Category Archives: freedom

President Trump and former director Comey both need to change their ways

Regarding Judging or Accusing Other People:

Those Who Call Us Liars Should Examine Themselves

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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The 99% - Too big to fail

Watching this past week’s spectacle in Washington surrounding Russia-gate, former FBI director James Comey’s firing, and his subsequent testimony under oath has reminded me once again about the folly of judging others. President Trump and Mr. Comey calling each other liars on national TV has only solidified my opinion that both are equally guilty of much dishonesty and at-times downright childish behavior. What does the Bible say about judging, accusing and name-calling other people? This goes way beyond mere physical appearances such as race, unaccustomed mannerisms or various idiosyncrasies. It surpasses all concepts of right and wrong. The Bible defines judging others as having contempt for, looking down on, or possessing an arrogance towards people who are different than ourselves. It means considering ourselves better than others for racial, moral, economic, age, ethnic, religious or gender related reasons, and ditto for sexual preferences and gender identity. It is morally wrong to do all these things because we are all made in the image and likeness of the very same God, and God bestows his gifts and attributes to us on an equal basis. Moreover, the Bible teaches us that equality is ordained by God, as it is written: “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22: 2) Therefore, we are all equals in God’s sight, and I could write a whole sermon on that topic alone (in fact, I think I will). There are several good quotes from the Bible that I am going to use to make my point. The first is from the gospel of Matthew chapter 7, verses 1-5.

 

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

 

What this verse also says is the more harshly we judge other people, the more harshly we will be judged when it is our turn. Make no mistake, every one of us will get his or her turn at being judged by God when our lives are over. The only exceptions will be those who will be caught up in the rapture of the Church during the Great Tribulation that is prophesied by the book of Revelation, as well as by the apostle Paul in his letters to the Thessalonian church. And that, my dear readers, will only be a select few people. So what is the criteria for this? It will simply be how we treated other people, and by how good we made them feel. It’s going to be about how much unconditional love, kindness and patience we showed others. That’s why Jesus said during his sermon on the mountain, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5: 7). We are to be practicing gentleness when making discernment about others, otherwise our harshness and being judgmental will come back around and bite us in the tail.

 

This next Old Testament quote from Scripture is the basis for my quotations from the new one. “I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 7, verse 27). The more poorly we treat others, the meaner God will be towards us when our lives are over. If we treat people better and a lot more gently, being compassionate and considerate towards others even if they’re strangers, God will be gentle with us to the point where it shows up in the lives of those who habitually perform this good deed. Meaning, those who live their lives this way won’t have to wait until their physical lives are over to get rewarded for their good deeds and acts of random kindness. How then should we be living? We should be living as if God is watching everything we do and listening to everything we say (because, you know, He actually is). This means we should be taking care of others, nurturing and encouraging each other instead of criticizing and rejecting just because they don’t meet our lofty standards. We are not at the center of the universe, not are we meant to be! Remember that for every person who seems to come up short as far as we are concerned, there is another that feels the same way about us whether they tell us or not. People who are in the habit of acting this way toward others are always people who dislike themselves. They see something about themselves that they don’t like in the personality or character of someone else, so they go after that person tooth and nail. As long as they are attacking someone else, they don’t have to look at themselves.

 

The next 2 quotes are from the book of James in the New Testament. They take judging of others a step further by getting at the roots of passing judgment. “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 3: 11-12) Well said, James, my dear brother! Who do we think we are? Since everyone is a sinner in God’s sight, God can only save us if we are merciful towards one another. Jesus said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. The Bible commands us to love one another, and Jesus taught us to “love your neighbor as yourself”. We cannot simultaneously judge others and still be merciful towards them. We can’t claim to love others while sitting in judgment of them. Judgment and mercy are exact opposites, they are mutually exclusive of one another. The same goes for slander and love. There is no way to talk badly about your neighbor, friend, co-worker or relative and then profess your love for them. The apostle James then taught us what we should do instead when he wrote: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2: 12-13)

 

