Category Archives: crime in America

Proven Innocent But Still Locked Up: Our Broken Criminal Justice System

God Wants Justice and Mercy, Not Religion,

and We’re Falling Short

by Pastor Paul J. Bern (Isaiah 58)

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For this week’s message I have been inspired to write about the true meaning of the twin brothers of the Spirit of the Lord known as justice and mercy. I saw an item of general human interest on the evening news on one of the local channels here in Atlanta about a man, one Sonny Bharadia, who has been locked up for 17 years for a crime he did not commit. It has only recently come to light that the DNA evidence in his case points to another man who is already serving a life sentence for murder in a separate case. And yet the state prison system here in Georgia is refusing to hear the evidence and release the man (to view the whole story, click here). This is injustice at its absolute worst! So I took this to the Lord in prayer, as I often do, and inquired as to what part of the Scriptures I should use to deliver a message condemning the State of Georgia’s refusal to hear the evidence that would exonerate this man. The result of my communication with the Lord will be a message on Isaiah chapter 58, and I will begin at verse 5.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58, verses 5-7)

Fasting, from a Biblical standpoint, is the voluntary abstention from all food and drink except for plain water. This usually means abstinence from sexual relations as well, and for a certain period of time, usually for anywhere from 24 hours up to an entire week or more. So, when God defined fasting through his prophet Isaiah, he meant different kinds of fasting besides simply doing without food. What can we compare this to today? In the first place, what we call ‘dieting’ today is what used to be called ‘fasting’. When we’re dieting we’re still eating, but a lot less of it. But when we’re fasting, we’re doing without everything all at once. By doing this, we rely on the Lord for our sustenance and him alone. That’s why fasting brings us closer to God. Although my fasts are of the 24 hour variety because I have medical issues, I find even little fasts like those can bring me into closer union and harmony with God.

False humility will not cut it before the Lord either. Go ahead and give your unwanted clothing and chattel furnishings to the charity of your choice, tithe your 10% to the church of your choice, and when you attend your charity gala’s, be sure to be there to see and be seen. Those are the people who gladly humble themselves when everyone is looking at them, but when they are out of sight they turn into ravenous beasts of prey. But we know who they are, don’t we? But then the Lord corrects us in verse 6: “Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and …. to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke?” To me at least, ‘loosing the chains of injustice’ would include the injustice that has been committed against men and women like Sonny Bharadia. Although the Bill of Rights contained in our still-beloved Constitution says we are all innocent until proven guilty, oftentimes in today’s American criminal in-justice system the defendants in these cases are considered guilty right from the start, which is clearly unconstitutional. This is apparently what happened to Mr. Baradia.

To “set the oppressed free” in today’s world means, to me as an American, normalizing relations between Native Americans, other minorities and people of color with the remaining majority white Anglo/Caucasian population. To ‘set the oppressed free’, then, should be defined as normalizing race relations in America. As we have seen from the police shootings of unarmed Blacks, not to mention Rosanne Barr’s racist tweets and Neo-Nazi’s openly running for political office in states like Illinois and Virginia, my country has a long way to go towards ‘setting the oppressed free’. What about this, people? Please, we have to do something about America’s race problem immediately! Otherwise, our ‘Christian faith’ becomes little more than a Sunday morning social club.

What about “breaking every yoke”? This would presumably mean yokes of bondage. Nearly 2 ½ millennia ago when these words were written, ‘bondage’ meant being sold into slavery, or living one’s life as a slave. Although human slavery still flourishes here in the 21st century, the number one form of bondage in modern times is debt, the second is very low wages and the third is taxes. Never mind the latter two – I have already written expensively on the need for a $15.00 per hour minimum wage, and I outlined a simple way to overhaul the tax system in chapter 9 of my 2011 book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, which is still available in its third edition on Amazon from here. Debt is a topic for yet another day.

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” What happens today when somebody sees a homeless person rummaging through their trash, or when a vagrant camps out on the porch of a vacant house on their street? Does anybody share food or offer any warm, dry shelter? No, they call 911 and watch triumphantly through their windows while the cops haul the homeless guy off to jail for trespassing. Provided, of course, the homeless guy survives being arrested. There are even people being put out of whole families – banished, actually – for reasons real and imaginary. The reason this condition exists to the extent that it does in American society today is because forgiveness is no longer being taught in the home. How can we expect our children to learn forgiveness and loving kindness when many of us are lacking in these qualities ourselves? One thing is for sure – this is a time of reckoning by a lot of people. It is a time of reckoning and taking stock of ourselves and the world in which we live. And when we have done these things, only then can the repair work begin. Now let’s finish up this week’s message starting at verse 9.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: ‘Here am I’. If you do away with the yoke of oppression; with the pointing finger and the malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58, verses 9-11)

Those who practice true justice and mercy, those who show compassion and empathy, those who put others before themselves, they are the ones who, when they cry out to God for help, their prayers get answered. So, if you’re crying out to God for help and it seems he’s not listening, try doing something really nice for some people. Bake them a cake, mow their grass, babysit their child, you get the idea. Whatever you do will come back to you. But as the prophet went on to say, “If you do away with the yoke of oppression; with the pointing finger and the malicious talk….” It’s time for America to pack up her outdated and mean-spirited racial prejudices and carry them to the curb. It’s also time to clamp down hard on human trafficking – too many women and children have become sex slaves for the rich and powerful, and not enough people are talking about this. Well, I am one who is, and I want to know why there aren’t more joining with me in exposing this distasteful business! In the meantime, these same people maliciously point their fingers at others and judge them for perceived wrongs real or imagined. As you judge, so you will be judged. Never forget that.

“…. if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.” Notice that Isaiah wrote “spend yourselves”, not ‘spend your money’. How is this accomplished? By devoting our bodies to a little work, maybe get a little sweaty, or giving our precious time to a cause greater than ourselves, such as helping the survivors of a natural disaster. You can even make a career out of this kind of work, people do it every day. “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs….” But, mind you all, only if you walk in His ways instead of your own. I know, I know, this seems counter-intuitive on the surface of things. God gave us a brain, it’s our own responsibility to use the darn thing. So making our own decisions based on our own best judgments is the responsible thing to do, and that’s right. Except, our minds can sometimes play tricks on us, causing us to see or hear things differently than they actually are, creating what we perceive as audio or visual distortions. Our emotions often give us even bigger problems than that. So consequently we take the wrong actions. Whether this is purposeful or not is besides the point when it still turns out to be wrong.

“…. he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden….” There are hidden benefits – more like bonuses, actually – to consulting with God prior to putting our plans into action. Are our plans congruent with God’s? Better yet, does that work both ways as well? Because if it does, God doesn’t just reward us. He reinforces us in ways that we cannot do ourselves. God can and will give us an overhaul – sometimes whether we ask for it or not! Trust me, I’ve been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt. But God doesn’t allow us to go through these things to be hard on us, or to be mean to us. He does it to build us up and to strengthen our character. So cheer up! Life isn’t so hard. You’re just like a well-watered garden when you consult God first. Who else would know any better except for your Maker?

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Free book excerpt #23 from Author Paul J. Bern: this time it’s a whole chapter!

Chapter One of “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?”, by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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(C) 2016 by Rev. Paul J. Bern all rights reserved

Watch the video https://youtu.be/o_UXdIsBuf8

Chapter One

The Drug War and the Bible

Of all the people throughout the world who are incarcerated, fully 25% of them are locked up right here in the US. The United States has more people locked up in state and federal prisons than all the rest of the countries of the world combined. Of all the US prisoners currently serving sentences in state and federal prisons, nearly 55% of them are locked up for nonviolent drug offenses such as simple pot or crack possession. When I looked at whether fewer people use drugs in countries like ours with stricter drug laws, I found that the World Health Organization looked at 17 countries in a 2008 study and found no such correlation. The US, despite its punitive – to the point of being draconian – drug policies, has the highest level of drug use, legal or otherwise, in the world. By any measure, making drugs illegal fails to achieve one of its primary objectives. But it is the unintended consequences of prohibition that make the most compelling case against it.

Prohibition fuels crime in many ways: without state aid, addicts may be forced to fund their habit through robbery, for instance, while youngsters can be drawn into the drug trade as a way to earn money and status. In countries such as Colombia and Mexico, the profits from illegal drugs have spawned armed criminal organizations whose resources rival those of the state. That process is ongoing here in America even as I write this. So what’s the alternative? There are several models for the legal provision of “recreational” drugs. They include prescriptions for medical marijuana by doctors, consumption at licensed premises such as bars and smoking lounges, and particularly sale on a similar basis to alcohol and tobacco, with its own taxation rates, health warnings, and age limitations to only those age 21 or older. If this prospect appalls you, consider the fact that in the US today, the majority of teenagers say they find it easier to buy cannabis than beer! According to sources in law enforcement as well as licensed therapists, close to of 40% of teens – and approximately half the US adult population – now say pot is safer than alcohol. Based on my own experiences I would agree completely even though my government is opposed to it. This opposition resulted in the so-called ‘War On Drugs’ that was declared by President Nixon back in 1971. What has this 45-year-long war on drugs gotten us? In all that time, taxpayers spent more than:

$20 billion to fight the drug gangs in their home countries. In Colombia, for example, the United States spent more than $6 billion, while coca cultivation increased and trafficking moved to Mexico — and the violence along with it.

$33 billion in marketing “Just Say No” messages to America’s youth and other “prevention” programs. High school students report the same rates of illegal drug use as they did in 1970, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses have “risen steadily” since the early 1970s to more than 20,000 last year.

$49 billion for law enforcement along America’s borders to cut off the flow of illegal drugs. This year, 25 million Americans will snort, swallow, inject and smoke illicit drugs, about 10 million more than in 1970, with the bulk of those drugs imported from Mexico.

$121 billion to arrest more than 37 million nonviolent drug offenders, about 10 million of them for possession of marijuana. Studies show that jail time tends to increase drug abuse.

$450 billion to lock those people up in federal prisons alone. Last year, half of all U.S. federal prisoners were serving sentences for drug offenses.

The $320 billion annual global drug industry now accounts for over 2 percent of all commerce on the planet. A full 12 percent of Mexico’s economy is built on drug proceeds. For every drug dealer you put in jail or kill, a line forms to replace him/her because the money is just that good. Today it is clearer than ever that cannabis prohibition not only does not work when it comes to drug law enforcement, it actually exacerbates the drug “problem” overall. The February 12, 1996 issue of the National Review had the headline in bold letters, “THE WAR ON DRUGS IS LOST”. Of course that was 20 years ago. Never mind about all those illegal drugs for now. Let’s start with one drug that has repeatedly demonstrated healing properties, and I’m talking about cannabis. That’s right – medical marijuana. Consider a few facts about America’s ‘weed war’:

  • It diverts hundreds of thousands of police agents from serious crimes to the pursuit of harmless smokers, including agents from the local and state police, FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, and U.S. Marshals, Secret Service, Border Patrol, Customs, and Postal Service.

