Category Archives: human rights

Free book excerpt #25 from Progressive Author and blogger Rev. Paul J. Bern

Coming this fall from Author Rev. Paul J. Bern: the 4th updated edition of his popular 2011 nonfiction work, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”

 

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The second part of the Manifesto is what I will devote this chapter to. It summarizes the 11 Demands of the People and then organizes them into 7 basic human rights in such a way that they can be legislated into existence. How do we accomplish this? One way would be for a large group of people to go to Washington and demonstrate our disapproval by surrounding Congress outside the main Congressional building where the House of Representatives and the US Senate preside, and continuing to surround it while demanding that the Eight Fundamental Rights Of Mankind be passed into law in the form of a US Constitutional amendment. Nobody leaves until our demands are met. Our demonstrations will be peaceful, and weapons will be prohibited. I have lots of other ideas about how to go about changing the system, but for now let us take a chapter from this book to explain and analyze these basic human rights, how they apply to us middle Americans, and why these basic human rights are what this new Civil Rights movement represents.

[1] Rights of Workers and Independent Contractors

The basic rights of all workers can be broken down into six parts; fair minimum wage, right to unemployment protection, right to free vocational re-training for life, right to choice of career path regardless of economic status, right to organize, right to a flexible work week, and right to family and maternity leave.

The first thing on the list is also the highest priority, that of a fair and realistic minimum wage. As I write this the current minimum wage is only about $7.50 per hour. That’s a gross pay of $300.00 for a 40-hour work week, about $210.00 after all applicable taxes for a single person. Now, let us ask ourselves one basic question: could I live on $840.00 per month? Of course you can’t! But the need to raise the federal minimum wage to $14.00 per hour is only part of the solution because it is only part of the problem. The real problem that I see here is a moral issue that is disguised as an economic issue. The cost of living is so high today in the early 21st century that the true minimum wage should be close to $35,000.00 annually before taxes. That is what it costs a family of four to live week-to-week in 2018 dollars. If the US business community and/or Congress refuse to agree to any such thing, and it’s a sure bet that they will, then let there be protests and worker walkouts all across the country. We could even haggle down from the $14.00 level to, say, $12.00. The important thing will be to keep them talking to us. Sooner or later we will get the large increases we urgently need, even if it means shutting down the whole country for a day or more, or even a week.

But what about the times when the cost of living overwhelms us and a real financial emergency sets in, such as an unexpected car repair or a medical emergency? This brings me to the point that I wish to make, and it is this. In today’s world, if the net take-home pay of any given individual does not meet, or just barely meets, that same individuals 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, that is true. But if after you stop at 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 next month’s rent or mortgage, then you peek into your wallet and realize that you have $7.00 left for the whole stinkin’ 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. And this is happening in the United States of America, supposedly the greatest country in the world, while millions of its people live in abject poverty. How much longer do we wait before taking matters into our own hands? After all, it’s the only way we are going to accomplish our goals.

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 an economic slave? Makes you feel kind of angry, doesn’t it? It make us all feel violated because we have all been slaves, often without realizing it. 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, our computers and our phones, and to get ourselves out into the streets and start protesting. Never mind your game consoles either, there’s no more time for that. And that’s just for this issue alone. Now allow me to mention the rest of these basic rights

The second right under worker’s rights is the right to better unemployment insurance, and to also allow independent contractors to draw unemployment provided certain conditions are met. 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 of non-emergency benefits. Once the benefits have been exhausted, if the job seeker is unable to find full time work, they will have two options. The first will be to enlist in free vocational re-education, which will be offered for the lifetime of that worker or until retirement (more on that further below, so please stick with me). The second option will be to enlist as a worker in new public works projects, which will be described later in this chapter. Under this new 21st century plan, we can and will wipe out unemployment and poverty forever.

The third human right listed is the right to free vocational retraining for life. Anybody can go back to school and get retrained at will, up to and including a 2 year degree, and under this new system it will all be free of charge. We will be able to pay for it with the new tax code that I will describe to you later in this chapter. Students in the program who have children will, upon qualification, be given taxpayer-funded day care free of charge so they can get their education without having to worry about their kids. Much is being made right now about the fact that higher education is becoming more financially out of reach for an increasingly large percentage of the US population. Offering free taxpayer-funded reeducation will take down this barrier, and can be thus used as a tool for peaceful and orderly wealth redistribution.

The fourth human right under worker’s rights that I have written about is the choice of career path without economic qualification. This is basically a continuation and clarification of the above right to vocational retraining. It adds a civilian draft which is designed to eliminate unemployment and homelessness. Every able-bodied homeless person, newly released prisoners, and the long-term unemployed will be put to work in a public works program that I will explain in detail later in this chapter.

The next right I mentioned is simply the right for workers to organize. It will include a provision making it illegal for states to outlaw labor unions and it prohibits companies and corporations from preventing unionization. American workers will get worse working conditions, not better, if they do not organize. They also won’t stand a chance of getting pay raises, better benefits and investment opportunities because company management isn’t about to give away any of this voluntarily. The workers are going to have to collectively go to management and make their needs known.

The fifth human right that I mentioned is the right to a fair workweek. All workers who work more than 40 hours in a week, and all salaried managers who work more than 50 hours per week, will be entitled to compensation at time and a half. All companies with more than 100 employees will be required to offer either a four day workweek with a ten hour workday, or a five day workweek with an eight hour workday to all its workers. Workers who are paid biweekly will be paid overtime for all hours worked in a 40-hour week. It will be illegal to require such workers to work 80 hours over Less than two weeks before paying them overtime.

The right to family leave, which will include maternity leave for women, is the final right for all workers and independent contractors. It will be illegal for any company to fire any worker for taking maternity leave or family leave. Any worker who loses their job due to family or maternity leave will be required to be compensated by that employer with a minimum of 30 days pay to a maximum of one year’s salary pending arbitration…..