True judgment gives freedom according to James. Restrictive judgment says to those around us, ‘I think I’m better than you’. That kind of talk is never from God! It is man-made and it is derived from excessive pride, arrogance and conceit! Being merciful towards others no matter what they have said or done tends to motivate those people to want to do better, to seek ways of improving themselves and each other. Judging others, on the other hand, implies that they can’t do any better, so why not just write them off? It’s taking the easy way out, and that is never God’s way, either! Some Christians honestly believe that it is their duty to run around judging people, digging up dirt and spreading rumors. They think for them there will be some reward. But this is what Jesus says to these people: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’” (Matthew 25:31-46)

 

Did you notice that those who were welcomed by Jesus were wondering why they were welcomed and those who were not welcomed thought that they should have been? Modern-day evangelists and preachers often teach that if you are saved then you know it, but what Jesus teaches here is the complete opposite. If you are a Christian as you claim, you should be following the advice of your Lord and Savior and not be running around judging people. According to Jesus, if you are saved, you are running around feeding the hungry, quenching the thirst of those thirsty and clothing the naked. Many hunger for love and acceptance and thirst for justice and some feel shamed as if they were naked. We are supposed to be helping them, not judging them! But if you yourself are hungry for attention while loving and thirsting for justice, then you will in your own defense judge other people. Seek salvation for yourself rather than distributing judgment unto others. We know who you are, and so do you!

 

There is one more aspect of passing judgment that I think I should mention, and that is the often controversial subject of racism. Hatred, bigotry and intolerance directed towards others are the polar opposites of being merciful. The best way to achieve peace on earth is for everybody to start showing mercy and tolerance towards one another (provided that that mercy and tolerance is not abused by its recipient). The Bible says any time we display racism, intolerance, bigotry and prejudice towards one another, it is the same as hating God who made them all, as it is written: “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1st John 4, verses 20-21) Who are we to question the handiwork of the Lord? Besides, when we devalue others we ultimately devalue ourselves since God created everyone equally. These are simple truths, yet they seem to elude us the majority of the time. Imagine a world without hate or harsh judgment that is filled compassion and mercy for everyone. What a wonderful place to live that would be! The Bible already tells us how. It’s just that too few people are putting it into practice.

 

God has given each of us the responsibility of not being so quick to pass judgment on each other. Instead, we are to be merciful towards each other because “mercy triumphs over judgment”. Ask yourself this question right now. Am I too judgmental? Am I a prejudiced individual? Do I find certain groups of people distasteful just because I don’t like them? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it’s time to repent, to turn away from this behavior pattern, and to turn to God. Only God can provide all the answers you need. If you feel that you may not be strong enough to change, pray to God and ask Him to help you change into a better person. You will be surprised at how willing He actually is. Let’s practice together to not be judgmental towards one another, and to be merciful instead. It’s a much better way of life.

 

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

After Vietnam” 50 Years Later

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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MLK1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is America Becoming a Nation of Wannabe Dictators?

Acute Hitler Syndrome – Why Our Elected Officials

Are Adopting the Tactics of Tyrants

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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Spontaneous acts of tyranny have been cropping up lately like cancer tumors. Come to think of it, this began to occur around or just after January 20th – inauguration day. Let’s go through a few examples and see what the Bible has to say about this. If “Trump care” gets passed into law as it is, 24 million people will lose their health insurance, and the birth of a child will not be covered at all. Hear that, ladies? If you’re pregnant and don’t qualify for Trump-care, you’re on your own! Enjoy having your baby at home in the bathtub. Or if you deliver at the hospital, your new presidential administration doesn’t care that your medical bills will bankrupt you, either. The same goes for everyone else who will lose their coverage. Moreover, the “Meals On Wheels” program for the poor and infirm would also be eliminated. So if you’re sick and bedridden and unable to go to the grocery store, you’re going to starve if you have no other resources, and many of these people don’t. If the new Trump administration gets its way, America’s poor will be trampled underfoot by an ‘alt-right’ stampede.

