that (plus a whole lot of vigilance on our part). So it’s time to get over our fear. What we actually have is a humanitarian crisis of colossal proportions. If a family dressed in Muslim attire came to your door asking for food, would you give it to them? Let’s not forget what it says on the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….”. Let’s also not forget what has been taught by Jesus Christ, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. The entire concept of unconditional love and acceptance while living in peace and harmony escapes those who are hateful, bigoted, prejudiced and intolerant, but children understand it completely – just ask one. Better yet, go and ask one of the so-called “illegal” children and teens crossing America’s borders. They come in search of peace and harmony because they have all escaped from the war zones down in southern Mexico and Central America.

The Bible has something to say about this, if only we will take a minute to look it up. “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt”. (Exodus 22: 21) This verse of scripture dates back to when Moses was at Mt. Sinai, well over 3,000 years ago, and its meaning remains unchanged over the centuries. And the apostle Paul wrote, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call upon his name, for ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’.” (Romans 10: 12-13) It looks to me like if there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, then by extension the same goes for Arabs and Americans or Arabs and Europeans. Granted, there have been terror attacks that have taken lives, a lot of lives, and these attacks demand a response that is even harder and meaner than the attacker(s). I’m all in favor of that, and if I were a younger man I might consider arming myself against the Islamic terrorists here on the home front and joining the fight. But we as Christians – and this goes for the nonreligious too, so all you secular readers please stay with me – can use the influx of Muslim refugees as an opportunity to sow the seeds of generational peace.

The majority of the Muslim refugees have a negative view of our country. The US military has bombed half of the Middle East back to the stone age, and they have enraged a multitude of people because of that. Well then, instead of killing them with our bullets and bombs, why not try killing them with kindness? We need to let these people know that there are many Americans who vehemently disagree with the New World Order and the Pentagon’s global militarism. Let’s be sure and remember what Jesus said about this: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you….” (Matt. 5: 44). This commandment from Christ, in and of itself, is one that is completely contrary to what is considered “normal” human though processes. Only he, the Son of God, could consistently do this repeatedly throughout his life. No one can duplicate this on a consistent basis – absolutely nobody! That is, in large part, the entire point of Jesus’ ministry, and it’s why he sacrificed himself for each of us.

But the most famous and timely quote from Christ regarding this entire issue can be summed up in one short paragraph. “The King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothed you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’.” (Matt. 25, verses 34-40) The righteous who did all these things during their physical lives will reap an eternal reward, but those who thought only of themselves will receive eternal condemnation.

We all know, or at least have heard of, the story of the Good Samaritan as told to us by Jesus Christ. I won’t quote the entire parable verbatim because my posting today is about how it applies to the subject of so-called “illegal immigration”. If I put the story into modern terms I can cite two different examples, one of how this could work out and the other as it actually did. A certain traveler from a foreign country was making their way through the US seeking to find suitable work and re-establish themselves in their newly adopted country. While on their journey, this hapless foreign national gets jacked up, beat up, and left semi-conscious and bleeding on the side of the road. A short while later a religious leader and church pastor who are passing by see the beaten and now-penniless victim, pause for a moment and say a quick prayer, and continue on their way. A few minutes after that, a well-paid IRS agent passes by the man and doesn’t even bother to stop and help even though he/she could have easily afforded to do so. An hour or two later, after this crime victim has been lying bleeding, severely injured and baking in the hot sun, a homeless man happens upon this person. This street person from the impoverished inner city (fill in the blank with the city of your choice) cleans up the victim’s wounds as best as he can, dials 911 on his/her prepaid flip phone, summons medical assistance to that location, and waits for the ambulance to arrive while protecting this luckless individual from further injury and harm. Once the ambulance has picked the injured person up and taken them to the nearest ER, the homeless person who helped the injured traveler goes on their way, enjoying a quiet satisfaction within themselves at the good deed they have done. But they say nothing to anyone about it, not wanting accolades or applause from anyone, but only to do good and to be merciful towards all God’s children. “Blessed are the merciful”, Jesus said, “for they will be shown mercy”. When the Last Trumpet sounds, guess who will be allowed in first?

We are, after all, a Christian nation, are we not? I know former president Obama said we weren’t, but I have never agreed with that. If we’re going to be a Christian or even a humanitarian nation, then I think it’s high time we started acting as if it were true! Didn’t Jesus heal the sick? Then we should be doing likewise, and the same goes for helping the less fortunate whenever and wherever we can. Anyone who disagrees with me on this point has forgotten their Christian heritage, lost touch with their humanity, or both. When I was a kid, I was taught that kindness wasn’t a choice, it was a command. It wasn’t something you considered doing; it was an automatic reaction that came straight from the heart. We just did it because that’s what Jesus would have us do. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This includes all immigrants, whether they are here legally or not!

Let me be absolutely clear about what I regard as the crux of the immigration issue. Immigrants, whether they are here legally or not, are not invaders from another country. They are economic and war refugees! I will use Mexico as an illustration. As you may know, the southern part of Mexico is a war zone between the drug cartels. But it’s worse than that. The average blue-collar worker in Mexico has a take-home pay in Pesos that is equal to about $50.00 a month in US dollars. When any given migrant worker comes to the US and takes a job at the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, that works out to a net pay after taxes of about $740.00 per month for a single person, more than a fifteen-fold increase over what they used to make. Now, let us ask ourselves this basic question: if we were offered a job in our profession in Canada, for example, at fifteen times our current pay rate, any one of us would naturally be eager for the chance, is that not correct? Of course you would! Now you know why so many economic refugees from the third world are coming here, and it’s not just from Mexico. They seek economic opportunity just like anyone else would, and it is a level of opportunity available in few places elsewhere. So if the American people want our government to do something about the influx of economic refugees from Mexico and Central America, we as a united people need to tell our leaders to change the economic conditions that is causing our borders (yes, it’s both – the Canadian border is just as porous as it is down south) to be overrun in the first place! How do we do that? One way would be a global minimum wage. Another would be direct economic aid to those affected countries by the federal government.

So why does this issue upset so many people? America is and always has been a nation of immigrants. There has never been a time in American history when this was not so. Every time we welcome one more immigrant into America, we take on the role of the Good Samaritan all over again. And that is a role we should all continue to emulate everywhere we go. Because at the end of the day, if we fail to do these things, we are discriminating. Discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion is banned in the Constitution as well as the laws of our land (see the 14th amendment section 1, our nation’s civil rights legislation of the 1960’s and 70’s, et. al.). The apostle James also had something to say about this when he wrote: “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against their brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?”. (James 4, verses 11-12) Why does this still apply today? Because the world has shrunk to a tiny fraction of its seemingly enormous size back then. Our neighbors are not just down the street or in our town any more. The Internet has connected everyone who wants to be connected, and more new people continue to log on each day. Meaning, everybody is now our neighbor, even if they’re on the other side of the world. Isn’t it time we started acting like 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

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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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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

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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

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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

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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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The Human Catastrophe Called Aleppo

Weeping For Aleppo

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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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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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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