Softback available direct from the author ($18.95) at https://www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations (scroll to bottom of page)

Get it on Kindle ($7.95) from this link

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Watch the video at http://youtu.be/VZguRDJmCqc

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

God Wants Justice and Mercy, Not Religion,

and We’re Falling Short

by Pastor Paul J. Bern (Isaiah 58)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Memorial Day and the National Anthem: Some Recent Conclusions

The ‘National Anthem’ and This Past Week’s Football Owners Meeting: Why I’ll Be Taking a Knee With “Kap” This Coming Football Season

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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The United States of America hasn’t been winning very many popularity contests overseas as of late. The last two presidents – particularly Donald Trump – have stepped up military drone strikes against Islamic extremists, but also those countries that have numerous oil fields who are working to undermine the US dollar. Countries such as Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria are currently in negotiations to collaborate using an alternative currency to the US dollar, such as the Euro, the Chinese Yuan or the Russian ruble, but these oil-producing countries are also using gold as a form of currency. Resorting to such tactics by any of the above countries constitutes a direct threat to US interests, which has provoked the strong military response we are seeing in today’s headlines.

 

 

Here on the home front, our cities are deteriorating due to a glut of boarded up houses, long-dormant industrial sites and abandoned shopping centers. Much the same has happened to many small rural towns for the same reasons. The least common denominator to why this is occurring is the lack of jobs that pay a fair minimum wage of, say, $15.00 an hour. And then there’s our police forces, who are supposed to be protecting and serving the public. Instead, they have mutated into a paramilitary apparatus equipped with military-grade weapons they don’t need, and many if not most of those police are a lot more trigger-happy than they would care to admit. As of this writing, the FBI, BATFE, NSA, DEA and the DHS have ordered a total of over 3.5 billion rounds of hollow-point ammunition. That’s enough to kill everyone in America 10 times over. So why did law enforcement purchase such an enormous amount of ammunition knowing that it was more than they would ever use? The purpose is evidently to deny American gun owners access to ammunition by buying up the entire supply. This enormous amount of ammunition has been purchased for the same reason the police departments are acquiring military grade assault weapons and armored vehicles. They are preparing for a mass assault on the American people as an anticipated reaction to the protests and possible rioting over food and fuel shortages that will occur when martial law is declared. This could even mushroom into another US civil war if things get out of hand.

 

It has been my observation that there are far more clandestine reasons that are carefully hidden underneath the surface for these things to be occurring. The forces and enforcers of the status quo are the same individuals who stand to lose everything when the US dollar inevitably crashes and the Western world’s capitalist debt-based economic bubble finally bursts for good, as it eventually must. For those who don’t already know, this may occur even sooner than expected. But it was Jesus who said. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where it will rust or be eaten by moths, or that thieves break in and steal. But instead, store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moths don’t eat up your clothes, where nothing ever rusts, and where thievery is nonexistent.” (Matthew 6: 19-21) When that collapse finally does occur, it will bring the American, Canadian, European, Japanese and Russian economies down along with it. Even China’s booming economy would come to a screeching halt in such a case as that!

 

Here in the USA, there are presently numerous individuals or entire families who are engaged in activities known as “prepping”. Prepping can generally be defined as making advance preparations for an expected disaster, or for the declaration of martial law. I have begun to do this very thing myself, mainly by storing plenty of nonperishable food and lots of extra 1-gallon milk jugs of water. In a worst-case scenario, I got a passport last winter, and it’s good for 10 years. What does this say about our country and the state of its people? It looks to me like there are many saying, “We’ve had enough of all this crap. The entire American political and economic systems are a disaster area, and the government is also broken beyond repair. So it’s up to us to fix it ourselves.”

 

For a long time now I have maintained that we need to reinvent government as we know it. One replacement idea would be a Web-based paperless government. Thanks to the global proliferation of the Internet, hierarchical governments and other similar organizations ruled from the top down will soon find themselves replaced with a Web-based democracy featuring a horizontally administered command and organizational structure. In effect, it would be a kind of laterally managed organization that runs peer-to-peer, similar to a beehive, or maybe like an ant colony, as the Bible describes it: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” (Proverbs 6: 6-8). The main thing will be organizing the peer-to-peer economic system that would accompany such a lateral management structure. But this would not be difficult to achieve due to the decentralized nature of lateral management systems.

 

One thing is certain; America is a hollowed out shell of what it used to be. The job market is absolutely decimated – never mind all of the propaganda that comes from the mainstream media about gaining 200,000 new jobs every month. They are almost entirely part time jobs everywhere I look. It makes me glad I had to retire from the work force, and even grateful for my small disability check. At first when I became disabled I complained about how small my monthly check was. But, having the time to sit back and watch the implosion of the American job market from 2011 up until now, I stopped complaining a long time ago. In fact, it was sinful of me to have done that, and so I confessed that sin to the Lord and begged His forgiveness and he fully restored me (hallelujah!). He wants to restore us all, so confess your sins and Jesus will forgive you too. It doesn’t matter how bad you have been, or what you did and when,or what your past has been like. The blood of Jesus washes it all away.

 

This past week, the 32 billionaire owners, or their designated representatives, met right here in Atlanta to discuss what to do about players who ‘take a knee’ when the National Anthem is played just before games begin. Sports Illustrated had this to say about the meeting:

ATLANTA — The owners had been locked in discussion for almost three hours, and momentum was starting to build toward a resolution to be voted on. This, in certain circumstances, would be when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would take command of the room. But not this time. The national anthem has been the most sensitive issue the league has dealt with over the past two years; so instead, Goodell stopped the open forum and called for the owners to go around the room and, one by one, make their points. This is where the league’s anthem policy was born, amid two common themes consistent among the 32 takes.

1) The NFL needed an enforceable policy on the anthem.

