Category Archives: capitalism

The End of Capitalism As We Know It

Massive Change Is Coming. Begin to Prepare Now!

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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gone astray

If you’re one of my thousands of regular readers, then you know that I’ve posted what I called, “Another Warning From God” as parts 1 and 2 over the last two weeks. Quite frankly, the response was so overwhelming that I decided to re-publish and update yet another warning from God that I posted 2 years ago. You will recall the previous 2 warnings were based on Isaiah chapter 24. For this week’s commentary we will need to go to the book of Ezekiel chapter 7. I’ve prophesied like this before, but I never do this unless I’m sure it’s coming straight from the Lord. America is in very serious trouble to the point that its very existence is being threatened. This entire country is in danger of going out the same way the old Roman Empire did: one nasty little piece at a time. But instead of being militarily invaded like the Roman Empire was, America’s impending destruction will probably come from within rather than from without. This is very serious stuff, so you will want to take your time and read this closely. Also, you will see that this prediction is coming straight from the Bible, followed by my interpretation of the Word of the Lord. This message is not merely my opinion. For this message from God, I will begin at verse 5:

 

This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Disaster! An unheard of disaster is coming! The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. It has come! Doom has come upon you – you who dwell in the land. The time has come, the day is near; there is panic, not joy, upon the mountains. I am about to pour out my wrath upon you and spend my anger against you; I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. I will not look upon you with pity or spare you; I will repay you in accordance with your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that it is I the Lord who strikes the blow. The day is here! It has come! Doom has burst forth, the rod has budded, arrogance has blossomed! Violence has grown into a rod to punish wickedness; none of the people will be left, none of that crowd – no wealth, nothing of value. The time has come, the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for wrath is upon the whole crowd. The seller will not recover the land that he has sold as long as both of them live, for the vision concerning the whole crowd will not be reversed. Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life. Though they may blow the trumpet and get everything ready, no one will go into battle, for my wrath is upon the whole crowd.” (Ezekiel 7, verses 5-14)

 

What does this look like to you? It reminds me of the book of Revelation chapter 18 that I posted a message on last year. Revelation 18 talks about the Great Babylon of the Last Days as foretold by the prophet and apostle John, the half-brother of Jesus Christ. Babylon the Great of Revelation 18, as I have previously proven by way of the Scriptures, is the United States. So we can safely conclude based on verses 5 to 7 that a great natural disaster of some kind or another is coming, probably sooner rather than later. Then the Prophet wrote, “…there is panic, not joy, upon the mountains. I am about to pour out my wrath upon you and spend my anger against you; I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices.” What was Ezekiel writing about here? Remember, Ezekiel lived hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Was he writing about the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman Empire in 70AD? Although this is entirely possible, it is far more likely – based on the wording of the text – that Ezekiel was seeing into the distant future, probably the early 21st century. God will repay America for what she has done. Until recently, the United States was the world’s number one polluter. China now has that dubious distinction. Our country has trashed the planet over the decades, waged wars without Congressional approval as required by law, and has murdered millions. Yes, America’s armed forces have disposed of its enemies, such as terrorists of all kinds both abroad and here at home. But in the process US assets have killed many hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians throughout the Middle East, in the Balkans before that, during the Vietnam war, and during WW2.

 

“I will repay you in accordance with your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that it is I the Lord who strikes the blow. The day is here! It has come! Doom has burst forth…” What detestable practices could the Prophet have been writing about? Religious and politically conservative Americans vigorously protest against abortion, but they have no problem sending your sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and grandchildren off to war, sometimes to be maimed and killed, or traumatized for life. The more affluent ones don’t send their own sons and daughters off to fight their wars – they send yours. My, aren’t they efficient! America may be a majority Christian nation (about 70% as of 2016), but the US is also the birthplace of the “prosperity gospel”, which says that in order to receive, you must first give. Of course, that’s not what the Bible says at all! “If you have a need”, Oral Roberts, the founder of ‘televangelism’ used to say, “you must plant a seed.” What the Bible actually says is that we are to “seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these other things will be given unto you as well”. These are the very words of Christ. They are unquestionably pure truth to every genuine believer. It’s not about money, it’s about the voluntary giving of ourselves towards others while expecting nothing in return. The Greek word for this is “agape”, meaning unconditional love. Tell all that to a ‘prosperity gospel’ believer and they might even cuss you out or punch your face, I don’t know.

 

“… none of the people will be left, none of that crowd – no wealth, nothing of value. The time has come, the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for wrath is upon the whole crowd.” This is clearly referring to some kind of economic disaster. If you have investments of one kind or another, better get your money out of Wall Street before the fall of 2018, if not sooner. What happens after that is anybody’s guess. But everything will lose a substantial amount of its value, such as stocks, bonds, futures, money market and/or mutual funds, commodities, gold, silver and real estate. It will be, as Ezekiel wrote in verse 5, a complete disaster. “Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life. Though they may blow the trumpet and get everything ready, no one will go into battle, for my wrath is upon the whole crowd.” ‘Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life’ seems to be an apparent reference to a heavy loss of life, presumably American lives. I don’t know how this is going to happen, but if it’s in the Bible, it’s got to be true. “No one will go into battle” is a probable reference to some kind of military activity, or possibly the lack thereof. Since a military invasion of the US mainland is unlikely, mainly due to a powerful military, plus well-armed citizens, as well as superior technology, any military activity that Ezekiel was writing about would have to be something from within, such as mass civil unrest or even a civil war. No one knows for sure, but everybody had better start praying about this right away. And now, let’s move on to the last part of this revealing chapter, starting at verse 15.

 

Outside is the sword, inside are plague and famine; those in the country will die by the sword, and those in the city will be devoured by famine and plague. All who survive and escape will be in the mountains, moaning like doves of the valleys, each because of his sins. Every hand will go limp, and every hand will become as weak as water. They will put on sackcloth and be clothed with terror. Their faces will be covered with shame and their heads will be shaved. They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them from the day of the Lord’s wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin. They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images. Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them. I will hand it all over as plunder to foreigners and as loot to the wicked of the earth, and they will defile it. I will turn my face away from them, and they will desecrate my treasured place; robbers will come in and desecrate it. Prepare chains, because the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of violence. I will bring the most wicked of their nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to the pride of the mighty, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none. Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor. They will try to get a vision from the prophet; the teaching of the law by the priest will be lost, as will the counsel of the elders. The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with despair and the hands of the people of the land will tremble. I will deal with them according to their own conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 7, verses 15-27)

 

“ …those in the country will die by the sword, and those in the city will be devoured by famine and plague. All who survive and escape will be in the mountains, moaning like doves….” Here we have another prediction of mass casualties like Ezekiel wrote about in verse 13. Obviously this is going to get very ugly. Plus, if the only survivors will be those in higher elevations, there is sure to be fights and shootings over food, gasoline, attempted robberies and other clashes for what may be minimal resources. “They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them from the day of the Lord’s wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin.” This isn’t just a stock market crash like in 1929, or a financial crisis like in September of 2008, this reads like something far worse. It predicts the collapse of everything, even real estate, gold and silver – a complete financial implosion. So, what we actually have here is a prediction of the collapse of the entire capitalist economic system and all the world’s debt-based economies. The “debt bubble” created by “the wonder of compound interest”, as it was called when I was just a school-boy, will most assuredly explode, and at the worst possible moment.