  • By even the most conservative estimate, the outlay from US taxpayers now tops $10 billion a year in direct spending just to catch, prosecute, and incarcerate marijuana users and sellers, not counting other illegal drugs and such indirect costs as militarizing our border with Mexico in a hopeless and pathetic effort to stop marijuana imports.

  • Police agents at all levels trample our Bill of Rights in their eagerness to nab pot consumers by conducting illegal car searches, phone and email taps, garbage scrounging, stop-and-frisks out in public without just cause just because they can, and door-busting night raids, many of which are not accompanied by Constitutionally required search warrants.

  • Even people who are merely suspected of marijuana violations and have had no charges filed against them can (and regularly do) have their cars, money, computers, and other property confiscated by police. In a reversal of America’s fundamental legal principles, it is up to these suspects to prove that their property is “innocent” of any crime.

  • People convicted of possessing even one ounce of marijuana can face mandatory minimum sentences of a year in jail, and having even one plant in your yard is a federal felony.

  • At least 490,000 Americans are in federal or state prisons as I write this. All are being held on marijuana charges, not counting people in city and county jails, in which there are even more than the prison systems.

  • 89% of all marijuana arrests are for simple possession of the weed, not for producing or selling it. In short, marijuana prohibition is not, and will not, reduce demand. So then, it’s time to regulate the supply. It is time to remove the production and distribution of marijuana out of the hands of violent criminals and into the hands of licensed businesses, and the only practical way to do that is through legalization, regulation and taxation.

Another thing about the drug war is that we are forced to draw connections between the war on drugs and the disintegration of low-income and minority communities in America. As Dr. King so poignantly reminded us in his critique of the Vietnam War, “a time comes when silence is betrayal.” With many communities disparately impacted by the drug war, many of us working for justice have come to the realization that America’s war on drugs is really a war on families and communities. In the spirit of Rev. Dr. King, we must now ask: Has this drug war assault on the poor and the marginalized become the next big civil rights struggle? In view of the repeated police killings of unarmed black civilians across America, the answer appears to be an emphatic yes! Civil rights advocates are honoring Dr. King’s legacy by standing up against the “new Jim Crow” – mass incarceration through the racially disproportionate war on drugs. It is impossible to talk frankly and honestly about racism without talking about the drug war. Few U.S. policies have had such a devastating effect on Blacks, Latinos and other racial minorities than the drug war. Every aspect of the war on drugs – from arrests to prosecutions to sentencing – is disproportionately carried out against minorities. Speaking as a minister who speaks up for the poor, minorities, the mentally ill and the outcast, this is inexcusable in an allegedly Christian country like the US. Why is this being allowed to continue? Join the folks in Ferguson, Mo., and from Atlanta to Chicago to Milwaukee and get out in the streets and protest! It’s your patriotic duty to do so!

OK, so now let me go deeper. Approximately 100,000 Americans die accidentally each year from legally obtained prescription drugs — that’s 270 per day or more than twice as many as there are killed in car accidents each day. This shows you how dangerous prescription medications truly are. To make matters worse, we are the only developed country that doesn’t control prescription drug prices, meaning that the drug companies can charge whatever they want to – even for drugs that don’t work very well. The pharmaceutical industry’s unlimited hikes in their prices have helped make health insurance unaffordable for most Americans. This is also why wages of American workers have stagnated. When health premiums rise, employers must get the extra money from somewhere, and employee raises are one of the first things to go. Get the price of prescription drugs under control, and this problem goes away on its own.

But what if some of that money that we are spending on apparently dangerous but legal prescription drugs was redirected towards medical marijuana? Has modern medicine been able to document the positive effects of cannabis medication? Research into possible medical uses of cannabis is enjoying a renaissance. In recent years, studies have shown potential for treating nausea, vomiting, premenstrual syndrome, insomnia, migraines, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, alcohol abuse, collagen-induced arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, bipolar disorder, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, sickle-cell anemia, sleep apnea, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma and anorexia nervosa. It is also documented to be very effective for patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. I sometimes use medical marijuana because it helps me manage bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and a permanent back injury. I can personally testify that, when used responsibly, medical cannabis can be surprisingly effective, and with zero side effects.

Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs in a groundbreaking law passed in 2000. Just last year, Uruguay in South America did the same. Now, the United States, which has waged a 40+ year, $1 trillion war on drugs, is looking for answers in both countries, which is reaping the benefits of what once looked like a dangerous gamble. White House drug czar at the time Gil Kerlikowske visited Portugal in September 2010 to learn about its drug reforms, and other countries — including Norway, Denmark, Australia and Peru — have taken interest, too. The disasters that were predicted by critics didn’t happen. The answer can be summed up in two little words – provide treatment! Here’s what happened in Portugal between 2000 and 2010 as a result of decriminalization of formerly illegal drugs:

There were small increases in illicit drug use among adults, but decreases for adolescents and problem users, such as drug addicts and prisoners.

Drug-related court cases dropped 66 percent.

Drug-related HIV cases dropped 75 percent. In 2002, 49 percent of people with AIDS were addicts; by 2010 that number fell to 27 percent.

The number of regular users held steady at less than 3 percent of the population for marijuana and less than 0.3 percent for heroin and cocaine — figures which show decriminalization brought no surge in drug use.

The number of people treated for drug addiction rose 20 percent from 2001 to 2008.

Officials have not yet worked out the cost of the program, but they expect no increase in spending, since most of the money was diverted from the justice system to the public health service. The U.S. is spending $74 billion this year on criminal and court proceedings for drug offenders, compared with $3.6 billion for treatment. The result of the prohibition of alcohol sales and consumption during the 1920’s was the gangster era of Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde and scores of other lesser-known hoodlums and gangs that profited from the violent underground economy that Prohibition created. Today we have an identical situation since the drug trade is mostly in the hands of gangsters and thugs, with the criminals killing innocent bystanders and each other in fights over turf and cash flow. The fact that more people are being locked up while crime has decreased and our prisons are already bursting at the seams, particularly in minority communities, constitutes a 21st century civil rights issue of the highest order. It is time for the US government and law enforcement to ‘stand down red alert’ in the war on drugs. It’s time to end this madness and this stupidity.

The fact of the matter is that if cannabis was legalized and regulated, the medical profession would have a new and completely natural weapon to use against chronic pain, the side effects of chemotherapy, glaucoma and a veritable laundry list of other ailments already mentioned. All the claims about cannabis being harmful and addictive have long since been disproved by reputable scientific researchers. Moreover, if cannabis was legalized and taxed at the state and federal levels, American taxpayers and lawmakers alike would be looking at a new revenue stream well in excess of $400 billion dollars annually at the federal level alone. This is not counting fresh revenues in the amount of tens of billions annually that each state would collect as a result of legalization, times all 50 states and US territories. And let’s not forget that cannabis legalization across the country has already been estimated to create anywhere from several hundred thousand to well in excess of one million new jobs (just look at Colorado, Washington state, and Alaska, and they’re just getting started). That’s the part the elite 1% can’t stand; the idea that multitudes of long-time unemployed US workers could get back on their feet financially – even if pot were the only currently illegal drug to be decriminalized – along with its sister plant hemp (more on that in this book’s final chapter), and the additional hundreds of thousands of jobs hemp legalization would create. That should be the first step for the American people to take back their country from the Globalist Elite. The more jobs we create, the more money gets taken away from Wall Street, Washington and ultimately the Federal Reserve.

Finally, if cannabis were to be decriminalized, all the combined resources of law enforcement at all levels could redirect their time and effort to the main things that they do best, which is to stop violent crime in its tracks, and to detect and expose those who are involved with terrorism and human smuggling or trafficking across or within our borders. It is much easier for law enforcement at all levels to protect the public when they do not have to waste time prosecuting certain persons for smoking a harmless plant. Cigarettes are legal; when someone lights one up they are also smoking a plant, so (speaking as a minister who has no problem with taking a stand against bad laws that are civil rights violations at best and Constitutional breaches at worst) morally there is no difference. It is a documented fact that cigarette smoking kills between 40 and 50 thousand people per year in the US alone. By the same token, nobody ever died from smoking cannabis. Absolutely nobody. Ever.

If “we the people”, America’s 99%, want an effective way to take away what I regard as excess authority that is being abused by the uniformed minions and henchmen of the top 1%, then ending the war on drugs would be one very good place to start. The war on drugs, like the ticking time bomb of economic inequality and the resulting class warfare that is ongoing in America, is the new civil rights battle cry of the 21st century. As a watchman on the wall for the Lord protecting a boundary that shields the human rights of mankind, it is my job to sound this warning, and I am not alone in doing so. All one has to do is listen and you will hear their voices, that it’s time to take back our country from the unscrupulous minions of Wall St., starting with the big banks, and their armies of Washington lobbyists who have seized control of our country in a (nearly) bloodless coup de etat on November 22nd, 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. Let’s not forget the Federal Reserve while we’re at it, who financed the whole debacle of the 2008 financial crash. Worst of all, stories are beginning to circulate about a probable collapse of the debt-based capitalist economic system we are all stuck living under. In that event, having enough food and water to last for at least a month up to a year or more would be prudent indeed.

As the struggle to regain control of America gets started in earnest by its citizens, a resounding crescendo of voices of the multitudes who are completely fed up with an existence of bare bones survival will rise up and speak the truth to the power of big corporate money. We who are rising up will say with one voice, “Enough is enough!”, and by the force of sheer numbers we will overwhelm those who hoard wealth, assets and possessions at the expense of everyone else. The years 2016 and beyond will be a time of reckoning. If “we the people” are denied a hearing for our “redress of grievances” as guaranteed by the US Constitution, then we will take to the streets in protest. “We the people” can shut down the entire country if we want, even if only for a day. Then the top 1%-‘ers will see that resisting us will only turn America into another Tunisia, another Egypt, another Yemen, another Spain, or (God forbid) another Syria, or maybe another Greece. It is time for everyone to make a choice. If we do not make ourselves part of the solution, then we default to being part of the problem. Become part of the solution! Occupy America for legalized cannabis in 2016 and beyond, and praise Almighty God, who made the marijuana plant in the first place!

