Category Archives: greed

Political Conservatism, Christianity, and Why They Don’t Mix

The Infiltration of Christianity

by American Political Conservatism

by Web Minister Paul J. Bern

 

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It all started out with a paid Facebook posting of mine for a crowd-funding campaign I’m currently running on social media. The campaign is for a start-up for an electronics recycling center to help clean up the mess we’ve made of God’s planet (you can view the campaign, and donate if you can, from this link). It’s sponsored by my on-line ministry, plus two other ministers working with me, and we have 6 volunteers so far. But the ministry’s name, as my readers know, is Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta Inc., and the howls of derision by political right-wing religious nuts has been similar to that of wolves on a full moon night. It seems that God is a religious conservative to these misguided individuals. God forbid that Christianity should ever be associated with anything Progressive!

 

To myself on the other hand, the meme “conservative Christian” is a contradiction in terms, since from a political vantage point Jesus was a progressive at least, or even a (gasp!) democratic socialist. So why is the term ‘conservative Christian’ an oxymoron? Because political conservatives are called such because they conserve on everything – especially money. Much of what they have they inherited from their now-deceased rich relatives, or they made it gambling on the financial markets (isn’t that all that Wall St. really is?). No wonder they are so afraid of anything that threats their ‘Giga’ nest eggs! And that includes working people like us. Show me a political conservative, and I’ll show you a stingy individual, because stingy people are always conserving. Hence the name, OK? And there is no such thing as a stingy Christian. Not really.

 

It’s been said that when poor people get together to make a political statement it’s called ‘rioting’, but when the wealthy get together to make a statement it’s called ‘lobbying’. Conservatives despise the poor while catering to the wealthy, and this is especially true for Christian evangelicals and so-called “fundamentalists”. That got me to thinking about the state of modern Christianity. There are those who call themselves ‘Christians’, fundamentalists or Evangelicals, and there are those who call themselves ‘followers of Jesus Christ’. I would definitely put myself in the latter category. The two are definitely not the same thing, although some insist otherwise. Problem is, they are the same people who think God is a conservative Republican. Moreover, it has come to my attention that those who do so are in the minority as far as 21st century Christianity is concerned. What, if anything, did Jesus have to say about this? Quite a bit, actually. Was Jesus a conservative? Nowhere near, but don’t take my word for it. Let’s find out what Christ had to say.

 

Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7, verses 21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Further along in this same Gospel, Jesus said to the Pharisees, the ruling religious establishment of Judaism at that time, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Matt. 23, verse 15) It’s pretty likely that the Pharisees had a propensity to hoard money and goods that was strikingly similar to political conservatives today.

Again in verses 23-26 Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean out the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean”.

 

Let me interpret the above verses to the best of my ability, as they apply to modern life, starting with the first one. Every person who calls on Jesus’ name will not necessarily make it to heaven when they die. Some of them will include those who presume to prophesy in the name of God. Why those people? Because they are saying things that God never told them to say. They are busy telling people to be more prosperous by giving more to their churches, or to have a more “purpose driven life”. They are busy telling people how to be more fulfilled and enriched personally, financially and professionally, and all at the same time. They are busy peddling their own NYT best-selling books instead of teaching from the Bible, the #1 selling Book of all time! Why don’t they use their vast book revenues to win more people to Christ, buying airtime on cable TV and radio to warn people that time is running out? That the series of wars that leads up to the Antichrist seizing power could be only months away, and that we should warn them anyway – even if we all get laughed at or made fun of for saying so?

 

The next verse says, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’” There’s no mistaking who this remark was directed towards; the phony faith healers and the preachers and all their followers who live double lives. I have watched a few of these faith healers on “Christian TV”, and maybe one in 20 appears to be authentic. I will decline to name names, but the remaining 95% are obviously all theater. Instead of preaching the Gospel, they’re on stage, in a pulpit or TV studio putting on a performance for the audience instead of for the Lord. These kinds of people will be punished severely unless they repent, and soon. They too are nearly out of time. For all those reading this who already count themselves as Christian, if any of this reads a lot like the church you’re currently attending, go and find another church.