I watched all this with a sense of sadness and disgrace for the human race. You know, the apostle James had something to say about this: “Listen, my dear brothers: Has God not chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?…Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of Him to whom you belong?” (James 2, verses 5-6) And then a realization hit me like a bolt of lightning – this is occurring because people are only following the examples set by others. These random acts of tyranny aren’t really random acts at all. They are the infantile acting-out of behaviors the childish American public has witnessed being demonstrated by their “leaders.” The TSA sexually molesting air travelers isn’t just a violation of fundamental human rights – it’s also a demonstration to the mindless masses that this is the new “normal” behavior in society. So as the masses observe Big Government reaching down their own pants, they now get the message that it’s okay to sexually molest little boys at church, or that it’s okay to take children away from parents, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

When the American people saw George Bush set up secret military prisons and condone water-boarding torture techniques during the 2nd Iraq war, only to see even more of the same from president Barack Obama after voting Bush’s party out of the White House, we the people are calling for president Trump to stop this practice for good. After all, past and present U.S. leaders will do to other human beings just as much as they think they can get away with. And yet, for some reason, these high-level government operatives who engage in these same torture techniques are never even questioned. This phenomenon of everyday American people mirroring the behavior of federal and law enforcement “authorities” who act as tyrants needed a name. So, I’m calling this phenomenon AHS, which stands for Acute Hitler Syndrome.

Just as children mimic the actions of their parents, the childish minds of the insecure (and fear-pummeled) mainstream masses also mimic the actions of their parental role models. To many Americans – and especially those of a more liberal mindset – government takes on the role of their parents. The government is supposed to tell you what to eat, what to buy, what to believe and of course how to express your patriotism when needed to justify the latest war launched by whomever. Government is the “authority” and the problem solver in the lives of these people. So naturally, in their childish mindset they seek to replicate the behaviors their parental role models are openly exhibiting.

Here’s how this looks on the street: Your average city police officer is a wannabe tyrant who now. By watching the criminality of the federal government, he or she feels they have permission to engage in the same tactics of intimidation and arrogance in ruling over the public (rather than serving to protect them). That’s why so many big-city police officers have recently morphed into paramilitary jack-booted thugs; dressing in black, unlawfully arresting people for no justifiable reason, tasering innocent victims in wheelchairs, and generally acting out what is essentially a childish reflection of the very same tyranny they witness being demonstrated by high-level tyrants in Washington D.C., right on up to the Oval Office. The FBI, for its part, is busy actually masterminding the very same “terror plots” that it then magically “prevents” with great fanfare. As recently exposed in The Guardian (and other newspapers), the FBI actually develops terror plots, provides the plans, weapons, funding, motivation and equipment necessary for these “terrorists” to carry out those plots (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/201…).

Acute Hitler Syndrome is also now being seen in local schools, where “zero-tolerance” rules get children kicked out of the public education system for merely bringing a butter knife in their home-packed lunch, for example. Or a child caught with an aspirin tablet is labeled a “drug abuser” and condemned to special remediation classes. The tyrants are everywhere in American society now. Think about the tyrants that have now descended upon you in your own life – the tyrant down at the DMV, the tyrant dog license enforcer, the tyrant building inspector and the tyrant food service worker, also sometimes known as “soup Nazis.” These types of people are setting examples to be followed by every single person across America who finds himself or herself in a position of authority. That’s it! We’ll just ALL be tyrants! What a perfect solution!!

Through its moronic (and completely fabricated) war on terror, the national leadership in the USA has made it politically correct to terrorize anyone over whom you exercise power. If you’re a librarian, you can terrorize little children over past-due books (that is, if children actually read books at all anymore). If you’re a septic tank inspector, you can terrorize people over the layout of their septic pipes. If you’re a doctor, you can terrorize people over flu shots and chemotherapy, all being aggressively pushed with the very same fear tactics now used at the highest levels of national government. The Trump administration justifies their brutal crackdown against “Love Trumps Hate” and “Black Lives Matter” protesters by pointing to how U.S. law enforcement bodies took a ‘firm stance’ against Occupy Wall Street protesters. ‘Love Trumps Hate’, Black Lives Matter’ and the #NODAPL protests at Standing Rock, S.D., are the new “Occupy” protesters, you can be sure about that.

