Category Archives: greed

Has the American Dream Died, or Did It Just Fall Asleep?

The American Dream Has Become a Nightmare

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this on my website, or for small screen viewing, click here 🙂

The “American Dream” has at its core an escape from the real world to build a personalized utopia, a custom-made fantasy island of sorts. When we were taught to pursue this dream back when, we were ‘taught’ that if we work hard and diligently enough we’ll be able to make enough money to buy a house in the ‘right’ neighborhood so our kids go to the ‘right’ schools and buy enough stuff so as to please ourselves, stay even economically with our neighbors and relatives, and shut out the rest of the world so we can keep it all to ourselves. But the house and our neighborhood are not the only part of our island. Our cars and our Internet gives us the power to choose almost everything such as where we work, or where our houses or churches are. Not to mention who our friends are, too. Our cars allow us to escape what we don’t like about the neighborhoods we must sometimes live in.

If that is not enough, our TVs and our Internet connections allow us to filter out whatever else could intrude on us. Not that we need help to filter out what is unpleasant, the ‘lame stream media’ does that for us already. All one has to do is talk to those who are from other countries such as Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Israel/Gaza. Our media protects us from the real life negative stories about what our country and corporations do to others. In lieu of the unpleasant truth, our media reports only that which does not interfere with our consumption of their sponsors’ products. And out of that small selection that is left from all of this filtering, we use the remote to choose shows based on how they make us feel. What a dumb life this is! Ever considered turning off your cable TV and pocketing that money each month? Thank God we have the alternative media outlets such as Israeli News Live, We Are Change, SGT Report, Jason A and many, many other high-quality channels or websites to choose from!

Christendom as a whole sees this self-imposed isolation by its secular fellow Americans as an affirmation of his own similarly withdrawn theology. For example, I rarely see any articles or postings that call into question the extreme immorality of waging war. In its place their articles, Christian books and TV shows are concerned with fine theological points, pointless evangelical arguments, how to better manage church services, all about miracles real or imagined or engineered, and all the while oftentimes overemphasizing fund raising.

But it is not just the articles that show how we distance ourselves, but we use our gospel of individual salvation to shut out what we find disturbing. We so reduce our standing before God – in our own eyes – to our current state of inner self and beliefs that we become hyper vigilant over ourselves while ignoring the needs of others. As a result, we become agitated and even panicked when the concerns of the world ask for our time. And it isn’t just the negativity of the news that disturbs us, it is its complexity. Since things are simple when we only have to care for ourselves, we prefer to pay as little attention as possible to others. The apostle Paul wrote, “we have the mind of Christ”, but some ‘Christians’ aren’t acting like it.

And when we do see and respond to the suffering of others, it is only to a chosen few fellow Christians or to those whom we cannot avoid. But such an approach to helping others goes against what the Bible teaches. Isaiah chapters 58 and 59 and Jeremiah 22:16 (“He defended the cause of the poor and the needy, and so all went well. ‘Is that not what it means to know me’, says the Lord?”) closely tie helping those in need with having seen the light. Likewise, Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats (see Matt. 25, verses 21-46) not only taught that those who helped others in need were the sheep who received eternal life, it also showed that those who neglected the needy, looking after only themselves, were banished from heaven forever! He also demonstrated this latter principle in his parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

In Jesus’ parable of the rich man, who built extra barns to hold the excess of his harvest and told himself to eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow he could die – well, sure enough, he did. He begged Lazarus from the fires of hell to give him just one drop of cool water, but Lazarus could not. Last in my list is the book of Proverbs, containing such tasty nuggets of wisdom as, “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (chapter 14, verse 31), and “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor, and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them” (chapter 22, verses 22-23).

But perhaps the most pathetic way that Christians fail in their missions of service, prayer and worship is by blindly submitting to authority. It is not that Christians are not called to submit to those in authority – quite the contrary! But many of today’s Christians do so as a way of shielding themselves from the risks that come with confronting evil, such as opposing corruption and speaking truth to power (think Rev. Dr. King, the Kennedy brothers, Huey Long, Malcolm X, and many more like them). Submission to authority, then, is sometimes practiced not in order to love God and others, but to secure for oneself the kind of world that is most comfortable.

And so when evil prevails in either the private or public sector, this legitimate command to submit to the authorities is used to hide the very ones who are perpetrating evil and mayhem, and especially government and workplace corruption. But not only are we negligent in our Christian duty when we fail to confront those who abuse their power, we also become complicit in their evil ways. And we do so in order to ride on the coattails of evil and power rather than risk any reprisal for challenging it. If we as a people – regardless of religious affiliation or the lack thereof – continue to allow abusive and corrupt authority to run our country, we will soon lose it forever.

Martin Luther King faced this very dilemma when he stood up to the legalized racism and racial hatred that was rampant in the American South. He wanted to honor and follow the commandment in Romans 13 that told him to submit to the authorities. At the same time, he knew that many authorities were enforcing unjust laws while allowing abuse and even murder. He could have submitted and just gone along with the status quo and he would have avoided making himself a target. But that would have been the coward’s way out! Had he remained quiet, others would have continued to suffer horribly. So King concluded that he could meet both responsibilities by using political dissent and organized passive resistance as forms of peaceful protest. When arrested, he made no effort to resist. He did not challenge the authority of the police, but he most definitely did challenge the validity of unjust laws and the society that profited from that authority. The institutionalized racism that Rev. Dr. King stood against exists to this very day! What are white or Caucasian Christians doing about this?

There is a Biblical reason why the American Dream is so desirable to Christians. It is because we see the American Dream as the Garden of Eden restored and thus it’s our Christian duty to make it so. In fact, some think that the purpose of God’s Word is to make Paradise accessible again, not understanding that we who call upon the name of the Lord are destined for a Paradise that will put the Garden of Eden to shame. Such Christians argue that basing one’s life on God’s Word is like following the right blueprints when constructing a building, and they have a point. The more we follow God’s Word, the more we can avoid the hazards of sin. But the big question becomes, did God give us His word to return us to the Garden or to help us through the wilderness? But before answering that question, we must understand why would Jesus commanded us to collect our treasures in heaven rather than on earth, and why the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us we are to look for a new home to come rather than a home here.

To believe that God’s Word tells us how to regain Paradise is inaccurate, to put it nicely. By the same token, the real attraction to the American Dream isn’t the opportunity to restore what was lost but to worship what can be found – the twin false gods of money and materialism. The American Dream is a monasticism with benefits. Its preachers assure us that we can be righteously selfish. The “prosperity gospel” is taught in churches like a canned sales pitch, and is gleefully and mistakenly received as truth by the gullible. It allows us to flee from what is unpleasant and distasteful in the world while enjoying its corruptible fruit. This makes America a trap for 21st century Christians. For when we try to take what we want instead of waiting on God, we become deaf and blind to both the world God wants us to share His love with, as well as our own depleted spiritual conditions.

My conclusion, then, is to reject materialism and the pursuit of economic gain! Jesus said, “One cannot serve two masters. He/she will either love one and despise the other, or cling to one while rejecting the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon (materialism)”. Choose today whom or what you will serve in life. You can either pursue wealth and material goods, or you can pursue a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and all that goes with it. There is so much more to choosing Christ than there is to choosing riches, which can be here one day and gone the next without warning. One cannot serve them both, since from the vantage point of the believer they are in opposite directions from each other.

Our wealth and possessions die with us or are willed to others after we are gone, but Jesus Christ lives today, tomorrow, and forever! It is He and he alone that is the correct choice for us to make. It is Christ alone who offers us the eternal salvation our souls urgently need. Right now would be a perfectly good time to do this (for those readers who haven’t already done so). Simply pray within yourself to Jesus and ask Him to take charge of your life. It doesn’t matter how you surrender to him, just do it. He always does a perfect job anyway, so there is no profit in resisting him. Ask Jesus now, he is waiting eagerly for you! And he loves you unconditionally!

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The Swamp Isn’t Drained Yet, Mr. President. You’re Going to Need a Bigger Pump

The Ongoing Christian Hypocrisy In Washington D.C.