2) The NFL needed to respect players who weren’t comfortable standing for it.

Everything would have to fall around those two things, as the owners saw it. And as that consensus became clear, NFL EVP Jeff Pash was scribbling out a five-point plan, which Goodell read to the room after the “All 32” exercise was complete to cap the meeting. Another privileged session (primary owners and family only….)” You can read the entire article here.

 

Everyone knows by now the source of this entire controversy. Depending on who you believe, it was started by San Francisco quarterback Colin Kapernick as a public statement against police violence, or by law enforcement due to their seemingly indiscriminate killing of unarmed Black men. As could be expected, this form of public dissent has been met with a mix of confusion, consternation and contempt. Wasn’t this just another example of our traditional values being trampled by the unrelenting march of political correctness? What sort of ingrates object to our nation’s anthem, anyway? Fluffy-headed campus philosophers? Lazy latte-sipping liberals? It also caused widespread concern and confusion among the supporters and, yes, donors – many of whom felt like playing the anthem compromised Christian values.

 

Instead of compromising their core convictions about racism and violence at the hands of the police, I foresee hundreds or even thousands of conscientious men and women this coming football season who will choose to adhere to their conscience. Moreover, I have resolved to join “Kap” and other like-minded individuals, even though we may find ourselves mocked by ‘friends’ and neighbors, beaten down by angry mobs or waterboarded by rednecks. It is also entirely possible that all the high school kids who are fed up with gun violence will join Colin Kapernick and his contemporaries in ‘taking a knee’ this football season. Although there certainly are diverse viewpoints among equally diverse individuals today, all continue to advocate for an end to gun violence. That’s because we recognize only one nation that is bound together by a living Constitution and a faith in a living Savior rather than by man-made, blood-soaked prejudices of the past.

 

 

Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies and he loved his enemies all the way to the cross and beyond. Following Jesus and the martyrs before us, we testify with our lives that freedom is not a right that is granted or defended with rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. True freedom is given by God, and it is indeed not free. It comes with a cost, and that cost looks just like a cross, not a flag. How do we plug ourselves into the unlimited power of the cross of Calvary? First, it is imperative that we all believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. For me at least, this is non-negotiable. Next, we must all repent of our evil ways and dispense with our bad habits, for the world cannot know of its brokenness and hopelessness without a Savior to show them a superlative way of life. There needs to be more people practicing the ways of peace while putting away their childish arguments. The world cannot know that there is an alternative to violence and war without a people of peace making peace. The world cannot know that the weak and the vulnerable are cared for by God without a people practicing an economy centered on sharing and mutual aid, not individual gain. Let us ask ourselves this basic question – if I die in my sleep tonight, what kind of legacy will I leave? However you ask yourself this question, let’s all make sure the answer will be a thoughtful one. The only way to peace is to worship the Prince of Peace.

 

The world cannot know the immeasurable worth of a human life without a people who consistently work to protect it – in the unborn, in the convict, in the immigrant, in the homeless, in the soldier, in the retirement homes, in the mental hospitals, and on the streets of America. These protests against police violence do not reflect ingratitude or hatred for our country, or toward those who enforce its laws. Rather, they reflect a deep love for justice and peace. After all, it is written: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the Sons of God.” I love my country, but I sing my loyalty and pledge my allegiance to the Prince of Peace and him alone. This is because our souls and our Savior are all that’s going to be left.

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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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Passing the Dream Act and Progressive Christianity Go Together Very Well

Immigration Reform, the Dream Act,

and Progressive Christianity

by pastor Paul J. Bern

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Free book excerpt #19 from blogger, Web pastor and author Rev. Paul J. Bern

The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” by Rev. Paul J. Bern.

Watch the video at http://youtu.be/VZguRDJmCqc

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I Dare To Dream

(excerpt from “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto 3rd Edition” by Pastor Paul J. Bern)

The march of economic inequality, from which springs the source of racism, poverty, crime, violence, and lack of access to healthcare and higher education, has become the new civil rights issue of the 21st century. (I like to call it Rev. Dr. MLK, Jr. 2.0.) King’s dream of unconditional equality throughout the country can finish becoming a reality when the economic barriers that we all face on a daily basis finally come down for good, like an economic Berlin Wall circa 1989. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to the masses during the 1963 civil rights march on Washington and said, “I have a dream…”. By writing and publishing these words it is my intent to help take up where King’s Dream left off, and to do anything I can to help finish the job that he started. And so let me slightly change that to, “I dare to dream”.

I dare to dream of a world in which the gap between rich and poor is gone forever. We all deserve to live in a world where wealth has been redistributed in a peaceful and orderly manner and not by the barrel of a gun. I dare to dream of a country where wealth has been redistributed in 4 ways. First, every worker earns a living wage so poverty can be eliminated. Second, free higher education and vocational retraining must be available to every worker for life, including daycare available to all, that would be based on the worker’s or student’s ability to pay on a sliding scale, because everyone has the right to better themselves at will. Third, I envision an America where quality health care is available to every worker at nominal cost for life. Single-payer healthcare based on the current Medicare model must not be reserved only for those who can afford it, but it must be a fundamental human right for all ages. I dare to dream of an America where there will be no such thing as someone without health insurance, where every citizen will have lifetime healthcare and prescription drug coverage without qualification, and where there will be the fewest sick days for American workers and their children of any country in the developed world. Fourth, “we the people” demand the abolition of the federal tax code, including elimination of the despised federal withholding tax, which would give every American worker or business owner an immediate 18% pay raise.

I dare to dream of a new America with a robust and viable economy. That is why I have been insisting on a $14.00 per hour minimum wage since 2010. I dare to dream of a new America where education will be subsidized from the cradle to the grave so that the US develops the most formidable work force the world has ever seen. I dare to dream of an America where all workers have the right to organize, to a flexible work week and to paid family or maternity leave. Most other developed countries already do this. The US is the only exception and that has got to change. The only remaining question in my mind is whether we can accomplish this peacefully or otherwise, and it looks more and more to me like it will be the latter.