They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images. Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them. I will hand it all over as plunder to foreigners and as loot to the wicked of the earth…” So long, profits! Goodbye, capitalism! Everything that has been hoarded by the top 1% of America’s wealthy will be plundered by anyone who will be bold enough to grab and carry off all they can. Gated neighborhoods will be overrun by enraged mobs of desperately hungry people who haven’t eaten in days or even weeks. Pandemonium will rule and reign on earth while God sits on His throne and rules in heaven.

 

I will bring the most wicked of their nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to the pride of the mighty, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none. Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor.” America’s biggest debt balance by far is owed to Communist China. As you all must know by now, the interest on America’s debt is accruing faster than it is physically possible to pay down the principal. It’s only a matter of time before China decides to pull the plug. This will most likely occur by the end of 2018, and maybe even sooner, when the US dollar ceases to be the world’s reserve currency. It will most likely be replaced by the Chinese yuan, their equivalent of the dollar. What happens after that only God knows, but don’t be surprised to see Chinese troops on America’s western shores sometime in the not-too-distant future as they take their collateral for American debt in the form of US real estate. I’m also seeing a clear indication of some kind of terrorist attack (‘when terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none’). “….by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” When it’s all said and done, everybody will know who is in charge. In the meantime, stock up on non-perishable food and lots of fresh water. Canned good of all types, rice, pasta and dried beans are the least expensive. If you have kids at home, be sure and get plenty of powdered milk and eggs. When it comes to water, buy the 1-gallon jugs at the big-box and grocery stores, they’re the cheapest. You’re very likely going to need all of it, and quite possibly sooner than you think.

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Modern Capitalism and the Bible

The New Face of Capitalism Compared to

Authentic Christianity and the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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the new face of capitalism

The capitalist, debt-based economic system that we find ourselves enslaved by for the last few decades – and even before that – has reared its ugly head yet again this past week. United Airlines had a paying passenger literally dragged off a plane, giving him a concussion, and broken nose and other cuts and bruises when he refused to give up his seat. The facts that he had prepaid his seat and that he was a doctor returning to work after a vacation who was expected to report at a preset time, made no difference to the ‘security thugs’ who treated that gentleman with callous disrespect and a total lack of regard for his personal safety. Our capitalist economic system, it turns out, has degenerated into a Mafiosi-style enforcement-at-all-costs roulette table that is tilted in favor of the house. Our economy is rigged against us, the government knows it and knows that we do too, and they don’t care because they’ve turned the country into a police state to dampen the spirit of revolution. But, as president Kennedy famously said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolt inevitable”.

There is lots more to this than just politics and overzealous enforcement. The ‘lots more’ of which I write can only be found in the Bible. Whether one believes everything in the Bible or not, and even of one does not believe in it at all, the Scripture that I am about to quote fits the economic conditions of our time nearly perfectly. Allow me to quote from the first of three passages in Scripture that back up what I am writing or speaking about today. The first comes from the Book of Exodus, the 2nd book in the Old Testament, and I quote: “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of you among my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” (Exodus 22, verses 21-27)

The above quote is an outline from God about how we are to treat disadvantaged people. We all have a moral, spiritual and social responsibility to look after those less fortunate than ourselves. That’s what this passage is all about, and it starts with foreigners. Do not, Moses wrote here, mistreat “aliens”. Today we call anyone who is known or suspected of being in our country illegally an ‘illegal alien’. Instead of following the Bible as they should, many people vilify foreign nationals whether they are here legally or not. These people coming across our borders aren’t an invading army, they’re economic and ‘drug war’ refugees from southern Mexico, at least some of Central America, plus a few from South America and Cuba. God has warned us not to mistreat these people even if we don’t like them being here. Those who do not do so are disobeying God whether they realize it or not.

Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” All the banks that refinanced anyone who wanted it and that sold houses to people who couldn’t afford it 10 or 15 years ago before the 2008 mortgage crisis – this is just one of many modern examples of this that would apply here. So called “upside down” car loans are another example, where a car or truck owner owes more on the vehicle than it’s worth. These predatory loans are often sold to unsuspecting customers who don’t know any better because no one ever took the time to show them how to navigate our predatory economic system we call ‘capitalism’. Those who take advantage of these people will be punished most severely if they do not repent of their ways!

If you lend money to one of you among my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.” Contrast that verse with today’s world of “compound interest”, where greed is king of the hill and militarism is what enforces this institutionalized greed. Credit and debit cards are a fixture of life, and everything in our dying world of today is driven by the profit motive, flying in the face of Scripture and even the Lord himself! Ask yourself why the bottom 99% of Americans are buried under mountains of debt? Because the system is designed that way, that’s why. So should no interest be charged on anything at all? Not necessarily, since businesses often operate with lines of credit, as do governments. They borrow from “moneylenders” as the Bible calls them. But to charge people interest for the roof over their head, or for the clothes they wear or the food they eat, is just plain wrong, according to this verse of Scripture.

If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” This can be translated into modern English as a short-term loan, such as pawning an item or two or taking out a “payday loan” as they are called, among other things. Another way to interpret this would be to declare it sinful and an offense to make anyone put up everything they own as collateral. This kind of thing happens all too frequently in a world where costs continue to race ahead of people’s take-home pay. Here in the United States, 25% of our children go to bed hungry each night, and this is happening in what is allegedly the richest nation in history. This, ladies and gentlemen, is inexcusable! And now let me move on to the final part of this message and another quote from Scripture, this time from the New Testament.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2, verses 44-47) How about that? Everyone who joined the early churches, which were held in people’s houses rather than in large, imposing buildings such as we have today, pooled their resources! Meaning, the entirety of humankind has had the solution to poverty and hunger right in front of them while failing to see it! And why has this escaped us all for so many centuries? Because people don’t read the Bible, nor do they regard the Word of God for the societal guidelines and the human owner’s manual that it truly is.

OK, now let me give you another similar quote from the Book of Acts. “All the believers were of one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet.” (Acts 4, verses 32-37)

So here we see the same thing we saw above – people pooling their resources and sharing their wealth and possessions! In the 20th century and before that, these kinds of organizations were called ‘communes’, ‘cults’ and worse, and were the target of much scorn and derision, as were the hippies that inhabited them. If we look at this from a political standpoint rather than an economic one, we would call those who practiced these things “communists” or “socialists” by today’s standards. The least common denominator here is that no one cared about how much money they had or how much profit they made in their business transactions. Although it was evidently not a problem for a head of household to see to the needs of his or her family, anything over and above that went to the church to which they belonged. Why can’t most people do this today? Greed, pure and simple. Everyone is so busy looking out for themselves that others who are in much more dire straights are being ignored. It is this very injustice that the Bible addresses, and it rightfully admonishes those who cause such circumstances to occur.

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. Here’s an example of how to tell whether the preaching or teaching of the Word is authentic or not. Is the power of God clearly present? Is that power Spiritual in nature rather than emotional? Is that power presented with grace, beauty and a peaceful spirit? If the answer to all 3 questions is ‘yes’, what you’re hearing is not only authentic, it’s coming straight from God, inspired by the Holy Spirit! There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” How many people – Christian or otherwise – would do this today? Chances are you’re a homeowner or know someone who is. Would you, your parents or whomever seriously consider selling their house, farm, condo, etc. and giving all the money to a home-based church based on nothing more than what their friends and family had told them? It can be said with certainty that less than 1% of the population would actually do this based on the world in which we are all living. Now you have an idea of just how far off base capitalism is with respect to authentic, nonreligious Christianity!