Where does it say that in the Bible, you ask? In Genesis chapter one, the very first book in the Bible, and I quote from verses eleven and twelve: “Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation; seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.” So now you can plainly see the plant life was made on the third day of creation. Even if you’re reading this and you’re not religious, the Bible still says that God created marijuana along with all the other “seed-bearing” plant life. If you’ve ever seen the cannabis plant (the scientific name for weed), you know they have a kind of flower colloquially called ‘buds’, and these buds do contain seeds, although some varieties have more than others. So marijuana is undoubtedly a creation of God’s. Of course the skeptics, conservatives including most conservative Christians, and law enforcement would undoubtedly take great exception to that, be it Biblical or not. In response, allow me to show some additional Scripture, this time in the New Testament instead of the old one. “At about noon the following day….Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ ‘Surely not, Lord!’, Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean’. The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean’. This happened three times, and the sheet was immediately taken back up to heaven.” [Acts chapter 10, verses 9-16]

Explaining this passage of Scripture is easier than it may look. Peter, along with 11 of the original 12 apostles, were what we would call traditional Jews today. After all, Jesus himself walked the earth as a Jewish man, so this comes as no surprise. As such, Peter was forbidden by the Hebrew traditions of old from eating certain foods, such as pork and some kinds of shellfish. (See Leviticus chapter 11 in the Old Testament for a detailed explanation of what was ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ for devout Jews to consume.) Yet the voice of Jesus, the source of the voice the apostle Peter was hearing, told him “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean”. Obviously this applies to the plant life as well as animals, since God made them all, just as it is written in the Book of Psalms, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it”. Moreover, since we are not legally bound to obey a law that disobeys one of the Laws of God, or more accurately of Jesus, the laws that criminalize marijuana, a documented creation of Almighty God, are by their very nature invalid and immoral. This book, then, is based on these three passages of Scripture, and I will now devote the remainder of this book to expose the immorality of marijuana and hemp prohibition, as well as the extreme immorality and racism of America’s prisons-for-profit.

Buy it now at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J1X7802

Available in audio format at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daudible&field-keywords=cannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible&rh=i%3Aaudible%2Ck%3Acannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible

Get it on Kindle ($7.95) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=cannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A154606011%2Ck%3Acannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible

Watch the video https://youtu.be/o_UXdIsBuf8

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Free book excerpt #21 from blogger and nonfiction author Rev. Paul J. Bern

Get the latest book offering from Rev. Paul J. Bern; “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible Or Not?”

Today’s post includes an in-depth interview with Shane at the pro-legalization website and blog Cheap Home Grow (cheaphomegrow.com); check it out from right here

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Chapter Five

This Is What A Police State Looks Like

For nearly half a century, America’s police forces have undergone a process of militarization. They’ve upped their cache of assault weapons and military defense gear, increasingly deployed SWAT teams to conduct ops-style missions on civilians, and cultivated a warrior attitude within their rank. While major metropolitan areas have maintained SWAT teams for decades, by the mid 2000s, 80 percent of small towns also had their own paramilitary forces. But, beyond deep reporting of individual journalists and scholars, little is known about the extent of police militarization across the country. The ACLU has attempted to bridge that knowledge gap with a fairly recent report called “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.” Below are some of its most significant findings:

1). The federal government’s war on drugs is the single greatest catalyst for local police militarization. Far from being used for emergencies such as hostage situations, the ACLU found that 62% of all SWAT deployments were for the purpose of drug searches, and 79% were to search a person’s home with or without a search warrant — usually for drugs. These deployments are invariably violent and feature bands of heavily armed officers ramming down doors or chucking ‘flash bang’ grenades into people’s homes. Innocent people are often caught up, and sometimes killed, in the ensuing chaos. Examples of this include Eurie Stamp, a Massachusetts grandfather who was shot dead by an officer as police attempted to locate Stamp’s girlfriend’s son for a drug offense. Other SWAT-induced tragedies abound: The ACLU has found that dozens of people were killed or injured as a result of paramilitary deployment. For decades, the federal government — in its quixotic quest to eliminate drug use — has abetted these aggressive tactics with programs that create incentives for militarization. One is called the 1033 program, which was launched in the 1980’s to create a pipeline for military equipment between the Department of Defense and local law enforcement. There are few limitations or requirements imposed on agencies that participate in the 1033 Program. In addition, equipment transferred under the 1033 Program is free to receiving agencies, though they are required to pay for transport and maintenance. The federal government requires agencies that receive 1033 equipment to use it within one year of receipt. Equally to blame is the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, another 80’s artifact that gives local police forces incentives to seek out low-level drug offenders in exchange for grant money. US Attorney General Eric Holder has called for the need to ensure that the police have the trust of the community, and it has the potential to do some really good work. But I am concerned that if the Justice Department continues to grant money to local police departments, money they use to engage in paramilitary weapons and tactics, the Attorney Generals’ good work will be undermined.

2). Militarization is occurring with almost no oversight There is virtually no oversight for SWAT deployment at the state level, meaning no agency or governing body tracks how, and for what purposes, SWAT teams are dispatched. There are few exceptions. Maryland passed a law mandating the state to track SWAT deployment after the mayor of a small municipality had his home raided, but that law is unlikely to be renewed this year. The Utah state legislature recently agreed on a bill to track SWAT deployment and is currently going forward with implementing the law. Local agencies usually engaged in after-action reports of SWAT use, but the ACLU found these reports were “woefully incomplete.” The ACLU also discovered there are no uniform standards for deploying SWAT teams. Discretion ultimately rests with police officers themselves.

3). Non-whites are more likely to be targeted by SWAT deployments. It should come as no surprise that the people most persecuted by police in their communities are also more likely to have their front doors bashed down by a police battering ram. Many of the SWAT teams examined by the ACLU “either do not record race information or record it unsystematically.” Nevertheless, the report found that for all people affected by a SWAT deployment, 37 percent were Black, 12 percent were Latino, 19 were white, and race was unknown for the rest of the people impacted. Racial disparities were even more pronounced when examining the purpose for SWAT deployment. When SWAT was dispatched for drug raids, 68 percent of the time their targets were Blacks or Latinos, while targets were white only 38 percent of the time. Similarly, when SWAT was dispatched with warrants to search homes, non-whites were affected to a greater degree than whites. In contrast, nearly half of those affected when SWAT was deployed for emergency situations (hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios) were white, while only 23% were non-white. Basically, non-whites were not only more likely to come into contact with paramilitary police forces, but their contact was usually prompted by drug searches rather than the sort of emergencies where you may actually want police to show up.

4). Police are secretive about their use of SWAT Overall, the ACLU report lacks the sort of robustness you might expect for a definitive report on police militarization in America. This is largely the fault of police agencies themselves, who denied nearly half of the ACLU’s public records requests in part or in full, and who keep poor records of their own SWAT use. Those difficulties seem to inform much of the ACLU’s recommendations to local, state and federal officials. Above all, the organization calls for a streamlined system of record keeping for SWAT deployment and equipment procurement. No such system currently exists. The ACLU also asks that standards for deployment be bolstered and unified across precincts, and that federal programs incentivizing militarization be weakened or dismantled outright.

How did we allow our law enforcement apparatus to descend into militaristic chaos? Traditionally, the role of civilian police has been to maintain the peace and safety of the community while upholding the civil liberties of residents in their respective jurisdictions. In stark contrast, the military soldier is an agent of war, trained to kill the enemy. Clearly, the mission of the police officer is incompatible with that of a soldier, so why is it that local police departments are looking more and more like paramilitary units in a combat zone? The line between military and civilian law enforcement has been drawn for good reason, but following the drug war and more recently, the war on terror, that line is inconspicuously eroding, a trend that appears to be worsening by the year.

Originally called the Special Weapons Attack Team, the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units were inspired by an incident in 1966, when an armed man climbed to the top of the 32-story clock tower at the University of Texas in Austin and fired randomly for 90 minutes, shooting 46 people and killing 15, until two police officers got to the top of the tower and killed him. This episode is said to have “shattered the last myth of safety Americans enjoyed [and] was the final impetus the chiefs of police needed” to form their own SWAT teams. Use of these paramilitary units gradually increased throughout the 1970s, mostly in urban settings. The introduction of paramilitary units in America laid the foundation for the erosion of the barrier between police and military, a trend which accelerated in the 1980s under President Reagan. In 1981, Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which amended Posse Comitatus by directing the military to give local, state and federal law enforcement access to military equipment, research and training for use in the drug war. Following the authorization of domestic police and military cooperation, the 1980s saw a series of additional congressional and presidential maneuvers that blurred the line between soldier and police officer, ultimately culminating in the passage of the National Defense Authorization Security Act which created the Law Enforcement Support Program, an agency tasked with accelerating the transfer of military equipment to civilian police departments. Between 1995 and 1997 the Department of Defense gave 1.2 million pieces of military hardware, including 3,800 M-16s, 2,185 M-14s, 73 grenade launchers and 112 armored personnel carriers to civilian police agencies across the country. Between January 1997 and October 1999 alone, LEAP facilitated the distribution of 3.4 million orders of Pentagon equipment to over 11,000 domestic police agencies in all 50 states. By December 2005, that number increased to 17,000. The agreement authorized the transfer of federal military technology to local police forces, essentially flooding civilian law enforcement with surplus military gear previously reserved for use during wartime. But this was only the beginning.

In 1997, Congress, not yet satisfied with the flow of military hardware to local police, allocated $727 million worth of this equipment. Among the hand-me-downs were 253 aircraft (including six- and seven-passenger airplanes, and UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-1 Huey helicopters), 7,856 M-16 rifles, 181 grenade launchers, 8,131 bulletproof helmets, and 1,161 pairs of night-vision goggles. The military surplus program and paramilitary units feed off one another in a cyclical loop that has caused an explosive growth in militarized crime control techniques. With all the new high-tech military toys the federal government has been funneling into local police departments, SWAT teams have inevitably multiplied and spread across American cities and towns in both volume and deployment frequency. Criminologist Peter Kraska found that the frequency of SWAT operations soared from just 3,000 annual deployments in the early 1980s to an astonishing 40,000 raids per year by 2001, 75-80 percent of which were used to deliver search warrants.

Then there are the effects of the war on terror, which sparked the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the introduction of DHS grants to local police departments. These grants are used to purchase policing equipment, although law enforcement is investing in more than just bullet-proof vests and walkie-talkies. DHS grants have led to a booming law enforcement industry that specifically markets military-style weaponry to local police departments. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is law enforcement’s version of the military-industrial-complex. By instituting public policies that encouraged the collaboration of military and domestic policing, the US government handed a massive and highly profitable clientele to private suppliers of paramilitary gear. Following the breakdown of Posse Comitatus in the 1980s and ’90s, gun companies, perceiving a profitable trend, began aggressively marketing automatic weapons to local police departments, holding seminars, and sending out color brochures redolent with ninja-style imagery. Private suppliers of military equipment advertise a glorified version of military-style policing attire to local police departments and SWAT teams. One such defense manufacturing company, Heckler and Koch, epitomized this aggressive marketing tactic with its slogan for the MP5 submachine gun, “From the Gulf War to the Drug War — Battle Proven.”