I dare to dream of an America where affordable housing is the law of the land, where home ownership becomes a right and not a privilege so we can wipe out homelessness, and where the price of a house is limited to the sum total of ten years income of any given individual or household purchasers. I insist on a country where home ownership isn’t part of an exclusive club with the highest “credit scores”. It is, and must become, a basic human right. Even the cave men lived in caves of their own!

I dare to dream of a country with new public works programs that put an end to unemployment forever so the USA can have full employment all the time. America’s infrastructure needs to be rebuilt, and its inner cities are in dire need of an overhaul. What a better way to accomplish this!

I dare to dream of a new America with an all-new public school and university system that has an Internet-based curriculum that can be updated at will, and that is second to none in the developed world, with a new and more intensive school year, and that has viable replacements for standardized testing, and where class size is limited by law. I dare to dream of a country where teachers make what their Congressional representatives make, and vice verse.

I dare to dream of a new nation where unconditional equality is the law of the land for every citizen without exception, and this will include economic equality. I dare to dream of a new America where there is no more income tax, no capital gains tax, no alternative minimum tax, no estate tax, no self-employment tax, and where families and businesses can have a tax free income unless they are very wealthy. In its place would be a national sales tax, such as a Consumption Tax, where everyone pays proportionately the same tax rate on only what they consume, plus an “excess wealth tax” for persons with annual incomes exceeding $3 million, and for businesses with annual proceeds exceeding $300 million, so America’s budget can be balanced and fair.

I dare to dream of a better USA where personal privacy is the law of the land, where identity theft is a thing of the past, and where it will be illegal for employers to obtain the credit files or credit scores of any job applicant.

I dare to dream of a more compassionate America where children have the right to a challenging and progressive learning environment, and where kids will be legally guaranteed freedom from hunger, sickness and violence, and where all God’s children will have the right to safe adoption, foster care and day care.

I dare to dream of an all-new voting system, including the abolition of the elitist Electoral College, that is Internet-based, paperless, and that can be accessed from any location using any computer or wireless device, instead of wasting our time and fuel and losing work time going to polling stations, and instead of using unreliable and unsecured voting machines.

I dare to dream of an America of integrity where all of the dirty corporate money and all the filthy lucre is abolished from our political process. I dare to dream of an America where the Wall Street shysters who crashed the US economy are brought to justice, and where the keys to all of the fraudulently foreclosed homes are returned to their rightful owners.

I dare to dream of the end to America’s sinister war on drugs, where all convicted nonviolent drug offenders can qualify for alternative sentences for their offenses so they may obtain early release, and where all the currently illegal drugs are legalized, regulated and taxed by appropriate legislation.

Finally, I dare to dream of a world in which all this is easily financially achievable because all the money that is being wasted currently on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and to a lesser extent in Pakistan, Libya and elsewhere will be redirected towards all these dreams that I have just mentioned. The money is already there, its just being budgeted in all the wrong places. Let me tell you why.

If the US military took all the money it spends occupying Afghanistan for just one day and put it into an interest-bearing account, there would be enough money available to send every American school kid from the first grade up to senior year in high school through 4 years of college fully paid for, including tuition, dorms, books, food, access to the Internet and to public transportation. Here’s another example: If the US government took all that money set aside from one days worth of military expenditures in Afghanistan alone, there would be enough money to build a 2,500 square feet house, fully furnished and stocked with groceries, with all the utilities already turned on, for every homeless person in the US including all the homeless kids. That’s how easily we can end homelessness in the richest country in the world.

Just as surely as there was an Arab Spring beginning in 2011 that is still ongoing in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Somalia, to name a few, so I am telling you that there will be an American Spring in her near future. In fact, I’m surprised it hasn’t already begun. Beginning in 2011 with the start-up of the “Occupy” and “99%” Movements, of which I am proud to be a part, this uprising of the American people against the top 1% will explode like an atomic mushroom cloud over the American political and economic elite, obliterating them all in a bloodless coup without anyone having fired a single shot – so that the remaining 99% of us can peacefully take back what has been stolen from us over the last 100 years. We can only accomplish this by uniting together as one and acting as one body to break free from the shackles of oppression that have us all enslaved. Who is with me today?

Get yours direct from the author ($9.95) at www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations

Also available on Kindle ($3.95) at

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=the+middle+and+working+class+manifesto

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Watch the video at http://youtu.be/VZguRDJmCqc Thanks so much. Shalom!

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The MLK Holiday and the State of America: What Would Jesus Say?

The Hijacking of a Dream:

Reclaiming Rev. Dr. King’s Legacy

by pastor and published author Paul J. Bern

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live together or perish

As we celebrate another Martin Luther King holiday, America needs to perform a re-assessment of what this memorial holiday truly means to all of us. On August 28, 2011, the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial took place on the National Mall in Washington DC. Having the dedication of this memorial on the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington, was clearly a symbolic gesture — paying homage to one of the many defining moments in the great civil rights leader’s life. However, the corporate contributors of this event, along with many of the politicians that were in attendance, were and are symbolic themselves. They are symbols of everything Dr. King was, and would be, opposed to if he were alive today. These charlatans and hucksters know very well of this fact, which is exactly why they, together with the mainstream media and an ever-shrinking segment of prejudiced Americans of all colors and races, continue to desperately try to reshape the image of Dr. King. If these people have their way, Dr. King and his legacy will stand for nothing more than a superficial image. They fervently wish to recreate him into someone they can feel more comfortable with. This is why most children can only recite one quote in relationship to Dr. King —“I have a dream.” Our kids and many of their parents don’t even know the whole message.