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet.” “Levite” means a priest in the Temple who leads worship, animal sacrifices, music, or any other function one can think of in a house of worship. Levitical priests worked for only room and board, they did not receive any payment for their services or duties. So this man Joseph, also called Barnabas (he is mentioned again in Acts chapters 9, 11, 13 and 14, plus Galatians and a couple other places) sold a field he presumably inherited since he had no money to buy it, and donated all the proceeds to the apostles. As before, nobody would do this in today’s world to the best of my knowledge. Again, this goes to show us all how far off course capitalism and its byproduct – greed – has taken us. But it’s not too late to start building a better world, and we can start by abiding by the Biblical precepts of which I have written today. So until next time, all your stuff is just that – stuff! It can be replaced, but a closer walk with Jesus through those green pastures and besides still waters, just like Psalm 23 says, is irreplaceable.

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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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Either the government works for the people, or the people begin to work against the government.

Congress and the President Had Better Learn to Work Together, or They Will Face the Wrath of the People

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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There is a well-known quote from the Book of Romans in the New Testament that says, “Everyone must submit themselves to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing…..” (Romans 13, verses 1-4). These four verses of scripture are still just as valid today, 20 centuries later. Unfortunately, these verses can be and have been used grossly out of context in the past, with Adolf Hitler being the most infamous example (Hitler was a Catholic).

I have known a few evangelical pastors and far more “Christian conservatives” in my 61 years on this great planet Earth (or at least what’s left of it) who have similarly misused these verses. They were all sure they were right and that every other person not of their faith, or who dared to disagree, was going to burn in hell forever. For decades these “Christians” have taught their racist, homophobic, divisive and hate-based message that has driven away so many millions of souls they should have been winning over to Christ! Consequently, I have come to the conclusion that some of the “religious” people that I’m writing about need to find something else to do with their lives. Instead, maybe they could try selling cars, especially since some TV evangelists have about the same level of credibility. Or better yet, they could become truck drivers – you know, see America and all that jazz. Just hit the road, Jack, and don’t you come back any more! Let the truly committed and dedicated followers of Jesus do the works of faith and perseverance in spreading the Gospel of Jesus, and may the pretenders have enough sense to step aside so the productive people can work!

One thing that has changed about those verses of scripture since they were first written down is the advent of representative democracy. Although I could argue that representative democracy, where a full time elected official goes to Washington on our behalf, is in the process of being replaced with direct voter participation democracy, where the voters and the government will be directly connected on the Web (congressional and senate representatives would be reduced to part time employees), I will set that aside for now. Suffice it to say that, thanks to the Bill of Rights, particularly the second, fourth, fifth and eight amendments, Romans 13: 1-4 has become a 2-way street! Although people should rightfully fear criminal prosecution (“he does not bear the sword for nothing”), the US Constitution – our supreme law of the land – is written in such a way that our elected government is responsible to the people. Since our right to “keep and bear arms” is spelled out in the Second Amendment, the American people do not bear their ‘swords’ for nothing, either! As Patrick Henry, one of the many heroes of the American Revolutionary War, famously said, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”

As a result of all this, the conservative paradigm, where all of the power – political, economic, executive, legislative and judicial – is being concentrated in the hands of a few, is in the process of being replaced by a more populist agenda, particularly with respect to president Trump. The Internet is decentralizing everything. Moreover, the American people are arming themselves to the teeth in response to government bullying, including things like Standing Rock South Dakota, the epidemic of police shootings of unarmed Black men, the outsourcing of millions of American middle class jobs, the poisoning of our food and water, and I could go on and on! Then there is the ticking time bomb of inequality, with 99% of the wealth in the hands of 1% of the world’s population. They are in the process of turning our country into one big minimum-wage sweatshop, and those who comprise this top 1% of America’s economic pie are seeking to end the rule of the people here in the USA. When they are finished, they will own all the property that is left in the US and we will all be paupers. As a direct result of all these things and many more, people are beginning to take a noticeably more Progressive (but not necessarily “liberal”) stance on all of the above, and that includes our religious faith (nonreligious people excluded). Progressive Christianity means faith that is focused sharply on Jesus Christ without all the added dogmas of religious denominations, minus the spiritual pollution of conservative politics, and without condemning any faith or group of people whether Christ-based or not.

Curiously enough, the majority of those in the top 1% consider themselves ‘Christian’. As such, they truly believe that those who have not been “saved” like they are (or as they see themselves), are not as enlightened as they are (LOL). Due to their own perceived ‘superiority’, they expect us to believe that we are incapable of knowing what is best for ourselves, and that because of this we are in need of supervision (a.k.a. centralized government). You should also know they do not believe that even centuries-old Christian communities (Catholics, Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, etc.) are “saved,” only those who are Christian political conservatives. I’ve seen this first hand, and it’s not pretty.

You might be thinking that a minority fundamentalist group of zealots can’t really take over the direction of a country, right? Well, just look at the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917, that’s exactly what the Communists did. They pulled it off with just a few thousand soldiers and about as many mercenaries. In modern times, look at Iran or the countless other places (until recently, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela) where people have allowed this to happen. But thanks to the Second Amendment, I do not believe that could happen in America. Does anyone seriously think that all the US population is really going to sit back and watch a few thousand people pulling off an armed coup against the US government without wanting to jump up and do something about it? I should think not! They have already begun to attack all sources of accurate information. That’s the reason former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura fled the United States and now resides in Mexico. Public radio and network TV were first, then came cable TV, along with the museums and school textbooks. Just listen to them argue against the scientific facts about the environmental peril our planet is facing, just because it does not fit in with their ideas. The 1% elitists represent a clear and present danger to America and the world. The only way to stop them as I see it is to find a way to cut off their money supply, and that would involve a tax revolt of some kind or another. We had better do something very soon!

If I told you that the Amish in Pennsylvania were running for public office in record numbers with the intention of outlawing electricity and forcing others to act, dress and think like them, you would not believe it. Well, that is exactly what is happening in America, only it is not the Amish, it is the Christian fundamentalists and extreme right-wingers. It is not outlawing electricity, it’s placing limits on being a human with free will. Enjoying art and music, loving the person of your choice, dancing – the things that fundamentalists call “sins” – are a big part of what it means to be a human. Instead of funding education, technology development, research into advances in medicine and science, conversion to clean energy and a new low-voltage, digital power grid, and the development of space exploration, we are devoting all available revenues to war and killing. Waging war and profligate military spending are the first things that have to stop if we’re going to improve life on this planet of ours. After all, it’s the only one we have, and thanks to an emerging awakening people everywhere are figuring this out. As a result, a lot of personal growth is currently taking place, and that’s always a good thing!