The most widely used justification for the purchase of heavily armored war machines is that violence against police officers has increased exponentially, necessitating tanks for the protection of the men and women who serve our communities. But examination of the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, a database that tracks the number of law enforcement officers killed and assaulted each year, reveals that this is simply not true. According to the UCR, since 2000 an average yearly toll of about 50 police officers have been killed in the line of duty, the highest reaching 70 in 2001. So the notion that militarization is a necessary reaction to a growth in violence against police officers is absurd, considering that violent crime is trending downward. Others argue these tanks are needed in case of a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. But on September 11, 2001, I do not recall the NYPD complaining that a lack of armored tanks was impeding its policing efforts. And during the catastrophic tornado that tore through Joplin, Missouri several years ago, heavily armored vehicles weren’t present nor were they needed to assist in the aftermath. The majority of paramilitary drug raid proponents maintain that military-style law enforcement is required to reduce the risk of potential violence, injury and death to both police officers and innocents. The reality is that SWAT team raids actually escalate provocation, usually resulting in senseless violence in what would otherwise be a routine, nonviolent police procedure. Just consider your reaction in the event of a SWAT team breaking down your door in the middle of night, possibly even blowing off the hinges with explosives, while you and your family are asleep. Imagine the terror of waking up to find complete strangers forcing their way into your home and detonating a flash-bang grenade, meant to disorient you. Assuming nobody is hurt, what thoughts might be raging in your mind while the police forcefully incapacitate you and your loved ones, most likely at gunpoint, while carrying out a search warrant of your home. Assuming you were able to contain the mix of fear and rage going through your body, consider how helpless you would feel to know that any perceived noncompliance would most certainly be met with lethal force.

We have created circumstances under which the American people are no longer individuals protected by the Bill of Rights, but rather “enemy combatants.” The consequences of such a mindset have proven time and again to be lethal, as we now rely on military ideology and practice to respond to crime and justice. For some insight into the implications, one needn’t look any further than minority communities, which have long been the victims of paramilitary forces posing as police officers. Black and Latino communities in the inner-cities of Washington DC, Detroit and Chicago have witnessed first-hand the deadly consequences of militarization on American soil. Military culture now permeates all aspects of our society. Does anyone really believe that heavily armed soldiers trained to kill are capable of maintaining an atmosphere of nonviolence?

Asset forfeiture, another means of enriching law enforcement at the expense of the very people the cops are paid to protect, is on the rise. Civil asset forfeiture is government seizure of property and cash, even when the owner isn’t charged with a crime. Innocent owners must go through a costly, time-consuming process to get their property back — and even then they may be denied. Police departments get to sell the seized property and keep most of the proceeds. This author predicts that because of the shaky US economy and budget crunches, police will continue to increase searches, raids, and seizures to generate more revenue. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2010 alone, federal, state, and local government stole homes, cars, boats, and cash in more than 15,000 cases. The total take topped $2.5 billion, more than doubling in the next five years, the last year that these figures were available as of this writing. Top federal officials are also pushing for greater use of civil-forfeiture proceedings, in which assets can be taken without criminal charges being filed against the owner. Unlike in criminal cases, the poor are not entitled to free legal representation to help them get their property back. This means, to anyone with common sense, that an individual’s property could be seized without due process of law, a CLEAR violation of the Fifth Amendment…..

Watch the video https://youtu.be/o_UXdIsBuf8

Written by a pan-denominational Christian minister and blogger, this book uses the Bible to provide a simple explanation for why marijuana criminalization is a sin against God. Buy direct ($9.95, 200 pages) at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

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Passing the Dream Act and Progressive Christianity Go Together Very Well

Immigration Reform, the Dream Act,

and Progressive Christianity

by pastor Paul J. Bern

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food-not-warThis week’s message revolves around the current topic of immigration reform, a.k.a. the “dreamers”, as opposed to what the Bible says. Not any particular government, faith or denomination, mind you, but none other than the Word of God! We have all heard more than enough from the American media ‘presstitutes’ regarding both sides of this issue as dictated by their Republican and Democrat masters. From conservative to progressive to liberal, as well as independent voters like myself who do not follow the crowd, the issue of ‘illegal immigration’ festers like an open wound across America without any first aid being applied. Like any other kind of serious wound, illegal immigration is an American political issue that needs immediate attention.

 

First let me say that I was formerly on the conservative side of this issue due to the fact that had once lost a good job in the computer/IT profession due to my being replaced by workers who had just arrived on H1B work visas. So, I was understandably bitter because I had lost my job to an imported worker despite the fact that I was more qualified. Actually it wasn’t just myself either. The company I was working for at that time had laid off everyone in the branch office where I worked and replaced us all with a batch of workers from the Philippines with green cards. At the time I felt like my career had been stolen right out from under me, and all attempts to replace this job of mine had yielded only temporary jobs that lasted from several months duration to as little as one day.

 

Then one day in the early summer of 2008, I took yet another temporary job out in west Texas, and so I put most of my things in storage and left Atlanta for parts previously unknown to me. I had never been to Texas before, and I found a completely different culture than what I was accustomed to back in Atlanta. There were three things I noticed immediately soon after my arrival. The first was the oppressive heat and humidity, which made Atlanta seem mild by comparison. The second was that people ate burritos in place of burgers. There were burrito joints on nearly every corner and a few McDonald’s, and that was just about it. The third thing I noticed was that approximately one third of the population was Hispanic (or Latino/Latina, take your pick). One of the first things I remember thinking when I realized that one third of the population spoke only Spanish was that this must be ground zero for so-called illegal immigration, or so I thought at the time.

 

But I spent four months out there in Texas, and as my days turned into weeks I began to notice little things that seemed insignificant in and of themselves. For example, I saw Latino men – and a few women as well – hanging around temp agencies, construction sites, and even at a U-haul truck rental company in the hopes of getting a job at least for that day. I remember being struck by the parallels between what those immigrants were having to endure as they searched for work and a piece of the so-called American dream compared to my own job search experiences. Some of these workers lived at homeless shelters, others in campers or vans, and the more prosperous ones lived in rented mobile homes or apartments. I saw the same thing day after day, with hundreds of workers gathered around in groups of as few as eight or ten, and as many as several dozen men and women. And so I found myself beginning to question my own intense dislike of these immigrant workers.

 

Before I go any further with this message, I think I should point out that my basis for resenting many of these immigrant workers was economic rather than racial, and more social than cultural. Nevertheless, my beliefs and opinions were heavily slanted towards an American rather than a more realistic world view, and so I found myself beginning to question my motives for feeling the way I did. One day soon after I did some research on-line and at the local library regarding this issue, and here is what I found out. The average worker in Mexico earns the equivalent of about $50.00 per month USD, and this is so because of reasons that I was previously only generally aware of – namely, the differences in currency valuation between the two countries, and the fact that Mexico is by and large a third world country that happens to border the United States. When you live in a third world country,m the workers earn third world level ‘wages’.

When these same workers come to the US they make minimum wage, more or less, which is currently still stuck at only $7.25 per hour in Texas as well as Georgia. Some are paid substantially less while those who enforce the rules look the other way. Since a sizable chunk of these workers make less than minimum wage while being paid in cash under the table, I’m going to use a rounded out number of $7.00 hourly. A 40-hour work week at seven dollars an hour yields gross pretax earnings of $280.00 per week before taxes and Social Security. But since many of these workers don’t work full time their take home pay is even less. At any rate, this works out to gross earnings of $1,120.00 per month for a 40 hour week. If each worker pays a regular tax rate as we Americans do, and many don’t because their employers are cheating the tax man by paying in cash, they wind up with an average net take-home pay of approximately $740.00 per month.

 

I challenge anybody out there to try and live even for only a month on such substandard pay as this! Seven hundred stinking dollars – go ahead and try that! I challenge anybody who thinks they can live on such an absurdly small amount of money for an entire month, especially if you’re a homeowner. In order to better understand this, instead of Mexico and the US being the two countries involved, let’s use the US and Canada instead. If any given American working professional were offered a job in Canada, what would that be in relation to the US and Mexico? When we do the math, for any Mexican/Latino who emigrates to America, the jump from fifty bucks a month to 740 dollars equals a pay increase that is 11.4 times the going rate in Mexico or, for that matter, any central American country.

 

Now, let’s contrast that to an American jumping ship and leaving the US to go and work and live in Canada. With an average net earnings of roughly $35,000.00 annually (before taxes) for American workers, if any of us were to be offered a job in Canada – or for that matter any other developed or emerging country worldwide – at 11.4 times the going rate here in the US, that would amount to an increase in take-home pay to $399,000.00 annually before taxes. OK, so let’s ask ourselves a simple question: Would you or I be interested in a pay increase of 11.4 times the amount we have been earning previously? Without a doubt!! So, now you know why the Latino/Latina folks are migrating – legally or not – to the US in search of work. It’s not because they are foreign invaders on an economic and social offensive to overrun America. It’s because they are economic refugees from the third world who are searching for a better life for themselves and their families! So, instead of resenting or even hating this influx of foreign workers, the Christian thing to do would be to reach out to the Hispanic communities in all fifty states and minister to them. Like so many long-term unemployed here in America, they don’t want a handout, they simply want to go to work. But I felt convicted in the Holy Spirit for harboring such negative and bitter thoughts, and I repented immediately and have never looked back. Sometimes it’s best to simply admit we’re wrong and move on. So let this be a cautionary lesson for everyone.

 

Showing compassion to foreigners and strangers is central to biblical teaching and morality, and there are quite a few people of faith who have started joining the fight to pass immigration reform, including myself. Congress needs to pass this into law because it is the morally right thing to do. Those who base their position on immigration reform on unacknowledged or hidden racial prejudice, irrational fear, or worries about losing elections to far-right ideologues are too often the same people who loudly proclaim their religious convictions as guiding their political decisions in violation of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. Politicians who are professing Christians need to consider what their faith has to say about immigration if they want to be considered authentic. If they oppose reform and refuse to offer compassion to our immigrant brothers and sisters, they should justify their positions on moral grounds (if they can). We join with other faith communities in asking for a moral and religious conversation about immigration reform – not just a political one. God’s passionate, abiding concern for immigrants and foreigners, strangers and travelers – and for our neighbors – is obvious to anyone reading through Scripture.

 

It is the biblical call to “welcome the stranger” and Jesus’ concern for “the least of these” that inspires and motivates us. “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself … ” (Leviticus 19:33-34). The biblical word “ger” for the foreigners in our midst occurs an astounding 92 times in the Hebrew scriptures, with the consistent instruction to protect them. In the New Testament, the stranger, and all who are vulnerable, are at the very heart of the Gospel (Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10, verses 25-37) is just one example of many). In the book of Matthew, Jesus offers a vision in which caring for foreigners is the defining mark of God’s kingdom: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:35-36). Now let me ask you all – when’s the last time you did that for somebody? When’s the last time you did any of the above for a stranger?

 

That evangelical as well as mainstream Christians would finally act to reform the immigration system should surprise no one who has a conscience, not just for theological reasons, but also for moral reasons. Undocumented immigrants have joined our congregations; we understand the problem firsthand. They are our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. And we know that by reforming our immigration laws, we can create a system that also reflects the best values of our nation and the highest ideals of our faith. We act because, as the book of James reminds us, “faith without works is dead.”