Acute Hitler Syndrome happens because the political leaders of America have broadcast a message across the nation that terrorizing innocent people is not merely okay, but downright patriotic! Anyone who says they’re not going along with all the terror nonsense, the spy-on-your-neighbor paranoia and the “worship-your-imperialist-government” cultism is immediately branded an “extremist.” It’s now “extreme” to not believe in torture and home-grown terror as a way to keep the “sheeple” in line. “Extremism” is now defined as opening your eyes, asking some commonsense questions, and refusing to follow the hypnotized masses as they are marched off a high cliff by the globalist population controllers.

Merely thinking for yourself, it turns out, is now “extreme.” It’s a brave new world after all, I suppose. Fear and paranoia is being marketed to the public in an attempt to transform the citizenry into a huge spy ring. The social acceptance of spying on your neighbors and promoting fear has reached a new fervor across America, very nearly reflecting that of Nazi Germany in the late 1930’s. It’s now okay to call 911 on somebody merely because they happen to be writing something down on a scrap of paper in a public park (that’s one of the signs of possible terrorism, according to ludicrous DHS public service videos that only breed paranoid thinking). It’s now okay to spy on everyone around you and secretly observe them to see what they’re doing. It’s now your duty to watch over every scrap of luggage at the airport and start screaming about terror threats if some poor sap walks more than 10 feet away from his bags for a few seconds. And when we’re out driving, if we see someone we think is driving way too fast, instead of calling in their tag number to 911, people will race to get ahead of that car and then cut in front of them and slam on their brakes, causing a chain-reaction collision! Here in Atlanta where I live and work, this kind of self-righteous behavior happens all too often.

Fortunately, there’s a ready solution to all this. The antidote to Acute Hitler Syndrome is decentralized management, a non-hierarchical model that can also be called “grassroots people power.” There will be no more psycho managers, control freaks or power mongers. This is what happens when ordinary, everyday citizens realize that all government power comes from the American people and that government is the servant of the people, not the other way around. So they take to the streets and protest. They take their money out of the accounts of globalist banks. They stop buying GMO’s. They fight against water fluoridation in their local towns. They spread the word about Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential primary. People Power is so powerful that it will sooner or later overcome Acute Hitler Syndrome, but only if enough people actually remember what liberty actually feels like. That’s why I urge you to practice liberty in everything you do. Don’t settle for tyranny when you can insist on liberty! After all, the Bill of Rights guarantees you a number of extremely important rights, many of which are now being quickly eroded. Stand up for restoring those rights and you will empower the phenomenon of People Power (grassroots liberty as defined in the Declaration of Independence as being “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”), which is the ultimate solution against Acute Hitler Syndrome.

You can also defend liberty by practicing common courtesy (and common sense) in your own positions of power. Don’t terrorize people just because you can. Exercise common human decency and compassion for those who deserve your assistance. When you practice random acts of kindness, you alter the entire emotional landscape across America, replacing fear with kindness, replacing terror with confidence, turning negatives into positives everywhere we go. If corporate CEO’s would practice this, then most corporations would probably go out of business because they’re mostly in the business of screwing people over for a profit. Remember, there is no such thing as a victim-less billionaire. That level of wealth accumulation simply doesn’t happen without taking from lots of others in the process. But remember: In the end, kindness will always win out over terror. Good triumphs over evil. Spread a little around, and you’ll see what a world of difference it can really make.

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

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

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Kennedy Assassination

Here’s some previously unknown info about the Kennedy assassination in November 1963. It’s even crazier than I thought!

Left Hook by Dean Henderson

2006-alton-mo-22-homestead-winter-scene(Excerpted from Chapter 9: The Texas Oil Mafia: Big Oil & Their Bankers…)

Clint Murchison had meat packing interests in Haiti which were looked after by CIA agent George deMohrenschildt, a wealthy Russian oilman and, according to the FBI, a Nazi spy during WWII.

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Free excerpt #2 from my recent book release “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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“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.”

Written by a nondenominational minister, this book uses the Bible to provide a simple explanation for why marijuana criminalization is a sin against God. Order now on Kindle ($6.95) at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J1X7802 or buy the softback direct ($14.95, tax deductible) at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

One third of all proceeds will be donated to Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta, Inc. to be used for our “Feed and Educate” program for the homeless, and for operating expenses associated with this ministry.