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

For better small screen viewing, click here 🙂

threat_from_washington Remember when we were kids in school? We used to recite the ‘pledge of allegiance’ to the flag every day. Among other things, the pledge calls us “one nation under God”. Judging from the way things are proceeding in Washington and the Middle East these days, America has become anything but that. We are faced with endless wars overseas with no end in sight, and these wars on multiple fronts have bankrupted our country. Meanwhile here at home, it is the American people who are faced with bankruptcy and even homelessness due to either long-term unemployment, or because of declining wages and rising costs for those who are working. Citizens everywhere continue to lose their houses to foreclosure under circumstances that are questionable at best or outright financial fraud at worst. The rapidly growing population of homeless people is already in the process of turning into a human tidal wave of misery and hopelessness. Here in Atlanta where I live, the homeless population on any given day averages around 5,000 or so, of which half are children! This is a gross social injustice, particularly considering that it is happening in the richest country in the world! Even the cave men lived in caves tens of thousands of years ago. So it is accurate to say that they had it better than the homeless folks do today. It is a basic human right to have a roof over your head. Shelter is not a privilege! Throwing men, women and children out into the elements for mere financial reasons is nothing short of barbaric!

 

As all this outrageous injustice continues, we see and hear our nation’s leaders in Washington invoking the name of God and quoting the Bible (out of context!) as a justification for waging immoral and illegal wars all over the globe, with many being of the clandestine variety. Meaning, the US taxpayers who are unknowingly funding their illegal activities have been clueless as to what is going on. But thanks to the Internet, people are rapidly waking up to what’s been going on, and this is happening on a global scale. Here at home, our nation’s lawmakers debate whether gay persons should serve openly in the military or not, and various individuals in our country’s leadership take a stand on whether they are pro-life or pro-choice. These side-issues are being debated while our country grapples with record deficits that threaten to swallow up what is left of the US economy, just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned. They pontificate about “family values” and their religious faith. In the meantime, one in every four American children doesn’t have enough to eat, and one in every five American school kids will be homeless at least once before they turn 18.

 

Moreover, “conservatives” in Congress threaten to do away with the American social safety net at a time of 1970’s era wages and rampant homelessness, just when it is needed the most! If these neoconservatives succeed in taking away, or even succeed in reducing, the social safety net that millions are currently depending upon because they can’t find work or enough of it (and often because they can’t even feed their kids), you can be sure there will be rioting in the streets at best, or another US civil war like in Syria or Yemen at worst. These current events line up with much of what I have been saying on my web site (or blog) since day one about what is wrong with the world in which we live, and how we should proceed to make it better. Anyone can be religious, but I choose to take it to the next level. I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to make a real difference. I can be super-spiritual all day long, but if I’m too stingy to buy a homeless lady and her two little kids a $10.00 or $12.00 box of fried chicken with some ‘sides’, what good am I?

 

My own faith is a blend of leftist Christian (yes, there is such a thing; think “social gospel” minus the emphasis on ‘social salvation’ from that era), plus Teddy-Roosevelt-style Populism and Bernie Sanders-style progressiveness (hence my website name Progressive Christian Ministries). So now you know why I particularly enjoy going after big government and main-stream denominations at all levels, taking them all to task not just because of their sometimes-misguided leadership, but challenging their thinking and their values. For example, many Republicans in Washington keep talking about God and politics as if they are interchangeable. They like to make it look like they are on the side of God, as if God were a political conservative like themselves. And they love to make it seem like the Democrats and “liberals” are a party of loose morality, favoring abortion and gay marriage, and hanging around with terrorists both domestic and foreign. They are experts at crafting and delivering their message – good enough to inspire many middle-class white folks to vote against their own best interests in the 2016 presidential elections. Their message works because it appeals to people’s base emotions, not their intellects. And reacting is so much easier than critical thinking, especially when we’re so emotionally drained from these years of unemployment, or working multiple part time jobs, or home foreclosures. They are so effective with their message that they don’t think twice before selling the idea that God wanted George W. Bush to attack Iraq, God favors Republicans, and God wanted Sarah Palin to be President. Or maybe Mike Huckabee.

 

Our lawmakers completely ignore the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. The first amendment to the US Constitution begins by saying, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…….” To me, this means anyone who wishes to engineer a merger of government and organized religion either knows nothing about the Constitution or they openly wish to break it. Either way, that means they would be committing treason if these neocons and right-wing extremists were to actually pull off such a political stunt as that. They publicly thump the Bibles on which they were sworn into office. They brag about giving 10% of their incomes to the churches they belong to, even though many don’t attend church at all. And they make sure they’re seen praying, whether it be in church, in public, or on TV. Jesus had something to say about that, and those serene words of wisdom are just as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago when they were first spoken. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go to your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew chapter 6, verses 5-6)

 

As we set aside today’s ideological hysteria and look at the facts, Jesus was part liberal and part socialist by today’s standards (hence the inspiration for the “social gospel” of 1,900 years later), and much of the New Testament condemns the attitude of the so-called religious right (which is neither as far as I am concerned). For example, Jesus condemned the greedy rich, saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” [Matthew 19:24] He denounced the money changers in the temple at Jerusalem as He threw them out, saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.” [Matthew 21:13] And Jesus stood up for the poor and underprivileged, saying, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” [Matthew 25:40]

 

So then, how can our nation’s leadership, especially the conservative right-wingers, call themselves Christian? How does one call oneself a follower of Jesus Christ – and allegedly He alone – as they hold the unemployed, the disabled and retired pensioners hostage while fighting for more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires? They don’t care about us, and they don’t care if we know that or not. We the people, America’s middle and working classes, need not tolerate what amounts to being openly insulted. We can and should fight back! Who is with me today? I’m just one disabled man, all I can do is write from here in my apartment. So I need all you able-bodied people to please, please, get out in the streets and protest, or do something more if you can. Our situation here in America has become intolerable!

 

Jesus acknowledged the need for government as well as tax-supported government services, saying, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.” [Matthew 22:21] So then how can these war hawks of Washington call themselves ‘Christians’ as they rail against paying their fair share of taxes? Never mind the fact that this is the same bunch of people who vehemently oppose national health care and food programs for poor kids! Never mind that these same people (and their financial backers) are the ones voting in favor of increasing funding of the largest and most formidable military in world history. Last year the US government spent more money on military expenditures than all the rest of the world combined. Then again, there is the fact that the United States has more people in prison than all the rest of the world’s countries – again, combined. There is something very, very wrong with this picture, that’s for sure. When faced with all these facts, I am forced to come to the conclusion that America isn’t the world’s greatest country anymore, if it ever really was. The American people have woken up to the fact that we’ve all been bamboozled for generations. It’s on us to correct this glaring problem, everybody. It’s up to us, the American people, to turn this around.

 

Jesus healed the sick – even lepers – for free. He didn’t ask them for an insurance card first, nor did he have any legal forms for anyone to sign. Jesus just healed people because it was the right thing to do, but more importantly because that’s one of the things he came here to do (let’s not forget Jesus’ main reason; his blood which He shed on a cross for each of us!). Jesus was the original “socialized medicine” personified. So then, how can certain conservatives call themselves ‘Christian’ (that is, followers of Jesus Christ in Spirit and in truth) as they condemn the infinitely more profitable (and woefully insufficient) “Obamacare”? The truth of the matter is that much of the effectiveness of any government is directly proportional to how well it cares for its people. (By the way, it was Thomas Jefferson who first said that.) The United States is the last developed country in the world that does not have national health insurance for its citizens. Every other developed country – and many developing ones – has national health insurance, except for us. As I wrote above about shelter being a basic human right, so it is with health care.

 

Proper medical care is not a privilege available only to those who can afford to pay! Good quality health care is a basic human right that must be available to everyone without qualification, including preexisting conditions. The money to implement such a plan is already available with plenty to spare. All the government has to do is call off all the illegal wars and occupations overseas and bring our troops home. Whatever money is left over can be used for giant public works projects to put all the long-term unemployed back to work, or to send them back to school to learn a trade. Is there sufficient money to accomplish and finance this worthy goal? Absolutely, and all without adding to the federal deficit. Here’s an example: If the US military set aside one day’s expenses for the twin occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq (Again? Wasn’t once enough?) and put those funds in an interest-bearing account, there would be enough money to send every single American school kid to four years of college – fully paid for. We’d get all that from just one days military expenditures! So don’t tell me we can’t afford quality education without qualification! Oh yes we can!!