 

For me, I think the biggest change hasn’t been in the pulpit, it’s been in the pews and out in the streets. It’s one thing when 11 million people are a statistic. But it’s an entirely different matter when one of those 11 million is your friend, a human being who you now know as a neighbor, or as a co-worker or a worshiper. Our faith has always been about compassion and it compels us to do something. If we take the principle of compassion out of the Bible, it wouldn’t be the Bible any more. Compassion is indeed all over the Bible. I pray it will also be found in the House of Representatives and the Senate, and in the workplace and our neighborhoods and subdivisions. It’s time for Christians in and out of Congress to stand up in support of immigration reform, and for the Dreamers, or to explain why they won’t — as Christians. If they follow their faith, we will see the miracle we need. And let’s remember that there is no such thing as an illegal human being.

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I’ve found the root cause of the violence permeating our nation’s schools; I’d like to share it with you

Staggering Numbers Of Millenials Are Leaving Church

and It’s All Our Own Fault

by Web pastor Paul J. Bern

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please_helpFor decades, the United States has been thought of as a Christian nation around the globe. But today that is dramatically changing – especially among America’s young people. The truth is that all of the recent polls tell us that Americans under 30 years of age are rejecting the Christian faith in unprecedented numbers. In fact, what the numbers reveal is not a slow move away from the Christian faith. Rather, they clearly portray a massive wave of young Americans running away from traditional Christianity as fast as they can. Not only that, but the vast majority of young adults in America today do not go to church, do not pray and do not read the Bible. Just consider a few of the results from a fairly recent (2015) and deeply troubling survey of 18 to 29 year old Americans:

 

 

  • 65% rarely or never pray with others, and 38% almost never pray by themselves either.
  • 65% rarely or never attend worship services of any kind.
  • 67% don’t read the Bible or any other religious texts on a regular basis.

 

 

That is a solid two-thirds of American young adults who don’t even have the slightest connection to traditional Christianity. If the current trends continue, the Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Daewoo, Plymouth and Saturn dealerships from just a few years ago. The survey did find that 65% of those surveyed did call themselves “Christian”, but among that 65%, the majority are what I call CINO’s (Christians in name only). Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith.

 

 

But it just isn’t this latest survey that is showing a mass exodus from the Christian faith by America’s young people. According to a more recent (2016) survey by America’s Research Group, 95 percent of 20 to 29 year old evangelical Christians attended church regularly during their elementary school and middle school years. However, only 55 percent of those young evangelical Christians still attended church regularly during high school, and only 11 percent of them were still regularly attending church when they went to college. That’s it, just a paltry 11 percent! And that was among self-identified evangelical Christians.

But the most recent survey from this same nonprofit was perhaps even more troubling. According to that survey, 15% of Americans now say they have “no religion” – which is up from 8% in 1990. However, what was much more disturbing was that 46% of Americans between the ages of 18 to 34 indicated that they had no religion in the survey. Is it any wonder that atheism is on the rise? Forty-six percent is not just a trend. That is not just a landslide, either. I would define that as a stampede. Today there most certainly is a mass exodus of America’s young people from the traditional Christian faith. There is simply no getting around it. Another recent poll by America’s Research Group showed that less than 1 percent of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 23 hold a Biblical world view. And what is a Biblical world view? This has been defined as someone holding on to the following six key beliefs:

 

 

1) Believing that absolute moral truth exists.

2) Believing that the Bible is completely accurate in all of the principles it teaches.

3) Believing that Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic.

4) Believing that a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or by doing good works.

5) Believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth.

6) Believing that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.

 

 

Using those six criteria, less than 1 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 23 hold a Biblical world view. That’s no more than 3 million out of 330,000,000! The implications of this are staggering. The truth is that the United States is quickly becoming a highly secularized nation. Europe has already been down this road, and now America is rapidly following. Hundreds (perhaps thousands) of churches will close in the next 10 years as more and more people simply quit going. Large numbers of Christian ministries, radio stations, television shows and book stores will have to shut their doors because there will not be nearly enough people to support them. But the most frightening thing of all is that we are losing almost an entire generation to the world. Never before in U.S history has an entire generation rejected the Gospel as much as this one has. America’s young people are rejecting the Christian faith, and yet the mainstream Christian establishment keeps running around and telling everyone that everything is fine. Fine??


No, everything is not fine. Not even close — in point of fact, nowhere near! The Church in America is broken – completely! It is very rare to find a church where authentic Christianity is being practiced anymore. Our young people are not stupid. They know what is real and what is not. When they hear pastors tell them they must give 10% of what they earn each and every week, that’s not what the Gospel says and they know it. When they hear TV evangelists trying to convince them that God wants us all to be rich, when our youth hear them condemning gay people when it’s not their business to judge, when they see ‘conservative Christians’ protesting abortion in the streets as they send your sons and daughters off to fight wars that benefit only a handful of people, millennial’s can see the hand-writing on the wall. If the Church in America – yes, I said the Church – would repent and turn back to real, authentic Christianity, at least we would have a chance of capturing the attention of those young Americans who are honestly looking for the truth. But instead, people of all ages – not just the young – are hungry and thirsty for some real truth. They’re fed up to here with all the spiritual bull-crap being dished out by for-profit churches and all the con artists on TV who have the nerve to call themselves “apostle” or “bishop”, and they’re looking for some authenticity. You know, like the kind Jesus had?

 

 

What did Jesus say about all this? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew chapter five, verse 6).” Translated into 21st century English, this simply means come to Jesus Christ in and of himself, and simply leave the churches behind. You will no doubt recall that Jesus put his money where his mouth was in this regard when he threw the money changers out of the temple. He wasn’t nice about it either. He didn’t have to be. In the here and now of the modern church – or Church Incorporated as I like to call it – anybody can see that the descendants of the money changers have once again set up shop in houses of worship. As a result, you had best be really sure that He is returning very soon for yet another house cleaning. Christ will be far more angry the second time around as he was the first. So much more….

 

 

On the surface, it would be easy to say that every bit of the fault for this lies with modern church leadership. But that is not entirely the fault of the Church, although the leadership does bear a good bit of the responsibility. The truth is that we – the parents of the millenials I’m writing about – have created a society where our children are taught that Jesus and Christianity are not important any more. Our public schools teach our children day after day after day that they evolved from monkeys, that abortion, indiscriminate sex before marriage and homosexuality are perfectly normal for everyone, and that anyone who disagrees is either a bigot or an idiot. Then these same accusers go home and surround themselves with endless entertainment for the rest of the day (television, video games, Internet, movies, and often pornography), effectively isolating themselves from their families and each other. The overwhelming message regarding the Christian faith in the above forms of entertainment is that either Christianity is irrelevant, not true or should be openly mocked. Only thing is, they have forgotten that you can’t mock God or Jesus. You cannot mock God any more than a Chevy can mock General Motors.

 

 

So should we be surprised that the overwhelming majority of our children and grandchildren have rejected the Christian faith? Should we expect anything else? What else were we expecting, John the Baptist? We have raised our children in the godless society that we have constructed and now we are so surprised that they are godless. People everywhere are pulling their hair out trying to figure out why all these school shootings have sprung up seemingly out of nowhere over the last 15 years or so. But nobody should be surprised. We are just reaping what we have sown, and we now have an unexpected bumper crop of wanton violence. I’d say we have our work cut out for us for the foreseeable future, so we’d better get started. Because if we don’t start repairing the damage we have caused by letting electronic devices do our parenting for us, we are going to lose an entire generation. And that, ladies and gentlemen, would be totally unacceptable.

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Why Watching TV Can Destroy Your Soul

Reasons to Stop Watching T.V.

For Secular and Christian Alike

by pastor Paul J. Bern

For viewing in any browser, click here 🙂

threat_from_washington I was asked by a reader this past week if I had ever considered posting a piece on the evils of watching television. Actually, in the past I had considered doing exactly that, but every time I got ready to, something of greater importance would come up with respect to current events. For example, I could have wrote about the US government shut-down that just occurred this past Friday, but everybody saw that one coming anyway. Besides, I’m hoping this shut-down will be short-lived! Moreover 0, since so much of this is continuously being disseminated in the Lame Stream Media, I will leave reporting on the US government shut down to them. The larger aspect of this is that the shut-down, along with all the other information you can possibly stand whether you like it or not, is being presented to the public via television.

According to some facts and figures from TV-Free America (1322 18th Street, NW Washington, DC 20036) regarding American television viewing habits, I categorize them as follows:

[1] FAMILY LIFE

  • Percentage of households that possess at least one television: 99
  • Number of TV sets in the average U.S. household: 2.24
  • Percentage of U.S. homes with three or more TV sets: 66
  • Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes
  • Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner: 66
  • Number of hours of TV watched annually by Americans: 270 billion
  • Value of that time assuming an average wage of $10/hour: $2.5 trillion
  • Percentage of Americans who pay for cable TV: 66
  • Number of videos rented daily in the U.S.: 7 million
  • Number of public library items checked out daily: 3 million
  • Percentage of Americans who say they watch too much TV: 49

[2] CHILDREN

  • Approximate number of studies examining TV’s effects on children: 5,000
  • Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful
  • conversation with their children: 3.5
  • Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680
  • Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 77
  • Percentage of parents who would like to limit their children’s TV watching: 77
  • Percentage of 4-6-year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV

    and spending time with their fathers, preferred television: 54

  • Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours
  • Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500

[3] VIOLENCE

  • Number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8,000
  • Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18: 200,000
  • Percentage of Americans who believe TV violence helps precipitate real life mayhem: 79

[4] COMMERCIALISM

  • Number of 30-second TV commercials per hour: 40
  • Percentage of local TV news broadcast time devoted to advertising: 30
  • Percentage devoted to stories about crime, disaster and war: 53.8
  • Percentage devoted to public service announcements: 0.7
  • Percentage of Americans who can name The Three Stooges: 59
  • Percentage who can name at least three justices of the U.S. Supreme Court: 17
  • Number of TV commercials seen by the average person by age 65: 2 million
  • Percentage of survey participants (1993) who said that TV commercials
  • aimed at children make them too materialistic: 93
  • Rank of food products/fast-food restaurants among TV advertisements to kids: 1
  • Total spending by 100 leading TV advertisers in 1993: $15 billion

 

According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube. Let me select a quote from the Old Testament about that: “You shall have no other gods before me, You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love for a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20, verses 3-5) Can your television become an idol? In many cases and with many individuals and even whole families, evidently so!

Let’s review, shall we? Americans spend an average of 6 ¾ hours daily watching or streaming TV. Half of Americans admit they watch too much TV – the rest just don’t realize it yet. School age children watch nearly 1,700 minutes of TV weekly, while half of those kids would rather watch TV than spend time with their fathers. This fact in and of itself is a scathing indictment of American dads because it points to a lack of parenting.