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Free excerpt from my nonfiction book, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”

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http://youtu.be/Z20l9ohORN4

What are these law enforcement folks protecting to begin with? The assets, infrastructure and personal privacy and security of the top 1%, that’s what! The problem with that is the top 1% regard everything in sight as theirs, as if all the people in the lower income brackets – the other 99% – didn’t deserve one stinking thing. In short, its all a game of acquiring the most stuff, the biggest collection of material goods of one kind or another, the fastest or most luxurious car, the most powerful truck and the biggest house. And for what? If one of us should die tomorrow, he or she can take absolutely none of it with them. As Rev. Billy Graham used to preach, “nobody ever saw a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer behind it”. It’s all temporary, left behind when we are dead and gone, as all of us eventually will be, including me. It’s what we leave behind that counts. Maybe we should ask ourselves – if you haven’t done so already – what kind of legacy do we want to leave? Not someone who did great things in the sight of others or who made a great fortune, but someone who took care of the needs of the people on a case by case basis. Not someone who is lauded with praise by men and women, but one who seeks the praise and approval of Almighty God as I and others like me do. I love giving some homeless guy a couple of dollars, paying an elderly widow’s electric bill to keep it from being turned off, donating a used computer to an inner city school kid who needs one, and never mind their skin color either. Performing volunteer work, giving generously to your church (it doesn’t have to be financial aid, there are many ways to help), sponsoring a hungry kid overseas, or adopting one here at home are the things people remember about us after we have passed, and so will God. We are to be leaving behind the things that people remember about us long after we are gone, and they must be positive things that build people up, not negative things that tear us down. We are to be contributors, being sure to give wherever possible and not living just to see how much we can earn, or even take. Takers are losers who leave holes in time.

What if we didn’t need money at all? What if we had an alternative way to buy things without using traditional cash, checks or plastic? What if we didn’t have to work at all, or maybe not nearly as much? Using profit as a mechanism for the control of liquid assets by and for the top 1% when the overwhelming majority of Americans have no access to those assets is obviously an economic barrier that keeps the remaining 99% of us in a bare subsistence mode that is clearly unethical and discriminatory and therefore illegal. Eliminating the need for money instantly wipes out poverty while putting the 99% in a favorable position to have all their basic needs met (never mind all the fancy BS stuff, just the basics of life). The replacement of money, and of the work that is necessary in order to earn it, are already being accomplished by computers and robots.

Technology has eliminated jobs across the board on an alarming scale – from secretarial positions to auto workers. The resulting crisis is compounded by our culture’s deep denial of the basic problem. I’m old enough to remember the ’60s and ’70s when so many pundits described the coming glories of the “cybernetic age.” Then computers would at last liberate us, they promised, from the drudgery of 9-5 jobs. Back then the worry was, what would we do with all that leisure time? Leisure time has proven frustratingly elusive. Instead, most of us are working harder than ever as our employing firms “downsize.” Alternatively, we’re pounding the pavement looking for non-existent jobs to replace those that have been “outsourced” to Asia somewhere. Additionally, so many of the “jobs” available to the more recently laid off labor force are extremely low-paying to a humiliating degree (such as the current and pathetic minimum wage of $7.25 hourly). In the end, they are nothing more than useless make-work projects that are not only completely unnecessary, but positively destructive. Things like weapons manufacturing, the military itself, the advertising industry and telemarketers, insurance companies, fast food, and (above all!) Wall Street jobs connected with financial speculation. None of these occupations are truly productive. And naming them as I have represents only the tip of the iceberg.

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John Glenn — What a Legacy!