The good news is that we are witnessing the beginning of a new era in human existence. While we watch the demonstrations across the country against the US election results, we continue to witness the civil war in Syria, the human barrage of economic and wartime refugees in Europe and North America, the accelerating concentration of wealth into the hands of a few, and the growing exasperation and anger of the American people, we are seeing a great truth – that people have within them the natural desire to be free. It is so sad that as the people of the world are fighting for freedom, we here in the United States are going in the opposite direction. The far right, under the control of Christian fundamentalists, is declaring an all-out war on human progress. We must absolutely, positively fight back. After all, the consequences of not acting are very serious. We are not just fighting for ourselves. We are struggling to protect the future generations of Americans who will suffer from these ruthless actions of the far right. We are speaking out against the measures being taken against those in our community who can least afford to be marginalized. This system of enforced inequality is going to fall one way or the other because it is unsustainable. As the late President John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable”.

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When the Truth Becomes Lies and Lies Become Truth

The 7 Biggest Lies of the Conservatives and the G.O.P.

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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One of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall not lie”. (Exodus 20, verse 16) It says still more about dishonesty in government in chapter 23, verse 8 of that same book of the Bible: “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.” While I’m not about to accuse anyone in the new US presidential administration of accepting bribes, I am dismayed at the barrage of confusing signals coming from the Trump administration. First, we were going to have a travel ban on Muslims because president Trump made it a campaign promise. Predictably, the courts have shot it down. The travel ban was unconstitutional right from the start. President Trump should have known that. The US Constitution has a system of checks and balances written into it so that none of America’s 3 branches of government will gain too much authority over the other two. I think it is highly commendable that our system of government still works so well, even after all these years.

The debacle of president Trump’s travel ban, combined with the large public protests against his administration, is morphing into a new Occupy or “We are the 99%” movement. The beginning of the end of the American political machine, the Republican-Democrat paradigm, has already begun. The Occupiers on Wall Street, at Standing Rock, South Dakota and elsewhere, combined with the various anti-government and antiwar protesters, can’t become a national movement for a more equitable society unless more Americans know the truth about the economy. Everything revolves around the economy because we all need money to survive. America’s trade imbalance, social, environmental and economic issues all revolve around a debt-based economy. This economic paradigm is coming to an end, and I’m going to list 7 reasons why.

1.) Tax cuts for the rich trickle down to everyone else. In actuality, quite the reverse is true. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both sliced taxes on the rich and what happened? Most Americans’ wages (measured by the real median wage) began flattening under Reagan and has been dropping since George W. Bush. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke. In reality, “trickle down” means “piss on” the poor, minorities and people of color, the disabled and the elderly.

2.) Higher taxes on the rich would hurt the economy and slow job growth. False. From the end of World War II until 1981, the richest Americans faced a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent or above. Under Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Even after all deductions and credits, the top taxes on the very rich were far higher than they’ve been since. Yet the economy grew faster during those years than it has since. Why are the country’s wealthiest families being allowed to skate on by the IRS while the rest of the country gets hammered by falling wages?

3.) Shrinking government generates more jobs. Wrong again. It means fewer government workers – everyone from teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and social workers at the state and local levels to safety inspectors and military personnel at the federal. And, fewer government contractors would employ fewer private-sector workers. On the contrary; to create more jobs and economic prosperity, raise the minimum wage to a realistic level! More money in people’s pockets equals more spending, which generates more economic activity, which creates more jobs and business start-ups. Plus, the additional spending and jobs create more tax revenue that ultimately makes its way back into the communities it serves.

4.) Cutting the budget deficit now is more important than boosting the economy. Whose lame-brained idea was this? Probably someone from within the Federal Reserve, since the Federal Reserve owns America’s budget deficit. Every time America makes a payment on our “national debt”, the money goes to the Federal Reserve! With so many Americans out of work or working part time instead of full time, additional budget cuts now will shrink the US economy even further. They’ll increase unemployment and reduce tax revenues. That will worsen the ratio of the debt to the total economy. The first priority must be getting jobs and growth back by boosting the economy. Only then, when jobs and growth are returning vigorously, should we turn to cutting the deficit.

5.) Medicare and Medicaid are the major drivers of budget deficits. Wrong. Medicare and Medicaid spending is rising quickly, to be sure. But that’s because the nation’s health-care costs are rising so fast. One of the best ways of slowing these costs is to use Medicare and Medicaid’s bargaining power over drug companies and hospitals to reduce costs, and to move from a fee-for-service system to a fee-for-healthy outcomes system. And since Medicare has far lower administrative costs than private health insurers, we should make Medicare available to everyone. All America has to do is take everyone who is signed up for Obama-care, Medicaid, the VA hospital system, plus all government employees, and roll them over into Medicare. Then we’ll just eliminate Obama-care and Medicaid by de-funding them both, saving over $1 trillion in the first year alone.

6.) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. No way! Social Security is solvent for the next 26 years just as it is. It could be solvent for the next century or more if we raised the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. That ceiling is now $106,800. Raising that amount to $250,000 will do the job very nicely! All it takes is a little common sense, something that seems to be in short supply inside the Beltway these days.

7.) It’s unfair that lower-income Americans don’t pay income tax. This is patently ridiculous. In a worst case, it criminalizes the poor. In truth, there’s nothing unfair about it. Lower-income Americans pay out a larger share of their paychecks in payroll taxes, sales taxes, user fees, and tolls than everyone else especially when compared to the top 1%.

Demagogues through history have known that big lies, repeated often enough, start being believed — unless they’re rebutted. These seven economic deceptions are just plain wrong. Make sure you know the truth – and spread it around to everyone you meet!

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As the Annual Orgy of Materialism Draws Mercifully to a Close….

The Devolving of Christmas: An American Tragedy

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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To read this on my website, click here! 🙂

It’s that time of year again, the closing days of the holiday shopping season when people by the millions will finish spending an average of $750.00 each between now and December 31st on a bunch of cheap imported Chinese crap that nobody really needs. The worst part for American consumers is that all these inexpensive imported products from the sweat shops of the 3rd world are designed and manufactured in such a way as to make sure the items wear out sooner rather than later in the hopes that the American consumer will go out and buy a replacement, hopefully sooner rather than later. The giant US multinational corporations have figured out that if you make a product just good enough to hold out for a little while, you can still get people to buy it even though it is made as cheaply as possible. Unfortunately for these same monstrosity corporations, the American consumer has begun to wake up and realize they have been had and that things have been this way for a long time, and they’re getting a little madder about it each day. Their fury and rage first manifested itself in the Arab Spring of 2011, followed by rioting in Spain and England that summer, followed by civil unrest in Greece that has yet to completely simmer down. The civil war in Syria similarly rages on as I write this. This has been followed here in the US and Europe in the form of the Occupy Wall Street and “we are the 99%”, protest movements of which I am proud to be a part, and both of which are still very much ongoing, and most recently the Black Lives Matter movement.

All I’m saying is that people everywhere have become more questioning, more critical or have even become opposed to capitalism as we know it due to what is increasingly being viewed as its predatory nature and its emphasis of profits over people. Many of us, including myself, are completely up in arms over the state of our country. The Christmas shopping season is just one symptom of capitalism gone overboard, with a mad dash to acquire more and more material things just for their own sake at a time when we are supposed to be quietly celebrating the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is indicative of a society that has lost its sense of direction and lost touch with its purpose for being. I was one of millions of people who boycotted Black Friday last month as a way to peacefully protest being forced to live in a world where the main thing that matters most seems to be how much money one can make.