 

But it wasn’t just Jesus who prophesied against organized religion, which is exactly what He was doing in Matthew chapter 23. The apostle James had something to say about that as well. In James chapter 1 verses 22-27, it reads as follows: “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. But religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

 

If you consider yourself a Christian, but you call 911 whenever you see homeless people in your neighborhood, you aren’t really Christian at all. If anyone identifies as Christian but uses a lot of profanity, their religion needs some fine-tuning, to put it mildly. Let God turn your rage, from which much profanity spews forth, into passion and zeal instead. The part about widows and orphans should need no explanation at all. This brings us full circle back to our original topic – those who claim to be religious but really aren’t. James, in the following chapter of his letter to the early Church, wrote this; “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed’, but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James chapter 2, verses 14-17) By the same token, if one’s faith in Jesus consists exclusively in giving one’s 10% each week, all I can say is you can’t buy your way into heaven.

 

People who attend church faithfully every Sunday while being mean and stingy the other six days of the week are not going to make it to heaven when their lives are over. They will be expecting to, of course. They are, after all, the direct descendants of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time and they don’t even realize it. They are without a clue, and they will remain so as they roast in hell, still insisting on their righteousness. “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.” James’ words, “the perfect law that gives freedom” is undoubtedly a reference to Jesus’ ministry when He said, “He who is free in me is free indeed”.

Moreover, if one considers him/herself as being a religious person, but are unwilling to share much of anything except maybe with family members, they’re not Christian, they only live to accumulate possessions and portfolios for themselves. Life is all about their narcissistic selves. They are at the center of their own universes, and just because they did so well in life, they think they are a shoe-in for heaven because they are such a “good person”. To that I would ask, good person by whose standards, yours or God’s?

 

In the next passage, James is equally blunt. Pure religiosity is looking after the needs of widows and orphans, “…and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Defend the defenseless! Help the homeless with money or food if you can! Mentor the prisoner, and teach him or her a trade to minimize their chances of ever coming back to prison again! Have some empathy and some compassion, and become more merciful towards others less fortunate than yourselves! Despise materialism and those who blindly pursue wealth for its own sake! Do not even eat with such people, they are a vexation to the human spirit. If you ever wanted a secular definition of what it means to follow Christ, then these last few sentences are it. Plus, as James put it, “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Those whose words are different than their deeds are only putting on a show, of that you can be sure.

 

There are a couple more verses on this topic I wish to point out, and they are contained in the book of Revelation chapter three, verses 15-16, which reads as follows: “I know your deeds, that your are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth”. Once again, God is laying down the challenge. Do we want to be Christian – or follower of Christ as I prefer – or just pretenders? Is there anybody out there who seriously believes that God doesn’t see and know all? You had best believe He does!! So it basically comes down to this as far as those who attend church regularly – are you just flirting with Jesus, or are you ready to get serious with Him? Are we just showing up on Sunday mornings, saying to God, “Hello again, it’s me Lord, I’m so happy to make it to church one more time”? Are we putting our faith into action the other six days of the week, or are we simply acting religious? And what about those who consider themselves devout believers and followers of Christ, who aren’t flirting with Jesus? In that case, let’s ask ourselves the same question a little differently: Are we going steady with Jesus, or are we ready to fall in love with Him and marry Him (applies equally to both genders since there is neither male nor female in heaven)? Are we a part of the Bride of Christ or aren’t we?

 

It’s time to make a decision everybody! Where do you stand? Let’s not be lukewarm Christians. We already know how God feels about those people, He will “spit you out of (his) mouth”. Or to put it a little more bluntly, lukewarm Christians – and the phony ones – literally make God nauseous, if such a thing is possible for Him in His Spiritual state. The time is very short! The series of devastating wars that will ultimately kill one third of humanity could be only months away, maybe another year or two at the most, so we are running out of time! It’s time for us all to get on fire for Jesus, lest any of us gets condemned to eternal fire instead. Let’s not go there, brothers and sisters. Hell, after all, is a real place. It’s time to fall in love with Jesus and to become a part of His Bride. It’s time for us all to fulfill our true destinies as the sons and daughters of God. Anything less just won’t do as far as I’m concerned, because I’m on board with Jesus forever. How about you? It’s time to make an affirmative decision for Jesus Christ. Ask Him to come and live within your heart, repent – or turn away from – your sins, and start living for Jesus today. Because in the end, He’s all there is.