 

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for much more than what mainstream America has methodically reduced him to. In fact, if he were alive today, many of the corporate war mongering politicians, including President Trump, would be vilifying Dr. King as if he were some crazed angry black man. This is why we will never hear the likes of Barack Obama quote Dr. King when he referred to the US government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”. Dr. King said those powerful and honest words on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City, exactly a year before he was assassinated. Nearly five decades later, the US government is still the greatest purveyor of violence on earth. You can bet that the following quote will not be read at all in King’s memory:

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”

 

After reading Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” speech, anyone still thinking that he would be in approval of what this current administration is doing in places like Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, need to rethink their conclusions. Dr. King was much more than simply a man who was anti-war; he was a man who stood for peace and social justice. He was truly a man of principles and convictions, which is why he was unafraid of speaking truth to so-called power. Remaining silent, as so many gutless politicians and celebrities do today, was not an option within Dr. King’s conscience. And because of this, he was routinely targeted by the US government, by way of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and devils minions such as FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover.

 

 

The American empire’s military-industrial complex is a vastly profitable behemoth that must be fed a steady diet of wars in order to maintain its existence. Those who threaten the existence of this killing machine become expendable. Dr. King’s outspokenness against not only the Vietnam War, but also the military industrial complex, secured his status as a target. Dr. King’s “crime” was that he dared to challenge the conscience of a nation entangled within the web of an imperialist war throughout Southeast Asia. Among other things he said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” Which one of the political frauds, or entertainers, in attendance at the dedication to Dr. King’s memorial took such a courageous stance in solidarity with Martin Luther King, Jr.? None, that’s how many. Zero.

 

 

Over a trillion dollars have been expended on these foreign wars since 2001 —- while people in the US are all losing their homes to foreclosures, school systems are being de-funded, and 40,000 Americans die each year due to a lack health insurance. That’s more people than all who died in auto accidents last year. If Dr. King’s statement is true then America’s spirit must be on life support — needing an end to its profligate defense spending as part of a multi-tiered remedy for rehabilitation. Dr. King knew very well about the US government’s record of going into countries, whose governments refused to be obsequious to their addiction to other nation’s resources, and then destabilizing them by waging war, by assassination of leaders, or both. These are, in fact, the kind of immoral acts of war that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be completely opposed to, along with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq before that. His life should give us ample reason to come to this conclusion, and only this conclusion. However, how many children in America know this? Dr. King’s image has been reshaped by some amoral adults as well as by other adults who have been purposely mis-educated.

 

 

In regards to people of color, especially poor people, Dr. King had a knack for placing their living conditions within the context of institutional racism and its impact on their communities. In 1968, not long before his assassination, Dr. King said, “It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society.” The great civil rights leader said those words within a speech he gave to his staff at a SCLC meeting in Frogmore, South Carolina as he was preparing them for the Poor People’s Campaign. His commitment to black people – and poor people in general – was the polar opposite of the last several presidents, who seemed at times to excel at marginalizing those demographics while catering to their corporate and military bosses.

 

 

In the same “Beyond Vietnam” speech, Dr. King gave a prescient warning when he said, “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” Today in 2018 much of the world is suffering from the impact of America’s insatiable hunger for global domination. The USA’s runaway military industrial complex continues to take lives away from innocent civilians in places like Venezuela, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, to name just a few. The American military industrial complex creates carnage abroad while preventing Americans from having things like a world-class single-payer health care system. In 2018 institutional racism remains a disease that destroys the lives of people of color in America by way of ruthless police brutality, enforced economic inequality and intentionally unequal school systems — to name a few. Also in 2018, runaway capitalism is imposing economic terrorism on countless people and their rapidly disintegrating communities. Dr. King’s words are surely more relevant now than ever before.

 

 

The dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was assured to be a most superficial event replete with superficial politicians and luminaries when it was held back in 2013. The organizers of this event and their corporate cronies were promoting and selling everything from expensive hotel rooms, sponsorship opportunities, to high priced exhibitor space. In essence, they were “honoring” Dr. King by not embracing his legacy of social justice, but by financially capitalizing on his name. There were no speeches of ending America’s imperialist wars, like Dr. King did. Anyone with such a message trying to get on that stage would have been swiftly removed by security. There were no speeches about destroying institutional racism in America. Instead, the lie of America being a post racist country was and still is bandied all around. Don’t expect any talk about waging a war on poverty — after all, some of the sponsors of this event are in fact large multinational corporations (such as Wal-Mart, Monsanto and numerous others) that benefit from destroying local businesses while dissuading their workers from unionizing.

 

 

Dr. King once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” He also famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Ending institutional racism in America, eradicating poverty and homelessness, tearing down the US prison-industrial complex by ending the drug wars, and stopping the US military’s destructive and endless wars – these are the things that really matter. They matter so much that life and death hinge upon each injustice. It is obvious that we cannot expect Democrats or Republicans to vociferously break their collective silence about the cauldron of social injustices that have been brewing in America for quite some time — that job must be ours, starting with the clergy like myself, since Congress and the President refuse to do any such thing. We must raise our collective voices and speak out against them and stand up for justice. As the 2018 King Holiday comes and goes, this is the greatest way we can honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.!

 

 

 

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It’s Time to Throw the Creeps Out!

Humiliation and Shame for Sex Perverts is Deserved

by pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this on my website, click here 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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President Trump, Authority and the Bible

Obeying Authority: When It’s Right and When It’s Not

by pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this on my website, click here 🙂

why dont U just obey Today we live in a world where the abuse of authority has gotten completely out of control. This is about so much more than merely being unhappy about Donald Trump’s presidency or the way he is running the country. This abuse of authority dates all the way back to at least the early 1960’s, when certain people in authority conspired to assassinate president John F. Kennedy on live TV. It was a bloody coup, and Kennedy’s assassins and their compatriots have been running the country ever since. We were lied to about President Kennedy’s assassination by the Warren Commission, and we were lied to again five years later concerning the Robert Kennedy assassination. We were lied to about Rev. Dr. King’s assassination that same violent year of 1968. President Nixon lied to us about Watergate. We were lied to in 2003 as a pretext for invading Iraq for a second time when it was not necessary. And we were lied to by president Obama when he won the 2008 election while telling us all that he would bring us “change we can believe in”. We got some serious changes all right, resulting in the largest spy and unmanned drone network the world had ever seen. Under the Trump presidency, this drone war has not only been stepped up, it has been taken to the next level.