John Glenn Saw No Conflict Between Faith and Science

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

STS-95 crew member, astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn poses for his official NASA photo taken April 14, 1998. In 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, and he returned to space in 1998 aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Photo courtesy of NASA via Reuters

STS-95 crew member, astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn poses for his official NASA photo taken April 14, 1998. Photo courtesy of NASA via Reuters

For by Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1: 16-17)

The passing of American hero John Glenn this past week has given me cause for reflection. When I think of heroes, Jesus Christ is the first person that comes to mind. Since he has saved us all from our sins against God and each other, Jesus is the obvious first choice. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is another example of a hero that I can think of, the late president John F. Kennedy is yet another. I can think of still more examples from the Bible, such as St. Stephen from the Book of Acts chapter 6, Joshua and Caleb from the Book of Joshua, and the apostle Peter, to name a few. And then there is John Glenn. As an American astronaut he gained heroic stature when he became the first man to orbit the earth aboard Friendship 7 in 1962. Previously, he won five Distinguished Flying Crosses in World War II, and years later went on to become a U.S. Senator from Ohio.

Perhaps less well known is that he was a man of deep Christian faith. This past Thursday, when he left the bounds of earth one final time at age 95, he passed into the arms of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He was one of the pioneering astronauts of the Mercury program at a time when space travel was extremely risky. He said he prayed every day during that time. Those prayers were needed on Glenn’s historic first orbits in space. During the return on February 20, 1962, Glenn’s heat shield was thought to have come loose and many believed it might fail during re-entry, which would cause Glenn’s capsule to be incinerated in its fiery descent. Glenn was instructed to take manual control of the capsule and described “a real fireball outside” as he re-entered the atmosphere. Thankfully, his and many other prayers were answered when he splashed down safely in the Caribbean.

Shortly after his flight, he delivered a sermon, “Why I Know There is a God,” that described his enlarged perspective on God as a result of the mission. In his message, he marveled at the size of the universe. “Our galaxy is some 100,000 light years in diameter. This makes us realize how difficult it is to visualize the tremendous scale of the universe beyond our solar system. The limits of the telescopically observable universe extend at least two billion light years from us in all directions,” he told his listeners in 1962. Then he expressed awe at discoveries from the microscopic level. “Come back to what we know of atomic particles, the smallest particles known. Atoms have a great similarity to our solar system in that they have electrons rotating about a nucleus in regular patterns. Now what is the point I am making?” he asked. “It is the orderliness of the whole universe about us, from the smallest atomic structure to the most enormous thing we can imagine. Could this have just happened? Was it an accident that a bunch of flotsam and jetsam suddenly started making these orbits of their own accord? I can’t believe that. This was a definite plan. This is one big thing in space that shows me there is a God. Some power put all this in orbit, and that power keeps it there.”

John Glenn may best be remembered as one of the 20th century’s greatest explorers, the first American to orbit the Earth and, later, the oldest man in space. Glenn also will be remembered for his long career as a U.S. Senator, representing his home state of Ohio for 24 years as a moderate Democrat. But less well-known is the fact that Glenn was an elder in the Presbyterian Church who saw no conflict between his beliefs in God and in science. He told The Associated Press last year he believed scientific discovery – including evolution – should be taught in schools. “I don’t see that I’m any less religious by the fact that I can appreciate the fact that science just records that we change with evolution and time, and that’s a fact,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s less wondrous and it doesn’t mean that there can’t be some power greater than any of us that has been behind and is behind whatever is going on.” And in a space-to-Earth news conference during his second space flight at age 77 in 1998, Glenn told reporters his view of space only strengthened his belief in God. “Looking at the Earth from this vantage point, looking at this kind of creation and to not believe in God, to me, is impossible. To see the Earth laid out like that only strengthens my beliefs,” he said.

From high above Earth, John Glenn saw the face of God. He was not alone. There is something about the beauty of space, Earth and the universe that touches many people’s spirits. Logic-oriented scientists and daring pilots turn spiritual, some even evangelical, after their space flights. Glenn and most of his Mercury astronauts strongly testified about how faith helped with their groundbreaking flights. John Glenn summed it all up while in orbit. “To look up out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible,” Glenn said in a Sunday news conference, responding to a reporter’s question. “It just strengthens my faith.” Glenn said recently that evolution should be taught along with all other types of scientific discovery, and this view does not contradict a belief in God. He went on to say that recording the scientific changes that occur over time due to evolution fit comfortably with his view of God as Creator.

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Less Is More During This Year’s Holidays

Making Do With Less In A Season of Excess

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our new president, the Bible, and racism in America

President Trump, Racism in America, and the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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