I’ve been there and done all that. I owned a small computer store all through the 1990’s and made some real good money. I never got rich, but I’m okay with that. I know what it’s like to have all that, and do you know what I found out about wealth and riches? It’s just a big trap, a never-ending treadmill of the pursuit of profits until it consumes your whole life, until in the end you realize that it was all just an illusion. Like a game of Monopoly, when the profit machine comes to an end (and sooner or later they all do) and the game is over, everything goes back in the box only to start all over again. That’s all capitalism and the taking of profits is – one big Monopoly game where the person with the most money wins, and always at the expense of everybody else. Is it any wonder that capitalism and the taking of profits has ruined the spirit of Christmas, let alone the whole country? Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong at all with turning a nice profit, but not if it means ripping off your customers and cheating your employees!

What have we become? Like cattle and sheep headed to slaughter, we roll out at this time of the year at the bidding of shop-till-you-drop gimmicks. Meanwhile, we fight and claw for the blue light special at the various suburban box stores offering low wages and no benefits to staff. So, how much can we save? Wally World is offering 25% off, while Sneers is offering 30%. Let’s run to Sneers! It’s only 30 more miles down the road and we’ve got the gas! What about the Chinese people slaving in non union factories at pennies a day? What do they make off the deal? Who is actually winning? Is it really the mesmerized consumers teary and googly-eyed while giggling gleefully at 30, 40, and 50% off deals? Our politicians say it’s the American workers. Yes, it is our right to slave part time at minimum wages and no health benefits while we shop till we drop looking for that fantastic deal. We make this statement as employees of corporations are lining the pockets of senators, congressmen and supreme-court justices in Washington D.C. while seated on presidential cabinets making decisions regarding our planet’s future, our future, and our children’s future. Meanwhile our consumerism is devouring the planet into what might soon become more lifeless than the moon or, God forbid, a Wall Street tycoon. Yet, mesmerized by commercials with intelligence levels less than a jackass after having a lobotomy, we roll blindly into the gates of the shopping centers, the strip malls and humongous big box stores. For example, consider the following December 2013 release from the Associated Press.

“A shopper in Los Angeles pepper-sprayed her competition for an X-box and scuffles broke out elsewhere around the United States as bargain-hunters crowded malls and big-box stores in an earlier-than-usual start to the madness known as Black Friday. Toys R Us opened for the second straight year on Thanksgiving itself. And some shoppers arrived with sharp elbows. On Thanksgiving night, a Walmart in Los Angeles brought out a crate of discounted X-boxes, and as a crowd waited for the video game players to be unwrapped, a woman fired pepper spray at the other shoppers “in order to get an advantage,” police said. Ten people suffered cuts and bruises in the chaos, and 10 others had minor injuries from the spray, authorities said. The woman got away in the confusion, and it was not immediately clear whether she got an X-box. On Friday morning, police said, two women were injured and a man was charged after a fight broke out at an upstate New York Walmart. And a man was arrested in a scuffle at a jewelry counter at a Walmart in Kissimmee, Fla. In the U.S., Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, has taken steps in recent years to control its Black Friday crowds following the 2008 death of one of its workers in a stampede of shoppers. This year, it staggered its door-buster deals instead of offering them all at once.” (Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press)

Lennon and McCartney of the Beatles wrote in the song “Revolution”, “you say you want a revolution, well you know, we’d all love to change your head.” Yes, it is more than changing Wall Street. It is, ultimately, about changing ourselves. This Christmas, change how you celebrate. Speak from your heart to your kids about consumerism and how it is affecting the planet as well as our behavior. Ladies, instead of buying your guy a new bag of golf clubs, give him a night he will never forget. Be creative, be loving, be tender and compassionate. Enjoy each other. To enjoy is to enjoin, to enjoin is to unite. Consumerism keeps us isolated by gimmicks of sensationalist advertising of unrealistically beautiful women, “perfect” children and gorgeous hunks of men that are created off the corporate mold. And who is being molded by all these advertising gimmicks? You are! For what purpose? To make others rich. Don’t go there this year. Find richness in your heart and share that this Christmas. And keep more of your money.

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Being glad for what you have considering the impending financial collapse that is to come

Better to Be Thankful for What You’ve Got

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

People everywhere are crying the blues about their financial situation, and with just cause to say the least. There are some people lucky enough to still be in the work force who are being forced into low-end service jobs, many of which pay below the poverty line. It’s not the people’s fault that they can’t find good paying jobs. Most of those jobs have been sent overseas, never to return. The job market is rigged anyway, and so are the political and economic systems we are currently stuck living under. But all this will be coming to an end soon unless the globalists are stopped in their tracks! You know, the ones who just lost last month’s presidential race here in the US? Never mind HRC, she was just the face that masked the real persona of globalist interests. If we do not actively oppose the global elites we will be crushed by them, of that you can be quite sure!

So how can we stop these people without tearing everything down and starting over on a clean sheet of paper? We must redefine democracy and the capitalist economic system (in that order) in 21st century terms. Representative democracy such as what been centralized in Washington, DC will ultimately be replaced by a virtual-reality-like online government. Instead of the current hierarchical setup, future government will evolve into a beehive configuration, having a kind of lateral management structure. I don’t think that’s too far into the future, either. One thing I am sure about – the governmental and economic systems as they currently exist are unsustainable. A huge economic crisis is headed our way. It’s not a question of if, but of when.

The only other possibility would be for Jesus to return and take his people home (see Matthew 24, Luke 27, Daniel 9). To put it mildly, that would stop everything and everybody in their tracks! Everything I just wrote about in the opening paragraphs would no longer make any difference! To spare you all any long, drawn out explanations, anywhere from 10% to as high as 25% of humanity will leave earth all at once during the ‘rapture’ of the greater Church as the apostle Paul prophesied in 1st Thessalonians chapter 4, verses 13-18, and I quote: “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, and with the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep”. Notice the emphasis on Jesus’ resurrection as the starting point. On the other hand, “fallen asleep” was a pseudonym in the 1608 King James version for being deceased that was carried over to several other versions, such as the NIV. The following verse is just a fancy way of saying that upon the ‘rapture’ of the greater Church, those who died while practicing their faith in Christ would be the first to be taken up, followed by all those believers who were still alive at the halfway point of the seven years of tribulation when the ‘rapture’ will actually occur (see Daniel 9, verse 27). “….the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” This is the ultimate fate of every true Christian. We will meet the Lord in the air, or in heaven, and either choice is fine with me.

But until then and while we’re waiting for the ‘rapture’, people are still really upset about the huge pay cuts they have had to take to remain in the work force, their lowered standards of living, unfair burdens of student loan debt, increasing environmental pollution, and burnout from longer work hours adds insult to injury. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Moreover, I don’t know how much longer American workers, managers and their families are going to be able to put up with this situation. But at the end of the day, we had all better be satisfied and thankful for what we do have, because it can all be taken away in an instant by fire or natural disaster. While standing up for what is right and just are always good things, we should adopt the attitude of the apostle Paul, who, when he wrote his beautiful letter to the Philippian church, said, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content no matter what the circumstances. I know what it is like to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4, verses 10-13)

We can all learn a good lesson from the apostle Paul in those verses above. Paul evidently didn’t worry about having all his needs met. Paul is telling us all to stop worrying about material possessions like money and investments, the most stylish clothes, ever more over-sized houses and faster cars, and countless status symbols in American society that don’t amount to a hill of beans in the sight of God! In my humble opinion, people had better start learning to live with less, not more. America is addicted to materialism, but the coming financial disaster will break that addiction for good! People will have to relearn the time-honored lesson that there is more to life than just ‘stuff’.