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College Cheating Scandal is a Symptom of Economic Inequality

When Will They Ever Learn?

Still More Proof That Cheating Is for Losers

by Web Minister Paul J. Bern

food_stamps_vs_exxonIt’s been all over the news all week long. The financial elite, including some of Hollywood’s most visible celebrities, have been caught up in the most massive college cheating scandal ever uncovered in American history. Interestingly enough, this matter only came to light as a byproduct of an unrelated securities fraud case that extended overseas, and not to Hollywood at all. The Boston Globe posted a fairly detailed article about this a week or so ago, which you can view from here. But this week’s commentary is not about that investigation. This week’s posting is concerning the evil forces behind this flagrant cheating. I am also writing this to take a stand against those who feel entitled just because they can afford to buy their way through life.

The handbook for humanity, the Bible, has a few things to say about that. I’m sure you can relate, but even if you can’t, please don’t bail out on me just yet. The thing is, if the Bible is really being taught properly, you don’t need to push it on people. Those who use the Bible as moral justification for driving people away have completely missed the point. The Holy Spirit of the risen Lord is never aggressive and never pushy. It is never accusatory, and it keeps no record of wrongs (see 1st Corinthians 13: 5). The true Holy Spirit is peaceful and gentle. The only exception would be if someone were in a state of sin, in which case the Holy Spirit would be convicting that person in their heart. If such conviction does not change that individual, it is at that point that their personal salvation begins to be endangered. Whatever that individual decides to do, it is imperative that we pray for such people, and to do everything possible to help them whenever we find ourselves in a position to do so.

It is written in First Corinthians chapter 6, “ 6) But instead, one brother takes another to court – and this in front of unbelievers! 7) The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8) Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.” Isn’t this really close to how things are today? People sue one another at the drop of a hat. They take great offense against stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long run. In so doing, they make themselves difficult people at best, or impossible to get along with at worst. Why not rather be cheated? Instead, those who accuse certain individuals of cheating or even of engaging in criminal activity, are often the ones who engage in such activities themselves. You know, like our politicians?

It is also written in the Gospel of Luke that cheating must be repaid 4 times the amount, as we see in the story of Zachaeus in Luke chapter 19: “ 5) When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ 6) So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7) All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’ 8) But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ 9) Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10) For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.‘”

Zacchaeus was a smart man. He knew he was a sinner, as are we all. He didn’t pause to consider questions about the degree to which he had sinned, or against which people. He confessed his sins to Christ on the spot, and he was not concerned about how people would view him as a result. Frankly, I find this refreshing. It took a lot of guts to do what Zacchaeus did, and I note that Jesus appreciated the candor of Zacchaeus. But the bottom line here is that Zacchaeus knew he had cheated people, and so offered to pay them back fourfold with Christ himself as an eyewitness, not including the rest of the crowd around them. So does anybody think those who have been indicted in the recent college bribery scandal will get the same kind of punishment? In light of how broken America’s educational and court systems are, I would be pleasantly surprised if any such thing were to occur.

The US judicial, educational, political and economic systems are broken, and it is looking increasingly like things are slowly going from bad to worse. Moreover, it appears that it is the rich who are engaged in the majority of the wrongdoing. The apostle James had something timeless to say regarding this matter: “ 1) My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2) Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3) If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ 4) have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5) Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6) But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7) Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of Him to whom you belong?” (James 2, verses 1-7)

I can’t help but love the apostle James. He’s so direct and to the point, but without being blunt or derisive. But you can already see where I’m going with this, so I’ll skip the long, drawn out explanation. Our educational and our court systems, like the others I mentioned further above, are guilty of showing favoritism to those who were willing to pay the price of admission. Our entire country, from the governmental system on down, reeks of the foul stench of corruption. Moreover, the majority of people don’t seem to care, which troubles me even more. If only more people would memorize, or at least familiarize themselves with, the above 7 verses from the beginning of James chapter 2, the currently unfolding college entrance cheating scandal would never have occurred. Where has America’s conscience gone?