 

As he stood and delivered his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of the living God.” [Matthew 5:9] Still, the conservatives call themselves ‘Christian’ as they continue to call for endless war, be it legally and morally justified or not. At the same time, they expound on how pro-life or anti-abortion they are. So, let me get this straight. In order to be a good Christian, one must be pro-war and pro-life simultaneously? Or, one must be pro-life but opposed to putting the entire country on Medicare, then? And then our military and “intelligence” establishment tries to justify torture by saying so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” saves lives? So I ask them as I ask you all; in the words of the popular button and bumper sticker: Who would Jesus torture?

 

In the end, I see many neoconservatives, Republicans and other right-wing extremists paying much homage to the Bible while ignoring what is in between its covers. As for myself, I could not stand to live like that, being a Washington hypocrite or a modern-day Pharisee. My conscience simply would not allow me to do such a thing, and especially without taking it to the Lord in prayer beforehand! Let’s vote these right wing-nuts out of office during this year’s midterm elections first, and we’ll see what happens. But if nothing changes and our plight continues to slowly worsen, it’s going to be time to start all over again on a clean sheet of paper in 2020. If our country is still here, that is. It’s the only way we can peacefully force things in Washington to change. But if things don’t start changing, and soon, the civil wars of Syria and Yemen will be mushrooming from within America’s heartland, and with maximum vengeance! If governing power cannot be returned to the American people peacefully, then things will deteriorate to the point where we will simply have to retake it by force. Get ready, everybody. And, if you’re not already praying, please start. It’s the least you can do.

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The “Tax Cuts” Just Passed by the Trump White House Are a Gross Injustice

Fair Warning to All Rich Oppressors;

Not From Myself, But From God

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

For better small screen viewing, click here 🙂

threat_from_washington I am finding myself witnessing once again what amounts to the enforced liquidation of America’s middle class, coming in the form of president Trump’s new tax bill. This recently-passed piece of legislation cuts funding for the poorest, most vulnerable of Americans and gives it all to the richest 10% of US taxpayers. These funds will be distributed in the form of various tax breaks for individuals and corporations who don’t need them because they already pay too little – with the bulk of the tax burden shouldered by America’s middle and working classes. Even though our tax refunds will be bigger next year, so will the tax rate for the bottom 50% of all Americans. This week I want to share with you all a quotation from the Bible that ties in with this topic very well.

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice for my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? Nothing will remain except to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand still upraised.” (Isaiah chapter 10, verses 1-4)

What’s a modern example of what the prophet Isaiah wrote about here, which was roughly 2,700 years ago? The pathetic state of wages, globally speaking, is the first thing that comes to my mind. If any one of you has ever had to take a minimum wage job – and I would define anything under $12.00 per hour to be a ‘minimal wage’ – then you know exactly what I mean. Here in Atlanta, Ga. the minimum is still set at a paltry $7.25 per hour. There are lots of homeless shelters in and near downtown Atlanta, and they all stay full, and with ‘waiting lists’ to boot. Georgia’s ultra-low minimum wage is the reason why. Do the math and it’s easy to see why these hapless individuals can’t rent apartments.

Another example of a modern-day “unjust law” is most definitely the Drug War, which is actually a massive race-based roundup of the poor. These are mostly people of color, mainly Black and Latino(a), and it is no coincidence that they are the ones who can least afford to hire a lawyer. Moreover, as I proved conclusively in my 2016 book, “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?”, the Marijuana plant was made by God on the third day of Creation (see Genesis 1: 11). Cigarettes are legal, they kill over 50,000 people annually, and everybody’s just fine with that, particularly law enforcement (“You will smoke these and you will like them”). But marijuana, which is classified as a dangerous drug when it is not, remains illegal. This is a whole series of laws designed to prosecute those who use a substance that can’t be taxed. The Drug War is all about the money, including the huge profits being “earned” by the private prison industry. It has nothing to do with justice whatsoever!

What’s an example of an “oppressive decree”? One example would be the federal income tax, which was passed in 1919 so America could pay her debts incurred by the First World War. This was a law passed at 3AM and signed by only a handful of people. By the time Congress found out about it when they convened around the first of the following week, and since news traveled so slowly back then, there was nothing they could do even though a lot of lawmakers were very upset at that time. Another example of an “oppressive decree” would be the Patriot Act, which has been renewed 3 times since 2001 even though it is being used against American citizens as well as foreign nationals. In this respect, the Patriot Act as it is currently written and being implemented is unconstitutional!

What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?” I have already shown that the prophet was referring to the End Times, or Last Days, which I have clearly depicted in previous weekly commentary’s. I have also proven conclusively that the United States is Mystery Babylon in Ezekiel chapter 7, Zechariah chapter 12, and Revelation chapter18. I fully realize that what I’m about to write here is not a popular topic, but the Bible clearly states that the USA is going to endure a nuclear attack at some point in the not-too-distant future. Whether this attack comes in the form of a lone terrorist bomb or from a nuclear tactical first strike from Russia and China combined, I can’t say. I do not have access to any such information except that which God gives me, or that He helps me deduce on my own. So the conclusion here in verse 3 is that the “day of reckoning” is a day in the fairly near future when the Nuclear Age, which was started by the USA with the twin nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, will soon come back and bite America in the backside. This ‘blow-back’ from 73 years ago will be absolutely devastating to America! Personally, I have become concerned enough about my country’s future that I just went and got myself a passport!

Nothing will remain except to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand still upraised.” As I mentioned before, there are still a lot of people who get infuriated when I write or tell them that this verse and others like it throughout the Bible are talking about the United States. But it’s true! Just look around you. America’s military is stretched dangerously thin in a number of places around the globe. America now has over 750 military bases scattered around the world in about 160 countries at last count. It takes lots and lots of people to man those bases. Many of them are costly and simply unneeded.

But before any of them can be shut down, the Deep State itself must first be shut down. But is it moral for Christians to participate in such seditious activities? Not normally, but in cases where the government is corrupt to the core, and in cases where the government threatens the livelihood and personal safety of its citizens, then yes – it is not only OK, but such activities should be encouraged whether in or out of church. There are a number of nonviolent ways this can be accomplished, like hack attacks on their computer infrastructure or ransomware attacks, to name 2 examples. Similar attacks on its ‘players’ would be still another. I’m sure you can think of more, and then implement them. But by all means, do something! Because if we don’t, what little is left of civil liberties in America, like the freedom of speech that makes my writing this Web posting possible, will be gone forever.

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People chase after lots of different ‘gods’, but there’s only One that’s real

The Only God That’s Real

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

For better small screen viewing, click here 🙂

good_deeds_R_smart

Like nearly everyone else, with the exception of the ‘war hawks’ in the Pentagon who obey without questioning, I too am appalled by the fighting in the Middle East and northeastern Africa over natural resources, politics and religion. The missile strike ordered by president Trump this past Friday night, although probably justified, does nothing at all to improve the situation there. Moreover, I find all the bickering between the peaceful 90%, which is us, and the war hawks (the top 10%) to be little more than a sideshow considering what’s at stake. I am equally put off by all the sniping and infighting here in North America between religious denominations over man-made dogma and traditions steeped in pomp and circumstance while they remind everyone constantly to “support our troops”. They are all in favor of combating and killing Muslims while calling themselves “pro-life”.

 

I will use the Scriptures to prove that the one true God is above and beyond all wars, churches and organized religions, in keeping with the theme of this website. The first thing that I want to remind you of is that there are many false gods in the modern world. The most egregious example that comes to mind is the worship of money and material goods and all the evils that come with them. In the apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”. That means money in and of itself is not always evil, but greed and the insatiable lust for money most definitely are. Jesus said in the four Gospels, “No one can serve two masters. He/she will either love one and reject the other, or cling to the latter while despising the former. You cannot serve both God and materialism.” (Luke 16: 13) I think this would apply to, among other things, the sales of military armaments.

 

 

The “love of money” appears in many forms. Let’s ask ourselves these questions – do we sometimes find ourselves in automotive dealerships every time a new model comes out? Do we shop for new clothes, electronics, mobile or “smart” phones, the latest computers, and new decor for our homes whether we need them or not, just because they’re “on sale”? Do we sometimes find ourselves shopping for a new house whether we need one or not? Are any of us in debt up to our eyeballs (not counting student loans) because we owe too much on our credit cards and everything else? If anyone answered “yes” to any of these questions, and particularly if you prioritize these things at the expense of your Spiritual lives, then you are worshiping a false god(s). It is Jesus Christ and he alone that must be at the top of our priorities. Anything else takes a back seat to Jesus in the order of our lives. Most of the things I just mentioned (excluding greed) are not evil in and of themselves. But false and futile worship of anything other than God, while bypassing or not including Jesus Christ as our Savior, amounts to idol worship. A similar line of questioning was presented to the apostle Paul nearly 2,000 years ago, and it is well documented in the book of Acts in the New Testament. I will begin with a quote from chapter 17, beginning at verse 16.