Tough times are coming. Nobody knows the exact timetable for this, but I view this as my duty as a licensed minister to warn people about the coming financial calamity and its probable consequences so they can prepare. I also view this as being part of my overall job description, since I am a humble servant in His Majesty’s service. What is also a part of my job description is to be a watchman in the fortified guard tower, scanning the horizon for any sign of a possible attack or potential intruder from Satan and the forces of darkness. Thanks to my own relationship with Jesus, I can evade these forces of evil I have written about. By reading your Bible daily, you can achieve the same and dedicate it all to Jesus. In fact, we would all do well to do the same.

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The US Economy Is A Scam

Wells Fargo, the Problem With Capitalism, and the Bible

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”

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

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A Plea for the American Electorate

Four Good Ways to Turn the Tables on Tyranny

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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In the wake of America’s latest tragic example of how our voting system simply does not work, many of us are left scratching our heads asking, “What kind of democracy is this?” Well, simply put, it isn’t a democracy at all. It’s a tyrannical oligarchy of the worst kind; one that’s disguised as a democracy and hidden behind the smoke and mirrors of political propaganda. Just because governmental decrees are no longer issued by royal fiat but are instead issued by lobbying and propaganda, doesn’t make it any less tyrannical. It is nothing more than inverted totalitarianism. And it is our responsibility, if we would be proactive citizens, to stop this totalitarianism in its tracks. The 99% – that’s us – must turn the tables on the top 1% or we will simply not survive as a species on this planet. That’s how serious the American people’s predicament has become! It’s as simple as that. Our strategy should be not only to confront the American empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. How? With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe. “Resistance to tyrants”, Thomas Jefferson once said, “is obedience to God”. I think even the atheists would agree with that one, or at least up to a point. Here are four ways that I believe we can turn the tables on the tyrannical plutocracy that our government has descended into.

1.) Mock Plutocracy Warren Buffett once said, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Wake up to the fact that the plutocrats have created their own economic apartheid. Money is the illusory carrot being dangled between you and the truth. The way the current oligarchy maintains its vice-grip on power is by making the people believe that it’s all okay because greed is good, and making money is very important, allegedly because with enough money comes the freedom to do what you want – like buying the rules made by government and funding lobbyists who significantly contribute to the laws that Congress writes and passes. While the world goes through the motions of getting poorer and poorer the moneyed elite are getting richer and richer, to the extent that it is costing people their lives. We must be able to muster the courage to put our foot down and draw a line in the sand. A people’s declaration of emergency is needed. Mass civil unrest is clearly called for in this situation in which we find ourselves, and the summer of 2016 is only halfway done!

One way to put our foot down is to mock the plutocratic entities that have a monopoly on power and to ridicule the cult of personality. Shame is a very powerful psychological motivator. The sooner we make them realize that they have to be morally responsible with their power, the sooner we will be able to bring balance to the world. And the way we make them realize it is through the stultifying effect of shame. Like Confucius said, “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” And have no illusions, countries the world over are badly governed. Through a healthy mockery of their power we will forcefully get power over the entrenched powers that be, and turn the tables on the power dynamic.

2.) Defy the Police State No longer do police act in the capacity of peace officers. Now they are simply hired thugs of a government that no longer has the best interest of the people at heart. A primary purpose of the police is to enforce the delusions of those with lots of pieces of green paper. Those without the green papers generally buy into these delusions almost as quickly and completely as those with. These delusions carry with them extreme consequences in the real world. Like George Orwell said, “The capitalist society is a police society where the number one goal is the protection of upper class property.” While the governments of the world have been taken over by corporate interests, bankers and special interest groups, our country have been turned into a police state, with the rest of the world soon to follow. Systems of control vainly attempt to keep everything the way it is, inefficient with a controlled obsolescence, so that “We the People” keep buying things we don’t need so that the rich can keep auctioning elections and buying laws to keep the poor suppressed.

Like Stefan Molyneux said back in 2014, “To efficiently control the human farm, you need a majority of broken, self-attacking, insecure, shallow, vain and ambitious sheep, forever consumed by inconsequential things like weight, how good our abs and those of celebrities are – and a minority of volatile, angry and dominant sheepdogs, which you can dress up in either a green (military) or a blue (police) costume and use to threaten and manage the herd.” Black-booted police state beware, your fascist violence is no match for our creative freedom, and your worship of financial gain is no match for the Son of God in whom we place our trust. The so called “herd” is methodically being populated with wolves in sheep’s clothing, and we will bite if we’re cornered. We can turn the tables on the police state by mocking it like Pussy Riot mocked Putin, and like Anonymous mocks power.

“History does not repeat itself,” wrote Mark Twain, “but it does rhyme.” And we’re here to bring an updated healthy rhyme to your outdated dissonant rhythms. Your watchdog heart and brainwashed brains don’t stand a chance against our compassionate hearts and open minds. Your days are numbered. Civil disobedience has always been a game-changer and the game is about to change. You might as well just toss those badges in the trash for all they’ll be worth. Better yet, join us. The thin blue line is an illusion at best.

3.) Ridicule the NDAA “The NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) is not about protecting us. It is about protecting the state from us. That is why no one in the executive or legislative branch is going to restore our rights. The new version of the NDAA, like the old ones, provides our masters with the legal shackles to make our resistance impossible. And that is their intention.” – Chris Hedges, Pulitzer prize-winning author and writer

When Adolf Hitler was in power in Germany he was quoted back in 1934 as saying, “What good fortune for governments that the people do not think.” Don’t be an unthinking citizen easily influenced by the likes of Hitler. Become a self-aware proactive citizen instead. Like Frederick Douglas wrote, “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.” Indeed, the more we know, the more capable we are of remaining free men and women. As it stands, The National Defense Authorization Act is the most diabolically authoritarian law to ever come down the governmental chute. It’s anti-freedom in the name of security, the most deceptive kind of law. The NDAA is a greater threat to our national liberty than the terrorism from which it claims to protect us from! It unconstitutionally impinges on legally guaranteed First Amendment rights and lacks sufficient protections to meet the requirements of due process. Simply put, it is an instrument for the government to restrain the people. The constitution used to be an instrument for the people to constrain the government, but with legislation like the NDAA and the Patriot Act, the instrument of the Constitution is useless and no longer holds true.

It’s past time that we, the American people, get out there to protest and litigate against the NDAA (could I please get a few attorneys to help out with this?). We must ridicule it. We must scorn it to the ‘nth’ degree. Blaspheme it in the face of the president if need be. Inform people about how corrupt it really is. People will remain ignorant as long as we allow them to be. Let’s not allow them to be; not only for the sake of their freedom but for our own, as well as for the freedom of our children and our children’s children. People are born to be free. Ridiculing acts like the NDAA, and attempting to abolish them, are ways of safeguarding such freedoms.