 

Elementary school kids see 8,000 acts of violence on TV by the time they move on to junior high school. By the time they finish high school that number jumps to a breathtaking 200,000! Is it any wonder there is so much violence and even fatal shootings in our schools? Our children are being bombarded with violence nearly 24/7! At every turn all they see and feel is violence, inappropriate sexuality and a general disconnect from reality via the technology they’re using that is very unhealthy. Moreover, one third of TV viewing consists of one commercial after another, while any given person watches 40 commercials for every hour of viewing. So now you know the real, underlying reason the networks advertise their news programs so much! They want to bombard you with a bunch of third world crap that none of us needs or wants. Everybody has had just about enough of these abuses, and that includes myself! And yes, by the way, your TV is your idol! You Christians spend an hour or two each week at church but you watch 6 ¾ hours of TV per day? You are all in idolatry! Repent of your sins, every one of you! Unsubscribe from your cable or satellite TV, and get a set of rabbit ears for the local news if you want. Stream what you want to watch over the Internet, and if you have children at home, block the TV on their phones so they can’t watch it. If you really love your kids you will be glad to do this for them.

 

In closing, I will leave you with a quote from James chapter 1, verses 26-27: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” OK, so if we want to emulate the apostle James – who was martyred for his apostleship – and keep ourselves pure, we will have to make a choice – devotion to Jesus or devotion to our televisions. The fact that we are spending at least 20 times more time with our TV’s than at church, even more if we count our prayer time, speaks volumes about where our hearts are. So do yourselves and your souls a favor – turn off your TV and disconnect your cable or dish and use that time to find someone who needs help. Go volunteer somewhere. All you parents, start spending more time with your kids instead of using your televisions for babysitters. The kids will appreciate you for it, and their grades will get better in school if they know their parents really care. Mass entertainment does more harm than good. The novelty of television wore off decades ago. Nowadays it’s just a nuisance. Better still, take your TV out to the back yard and kill it.

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It’s Time to Throw the Creeps Out!

Humiliation and Shame for Sex Perverts is Deserved

by pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this on my website, click here 🙂

Revolution-fists
I don’t have to explain my topic for this week. Everybody has been watching or hearing about what has been going on in the halls of power in Washington as well as in Hollywood. Accusations of sexual assault, or lewd acts, or of randomly exposing oneself to whomever have suddenly started boiling to the surface. It started with former New York congressman Anthony Wiener, and he is now paying a very high price for his indiscretions in the form of a 21-month stint in federal prison. This was followed just a few months later by disclosure in Hollywood of producer-director Harvey Weinstien being accused of multiple counts of unwanted sexual advances and even outright assaults. Then several more Hollywood directors disclosed of their own sexual indiscretions, presumably to keep from being humiliated, followed by the flap over actor Kevin Spacey’s allegedly uncontrollable sexual advances. While all this has been going on, president Trump has been accused by at least 20 women of unwanted sexual advances. Most recently, formerly popular Matt Lauer, the morning “Today” show host, was abruptly fired for his own incredibly poor judgment in failing to contain his own sexual appetites. On and on this goes, and where it stops nobody knows – except God.

My favorite book – the Bible – has plenty to say about sexual immorality. Everybody knows that, although not everyone believes in it. Allow me to name a couple of examples, and then I’d like to list a few bad things that can happen when we will not or cannot control our own sexual desires. First Corinthians chapter 6, verses 12 and 13 says, “‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food’ – but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.’” Having multiple sex partners in the times in which we live can be downright dangerous in a worst case scenario, particularly if your partner is already married or living with someone without telling you so. We think he/she is single but they’re not, and next thing you know you-know-who comes home, and there you are. Some say, “Well, I don’t care for the bar scene, so I use dating services to help me locate Mr. or Ms. Right so I can screen people first”. Let me point out that, according to data from the CDC located right here in Atlanta, 1 out of every 5 people on the dating websites have an STD. Out of those individuals, fully 80% don’t bother to tell their new partners they are infected. You can imagine how that will turn out for everyone involved! The moral here is that, while we have the free will to do whatever we want, there can be an extremely high price to be paid when we abuse it.

Another example can be found further down in the same chapter of 1st Corinthians, verses 18-20, which read, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, who you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” The word ‘flee’ means to turn and run away from something or someone who poses a clear and present danger to yourself or your livelihood – even your very life! What happens during mass shootings? People turn and run for their lives, and that’s exactly what we should do with regards to sexual immorality. That hot new partner you just stumbled upon could end up slowly killing you slowly long after the lovemaking is over – very, very slowly, in fact – with some STD that the newly infected person probably never heard of.

One final example I feel should be mentioned on the topic of sexual sins and perversion can be found in 1st Thessalonians chapter 5, verse 3, and I quote: “But among you there should not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” OK, right here it is in black and white, everyone! God ranks having multiple partners right up there with the top 1% and all their insatiable greed. You know, they have 99% of America’s wealth, while the remaining 99% are left with the remaining 1% – those people? Think of how much you likely despise those people, and that’s how offended God is with our sexual immorality (Never mind how offended God is with their greed. I’ve already covered that topic extensively, and I will do so again, God willing!). This includes people – and particularly those who self-identify as ‘Christians’ – who hang out at nude or topless clubs, who look at porn, and in many cases even the singles bars should be off-limits to true Christian believers who are single. If anyone feels so lonesome that they would go to a night club and risk getting shot or stabbed just to find someone to love, I’ve got a news flash for those individuals – you won’t find that special someone there. All you’ll meet are a bunch of drunks, and who wants that? Those who truly desire a soul-mate should ask God to send him or her to you. Believe me, when the time is right, he will.

The apostle Paul, who wrote all the quotes I’m using today including this last one, said it best in this regard: “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1st Corinthians chapter 7, verses 8-9) Anyone who is really burning up with that much passion should go ahead and find a spouse to keep themselves from sinning – there is nothing wrong with this at all. But none of us – I am single myself – will find our future spouses on-line, or in some bar, no matter how fancy or attractive they may seem. Moreover, you will never find him or her watching porn either! If anyone really wants a spouse, they should pray to God to send them one, because when we do, and those prayers are made with the utmost sincerity, God will answer that prayer. That’s one thing I know for sure. The other thing that we have all seen for ourselves on the news and other media is that, when we cannot contain or refuse to curb our sexual proclivities – or if certain people think they can get away with their unwanted sexual advances because of their status, wealth, or both – those days just came to a sudden and dramatic end! I, for one, am glad this has occurred. It happened for the good of our country and for ourselves. This series of incidents has proven conclusively that sexual immorality, when carried to its extremes, will destroy the lives of the perpetrators. Chalk one up for gender equality, for mutual respect, and for Jesus Christ, the originator of gender equality.

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Free book excerpt #16 from blogger and Author Rev. Paul J. Bern

Another free sample from the latest book offering from Rev. Paul J. Bern; “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible Or Not?”

Watch the video https://youtu.be/o_UXdIsBuf8

legalization cover 1

The United States likes to portray itself as the “Land of the Free”, yet a 2013 study by the ACLU found that one out of three people in the United States are arrested by the time they are 23! 1 out 3 arrested by the time they are 23?!? You want some more shameful stats? Last year there were more than 1.6 million people arrested on drug charges and over half of those arrests were for marijuana possession alone. With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world, there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something much different – and vastly counterproductive. Obviously, the answer is the latter. It is time to find an exit strategy from our 40 year old war on drugs that is unquestionably a failure. Here’s a few examples:

  • There are more African American adults under correctional control today – in prison or jail, on probation or parole – than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

  • As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.

  • A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers.

  • If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas have been labeled felons for life. (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80%.) These men are part of a growing under-caste – not class, caste – permanently relegated by law to a second-class status. They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education, and public benefits, much as their grandparents and great-grandparents were during the Jim Crow era.

The drug war has been brutal – complete with SWAT teams, tanks, bazookas, grenade launchers, and sweeps of entire neighborhoods – but those who live in white communities have little clue to the devastation wrought. This war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color, even though studies consistently show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. In fact, some studies indicate that white youth are significantly more likely to engage in illegal drug dealing than black youth. Any notion that drug use among African Americans is more severe or dangerous is nullified by the data. White youth, for example, have about three times the number of drug-related visits to the emergency room as their African American counterparts. That is not what you would guess, though, when entering our nation’s prisons and jails, overflowing as they are with black and brown drug offenders. In some states, African Americans comprise 80%-90% of all drug offenders sent to prison. This is the point at which I am typically interrupted and reminded that black men have higher rates of violent crime. That’s why the drug war is waged in poor communities of color and not middle-class suburbs.

But what about all those violent criminals and drug kingpins? Isn’t the drug war waged in ghetto communities because that’s where the violent offenders can be found? The answer is yes – in made-for-TV movies. In real life, the answer is no. The drug war has never been focused on rooting out drug kingpins or violent offenders. Federal funding flows to those agencies that increase dramatically the volume of drug arrests, not the agencies most successful in bringing down the bosses. What gets rewarded in this war is sheer numbers of drug arrests. To make matters worse, federal drug forfeiture laws allow state and local law enforcement agencies to keep for their own use 80% of the cash, cars, and homes seized from drug suspects, thus granting law enforcement a direct monetary interest in the profitability of the drug market. The results have been predictable: people of color rounded up en masse for relatively minor, non-violent drug offenses. In 2005, four out of five drug arrests were for possession, only one out of five for sales. Most people in state prison have no history of violence or even of significant selling activity. In fact, during the 1990s – the period of the most dramatic expansion of the drug war – nearly 80% of the increase in drug arrests was for marijuana possession, a drug generally considered less harmful than alcohol or tobacco and at least as prevalent in middle-class white communities as in the inner city. In this way, a new racial under-caste has been created in an astonishingly short period of time – a new Jim Crow system. Millions of people of color are now saddled with criminal records and legally denied the very rights that their parents and grandparents fought for (and in some cases, died for). Affirmative action, though, has put a happy face on this racial reality. Seeing black people graduate from Harvard and Yale and become CEO’s or corporate lawyers – not to mention the current president of the United States – causes us all to marvel at what a long way we’ve come. Recent data shows, though, that much of black progress is a myth. In many respects, African Americans are doing no better than they were when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and uprisings swept inner cities across America. The black child poverty rate is actually higher now than it was then. Unemployment rates in black communities rival those in Third World countries. And that’s with affirmative action! When we pull back the curtain and take a look at what our “colorblind” society creates without affirmative action, we see a familiar social, political, and economic structure: the structure of racial caste. The entrance into this new caste system can be found at the prison gate. This is not Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream. This is not the promised land. The cyclical rebirth of caste in America is a recurring racial nightmare.

In a report published by reporter Tom McCarthy in The Guardian on Wednesday March 4th, 2015, police have killed more than twice as many people as reported by US government. According to this report, an average of 545 people killed by local and state law enforcement officers in the US went uncounted in the country’s most authoritative crime statistics every year for almost a decade. The first-ever attempt by US record-keepers to estimate the number of uncounted “law enforcement homicides” exposed previous official tallies as capturing less than half of the real picture. The new estimate – an average of 928 people killed by police annually over eight recent years, compared to 383 in published FBI data for the same time period – amounted to a more glaring admission than ever before of the government’s failure to track how many people police kill.