 

 

While Paul was in Athens…. he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of….. philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, ‘What is this babbler trying to say?’ Others remarked, ‘He seems to be advocating foreign Gods.’ They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus (which was basically a temple for idol worship and a town meeting place), where they said to him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean’…. Then Paul stood up at the meeting of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives life and breath and everything else. From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth…. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps to reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each of us…. as some of your own poets have said, “we are his offspring”. Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone – an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent….when they heard about [Jesus] resurrection from the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “we want to hear from you again on this subject”. (Acts 17, verses 16-32)

 

 

This passage is just one of numerous examples of the apostle Paul’s teaching about the one true God. I especially appreciate that Paul made two distinct points about God. The first is that God is above and beyond all nationalities, races and religions because he preached the same message equally to Jews, Greeks and other Gentiles. The one true God is also above and beyond all the material possessions money can buy. These things were considered to be radical teachings at the time because all these groups believed that their version of God was the correct one to the exclusion of everything and everybody else. This very mistake continues to be made today by certain church denominations who I will decline to name. Nobody has the exclusive path to God. No one has the right to claim that they are any closer to God than anyone else. It’s just not true and it never was. Moreover, nobody has the right to condemn another person’s religion, so long as their beliefs don’t hurt or restrict the freedom of anyone else. And we can’t buy our way into heaven either.

 

 

The second point that catches the human eye and captures my imagination is what Paul said about where God lives. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives life and breath and everything else.” What an awesome statement! Think about how many religions there are in the world. There are over 4000 Protestant denominations alone, and that’s just in the USA. All are called churches or houses of worship regardless of which religion they represent. And yet God doesn’t live in any of them. Instead, for the true believer God lives in the minds and hearts of all individual believers. Never mind all the spiritual sophistry that’s being “taught” in some modern churches, because it’s largely based on money.

 

 

God doesn’t care who you are, where you live, what you have done (or not), what country you are from or what church you are connected with (or not). He doesn’t care where you have been, and He doesn’t care about what is in your past. Unlike many men and women who attend church regularly, God doesn’t care what you look like, or how much money you give to your church or to charities, or what your social or economic status is. God couldn’t care less what church you go to, or even if you go at all. The one true God doesn’t even live in church, although a lot of phony religious leaders and related clergy will no doubt insist that He does. Instead, God wants to live and breathe in our hearts and minds. He wants you to become a church in and of yourself, a church that walks and talks. Not only does God want to live inside you, He wants us all to pay that forward by unconditionally sharing our faith with others. That means that He wants us all to have a sound conscience and to learn how to use it most effectively. Also, to quote the apostle Paul, God wants us to “continue to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord” (Philippians 2: 12).

 

 

In closing, let me add that there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to church no matter what religion you identify with. If you currently attend, I’m certain that God wants you to continue to go so long as you keep hearing messages from the pulpit that are encouraging, uplifting and positive, and most importantly based on Scripture. I don’t want this message to be a reason for those who are attending church to stop going. God forbid! On the other hand, please keep in mind that the church is just a building and nothing more. I acknowledge that churches are built as meeting places for like-minded believers and that they should remain so. But now that you have read today’s message I hope I have given everyone a better perspective, whether in church or out. You can look at organized religion with skepticism as I do, but do not let that compromise your most deeply held beliefs. The one true God is greater that all the religions in the world combined. He is truly above and beyond it all.

 

 

Let me bring up one more thing before I go, and I really wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t point this out. If we are going to have God living inside of each of us then we should be living and acting as if He did. Watch what you say and how you say it. Clean up your life and the language that you use. Be mindful of anything that you are doing to excess because this is the root of all addictive behavior. Live your life as if God is watching what you do and listening to everything you say because He really is. Until next time, then, be a believer that walks and talks the good example of Christ for others to follow, especially those who look up to you. And the almost incomprehensible peace that is the very embodiment of Jesus Christ – the Savior of the world – will remain with you all permanently. Amen.

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Putin’s re-election ensures war in the Middle East will come soon

Putin’s Re-election and Bible Prophecy:

Closing In on Armageddon

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

[Ezekiel chapters 38 & 39, part 1]

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The re-election of Russian president Vladimir Putin last Sunday was confirmation for the Trump administration that we must either work together for our mutual good, or we will wind up killing each other off in a nuclear war. His re-election was also confirmation for on-their-knees Bible-believing Christians, whether they attend church regularly or not, that the “Gog-Magog War” from Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 is getting close. To explore the significance of this, today I am initiating a 3-part series on this topic to try and better explain this prophecy, since there is so much material to go over. So let me get started by pointing out some related prophecies elsewhere in the Bible that relate to what we’ll be examining today.

First, we have the Psalm 83 war, which describes an unsuccessful invasion of Israel by its neighbors. This appears to have already occurred in the form of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which resulted in the recaptured of Jerusalem by the Israeli Defense Force. Those old enough to remember the Yom Kippur War of 1973 have undoubtedly heard the argument that the Psalm 83 war was actually that war, but that’s just Christians and Jews arguing with other Christians and Jews. Since that prophecy has, either way, already been fulfilled, there is no further point in debating this issue. If those people spent the time they devote to disagreements and spent that on the needs of the people – especially their Spiritual needs – the world would be a much better place. There are at least one and probably two world wars that will occur very closely together (see Ezekiel chapter 7 and Revelation 18, both of which describe America’s coming destruction, and Revelation chapter 9, which describes World War Three in alarming detail), but none of those can be called the ‘Gog-Magog’ war for reasons that I am about to make clear. For my text for today, I will start in Ezekiel chapter 38, commencing at verse 1.

The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of Man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophecy against him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army – your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords….Get ready; be prepared, you and all the hordes gathered about you, and take command of them. After many days you will be called to arms. In future years, you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from among the nations, and now all of them live in safety. You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land.” (Ezekiel 38, verses 1-4, 7-9)

One thing you will notice right from the start is that there can be no question about who is in charge of things. Sorry to disappoint or offend any atheists who happen to stumble onto this posting, but that’s just the way of the universe that God spoke into being. I can’t force you to believe it, so I’m not going to try. Beyond that, the first new thing we see are the words ‘Gog and Magog’, where Magog is the kingdom and Gog is the king, president, or other head of state. As such, Gog is also a military leader. The text is worded, interestingly enough, “Son of man, set your sights against Gog, of the land of Magog….”. In the four Gospels, Jesus sometimes referred to himself as the “Son of Man”. Ezekiel 38: 2 is the only place in the Bible I can remember right now where the words “the Son of Man” are used to refer to anyone else but Christ. This should give you all a good idea of how esteemed Ezekiel was in God’s sight, something we all should be aspiring to.

I am against you O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army.” ‘Meshech’ is an old Hebrew word for the geographical area around Moscow today, and Hebrew is the original language of the Bible. The second part of that quote, I believe, is currently being put into play, so to speak. What would bring out Moscow’s entire army? Probably not an attack on the US, or at least not at this juncture. As I wrote above, that occurs later in Bible prophecy’s timeline. So what else could Russia be entangled in to the point of having “hooks in (their) jaws”? The one-word answer is, Syria, which is Russia’s only ally that has a Mediterranean seaport. Syria borders Israel, and those two countries have been at each other’s throats for centuries. If Israel were to invade Syria, Russia and Iran would be obligated by treaty to come to Syria’s aid. So we can all clearly see now that the stage has been set for the Gog-Magog War as I write this.