4.) Challenge the Mass Surveillance State Beginning with the adoption of the Patriot Act in 2001 (The government’s backbone-less, scared-stupid response to 9-11), the floodgates opened for covert government surveillance not only for the NSA, FBI, CIA and Homeland Security but for hundreds of municipal and state governments – a green light to infiltrate and spy on millions of American citizens without cause! Now FISA is a dead horse that’s been beaten beyond recognition, because it has been morphed into a vehicle of covert means shielded from effective oversight through countless amendments by the Bush and Obama administrations. And now congress itself is hung-up on the fear-mongering tactics of the War on Terror.

It is now up to us, “We the People”, to challenge this surveillance state, unless we inadvertently become what George Orwell warned us against in his novel, “1984”. Leaking information has become the civil disobedience of our age. The late historian and activist Howard Zinn described the act of civil disobedience as “the deliberate, discriminate violation of law for a vital social purpose… Such acts become not only justifiable but necessary when a fundamental human right is at stake and when legal channels are inadequate for securing that right.” Even Thomas Jefferson realized it, writing, “If a law is unjust, a man is not only correct to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.” Snowden, Manning, Assange, Jeremy Hammond, the late journalist Gary Webb, and the late Aaron Swartz have all continued the tradition of civil disobedience by revealing the details of global mass surveillance programs. It’s time to change the tune. It’s time to interrupt their corrupt dance. It’s time to challenge the powers that be. Nothing short of the survival of the human race is at stake. If we are going to proclaim ourselves Christians, then we have a responsibility to oppose that which is corrupt, unjust, unfair and which poses a clear and present threat. Evil must at all times be resisted with good. Not through some imaginary fist-fight between good and evil, all that is just so much Hollywood ‘BS’. I’m talking about resisting evil in the Spiritual realm through prayer, faith, love and good works whenever possible. Passive resistance works as well in the Spiritual world as it does in the physical, so use it whenever possible. “The prayers of good and sincere men and women”, wrote the apostle James, “are powerful and effective”. If you’re not praying for this country, and for God to show you a way to fight back without killing cops from a sniper’s nest, right now would be a very good time to start. Let’s take back our country, and let’s do it peacefully if at all possible. Oh yes we can!!!

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America is sick with greed, and I’m just plain sick of it

America’s Sick Culture of Greed – the 7 Warning Signs

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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The apostle Paul, in his first letter to his deacon Timothy, admonished him to be wary of the pursuit of money and material wealth. About 1,950 years ago, Paul wrote, “But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1st Timothy chapter six, verses 6-10, NIV) The love of money for money’s sake, as in the days of the early Church, remains the social and societal disease of our time. We see it all around us; in the celebration of ill-gotten financial gain, public admiration for the heads of criminal banks, the lyrics to some popular songs, and in the commercialization of charity and spirituality. This adoration of wealth isn’t a new thing, of course. Back in elementary school I remember being sent to the principal’s office for being moody, unfocused and temperamental – in other words, for being either a rebellious revolutionary, a writer in the making, or a trouble-maker. I still remember my report cards from elementary school that said I “failed to concentrate on the task at hand”, and that I had “too casual an attitude”. In other words, I was a misfit deemed to be a failure in life. That, of course, depends on how one defines the words ‘misfit’ and ‘failure’.

In defense of my childhood self, the Beatles were famous for their Rolls-Royce’s at that time and the Beatles seemed happy. A group called the “Dave Clark Five” went out and bought five matching Jaguar XKE convertibles (anybody else remember that?). Like any good consumer in the making, I had internalized these images of wealth and had come to equate them with happiness. The United States of the 1960s was a nation filled with optimism. For many (though definitely not all) Americans, it was a time of unparalleled opportunity. Education was affordable, families could live comfortably on a single adult income, and the country seem to be on an endless upward trajectory of prosperity. We were expanding in every way, so rapidly that only the depths of space seemed able to contain the people we were about to become. The fantasy of wealth seemed somehow different in that context. Today, we’re a nation being preached to by “bipartisan” corporate politicians who lecture us on the impossibility of expecting a livable Social Security income in our old age. Or a living wage in our working years. Or an affordable education, so our children can live a better life economically than we did. Yet we’re more infatuated with the fruits of unproductive greed today, it seems, then we were back then. Here are seven signs that American culture is sick with greed.

1.) There’s still no public shame in profiting off Wall Street fraud.

Wall Street has been celebrating the investment opportunities created by the wave of criminality and fraud which has overtaken JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and others. JP Morgan Chase’s epidemic of internal fraud has led to tens of billions in fines during the tenure of CEO Jamie Dimon. The investigation’s report goes on to describe how JP Morgan’s stock has risen despite the record fraud settlements against the bank and multiple ongoing civil and criminal investigations. What the report is saying is that banks are essential to the functioning of society, like a public utility. But unlike traditional public utilities, they’re entrusted to profit-driven executives with a long history of documented criminality. And yet there have been no indictments of senior Wall Street executives to date because senior government officials have made it clear they don’t want to endanger the banks by enforcing the law. Legal and political implications aside, what’s astonishing to me is the complete lack of shame associated with being a bank executive whose organization has committed so many crimes — or an investment analyst to openly celebrate those crimes as an opportunity to make money at society’s expense.

Even as the world was still learning of Wall Street’s extensive criminality, Dimon was the subject of a fawning profile several years ago in the New York Times Sunday magazine, which detailed at length Dimon’s hurt feelings and irritation toward those audacious enough to criticize him. Andrew Ross Sorkin did the same thing for the same newspaper three years later, dismissing as “blood lust” calls for Dimon’s resignation in the wake of yet more billion-dollar fraud revelations about his bank. Even now, after all the revelations of crimes which include investor fraud, shareholder fraud, perjury, forgery, violation of international sanctions laws and laws designed to protect members of the US Armed Forces — even now it’s possible to treat bank CEOs as victims in the pages of our country’s newspaper of record. Condemning that record isn’t blood lust. It’s morality.

2.) Greedy CEOs still have credibility in the media.

It’s not just Jamie Dimon, of course. Having shattered the middle class through their accumulation of wealth, the devastation they inflicted on the global economy, and their mistreatment of employee pension funds, Wall Street CEO’s apparently still have enough credibility in some quarters to be treated as experts in fiscal responsibility. They’re using that credibility to suggest that America’s middle-class accept cuts to Social Security and Medicare, two of the few programs left to protect them from the effects of runaway corporate greed. American news outlets accord these CEOs an extraordinary and unearned measure of respectability and authority. Very few articles about ‘Fix the Debt’ mention the massive fraud settlements and fines levied against these CEO’s institutions. Although CEO’s aren’t greedy by definition, most of the ones on ‘Fix the Debt’s’ list fit that description. Most of the ones who aren’t running Wall Street banks lead defense contracting firms that earn excessive profits from the US taxpayer, while lecturing those same taxpayers on the need for the middle class to cut back on its expectations of financial security when it reaches retirement age. ‘Fix the Debt’ is one of a number of interlocking organizations which are largely financed by right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson, who made his money in the hedge fund business and yet is treated by many journalists as if he were Mother Teresa.

3.) Corporate executives are now trained to rip people off.