On the home front, the police have become thoroughly militarized, and they are having lots of fun on the job thanks to all their new toys and gadgets, not to mention fully automatic weapons, and even tanks! They can stop us and search us without cause and without the Constitutionally mandated search warrant. They are breaking our doors down in the middle of the night and murdering unarmed citizens. A 92-year-old woman was shot 19 times and killed by the police several years ago right here in Atlanta where I live and work, and people of color as well as the poor are being specifically targeted by the police, often on the flimsiest of pretexts. In the case of the elderly woman, it later turned out the police had the wrong house.

 

Speaking as a minister of the Gospel and as an ambassador for Jesus Christ, I have done a little research as to what the Bible says about governmental authority and the abuse of power. It turns out that there is ample argument for both sides of this coin. The first part has to do with submission to authority in the context of being a law-abiding citizen as the apostle Paul saw it when he wrote the Book of Romans approximately 1,950 years ago. At the time that this was written, all of what is now modern-day Israel was under the military occupation of the Roman empire. Similarly, much of the world today is occupied by the American Empire. Paul wrote these words in that context, so I will quote from the book of Romans, chapter 13 and verses 1-5.

 

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” (Romans 13: 1-5)

 

At the time that the apostle Paul wrote this, the death penalty was commonplace. Capital punishment existed as a means of absolute control through raw intimidation, and that punishment was carried out with utter ruthlessness and without mercy. Moreover, unlike the Jewish religious establishment of that era, Paul was a Roman citizen and as such he was given rights and privileges that were not shared equally with other non-citizens. But how does this compare with life in the early 21st century? Although the death penalty is still administered for capital crimes such as murder, it is carried out with relative infrequency compared to the days of the Roman empire. There were also debtors prisons in Paul’s day. People who ran into financial trouble back in those days were routinely imprisoned until their debts were paid. In contrast, today if one gets into financial difficulty, bankruptcy laws exist that are much more fair and equitable than prison. Compared to the times in which the apostle Paul lived, we get a complete picture of a much more fair, equitable and comparatively lenient world in the present day. Let me now make some comparisons between Paul’s world and ours using this passage of scripture as a backdrop to the picture that I will now paint for you with my words.

 

“The authorities that exist have been established by God”. This one solitary sentence, while being a biblical verse, has been more misused than any other in my opinion (It was reportedly Hitler’s favorite Bible verse). Although Paul sincerely believed at the time that he wrote these words that he was absolutely correct, he was speaking more as a Roman citizen and a Hebrew religious scholar than he was as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In modern America, our rule of law is the Constitution of the United States and so I am writing today in this context as an American citizen. We have the right to free speech and freedom of religion today that did not exist in the apostle Paul’s time. That right which is established under the 1st amendment to the US Constitution allows me to write these words without fear of punishment. As such I am within the law and I will remain so for as long as the law is fair and just. It’s when it’s unfair to the point of being oppressive that things can get a bit dicey. But hold that thought as I continue.

 

The apostle Paul continues his train of thought as he writes further: “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.” The same applies today. Take the patriot movement and so-called “preppers” of today as two examples. Organizing any armed revolt in modern-day America is an idea that I am very much against, since I preach and teach as a man of peace who tries his best to emulate Jesus, the Prince of Peace and the redeemer of my soul. Besides, the police have very well-armed SWAT teams, and there is always the National Guard that exists within any given state. So I think one would be foolhardy to try and take on authority in this manner. On the other hand, it is perfectly legal, and I would also say that it is even necessary, to engage in peaceful protests against laws and policies that we disagree with, particularly when they are unjust. The US Supreme Court’s decision that money equals free speech – the so-called “Citizens United” ruling – is one good example of an unjust law. The counterproductive and sometimes downright stupid War on Drugs is another one, particularly when it comes to the topic of medical marijuana, which clearly needs to be legalized. For a Christian perspective on medical marijuana, get a copy of my book. “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible” by yours truly. The first amendment to our Constitution gives us the right to protest or uphold any and all of the above, something that did not exist during Paul’s time all those centuries ago. In this regard, I think we can interpret this passage of scripture a little differently than what Paul wrote back then.

 

The apostle Paul then continues making his point, and so will I. “Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.” It is sad to say that this is not always true in the modern world. Bad people vilify good people for doing good things for a lot of different reasons, most of which have to do with envy, malice or guilt. Trying as I do to do what is right, I often find myself looked down on by the many godless people I encounter when I’m out riding public transit around town. I put up with the occasional verbal attacks because I am openly Christian, but I do so knowing that God is watching everything I do and He is listening to everything I say. But still, it is wise to be “free from fear of the one in authority”. The best way to follow this principle is to obey the commandments and the teachings of Jesus Christ. We learn his commandments and what his will is by reading his Word daily, even if only for a few minutes (Try a chapter a day, particularly if you’re just getting started; it only takes 5 minutes). Just by doing this, we can keep ourselves out of much trouble. Besides, the Bible says in the Old Testament to “obey the laws of the land, that it may go well with you in the place you are abiding”. Those words were written at least three thousand years ago, and they are still just as true today as they were back then.