After many days you will be called to arms. In future years, you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from among the nations, and now all of them live in safety.” The words, ‘people gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel’ refers to the United Nations resolution that made Israel a nation back in 1948, followed by the resettlement of the Holy Land in the ensuing years. This part of the world that we now call the Middle East was largely uninhabited back then, particularly the area where Israel is today. But today, with the Israeli Defense Force being one of the most powerful army and air force in the world, and with a rapidly-expanding navy as well, the words, ‘now all of them live in safety’ are the fulfillment of that prophecy. It’s just that the remainder of Ezekiel 38 is still rapidly unfolding. “You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land.” Gog of Magog, the prince of Meshech (Moscow) is none other than Vladimir Putin. And, Putin’s Russia, together with her allies and the armies of other nations around Israel (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Libya, and possibly Somalia), is going to attack Israel! I don’t know when, but we won’t have a long time to wait, I’m certain about that. Now let’s move on to part 2 of this week’s message, beginning at verse 14 of chapter 38.

Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In that day, when my people Israel are living in safety, will you not take notice of it? You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In the days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.’” Ezekiel 38, verses 14-16)

Haven’t you taken notice, Vladimir Putin, of Israel living in relative safety? Israel has beaten back all attempts to attack it militarily and economically to the point that nobody in the Middle East; not Egypt, nor Iran, nor Turkey, and those are the three biggest military powers in the region, with Saudi Arabia also in the running, dare touch Israel. All have attacked Israel in the past except Turkey, and all that their combined military’s could muster was no match for lowly Israel, the smallest country in the whole region. But lately the stakes have gone up considerably. The largest discovery of natural gas ever uncovered has, only in the last year, been found about 60 miles off Israel’s Mediterranean coast – more than Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined! Putin’s main interest in Syria is two-fold – first, because Russia can add a vitally-important southern seaport, and second for what everybody is fighting over – the oil pipelines that run from Syria north through Turkey and into Europe. That is exactly why Vladimir Putin’s Russia is taking such a long, hard look at Israel.

That’s also why Putin is Gog, Russia is Magog, and why Putin will ultimately strike at Israel. When he does so, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and eventually several African countries will all join together in confederation to attack Israel. “You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land.” Russia and her allies will attack very quickly and with the utmost decisiveness, like a mob of millions. The next verses tell what the outcome will be. “In the days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.” They will advance and conquer much territory, and at least for a short while, they will be successful.

But God clearly wants to make an example out of Vladimir Putin and Russia’s military might, as he stated in verse 2, “I am against you, O Gog of Magog….”. Again God says in verse 16, “I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me….”, meaning that there will be no one left on the face of the whole earth who will not know exactly who God is and what he can do. Not when he finishes doing what he does to any nation that dares to attack Israel. Israel, you see, is God’s Holy land. For a detailed description of Israel’s true territory – as set forth by Almighty God himself – read Joshua chapters 13-20. For a short version, read Joshua chapter 1, verses 2-4, and you’ll know why God gets so angry whenever any nation attacks Israel. And next week we’ll move on to part 2 of our study of the Gog-Magog War.

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Justice, mercy, and the ending of the West Virginia teacher’s strike

Progressive Christianity, Worker’s Rights and Social Justice

by pastor Paul J. Bern

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The recent settlement of the West Virginia teacher’s strike, which resulted in a 5% pay raise after lasting for nearly two weeks, will soon echo across the landscape of American labor, and hopefully for the entire world as well. People everywhere – and I mean globally – are literally starving for a pay raise. Today’s labor market – not just in America but globally – already has within it the seeds of revolution, and the people are most definitely ready to rise up, if only I could get you all to turn off your damned televisions and gaming consoles!! This isn’t about religion, this is about justice and equality, and the Bible has plenty to say about both. So, for those of you who may think the Bible is some antiquated rule book that has lost its relevance, allow me to set the record straight.

In Psalm 106 verse 3, it says, “Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.” In Proverbs 29 verse 4, it says, “By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down.” Come to think of it, I’m going to send that Bible verse to every member of Congress in Washington, D.C.! The prophet Isaiah lamented the lack of justice in his own time – so this problem is not new – when he wrote, “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, and honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice.” Here’s one more sample of the mind of Almighty God: “And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts, do not think evil of each other’.” All of the above truths were brought sharply into focus most recently by the West Virginia teacher’s strike. The ugly truth we all must face is this – if our net take-home pay won’t even cover the most basic of living expenses, we are economic slaves! Rather than elaborate here, allow me to post an excerpt of my first book from 2011, now in its third updated edition. Enjoy!

The Ongoing Battle for Worker’s Rights Across America

(excerpt from, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, by Rev. Paul J. Bern)

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America has become a ticking time bomb of inequality and lack of opportunity. The rights of US workers have been trampled underfoot by the rich multinational corporations and the top 1% elite, who have outsourced all our jobs overseas as they leave us high and dry on the island of minimum wage jobs with no futures. There are also a growing number of employed people who, despite having a job, are still living in poverty. There are at least 19 million US workers who now fall into this rapidly growing category. The median US income of $35,000.00 a year is not going to get you far in today’s economy, and half of the country is making less than that. The reason we struggle with these things is because the Economic Elite have robbed us all through the systematic confiscation of middle class wealth, security and prosperity. This has caused tremendous suffering among workers throughout the world, it is no less than a criminal act, and it is the result of the largest single transfer of wealth in all of human history from the world’s middle classes to the rich.

 

 

The first thing on any list of worker’s rights is that of a fair and realistic minimum wage, and more fundamentally, the basic human right to a decent livelihood. Unemployment as we have previously known it must now come to an end forever. This does not mean unemployment will be eliminated, but periods of unemployment can and should be converted to times of retraining to acquire new skills or to even completely change careers. What gives any wealthy corporate 1%’er CEO or their subordinates the right to tell anybody, “Sorry, you are not needed around here anymore. Your skills, experience, and your work ethic no longer matter here. Our company’s bottom line and the interests of our shareholders are far more important than that of our workers.” This is the essence of what it means to be fired. In my view, this is demeaning to the point of being abusive, and it is therefore an abuse of authority.

 

This brings me to the point that I wish to make. In today’s world, if the net take-home pay of any given individual does not meet, or just barely meets, that same individual’s daily cost of living, then that is tantamount to economic slavery. Let me say that again because this point simply cannot be overemphasized. If your take-home pay won’t even take you home, you are a slave. Oh, you are free to move around and to come and go as you choose and take care of business, that is true. But if after you go to the grocery store, pay the light bill (assuming you are fortunate enough to be able to do that), put gas in your tank (assuming you are lucky enough to still own a car) and set some money aside for this month’s rent or mortgage (if you’re not already on the street or living with relatives) – and then, after all that you peek into your wallet and realize that you have $7.00 left to live on for the whole stinking’ week, that’s when you know you are a slave! What happens to the people whose incomes are at or below minimum wage? They go hungry and are often homeless. Many of these newly homeless, formerly middle class people also have kids who have fallen into poverty along with their parents. As I write this, it is profoundly sad to report that 1 in every 5 American kids will be homeless at some point in their childhoods. And this is happening in the United States of America, supposedly the richest country in the world? This is a moral outrage, a social injustice, and it is economic discrimination of the worst kind!

Since it is an issue of economic discrimination (regardless of race or religion), it also becomes a 21st century civil rights issue creating a demand for fundamental change in the way our economy works and the way our government works. This too, then, is cause for protests, demonstrations, boycotts, occupations, general strikes and other forms of peaceful civil disobedience. On this point alone, there are enough issues on the collective dinner plate of the American people to foster open revolt throughout the land. Never mind everything else that I have written about. Think about it for a minute. How does it feel to be a slave? Makes you feel kind of angry, doesn’t it? Maybe even violated on a certain level, like we’ve been raped? The time to rise up and say, “No more!” has arrived. It’s time for all of us to get out from in front of out TV’s and our gaming consoles and computers and to get our backsides out in the streets and start protesting – a lot! And that’s just for this issue alone. Now allow me to point out a couple of subcategories.

 

The first sub-category under worker’s rights is the right to better and more comprehensive unemployment insurance, and to also allow some independent contractors to draw unemployment provided certain conditions are met (subject to future legislation or referendum). Any worker who has lost his or her job through no fault of their own will be entitled to up to 52 weeks of unemployment compensation instead of the current maximum of 26 weeks due to a continued turnover in the job markets of most developed countries, starting with the US. Besides their job search, at any time during the worker’s period of unemployment he or she should have two other options available to them to assist in the development of their careers. The first should be the ability to sign up for public works projects to obtain immediate employment if it is needed. (The worker’s second option will be reeducation, and I will touch on that one next so please bear with me). Workers will be required to choose one of the above to qualify for benefits. We have been needing massive public works projects to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure for decades. I would conservatively estimate that anywhere from 1-3 million people could be employed this way as contract laborers, salaried employees, or subcontractors, depending on the need. The fact of the matter is that we need jobs, we need lots of them, and we need them right now! Seven twenty five an hour won’t work either. Let’s strike and protest for action while we engage in other methods of passive resistance on this matter. We might as well, because things are going to continue to get worse until we do.