This writer spent a number of years in the business world during the 1990s, as the owner of a small technology-based retail storefront operation. During this time, corporate America was transforming itself from a customer-driven set of industries to a greed-driven and conscience-less wealth extraction machine for the investor class. Let me use the Gillette Company as an example. As most bearded men know, the Gillette business model is a sneaky one. The company ropes customers in with low-cost razors and then charges an outrageous amount for replacement blades. This is obviously a deceptive business model. Another example from the 1990’s and (to a lesser degree) 2000’s is that of the pay phone industry, which wanted to increase turnover in the use of its phones. The allegedly ‘brilliant’ thinking of a junior executive taken directly from the minutes of board meetings (I will decline to name the company) proposed that bricks be put in the handsets of all their phones. In the same “brainstorming” session, which sometimes are innocuously called “meetings”, another executive suggested making the surfaces underneath the phones slanted, so that people couldn’t leave their things there while they spoke on the phone. The net result was that people paid a quarter to use a pay phone, but then grew uncomfortable and were unable to complete their calls. The beauty of it – from the company’s point of view – was that they didn’t even know why they were hanging up. They merely had an unsatisfying customer experience, while the phone company got to turn over customers more quickly and collect more quarters. Again, nobody back then objected that this was poor customer service, and an underhanded way to deal with customers. If you multiply those experiences ten thousandfold, you have an idea of the culture of corruption which is taking place every day in companies all across the country. That’s not to say there aren’t companies that still believe in customer service; there are, and I’m grateful every time I encounter one. But the corporate culture of America has become a culture of cheating, manipulation and greed. (The pay phone industry in this country is dead, by the way. Karma, as they say, is a bitch.)

4.) And then there’s the music recording industry.

Our idealization of greed isn’t confined to the business section of our newspapers. While white liberals decry the idealization of wealth, that’s not a new phenomenon either. In fact, it can be found in both lifestyles and the recordings of their own childhood musical heroes. “Money can’t buy everything it’s true, but what it can’t buy I can’t use…” There has always been a tension in popular music between the comfortable idealism of those who come from wealthy backgrounds and the aspiring materialism of pop musicians who were raised in poverty and/or financial insecurity. That latter list includes Elvis Presley, the Beatles, James Brown, and many of today’s hip-hop artists. As the seminal R&B producer, songwriter and performer Swamp Dogg put it in the 1970’s: “I’m not selling out, I’m buying in.” The best of those artists — the Beatles, Brown, and more recently Kanye West — have struggled to reconcile the drive which helped them escape poverty with the idealism that made them gifted artists. Kanye ran into some controversy with his track “New Slaves.” Many people were offended that he equated his own wealth with slavery and Jim Crow laws. It’s Kanye’s charm, as well as his curse, to speak everything that comes into his mind. But I think he was onto something with his line about “throwing back the Maybach keys” and his lyrics about the expectation that African-American celebrities will be excessive spenders.

Self-made celebrities often act as ritualized consumers on behalf of the general public. Their job is to swallow up the most excessive luxuries the wealthy lifestyle has to offer. They inadvertently use their power and influence to reinforce the corporate-driven, consumerist tropes that keep us enslaved to our own material desires. By naming the phenomenon and ritually “throwing the keys,” Kanye West is trying to break a pattern that has stretched from Tupelo in Mississippi to Compton in California, from Liverpool in England to Bed-Sty and Brownsville in New York.

5.) Insight and spirituality are being commercialized.

One of the most notorious examples of the commercialization of faith and spirituality is the “prosperity gospel”, which is being propagated primarily in Protestant, catholic, and non- or- interdenominational churches here in the US. As the late and well-known televangelist pioneer Oral Roberts once said, “If you have a need, you must plant a seed”. In order to obtain, we must first give, or so they say. But when we examine the Scriptures, we find this is quite the reverse of what Christ taught us in the Sermon on the Mount: “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’, or ‘What shall we drink?’, or ‘What shall we wear’? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6: 31-33, NIV) So, instead of “planting a seed” to get our needs met, if we have a need we should be on our knees in prayer, not giving some crooked televangelist all your grocery money. Even Eastern spiritual traditions like Buddhism are being co-mingled with idealized visions of what it means to be a billionaire. From TED talks to mindfulness conferences like the Wisdom 2.0 conference, the search for individual and collective insight is becoming increasingly identified with the desire to accumulate wealth. “You can have it all,” these events seem to say. “You can gain peace of mind, unlock the mysteries of human existence, and become a billionaire, all at the same time.” Some of these events even seem to argue that they are one and the same journey, which is a complete fallacy. It’s heaven and Nirvana, all in one ‘special’ package — with corporate sponsorship.

6.) Kindness and thoughtfulness toward our fellow human beings has become a commodity.

The Clinton Global Initiative has continued to promote misleading deficit-reduction materials in partnership with the hedge fund billionaires. It featured a leader from Morgan Stanley — one of the institutions which was instrumental in causing the 2008 financial crisis — talking about how to recover from the financial crisis. It’s not just Bill and Hillary. In the midst of negotiating yet another multi-billion dollar fraud settlement, JP Morgan Chase was given the honor (and the public relations coup) of sponsoring the fund raising concert for victims of Hurricane Sandy headlined by the Rolling Stones. But then, the Stones have a relationship with big banks that goes back to their sponsorship deal with AmeriQuest, the mortgage company which was slammed for deceitful practices and discriminatory lending toward minorities. That’s not to say corporate charity, or for that matter the charity of billionaires, is a bad thing. Everyone should incorporate charity into their way of life, and those who are most fortunate should give the most in return. Nobody argues with that. The sickness comes when we allow certain types of charity to glorify the giver, or when it’s considered impolite to mention any relationship between, say, the excessive wealth accumulation of the givers and the need for charity in the first place.

7.) America’s Soul Sickness

Today there are countless signs that our culture is sick with greed. You don’t need to be told that. Just look around. I never was able to afford the Rolls-Royce’s and Jaguar roadsters of my childhood fantasies. But then, those things were only an expression of pain. They reflected a deep yearning to be somewhere else, to be someone else, to escape the daily trials of everyday existence and replace them with a fantasy bubble that kept me at a glittering distance from the sufferings of the real world. Today’s national culture of greed is also an expression of pain and fear. It’s more terrifying than ever to try to survive on a middle-class income. Most people live one or two paychecks away from utter disaster. Very few of us feel that we have any real control over our own fate. The lives of reality show stars, the Hollywood tabloids and dangerous drugs like ‘meth’ and ‘spice’ are some of the most obvious of our escapist fantasies. But as long as we live in a fantasy world, we won’t be working to change the real one. True happiness is found in a life lived with meaning. It’s not just that I can’t afford that car. We can’t afford it. We can’t afford to live in a world where our only aspiration is to accumulate wealth, regardless of how it’s accumulated – while ignoring the flourishing of the human spirit in its artistic, idealistic and intellectual aspects. The love of possessions is a sickness. People are losing their lives in the pursuit of wealth and possessions. They’re dying from gunshot wounds and heart attacks, in gang battles and in solitary hospital beds. And it’s getting worse. The symptoms are appearing, not just in ourselves, but in the planet we call home. If we don’t cure it soon, it could prove fatal for all of us.

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