 

By the same token, there are things happening and situations unfolding within the US government that are completely contrary to God’s laws. Take the ten commandments as an example. The eighth commandment says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”, which can be expanded to include this simple command: you shall not lie and gossip about people you dislike. Yet America found itself embroiled in a war in Iraq that was based on a lie. Specifically, that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was still in power. Of course, those WMD’s turned out to be non-existent, and it took 4,400 US fatalities – and over 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, one third of whom were children – to find that out. The same applies to Afghanistan. Our troops have been there since 2001, first to find Osama Bin Laden even though everybody in Southern Asia and the Middle East knew he was in Pakistan. Now that he has been deceased for quite a few years, are our troops all back home yet? Absolutely not, effectively making Afghanistan a de facto US territory with an open ended US military presence. The US government has been spending $6 billion dollars a week on this occupation, a thoroughly obscene sum of money by any standard.

 

Yet all the while, there is unemployment here in the USA that is officially around 4%, but that doesn’t count all the millions of long-term unemployed who have stopped looking for work, as well as those who are working part-time when full-time work is what is needed. If these facts were figured into this equation, the true unemployment rate is hovering at around 24 percent. There is no money to create over a million badly needed jobs in our country, but there is an unlimited supply of cash for multiple illegal military occupations and drone strikes all around the globe. This is a moral outrage, and anybody with even a little bit of a conscience should be out in the streets protesting against the US military-industrial complex. That may not be in the words of the Bible, but it most certainly is in the Spirit thereof.

 

Paul then writes in verse 5, “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” This is just as true today as it was when it was first written. Being an outlaw will only get us into trouble, and jail is no place for anybody to be except for the worst criminals. For example, it is a bad idea to drive your car at 90 miles an hour because it is against the law for obvious reasons. On the other hand, I’m old enough to remember famed boxer Muhammad Ali who, back in the 1960’s when he was known as Cassius Clay, had his career interrupted when he had to serve time in prison for refusing to report for the military draft. Going off to war for people who had enslaved his ancestors, he said, in order for him to go and kill even more, was too much to ask and he refused to go fight in the Vietnam war. He spent a year or two in prison, as I recall, for making that decision, and that’s something I’ve always admired about Muhammad Ali. The fact that he converted to Islam makes no difference to me, because the same Almighty God made us both.

The ten commandments must be obeyed, to be sure, but let’s be sure to obey the teachings of Christ all the more. We have been commanded not to steal, lie or commit adultery, nor should we have any false gods in our lives, such as money and all the ‘things’ it can buy. We are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your strength, all your mind, all your soul and all your spirit”, and to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves” (Matthew 22, verses 34-40). We can and should worship the one true God and Him alone, who sent His only Son to die for our sins and then to rise from the dead on the third day after He was crucified. In the same way that we submit ourselves to God we should, as far as it is possible, submit to authority here on earth. But if that authority becomes abusive, especially to the point of being dangerous or menacing to its citizens, then our obedience to that authority should become more discerning. And we should do so not only “because of possible punishment but also because of conscience”. But here in the 21st century, we can and should oppose and protest against the government similarly because of matters of conscience. It is part of the laws of our land as they exist today, and we can and should exercise this right because our rule of law says we can. This is also in keeping with God’s commands, and I hope and pray that it always remains so.

 

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Free book excerpt #15 from author, blogger and Web pastor Paul J. Bern

Of The Bullies, By The Bullies, and For The Bullies

(excerpt from chapter 5 of my book, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome“) © 2012 by Rev. Paul J. Bern all rights reserved

 

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Perhaps the most ominous sign regarding the true nature of economic discrimination and class warfare against the middle class and the poor, which invariably includes people of color, is that of bullying, intimidation and similar forms of abuse directed at employees in the workplace. Although I’m certain that everybody who reads this can think of an example of having a really bad boss, the following alarming example of abusive management in the third world is the best (or worst) example I have found. The question is, could this “method” of management be coming to America’s shores next? Worse yet, is it already here?

More than a decade ago, shoe giant Nike came under fire for its use of sweatshop labor in the production of its products. Most of the criticism focused on its Indonesian workforce, where workers, largely young women, were forced to labor under harsh conditions and abusive supervisors. In 1997, filmmaker Michael Moore made Nike abuses a subject of his film “The Big One”, and met with Nike CEO Phil Knight. Knight explained that the reason his company was using low-wage labor in Indonesia is allegedly because “Americans don’t want to make shoes”.

At the Taiwanese-operated Pou Chen Group factory in Sukabumi, Indonesia, which makes Converse shoes for Nike, and PT Amara Footwear factory in Jakarta, workers alleged that they are paid ultra-low wages, regularly verbally and physically abused, and even fired for the act of taking sick leave (this has since become a fact of life in the American workplace as well). The 10,000 mostly female workers at the Taiwanese-operated Pou Chen plant make around 50 cents an hour. That’s enough, for food and bunkhouse-type lodging, but little else. Some workers interviewed by the AP in March and April described being hit or scratched in the arm ― one man until he bled.

An internal Nike report released to the AP found that ‘nearly two-thirds of 168 factories making Converse products worldwide fail to meet Nike’s own standards for contract manufacturers. Meanwhile, in 2010, Nike CEO Mark Parker received an 84 percent hike in his annual compensation, raking in $13.1 million, an amount many of the workers in Sukabumi and Jakarta can only dream of.

If the top 1% has their way, these kinds of workplace abuses and sweatshop conditions will be making their way to your workplace. Here in Georgia where I live (plus several other states, mostly in the Southeastern US) we have what are called “right to work” laws. Basically what it means is that anyone can be terminated for any reason, or sometimes for no reason at all. So no matter where you work, there is always this cloud of uncertainty hanging overhead, knowing that you can get canned without warning, even if you are doing everything right. Imagine what Jesus would say about this if He came back today! Would he be pleased? Absolutely not! So I would say that being forced to work in what amounts to a hostile work environment is just one more reason for us all to rise up against the top 1% and take back all that they have stolen from us. Our dignity, our human rights and our governmental, economic and political systems will be taken and confiscated from the rich no matter how long it takes!