 

The next sub-category of worker’s rights is the right to free vocational retraining for life. Period, end of story. Anybody can go back to school and get retrained at will, up to and including a 2 year degree (with a 4-year available for some additional cost) at little or no cost. Large, wealthy corporations with robust cash flows, as well as millionaires and the super-rich, will supply the necessary funding through what I call in my book “the excess wealth tax” (you can buy the book on Amazon from right here). Since corporate America made the decision to send their factories and all the jobs those factories provided overseas to lower their labor costs, and since this action has caused the obliteration of millions of American careers, it will be corporate America who will shoulder the expense of retraining these people whose careers evaporated through no fault of their own. If they take your job away, or if they export or downsize your career out of existence like I experienced myself, then it is those same corporate henchmen who must pay for your reeducation. Higher public education is a basic, fundamental human right. It is not a privilege! As of today, higher education, and the fundamental right to improve and enrich ourselves, is an essential human right that must be had by all without qualification!

 

Now I know what at least some of you are thinking right now – “who’s gonna pay for all this?” That is a perfectly valid question. Let me put all this into perspective for you. If your US government took all the money that was spent in a single day on the twin occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, plus the clandestine and illegal wars and “black ops” in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere and set it aside in an enormous savings account, there would be enough money to send every American school age kid from the first grade through high school and upwards to any public college, state university, or vocational or technical school to earn their degree of choice with the tuition fully paid for, plus the cost of all their books and supplies, their meals during school hours, Internet access, new computers, and with access to public transportation covered for those who need it.

So, for those who say we can’t afford to send everyone to public or community colleges with most if not all of their expenses fully paid, or that the money to accomplish this just isn’t there, either doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or they are elitists and bigots who can’t stand to see middle and working class and minority students getting ahead. Access to higher education – and looking after the children of those who are retraining – is an American civil right that should be equally available to all without qualification, not just to those who can afford the ‘tuition’. Would you like to see test scores improve in our nation’s schools? Tell all those kids that they are all going to public college at taxpayer expense, and watch their grades shoot up like rockets at Cape Canaveral. Give them an incentive to do better and our kids will rise to the challenge every time!

 

The right to family and sick leave, which must include maternity leave for women, is the final right I have listed for all workers and independent contractors. Every other country in the developed world from Europe to Canada to Japan has paid family and sick leave for its workers – all except for the US. It’s way past time for Congress and President Trump to bring our country up to speed with the rest of the world. Moreover, medical, family and maternity leave should be allowed for up to 3 months per calendar year, and it must be made illegal to fire someone from his or her job because that employee needed to take family or sick leave. The right of all individuals to have medical, family or maternity leave must be had by all, without interference or fear of retribution, for the strengthening of our families and the nurturing of our children. The fundamental rights of workers must be honored and acknowledged by rule of law, and by a culture change that puts people before profits, which goes hand in hand with Progressive Christianity. As the old ways of greed-based capitalism continue to die of old age, this is the new reality we must all embrace if we are to thrive in the 21st century.

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My Reasons for Declining Church Attendance, and Why They Differ from Main Stream Christianity

Why Are the World’s

Young Adults Leaving Churches?

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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life's hardest battlesSomeone asked my opinion earlier this week about why so many millennial’s are leaving church, and what can be done about it. After doing some reflection, prayer and meditating, and based on some personal observations, there are quite a few reasons why this is so. To begin with, the fact of the matter is that young Christians often feel forced to choose between their logic and their faith, between evolution and Creation, and between compassion and piety, as if they are mutually exclusive of each other. Meaning, churches who are losing members do so due to politics and religion undergoing a merger while missing any semblance of the awesome power of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This attitude dates all the way back to the time of Christ, when the temple high priests and the Hebrew religious establishment of that time were expecting the Jewish Messiah to arrive as a conqueror who would set up his Kingdom in Jerusalem – in opposition to the Roman Empire, echoing the “patriot movement” of today – and rule the entire world. That day is coming, but not on those terms, until all the Scriptures have been fulfilled. Jesus said about such people, “Woe to you, Pharisees, because you give a tenth of your mint, rue and all kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” (Luke 11: 42) God is running out of patience with those who “tithe” weekly while doing nothing for the less fortunate!

 

A second and equally noteworthy reason that churches are losing America’s young professionals is that young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be either too political, too exclusive, too old-fashioned to the point of being and thinking backwards, too unconcerned with social justice and hostile to liberal, progressive, environmentalist and LGBTQ people, among others. Most of all, I have met modern Christians who refuse to congregate and worship with anyone other than their own race. Rev. Dr. King said it best back in the 1960’s when he stated, “The most segregated place in America is at church on Sunday morning”. To a large extent, this has not changed much over the last 50 years or so. Does organized religion think that young adults don’t see this for the hypocrisy that it is? Who, after all these decades, still does not understand that there will be no bigots in heaven??

 

A third reason that some well-established churches are driving millennial’s and young adults away is the time-honored yet non-scriptural tradition of abstinence from alcoholic beverages. There are at least a few well-known Christian denominations – which I will decline to name – who “teach” that abstinence from alcohol is essential to salvation in Christ. But they have forgotten all about the twin facts concerning this subject; the first is that Jesus’ first miracle was changing water into wine, and the second is that there were at least two glasses of wine – and probably more – that were served at the Last Supper on the night before he was crucified. Even the apostle Paul advised Timothy, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1st Timothy 5: 23) Earlier in this same book, Paul advised, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the Word of God and prayer.” (Timothy 4: 4) Since this includes the grapes that make the wine, Paul’s teaching also extends to other natural substances, like medical marijuana and ‘polysyllabic’ mushrooms, both of which are proven to treat or cure bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, chronic alcoholism, seizures and even certain forms of cancer. That’s why America’s young adults look at the entire ‘abstinence-is-godliness’ issue and see it for the spiritual BS that it truly is.

 

Then there is another one of my pet peeves, that Old Testament-based “teaching” about giving a tenth of your income each and every week, otherwise known as tithing. It is based on two verses of Scripture, the first from the book of Deuteronomy chapter 14, verse 22, which says, “Be sure and set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year”. According to Scripture, tithing only occurred on certain feast days; Passover, First Fruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23, verses 4-44). But modern churches take this much further than that. Their pastors, deacons and other elders will use a well-known verse from the book of Malachi, the very last book of the Old Testament. It reads as follows: “’Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me’. But you ask, ‘But how do we rob you?’. ‘In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me’” (Malachi chapter three, verses 8-9).

Yet the Bible tells us that the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Law, as it is written, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” (Matt. 5: 17). So when certain pastors quote from the Book of Malachi, they are taking it out of context. Still, modern-day preachers and evangelists use these verses to convince their congregations to keep giving more money and other donations as if the above verses were directed at the faithful. In reality, these passages were severe admonishments from God, not towards members of the Church, but rather directed at the leadership. Evidently there was some embezzlement going on because the priests kept too much of the offerings for themselves. This had nothing to do with the offerings of the faithful, and it still doesn’t!

 

The evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules. The world’s young adults long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt. We are taught to abstain from sex before marriage and not to commit adultery, yet all the while those who teach this commit the same sins in secret, as if God doesn’t know what they are doing. These are the same people who condemn same-sex marriage while committing their own immoral sexual behavior, such as being addicted to pornography. According to statistics provided by the National Council on Churches, combined with statistics from the CDC right here in Atlanta, roughly one half of Christian men, and about 40% of Christian women, are addicted to porn. That’s why I’m saying those who teach ‘abstinence’ are a bunch of hypocrites!