The underlying issue here can be summed up in 2 words: economic inequality. I have written about this extensively in the past, and you can visit my ‘author’ website for more info. But for right now, suffice it to say that the most deserving students are being pushed to the side in favor of those whose wealthy parents bought their children’s way into a future in college, with their degrees in the subject of their choice already taken care of. Welcome to the United States of America, Inc., where everything can be bought for a price (subject to negotiation, of course!). Unfortunately, all of this buying and selling of influence is, for me at least, a bit unsettling and seemingly inappropriate. It is grossly unfair to those who got cheated out of an admission they deserved to get. And I will never stop standing up for truth and justice, and I will never stop standing against America’s atmosphere of corruption. It’s what Jesus would do.

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Lessons I Learned This Week on Helping the Helpless and Putting My Faith Into Practice

Bottles of Water and Eternal Rewards

by Minister Paul J. Bern

needing JesusThose of you who from here in Atlanta who know me personally are well aware that every time I’m out and about, I keep my eyes wide open for anyone in significant need. I’m not talking about the usual cadre of panhandlers posing as beggars. Atlanta is a town full of professional paupers, who hang around the MARTA light rail system that threads its way throughout Atlanta acting like little lost puppies. Since Georgia’s minimum wage is still stuck at a downright stingy $7.25 an hour, one can often make better than the minimum wage just by begging. Unlike some, however, I don’t necessarily see this as being the beggar’s ‘fault’ per Se. It’s more like capitalism has created these professional panhandlers by trapping them in the economic situations they are in.

Why do I think this way about those who are stuck in poverty? I am right in there with them, that’s why! I spent 16 years in IT, followed by 4 years as a contract delivery driver before my vehicle and my health abruptly gave out. In 2006, four months after my 50th birthday, I had a stroke which I was fortunate enough to survive relatively intact. It took about 3 years for me to get to the point where I felt like I was healthy enough to go back to work. But I was never able to return to the work force, and so I’ve been writing here at home ever since. One of these days, I’m going to make myself some real money for all my efforts, but for now let me get back on topic.

Earlier this week I had to make a trip to my neighborhood Off-the-wall Mart to pick up one of my prescriptions, plus a few other odds and ends. When I came out, I was tired from being on my feet for nearly an hour, and my little folding shopping cart that I currently use to get my groceries – plus those “odds and ends” – home, was full. So I sat down on one of the benches to take a break before walking my stuff and myself back to the bus stop about ¼ of a mile away. There was this younger Black guy, roughly about 30 or so I’d say, sitting there who looked like he was waiting on someone to come out of the store. After a couple of minutes, these 2 Latina ladies came out with a shopping cart full of stuff, and one of them was carrying a case of 20-ounce bottles of water. As they were walking by, the younger Black guy asked her if he could have one of those water bottles. He explained that he was in between jobs and was homeless, and hadn’t had anything to drink all day.

The Latina lady flatly refused him, and stormed off as if she were insulted by being asked for anything, let alone something she had just paid for ‘with her hard-earned money’. I remember being struck by her refusal to give a single bottle of water that, considering how big that case of water was, couldn’t have cost her more than about 40 cents or so. It was right about then that I noticed that the young Black man was dressed in worn-out clothes, and that he probably was being truthful about being unemployed and homeless. The guy sat back down, dejected, looking down at the pavement as he muttered, “Man, ain’t that enough to p**s off just about anybody? All I asked her for was a (bleeping) bottle of water.” At that point I took a dollar out of my wallet, plus most of my spare change, and I gave it all to him as I said, “Here, go inside a buy yourself a water and a small bag of chips. Never mind her.” After praying over that man and giving him my ‘elevator pitch’ about Jesus, I headed off to the bus stop.