The fact of the matter is that this type of brute-force management has lately spread from much of America’s professional life over into our personal lives, with the most obvious examples being the militarization of our police departments combined with the lost cause known as the “war on drugs”. In so doing, those who used to be sworn to protect and to serve have become those who harass and intimidate. They have become the lackeys of the top 1%, with some in law enforcement chomping at the bit for an opportunity to lock up a few people and bloody a few heads, if not worse. However, I also believe that there is no small number in the law enforcement community who realize that they are actually part of the 99%. When they do, and especially when they realize that they are just pawns for the 1%, they will join us in droves, coming over to our side having realized that they were only being contemptuously used to guard what the 1% has hoarded at the expense of all the rest of us, including themselves.

The police arms race has very clearly spread well beyond the urban borders of the only cities to actually be targeted by foreign terrorists. Now, police officers routinely walk the beat armed with assault rifles and garbed in black full-battle uniforms. The extent of this weapon “inflation” does not stop with high-powered rifles, either. In recent years, police departments both large and small have acquired bazookas, machine guns, and even armored vehicles and tanks for use in domestic police work, as if such things were truly needed. They aren’t.

The most serious consequence of the rapid militarization of American police forces, however, is the subtle evolution in the mentality of the “men in blue” from peace officer to urban soldier. This development is absolutely critical and represents a fundamental change in the nature of law enforcement. The primary mission of a police officer traditionally has been to keep the peace. Those whom an officer suspects to have committed a crime are treated as just that — suspects. Police officers are expected, under the rule of law, to protect the civil liberties of all citizens, even the bad guys. For domestic law enforcement, a suspect in custody remains innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, police officers operate among a largely friendly population and have traditionally been trained to solve problems using a complex legal system; the deployment of lethal violence is supposed to be an absolute last resort.

Soldiers, on the other hand, are trained to identify and kill the enemy. This is a problem. Cops are increasingly seeing the citizens they’re hired to protect as ‘the enemy’. This is in part how nonviolent protesters end up tear-gassed and shot at. This is part of why violence is so often the first resort of cops dealing with any sort of tricky situation, rather than the last. The idea that we need our cops to be the heavily armed soldiers of the streets instead of, say, social workers and peacekeepers with the power to arrest leads to bad recruiting, bad training, unnecessary deaths, mass distrust of the police by vulnerable communities, and the contemptuous feeling of many cops that they themselves are above the law.

The trend toward a more militarized domestic police force began well before 9/11. It actually began in the early 1980s, as the Reagan administration added a new dimension of literalness to Richard Nixon’s declaration of a “war on drugs.” Reagan declared illicit drugs a threat to national security. In 1981 he and a compliant Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which allowed and encouraged the military to give local, state, and federal police access to military bases, research, and equipment. It authorized the military to train civilian police officers to use the newly available equipment, instructed the military to share drug-war-related information with civilian police and authorized the military to take an active role in preventing drugs from entering the country….

The September 11 attacks provided a new and seemingly urgent justification for further militarization of America’s police departments: the need to protect the country from terrorism. Within months of the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the Office of National Drug Control Policy began laying the groundwork with a series of ads tying recreational drug use to support for terrorism. Terrorism became the new reason to arm American cops as if they were soldiers, but drug offenders would still be their primary targets. In a particularly egregious example comparable to going duck hunting with a bazooka, the seven police officers who serve the town of Jasper, Florida — which has all of 2,000 people and hadn’t had a murder in more than a decade — were each given a military-grade M-16 machine gun from the Pentagon transfer program, leading one Florida paper to run the headline, “Three Stoplights, Seven M-16s.”

In 2006 alone, the Department of Defense distributed vehicles worth $15.4 million, aircraft worth $8.9 million, boats worth $6.7 million, weapons worth $1 million and “other” items worth $110.6 million to local police agencies. After 9/11, police departments in some cities, including Washington, D.C., also switched to battle dress uniforms (BDUs) instead the traditional police uniform. Critics say even subtle changes like a more militarized uniform can change both public perception of the police and how police see their own role in the community. One such critic, retired police sergeant Bill Donelly, wrote in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, “One tends to throw caution to the wind when wearing ‘commando-chic’ regalia, a bulletproof vest with the word ‘POLICE’ emblazoned on both sides, and when one is armed with high tech weaponry.” Departments in places like Indianapolis and some Chicago suburbs also began acquiring machine guns from the military in the name of fighting terror….

The total number of SWAT deployments per year in the U.S. may now top 60,000, or more than 160 per day. SWAT teams have been used to break up neighborhood poker games, sent into bars and fraternities suspected of allowing underage drinking, and even to enforce alcohol and occupational licensing regulations. Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that the police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed. Never mind the collateral damage! Earlier this year, the Department of Education even sent its SWAT team to the home of someone suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program. In so doing, the inability to repay one’s student loan has now become criminalized. This is why we are occupying and will continue to occupy America. Being poor and broke is not a crime. We the American people will not stand idly by while poverty becomes criminalized. Enough is enough!

Class warfare has been declared upon us all by the top 1%, and the main assault against the remainder of us has already commenced. Starting with the Occupy Movement in September 2011, and the ‘We Are the 99%’ Movement at about the same time, the counterattack by the 99% against the elitist 1% has begun in earnest. In so doing, although a second American Civil War has been started by the wealthy elitists, it is we the people – the 99% – who comprise the overwhelming majority of America, and it is we who will finish it. In fact, this counterattack has already begun, it’s just that it wasn’t that apparent at first. It wasn’t supposed to be. In the next chapter I will shed as much light as I can on how this is occurring, and highlight a few methods about how this can be accomplished in as peaceful a manner as possible.

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