 

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders is that the key to drawing people in their twenties and thirties back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving via texting. But here’s the thing: Christians of all ages have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re turned off by anything that smacks of consumerism. What millennial’s really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance, and much more of it. We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

 

People today want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation. We want to be challenged to live simply, care for the poor and oppressed, pursue reconciliation, and become peacemakers. What people today don’t want are anti-abortion, “pro-life activists” who happen to be war hawks who are anti-national-health-care. In other words, they want authenticity, and millennial’s aren’t finding it in the churches. Millennial’s aren’t leaving churches because they don’t find the ‘cool factor’ there; they’re leaving the church because they don’t find Jesus there. Like every generation before ours and so every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus Christ the Son of God and everything he brings, which is life everlasting through his Holy Spirit! But I would encourage church leaders eager to win back young adults to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community. The immorality of fighting wars, of extreme inequality, of the race-based drug wars while opiates are legal, and caring for the fatherless, widows and orphans would be good places to start. The point is, we must all start somewhere, or we will all end up nowhere. Better get going….

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Who we say we are, as opposed to who many of us actually are

Some Very Hard Questions for ‘Christian America’

By pastor Paul J. Bern

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food-not-war

The United States has always had a time-honored tradition of being a Christian nation founded by Christians for Christians. This tradition was only recently brought into question by none other than former president Obama, who said back in 2010 that “America is no longer a Christian nation”. Contrary to what our President thought, our great country was in actuality founded on religious freedom by the early Pilgrims, who were Protestants escaping religious persecution by the church of England, not to mention the Vatican. Ever since then, the tradition of Christianity (regardless of whether you belong to a church denomination or not) has been passed down through the generations until modern times. Within the last generation or so, particularly within the last 10 or 20 years, there has been a noticeable drop in church attendance throughout North America and much of Europe. People have been turning away from their faith in droves. Protestant churches are losing members at about the same rate in which they are gaining new ones, the Catholic church is doing even worse, with the end result being what amounts to a revolving door of membership and participation. I have been aware of this for some time and, speaking as a minister, this has really been bothering me lately. So, I have been contemplating the reasons for this diminishing of faith and commitment, within the church and without, in order to try to change them.

 

A journalist once asked Mahatma Gandhi what he thought of Western civilization and Christianity. He answered: “It’s a good idea. They ought to try it”. Similarly, we might urge followers of world religions: “Those are some nice moral principles. You ought to live by them.” Reliable polls tell us that America is the most religious nation in the industrialized world. More that 90 percent of our population say they believe in God, and that they pray regularly. In his New Testament Epistle, James expressed the Christian view that “faith without works is dead.” Similarly, Judaism calls for “mitzvah’s” — good deeds. And Islam also requires acts of charity. How do these sentiments translate into action? Let’s look at our national religious behavior report card for a reality check.

 

  • America is the world’s richest nation. Yet the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 54 million Americans live in poverty. That includes one in four children. If another country was doing this to ourselves and our children, we’d be at war. Why aren’t we doing more to help out the weak, the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, and the weary? Why do so many prosperous people keep it all to themselves?

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: The U.S. poverty rate is the absolute worst among developed nations according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Demographers say that the poverty rate will rise this year from 21 percent to 27 percent, which will be the highest percentage since the government began calculating poverty figures in 1959. Fifty four million Americans are on food stamps (the highest ever) and the number is expected to rise above fifty six million by the end of 2019.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: According to the Census Bureau, 19 million people lived in working-poor families in 2008. The 2010 census showed a much higher figure approaching 24%. As of 2016, the last year demographics are available, that number is approaching one third. Things are close to becoming exponentially worse! The Feeding America Network reports that only 36 percent of their client households have one or more adults working. These are people who want to work but can’t find jobs, or who can’t feed their kids or themselves because they only make minimum wage. For this to happen in the richest country in the world is inexcusable!!

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimates that 700,000 to 2 million people are homeless on any given night in America. Here in Atlanta where I reside, estimates of the homeless population on any given night range from 3,000-10,000 people. Also, a new class has emerged in America: the working homeless. The current minimum wage of $7.25 hourly here in Georgia and elsewhere (primarily “right to work” states like Georgia) is pitifully insufficient income for a single person to rent an apartment, let alone a family.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: The elderly, the poor and others on fixed incomes are often forced to choose between food and medicine. Speaking as a retired technology professional and an Internet pastor who worked for 35 years in the professional world, this is a social outrage and an economic injustice that I have personally experienced. Speak up for the less fortunate, because you have a better than even chance you may wind up that way yourself some day!

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: 56 million Americans, including 26 million children, experienced hunger or the risk of hunger in 2016. That’s more than a fourth of all households. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hunger in American households has nearly doubled in the last five years. As I write this in early 2018, this number has swelled to at least 54 million, and the number of underfed American kids is approaching 28%. In the richest country in the world, this is simply inexcusable! We have to do something, and by writing this I’m trying to help accomplish exactly that.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: American restaurants throw away more than 6,000 tons of food every day and grocery stores discard an estimated thirty million pounds of food daily. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Loss Project estimates that Americans throw out 25.9 million tons of food each year. More disturbing: a University of Arizona study reports that 40 to 50 percent of all food ready for harvest never gets eaten. America’s wastefulness is downright sinful in the sight of the Lord; there is no better way to describe it.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t provide very low cost health care for all its citizens. So-called “Obamacare” promised to correct much of that, but it is nowhere near enough. All the president and Congress had to do was to put the whole country on Medicare. Doing so would eliminate the need for Medicaid, saving over half a billion dollars annually, and if Obamacare were to be merged together with Medicare, the extra expenditures for Obamacare would be eliminated as well. And, we would have one health care system for the entire country.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: We have the best medical technology and treatment capability in the world. Yet the United States ranks 37th for health care system performance by the World Health Organization. Why is this so?

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: The latest report on life expectancy shows a slight drop in the United States that will place us even lower than the current ranking of 49th among nations of the world – a lower life expectancy than many less developed countries. A Columbia University study attributes our decline from 11th place in 1950 to the much lower present ranking to our inadequate profit-driven health care system.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: The current US minimum wage of $7.25 hourly for roughly two thirds of the country, which was raised from $5.15 four years prior to that, still keeps families stuck at or below the poverty line. France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, England, the Isle of Man, and many other nations – particularly Australia – have a much higher minimum wage than we do.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: The latest census figures show the gap between rich and poor widening to the largest margin ever. The top 20 percent of workers earning more than $100,000 a year received 49.4.percent of all income compared with the 3.4 percent earned by the bottom 20 percent. The richest 1 percent pockets more than 30 percent of total income which is greater than the total amount earned by the bottom 50 percent combined. Economic inequality – not just in the US but globally – is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, and when it does, the greed-based capitalist economic system we are currently stuck with will have to submit to a complete make-over or face extinction.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: The wealthiest segment of the population is fighting tooth and nail for lower tax rates and other tax breaks while joblessness, poverty, crime, homelessness and hunger are rampant in America.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: In 1994 a million innocents were slaughtered in Rwanda. We watched and did nothing. Similarly, we did little to stop the genocide in Darfur. Further slaughter is now ongoing in Syria, Somalia, Iraq and Yemen while the world watches and does nothing. Will U.S. “leadership” intervene on humanitarian grounds? History does not suggest a positive answer. Nor do the Scriptures, where regarding such people it is written, “Let the blood of our sins be on ourselves and our children!” (Matthew 27: 25) And so it is, unless God starts seeing some major changes of heart among us all.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: There are at least 59 Holocaust museums in the United States dedicated to raising awareness of the Nazi genocide and to help prevent similar horrors from ever happening again. Add to that the numerous holocaust museums and memorials around the world. Yet genocides, mass murders, school shootings and other atrocities such as child sex slave trafficking persist. Who are the customers for these pimps? Who is supplying the weapons to these mass shooters?Who is taking decisive action, who is pretending, and who is doing nothing except complaining? Some of us need to put our Christian money where our mouths are.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: Americans make up 5 percent of the world’s population, and yet our country produces 25 percent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions, which are raising the earth’s temperature (“greenhouse effect”) to dangerous levels. How is it that we are trashing the planet God created for each of us, while continuing to profess our love for its Maker?