I don’t know for sure if that homeless man gave his heart to Jesus, but even if he didn’t, something tells me he eventually will. But that got me to thinking about two related but distinct things. First, how cold that Latina lady and her friend pushing the cart, who was also Latina, had acted towards the homeless Black man. That man did not ask her for money, and he didn’t ask me either. That poor guy was in such bad shape that no one would help him, which is why I did. And second, I was struck by the realization that I had just seen inequality in action. People are talking about an impending civil war here in the US, but there is considerable argument as to the combatants will be. Many say it will be liberal against conservative, but I think it will be the wealthy elites and their mercenaries against everybody else. A few even try to claim this civil war will be racial in nature. Dylan Roof used that as his reason for killing 17 people engaged in Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina several years back, and look what that got him. No, Dylan, there will be no race wars. Enjoy your life sentence. Repent, and you can yet be saved, Dylan and all you other racists. Repent and turn to Jesus.

Jesus prophesied about those days, and about the turbulent and chaotic days still to come, in chapter 10 of Matthew’s gospel. “34) ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35) For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – 36) a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’” This could be considered a prophecy of any number of civil wars that have happened throughout the course of human history. Wars happen for all kinds of reasons, and they have divided families. But so has religion. I was raised a Catholic, but my former family will have nothing to do with me because I have renounced all belief and confidence in the Vatican. I place my full confidence and belief in Jesus Christ instead, having come to the realization that I could have a personal relationship with Him without the need for the papacy as intermediary. So all my conclusions here are based on personal experience, not merely my opinion.

As we continue together, it reads beginning in verse 37, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38) Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39) Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” The two Latina ladies with their case of water and shopping cart full of goods had everything they needed, and there was no way they were going to share it with anybody. So many fortunate people have good jobs, great families, decent incomes, and some own their own homes. Those who keep it all to themselves – their family, social and educational lives – and yet insist that they believe in Jesus, are deceiving themselves. They claim to serve Christ while serving only themselves, and sometimes their immediate families.

That’s the root cause of economic inequality. As wealth continues to be concentrated into a global cadre of about 400 families, while the remaining 7.6 billion individuals remain in grinding poverty, or are just barely keeping their collective heads above water, an ever-widening divide continues to form. That’s why all of us, both rich and poor, have a moral imperative to help others less fortunate than ourselves. Because, if we don’t do this while continuing to accumulate ‘stuff’ for ourselves, at some point that’s going to sneak up from behind and bite us really bad. So we can either take care of our own business exclusively, or we can take care of God’s business exclusively. The choice is truly ours to make. I made the choice to take up my cross for Christ’s name’s sake a long time ago, and I’ve never regretted it.

Which brings us around full circle to the homeless man, bottle of water and the words of Jesus, beginning at verse 40 to close out this week’s commentary. 40) “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41) Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42) And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matt. 10: verses 40-42) For some additional context, Jesus has been speaking to his apostles during their commissioning as such. So in verse 40, that’s what Jesus meant by, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me….”

Anyone who recognizes and welcomes a prophet gets the same reward as that prophet. Anyone who recognizes and welcomes a righteous (that is, faithful and/or proven trustworthy) man gets the same reward as that righteous man. Moreover, “…. if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones…. that person will certainly not lose their reward.” Or, for that matter, a bottled water, whether it is cold or not. Which brings us full circle to my friend in front of the Off-the-wall Mart, and the ladies with the case of water and a shopping cart filled with goods. I could not give that homeless man a cup of cold water, but I did give him the means to get one. Those two ladies I wrote about won’t get their reward, or anything else but eternal condemnation, for that matter. I’m sure they were basically ‘good people’, but that won’t get anyone into a state of eternal life. Refusing to give somebody a bottle of water when they could easily have afforded it, however, can put you into a state of eternal death, even while you are still alive. That’s all for this week, but everyone please find a less fortunate person to help this week, even if you only give them your spare change. It could end up saving their life.

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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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