The revelation called into particular question the FBI practice of publishing annual totals of “justifiable homicides by law enforcement” – tallies that are widely cited in the media and elsewhere as the most accurate official count of police homicides. This bureau of justice statistics (BJS) report, produced in collaboration with RTI International, the research institute, explodes the notion – if its findings are accurate – that the figures the FBI publishes annually are anything other than hugely misleading. The data underlying the FBI tally “is estimated to cover 46% of officer-involved homicides at best” for the years 2003-2009 and 2011, the BJS report concluded. But the published FBI tallies cover even fewer of the total deaths, closer to 41%, in part because the FBI publishes no data from Florida. A separate tally of “arrest-related deaths”, conducted by BJS itself, was slightly more accurate for the years in question, capturing 49% of law enforcement homicides, at best, the report found. The report estimated “an average of 928 law enforcement homicides per year” for the years in question, suggesting that the FBI’s published count of 414 such deaths in 2009, for example, might be 124% off, while its count of 347 such deaths in 2005 might be 167% off. The years under study saw several high-profile homicides by law enforcement of unarmed civilians, such as the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant in a train station in Oakland, California – an episode that would become the subject of the award-winning film “Fruit vale Station” – and the 2006 killing of Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 bullets outside a nightclub in Queens, New York. But the majority of victims in law enforcement homicides for those years not only went unnamed – they went uncounted in any one tally. Even the two counting systems combined, as overseen by the FBI and BJS, missed an average of 263 homicides by law enforcement each year, BJS found.

Academics and specialists have long been aware of flaws in the FBI numbers, which are based on voluntary submissions by local law enforcement agencies of paperwork known as supplementary homicide reports. No law requires local agencies to fill out the reports, and some agencies do not, especially not for officer-involved homicides, according to experts who have studied the issue. But no accredited source had publicly ventured to claim that the numbers published by the FBI were more than 100% wrong. That’s notwithstanding an unusually public airing of doubts about the numbers by the FBI director, James Comey, in a 2015 speech at Georgetown University. “It’s ridiculous that I can’t tell you how many people were shot by the police in this country – last week, last year, the last decade – it’s ridiculous,” Comey said. While the FBI and other government tallies have long been criticized for under-reporting, an admission of the problem at the top levels of US government is swiftly emerging. Joining Comey and Obama this year has been the outgoing attorney general, Eric Holder, who in January 2016 called the government’s accounting for use of force “unacceptable”. In a highly anticipated investigation of its own, Holder’s Justice Department released a report the following Wednesday that African Americans were subject to a full 88% of use-of-force cases actually documented by the police in Ferguson, Mo., according to a law enforcement official familiar with the department’s findings.

I have presented everything in this book the way I have to reveal the government’s not-so-surprising rationale for America’s extremist drug laws – race. The first anti-drug law in our country was a local law in San Francisco passed in 1875. It outlawed the smoking of opium and was directed at the Chinese because opium smoking was a peculiarly Chinese habit. It was believed that Chinese men were luring white women to have sex in opium dens. In 1909 Congress made opium smoking a federal offense by enacting the Anti-Opium Act. It reinforced Chinese racism by carving out an exception for drinking and injecting tinctures of opiates that were popular among whites. Cocaine regulations also were triggered by racial prejudice. Cocaine use was associated with African-Americans just as opium use was associated with the Chinese. Newspaper articles bore racially charged headlines linking cocaine with violent, anti-social behavior by blacks. A 1914 New York Times article proclaimed: “Negro Cocaine ‘Fiends’ Are a New Southern Menace: Murder and Insanity Increasing Among Lower Class Blacks Because They Have Taken to ‘Sniffing.'” A Literary Digest article from the same year claimed that “most of the attacks upon women in the South are the direct result of the cocaine-crazed Negro brain.” It comes as no surprise that 1914 was also the year Congress passed the Harrison Tax Act, effectively outlawing opium and cocaine.

Marijuana prohibition also had racist underpinnings. This time it was the Mexicans. Just as cocaine was associated with black violence and irrational behavior, in the southwest border towns marijuana was viewed — beginning in the early 1920s — as a cause of Mexican lawlessness. A Texas police captain from that time period suggested that marijuana gave Mexicans superhuman strength to commit acts of violence: “Under marijuana Mexicans [become] very violent, especially when they become angry and will attack an officer even if a gun is drawn on him. They seem to have no fear. I have also noted that under the influence of this weed they have enormous strength and it will take several men to handle one man while, under ordinary circumstances, one man could handle him with ease.” The American Coalition – an anti-immigrant group – claimed as recently as 1980: “Marijuana, perhaps now the most insidious of narcotics, is a direct byproduct of unrestricted Mexican immigration.”

Since then Congress has enacted a spate of comprehensive anti-drug laws with strict penalties. For example, today one can be sentenced to life for distributing one kilogram of heroin; 40 years for distributing 100 grams, and 20 years for distributing any quantity at all. Nevertheless, this has not stemmed the country’s appetite for illicit drugs in spite of every administration’s continued “war on drugs” since President Nixon established the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1972, which has grown through the years to a staff of almost 10,000 employees and a budget of $2 billion annually. According to data from the 2010 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 120 million Americans 12 or older – roughly 47 percent of that population – reported illicit drug use at least once in their lifetime; 15.3 percent admitted to using an illegal drug in the prior year; and 8.9 percent – roughly 23 million people – did it within the prior month. The New York Times recently reported that one out of every 15 high school students smokes marijuana on a nearly daily basis. When it comes to sentencing, the main culprit is drugs. About half of the roughly 220,000 criminals in the federal prisons have either brought them into our country, have distributed them here, or have otherwise associated themselves with this illicit activity. This means that probably half of the $6.8 billion of the Bureau of Prisons budget is eaten up by incarcerating the criminal druggies. Half of the prison population is there because of drugs, costing us billions of dollars a year to keep them in jail.

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America’s Debt Problem and the Bible

The USA Crosses the Forbidden 666 Barrier

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this from my website, click here 🙂

food-not-war
The 2017 fiscal year for the budget of the US government just ended late this past summer, and the results are in. The Lame Stream (sorry, I meant ‘main stream’) media and various other “presstitutes” are dutifully reporting what they’re told to report, while not having the slightest inkling as to the Biblical meaning and spiritual significance of what they publish and report on. And yet despite all that, the headline on Saturday morning’s CNN’s website reads, “Deficit for 2017 hits $666 billion”! Now just to be clear about this, CNN is not exactly my favorite news source, but Fox and all the other old mainstay networks are even worse IMHO. But the fact that the federal budget deficit (not to be confused with the ‘national debt’) is the same number as the “mark of the beast” from Revelation 13, verses 11-18 has gone unnoticed – THAT is what surprises me a great deal. But in another way, this occurrence doesn’t surprise me at all. My reason here is simply that it seems like the whole world is going in that direction.

The similarities between the economic monstrosity known as ‘debt’ and the moral monstrosity of the Antichrist and the number 666 are striking. Both fly in the face of God because they are devoid of any love or compassion, and because they challenge the Supreme authority of God. There is plenty of scripture to back this up. Let me start in the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament and work my way forward from there, and I quote: “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 would he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” (Exodus 22: 25-27) As you can see, it is not a sin to borrow money or lend it at interest provided the terms are affordable and reasonable enough. I can remember being taught as a child that it was a sin to borrow money. All the adults in my life at that time were proud of the fact that everything they owned – excluding the lots their hand built houses were built on – was bought and paid for. They built the houses themselves, and even their cars were paid for. It was a world that simply no longer exists.

The CNN article goes on to say, “The deficit reached 3.5% of the size of the economy, or GDP. In 2016, the deficit was 3.2% of GDP. The deficit reflects the gap between how much the government brings in and what it spends. Accrued deficits over the years contribute to the country’s debt held by the public, which in 2017 rose to $14.667 trillion. But as a share of the economy, it actually fell slightly to 76.3%, down from 76.7% in the year-ago period. (Those figures don’t include the money owed to government trust funds like Social Security.)“ At this rate, and if nothing is done – a frightening possibility considering the current state of the US Congress – the interest on America’s ‘national debt’ would exceed 20% of GDP by 2030 if the CNN figures are accurate, and I should hope they are! But if we set that aside and look beyond all these things, we can find the real underlying causes of America’s indebtedness problems.

For this, we’ll stay in the Old Testament and skip over to Deuteronomy chapter 15, verses 1-11, and it reads as follows from the NLT Bible: “At the end of every seventh year you must cancel your debts. This is how it must be done. Creditors must cancel the loans they have made to their fellow Israelites. They must not demand payment from their neighbors or relatives, for the Lord’s time of release has arrived. This release from debt, however, applies only to your fellow Israelites – not to the foreigners living among you. There should be no poor among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possession. You will receive this blessing if you carefully obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. The Lord your God will bless you as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow! You will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you! But if there are any poor people in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year of release is close at hand. If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the Lord, you will be considered guilty of sin. Give freely without begrudging it, and the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some among you who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share your resources freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.

OK, let’s take this from the top since there’s so much in this one paragraph. “At the end of every seventh year you must cancel your debts. This is how it must be done. Creditors must cancel the loans they have made to their fellow Israelites.” So right off the bat we see the entire US mortgage industry has compelled an entire country into sin. After all, this certainly applies to all nations, not just Israel. In America, we either pay interest for 30 years or we rent, that’s how dwellings and commercial buildings of various types are bought and sold. So, we are faced with the choice of paying, say, $200,000.00 or more for a new basic model 3 or 4 bedroom house here in Atlanta where I reside, or renting. With interest figured in, the total price for that house over 30 years would be approximately $333,000.00 dollars. So, the Bible is telling us that a good-sized portion of that excess $133,000.00 in interest on our hypothetical $200,0000.00 mortgage is sinful, meaning it’s sinful to charge people that much interest or to make that much profit on one stinking’ house! This, my dear readers, is why capitalism as we have known it is unsustainable. Capitalism is unsustainable because it’s sinful! This is the Scriptural ‘proof of the pudding’ right here in Deuteronomy.

They must not demand payment from their neighbors or relatives, for the Lord’s time of release has arrived. This release from debt, however, applies only to your fellow Israelites – not to the foreigners living among you.” So this time of forgiving of debts is called the “time of release” in my NLT Bible, and my NIV calls it “the Lord’s time for canceling debts”. At the time this was written, the ancient Hebrew nation was at the latter stages of their 40 years of wandering in the desert, but prior to the time of taking possession of the land the Lord was going to give them, since Moses was still alive at this time. As this was applied to the Hebrew nation from the time of Moses, so it remains with modern America. If it were against the law for any loan to be of more than 7 years duration, there wouldn’t be any poor or homeless people. But the rich would lose most of their ill-gotten gains, and the entire mortgage industry would have to be extensively restructured. Now you know why nothing ever changes.