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: Fossil fuel consumption is destroying the planet, but we refuse to develop a “Manhattan Project” for alternative energy, nor do we have one for battery technology so we can park the majority of our gas and diesel burning cars and trucks, something that is sorely needed.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: Scientists warn that the environmental doomsday clock is ticking. The icebergs are breaking away and melting before our eyes, revealing islands we never saw before. We watch and debate but do too little to preserve the environment for ourselves and future generations. In our hubris we forget that we are guests on a tiny rock floating – in an infinite universe of rocks – that uniquely supports life in a delicate balance of natural and mysterious forces.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: Smoking continues to compromise the health of more than 20 percent of our population. The Surgeon General tells us that cigarette, pipe and cigar smoking, in addition to contributing to a number of cancers, increases the risk of almost every known disease. The American Lung Association reports that each day nearly 6,000 teens under 18 years of age start smoking. But we refuse to put an end to tobacco use. At the same time, medical and recreational marijuana is still illegal at the federal level while having been proved to be not only harmless, but with significant medical uses and benefits. In so doing, we have criminalized a creation of Almighty God’s (see Genesis 1: 11) that does no harm, while allowing the use of one that does!

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: Leaders of some of our biggest corporations and privately held firms, as well as prominent investment advisers (men and women of “faith”), have cheated, deceived and destroyed their companies and clients, ruining the lives and futures of untold numbers of individuals and families for their own profit.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: We have the largest prison population in the world. Currently more than 3 million people are incarcerated, 1 in every 18 adults is in prison, on parole or probation adding up to a total of over 10 million. One out of every eight Americans you see on the street or in traffic has a criminal conviction in their background. The U.S has a greater prison population (in percentage of population) than many countries that we consider to be in violation of human rights.

  • We are a religious nation, and yet: According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military spending for 2012 reached $1.531 trillion, a six percent increase over 2008 and a forty-nine percent increase over the year 2000. The United States accounted for forty-six percent of the total world military expenditure ($661 billion). China was a distant second accounting for 6.6. percent followed by France’s 4.2 percent, the UK’s 3.8 percent and Russia’s 3.5 percent. The proposed U.S. military budget for 2018 is $886 billion. Nice job, Washington!

 

What is religion? Organized religion is a multi-billion-dollar business disguised as a honeycomb of non-profits (actually, more like a hornet’s nest). On the other hand, followers of Jesus – who Himself was crucified mainly because he preached against organized government and organized religion – exercise the very essence of true Spirituality by showing love, caring, serving, giving, sharing, oneness, brotherhood and sisterhood, compassion, empathy and selflessness. Summed up: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” I’m so glad that we are a religious nation. If only we were all Christian too….

 

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The conspiracy theories about the government wanting to hurt us may be on target after all

Sinister FDA Won’t Approve Cutting Edge Flu Drug,

Proves Our Government Is Working Against Us

by pastor Paul J. Bern

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new-world-order First, I want to thank and acknowledge Yahoo News for the inspiration for this article, which was in last Saturday morning’s on-line edition. The headline read, “Japan has a new drug that could kill the flu in 24 hours. So why doesn’t the FDA approve it?”. I clicked on the article only to discover that it had taken down and removed from the website (hence the absence of a link). They don’t want people to know what just transpired, which is that a drug that is demonstrably superior to anything we have has been deliberately withheld from the American public. I have seen articles and postings on alternative media, and even You Tube, that magnify the fact that we are currently stuck with a for-profit health care system that has a vested interest in keeping us sick! There are even stories of cures being found for various types of cancer, but they are being withheld from the world, ostensibly because that would be too many other people to feed and look after once they’re cured. Evidently this is far too cost-intensive for the ultra-rich elites, the top one percent who want everything all to themselves regardless of the cost to others. These people simply have to be stopped. We can’t stop them at the ballot box because they are non elected usurpers who are the paymasters of those in Congress and the Oval Office. Some far more decisive means will have to be employed, such as a massive wave of nonviolent resistance.

Now let’s contrast this with what they Bible says about healing and taking care of one another. Jesus raised a widow’s son from the dead in Luke chapter 7, cured a man of leprosy and healed two demon-possessed men in Matthew chapter 8, restored the sight of two blind men in Matthew chapter 20, healed a deaf and mute man in Mark chapter 7, and raised Lazarus from the dead in John chapter 11. In none of those cases did our Lord and Savior charge any money for his services. Since Christ died on the cross for our many sins without charge – having paid the ultimate penalty in our place – it stands to reason that he healed without charge as well. Now here’s the kicker – many of these people who are part of America’s for-profit healthcare system attend church regularly. They self-identify as Christian, as emulators and ministers of Christ, while doing exactly the opposite of what their ‘faith’ calls for. As you know, we call people like that ‘hypocrites’.

The United States is the last developed country in the world to deny free or low-cost national health care to its citizens. Moreover, our government, together with ‘Big Pharma’ and the insurance lobbyists in Washington, are more than happy to rub our noses in it. So in the developed world, the US is dead last in looking after the health and well being of its citizens, but first in weapons exports, first in the number of incarcerated people, and a murder rate that’s number one in the world. We should be ashamed of ourselves because it’s happening on our watch, and not enough people are doing anything about it (Lord knows I’m trying)! What has me shaking my head the most is that these same “conservatives” who are administering our for-profit health care system are the ones who self-identify as being “pro-life”! Does anybody besides myself see a glaring contradiction here? It reminds me of the late George Carlin’s diatribe, “They’ll do anything to stop an abortion, but once that kid is eligible for military service, they’re f – d!

The Bible – the undisputed Word of God – gives us all some guidelines about how we should care for one another. In this past week’s Bible study, which I publish every Thursday, Acts chapter 2 tells us how the early Church was managed and administered. The disciples were devoted to the teachings of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. A feeling of fear came over everyone as many amazing things and miraculous signs happened through the apostles. All the believers kept meeting together, and they shared everything with each other. From time to time, they sold their property and other possessions and distributed the money to anyone who needed it. The believers had a single purpose and went to the temple every day. They were joyful and humble as they ate at each other’s homes and shared their food. At the same time, they praised God and had the good will of all the people. Every day the Lord saved people, and they were added to the group.” (Acts 2, verses 42-47).

As you can see, authentic followers of Jesus Christ were people who placed the welfare and well-being of others ahead of their own. Today the equivalent to this would be people selling off their assets and then giving away the proceeds. When’s the last time you saw that happen? Probably never, excluding rich philanthropists like Bill Gates, but he only gives away a small portion of his total net worth. But back then, everybody was doing this. In this respect the modern church by and large has miserably fallen short. If organized religion doesn’t get its act together, they will find themselves locked outside heaven’s gates in the darkness, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Here’s how the apostle Matthew recalled this in chapter 9 of his Gospel: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues preaching the good news of the Kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the Harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.‘”

When Jesus saw those crowds of people who were hungry, hurting and desperate, “he had compassion on them”. Instead of seeing an opportunity to turn a nifty profit, Jesus felt sorry for them – exactly the opposite to the situation we currently find ourselves in here in the “good old US of A”. What else did Jesus say? “As you go, preach this message. ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick; raise the dead; cleans those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have recieved; freely give. Do not take along any gold or copper in your belts; take no bag for your journey, nor an extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.‘” (Matthew chapter 10, verses 7-10) Now if Jesus said, “Freely you have received, so freely give”, that seems quite cut and dried enough for me. Under no circumstances should any money change hands when we heal the sick. I’m not picking on those in the medical profession, nor am I implying that any of them should work for free. But churches and evangelists – and so-called “healers” — should never charge.

Churches today, taking their cue from the government instead of from God, demand 10% of people’s incomes. While the term “tithing” is Scriptural, modern churches take this out of context. Leviticus 27: 30 reads, “A tithe of everything from the land….”, which meant the crops or livestock. There was no money in those days as we now know it. Moreover, “everything from the land” referred to an annual harvest. The giving of tithes on a weekly or monthly basis is something that was not started until the rise of Catholicism in the third century AD.

Now in closing, let me share one final quote from the Book of James, one of the Twelve and the eldest of Jesus’ half-brothers: “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any of you sick? He should call on the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered up in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James chapter 5, verses 13-16) The Scriptural solution to sickness and disability is prayer, not an emergency room. Emergency rooms and the hospitals where they’re located rely on modern technology, and quite a few doctors are atheists. While I certainly respect their right to their own opinions, many of the modern doctors need to re-examine themselves and their relationship to their patients, as well as to the Maker of them both. Until this change is made, not at the managerial or administrative level, nor at the doctor-patient level, but rather at the Spiritual level, medical care in America will be profit-driven instead of patient driven, and the God who made all this possible will continue to be left out of the picture. If that happens, God will not put up with it for long!

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Passing the Dream Act and Progressive Christianity Go Together Very Well

Immigration Reform, the Dream Act,

and Progressive Christianity

by pastor Paul J. Bern

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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