The only way to stop this gross injustice – which amounts to legalized loan sharking – is to refuse to go along with the system. Passive resistance can be a very effective tool in forcing change to come about at the societal level – that is, nonviolent resistance. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a master of this very thing, which freaked out the FBI and the “Department of Justice” to such an extreme they enlisted the aid of the CIA to have King killed. So how do we take an cue from Rev. Dr. King’s playbook? One of the most effective things we could do today about our rigged economic system would be for everyone to boycott their student loans. If we stop paying on our homes and our cars, the bankers and finance people foreclose and repossess. But with the student loans – and other unsecured loans like your credit cards – if we walk away as a united people, there’s nothing for them to take back. It would be tantamount to a national strike, and we wouldn’t even have to leave our homes!Wow, wouldn’t THAT be something!! Moving right along….

There should be no poor among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possession. You will receive this blessing if you carefully obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today.” Just as God Almighty gave what was then known as the “Land of Canaan” to the Hebrew nation – or Israelites, they mean the same thing – during the time of Moses, I am certain that God gave what become North America to the early settlers “as a special possession” too. The Bible even spells out the payoff for following the commands and tenets of the Lord Almighty in this regard: “The Lord your God will bless you as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow! You will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you!” Isn’t that the position America was in up until the 1980’s or so? Weren’t we the largest money lending nation in the world? Look at us now! We’re the largest debtor nation. We’ve gone from one extreme to the other! And it’s all because of America’s sins! What sins, some may ask? We’re the world’s largest arms maker and exporter. We’re the largest producer of pornography, the largest consumer of illegal drugs, and we have the most people in prison of any other country in the world – by more than triple the #2 nation, which is Communist China. Until America repents of these things by getting to the root cause, her problems will continue to get progressively worse!

But if there are any poor people in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year of release is close at hand.” God despises anyone who despises the poor! Sometimes when I’m in downtown Atlanta at the main train station waiting on a bus to take me out to my neighborhood, I sit and watch the homeless people – and Atlanta has plenty of them because wages are extremely low – beg for money. I give them all my spare change if they ask for it, and I have been known to buy people sandwiches who are in need. But the vast majority of the passers-by won’t even acknowledge them if approached, and will even step up their pace to get by the beggars faster. This is one reason I have never cared for the meme “conservative Christian”. It’s because they seem to be consistently too conservative to give. They all seem to be too busy ‘conserving’ to have a single ounce of human compassion. Such individuals risk being judged harshly by the Lord, and some will be condemned.

If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the Lord, you will be considered guilty of sin….That is why I am commanding you to share your resources freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.” This means if someone who is in a position to help people fails to do so, even if it’s nothing but loose change, and the homeless man or woman cries out to God against that individual, they will have committed sin against God. Sin is defined as breaking God’s commandments. Therefore, all sinners are essentially lawbreakers. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t want to spend my life as an outlaw. I want to follow God’s precepts in order to obtain my eternal reward that awaits me. Since America is collectively in sin, as I already explained, the repentance will have to start with each individual. Those at the top – America’s top 1% when measured in wealth – are certainly not going to repent of their sins. They’re making too much money to want to repent, and their end will be eternal judgment. But the rest of us can collectively stop these practices of financial corruption, one person at a time. We can make up our minds to live debt-free. And yes, it can be done. Like former president Obama said, “Yes we can!”

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Las Vegas and the Bible: an Indictment of American Culture

Why We Have Guys Like Stephen Paddock and

Incidents Like the Las Vegas Shooting:

a Spiritual Diagnosis

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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wake_up
All week long, everyone has the same question, especially the police at the local, state and federal levels – why? Why did this man kill 58 people and wound or maim 500 more? What motivated this seemingly mindless mass slaughter? A shooter’s reasons, however sick and twisted, usually become clear within a day or two. A suicide note, a manifesto, a series of social media rants, a phone call – even police reports and court dockets can provide insight into what drives a warped mind to commit such a violent act. Usually, someone close knows something or realizes, in retrospect, that they missed the warning signs. But 64-year-old Stephen C. Paddock flew low under the radar. He avoided interaction with many of the people around him, and his manner was direct and brusque by all accounts. He was known to stay up all night gambling, but it was as if he was the only reveler at his own party.

Clark County Nevada Under-sheriff Kevin C. McMahill seemed almost apologetic Friday afternoon when he told reporters that despite running down some 1,000 leads, investigators still haven’t come up with “credible information” concerning Paddock’s motive. Chasing down all those leads “helped create a better profile into the madness of this suspect,” McMahill said, but “we still do not have a clear motive or reason why.” The previous evening, Sheriff Joe Lombardo summed up the mystery man this way: Paddock “spent decades acquiring weapons and ammo and living a secret life, much of which will never be fully understood.” But I maintain that much of the mystery surrounding Mr. Paddock’s can be cleared up. What Sheriff Lombardo was lacking, along with most, if not all, of the other investigators, was a Bible. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.

You shall not murder….” (Exodus 20: 13). That’s the most obvious example, but there’s more than just this alone. “The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery’, ‘Do not murder’, ‘Do not steal’, ‘Do not covet’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Lev. 19:18) Love does no harm to his neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13, verses 9-10) Based on these verses we can conclude that Mr. Paddock was either a person completely devoid of love, or he had completely suppressed all his capacity to love. Yet he had the presence of mind to get his lady friend out of the country with a cool 100 grand before carrying out this diabolical plot of his. I’m no psychiatrist, but it appears Mr. Paddock made a conscious effort to turn off that part of his brain. This is the same as selling one’s soul to the devil, as it is written: “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your father you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own, but he has sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.‘” (John 8, verses 42-44)

The law enforcement folks, as I wrote at the beginning of this week’s message, are still asking ‘why?’ everybody was so clueless about this mad assassin. The FBI reportedly has interviewed Mr. Paddock’s girlfriend, who evidently flew back to the US from the Philippines at her own expense, or I should say Mr. Paddock’s, since she undoubtedly had a credit or debit card from Mr. Paddock to defray her expenses, and she apparently knew nothing of her late boyfriend’s intentions. But the words of our Lord and Savior are very clear: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.” Remember when the press and the police interviewed Mr. Paddock’s brother? He said at least twice during the interview, “He had no affiliations of any kind, especially not churches, so I can’t imagine what made Steven do this!” So we now get a clearer picture of this man. Though no one is born a murderer, this guy Mr. Paddock evidently turned himself into one gradually, over the years, until he became a cold-blooded killer. He did this to himself, and it appears he did it on purpose. It was a conscious effort on his part. Steven Paddock consciously turn himself into an atrocity so he could commit atrocities, and evidently for sport. In short, Mr. Paddock rented that Las Vegas hotel room because he was going on safari, and his game was human beings. I realize writing this the way I’m doing is not politically correct. I’m not trying to be politically correct. What I am doing is explaining the mass shooting in Las Vegas in Biblical terms.

This all started back in 1962 when the USA took prayer out of her public schools. Stephen Paddock would have been in the fifth grade at that time. Seven years later in 1966, America had its first mass shooting. On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman, a former U.S. Marine sharpshooter, took rifles and other weapons to the observation deck atop the Main Building tower at the University of Texas at Austin, then opened fire on persons indiscriminately on the surrounding campus and streets. Over the next 96 minutes he shot and killed fifteen people (including one unborn child) and injured thirty-one others; another victim died in the hospital, and a final victim died in 2001 from the lingering effects of his wounds. The incident ended when police reached Whitman and shot him dead. Mr. Paddock would have in the 11th grade at that time, and he was surely affected by this incident. It may have even planted the seeds in his mind for the Las Vegas mass shooting decades later. But the US Supreme Court banned public prayer in all government buildings – not just schools – due to the Constitutional separation of church and state. Unfortunately for America, this ban has been taken too far.

It was 27 years later, in 1999, when America suffered her first mass shooting in a school, Columbine High School in Colorado. That’s what happens in just one generation when God and his Son, Jesus, together with the Holy Spirit, are forcibly removed from our nation’s schools. You wind up with a bunch of godless, atheistic kids without a conscience – or who can willfully turn theirs off and back on again without remorse, since the end always justifies the means to such people. That’s exactly what Stephen Paddock turned into, and in his case it was clearly voluntary. And why did this occur? There we are, back to the original question yet again. Yet the answer has been staring us right in the face the whole time. We kicked God out of our lives. The ban on prayer in schools back in 1962 was passed with the lobbying of Congress from just a few individuals from the O’Hare family of Pittsburgh, Pa., and later Austin, Texas, a mother (Madelyn) and her two sons. The rest of America sat back and let this happen. America’s churches sat on their hands. Their pastors, bishops and elders railed against the prayer ban from their pulpits, but when the sermon was over, everyone went home to their black & white TV’s. There was some public protesting of the 1962 prayer ban, but not nearly enough! Even back then, people would rather sit and watch television, voluntarily surrendering their brains to an electronic box. They then proceeded to shut off their consciences so that they wouldn’t be bothered no matter how much violence they were looking at. These plastic religious people would rather be entertained than get out in the streets and protest against evil!

So, when you spend the last two generations removing all semblance of prayer or the mention of God, and especially of Jesus, from a society, that society immediately begins to drift away from God. When this was done in America’s schools, we programmed an entire generation against the knowledge of God. We have been drifting morally as a nation for well over half a century at this point, and this is what you get, America! We have done this to ourselves, and we have no one but ourselves to blame. America has forgotten about God! Gun control is not the answer, although mandatory gun registration should be the law of the land. We have similar laws on the books today, but they have too many loopholes. But more than that, we have to put God back in America’s schools if we want to remove the potential for violence. We must allow the love of Christ Jesus to return to our governing bodies and educational system. Otherwise, our ‘society’ will ultimately break down. Last but not least, we need to clean up the violence on America’s TV and movie screens and from the video games you and your children are playing. Turn off your cable TV and stream Christian content on the Internet instead. Get a lot pickier about what you – and especially if there are kids in the house – watch on TV or what video games you’re all playing. There’s an encyclopedia of subliminal messaging contained in those TV shows, commercials and video games – even in movies – that’s designed to program people’s minds. That could be what happened to Mr. Paddock, but it’s likely no one will ever know for sure.

Stephen Paddock, and his predecessors Dylan Klebold at Columbine High and Charles Whitman at UT Austin, were godless human beings, and godlessness leads people to commit atrocities (sorry, but the word ‘tragedy’ just isn’t strong enough). Here in America, it happens most often with guns. In Europe and the Middle East, where gun control is very strict, bombings are the weapon of choice for those who have surrendered willingly to Satan to willfully commit mass murder. In all these cases, as best as I can tell, these individuals had willfully turned off their consciences in order to commit these crimes and atrocities. There is no other explanation. The solution is to address the source of the problem, which is our nation’s schools and the way children are being educated right from Day One. Insert the Prince of Peace into our homes and schools and we will know peace. No Prince of Peace equals no peace.

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