Category Archives: injustice

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

The American Dream Has Become a Nightmare

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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

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

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

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as a whole sees this self-imposed isolation by its secular fellow Americans as an affirmation of his own similarly withdrawn theology.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

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)

For better website or small screen viewing, click here 🙂

new-world-order

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?

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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

For better small screen viewing, or for a website view, click here 🙂

download

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The 99% Blog Supplemental Posting Regarding Vanquishing Student Loans

Two Ways to Legally Walk Away From Your Student Loan Without Filing Bankruptcy

by Author Rev. Paul J. Bern

think

Sometimes being a minister doesn’t always involve things having to do with churches or even the concept of religion. Sometimes ministry is something that’s not what would be called ‘spiritual’ at all. Ministry is, to me at least, all about being a person focused exclusively on the needs of others, and sometimes those needs are of the more practical variety. That is what my inspiration is for writing this rather detailed posting today. It is my sincere hope that many hard-pressed individuals would be greatly assisted in their quest for financial independence. By that I mean independence from the damnable scourge of debt, a trap that multitudes the world over are caught up in. Being buried under a mountain of debt is not something that is confined to materialistic America. Debt is a global epidemic, and its root cause is the debt-based economic system we are all stuck living under, otherwise known as capitalism. Our current economic system is based on fractional reserve lending, which is where money is ‘loaned’ into existence as little more than digital bookkeeping entries. If this is starting to read kind of like a scam to you, that’s because it is. No wonder so many people are becoming disenchanted with capitalism!

But to finish my thought from a minute or so ago, I am writing this posting to help people – and because I have been through this very thing myself. Being unable to repay a student loan is not the borrower’s fault. Stagnant wages are to blame, wages that are at about the same level as the mid-to-late 1970’s. That’s why you’re unable to repay your loan(s). There are two ways, and only two ways, that you can legally walk away from your student loan. One is for younger workers, and the other is for older ones, of which I was one. For younger workers, the only way you can legally walk away from a student loan is to get a job in another country, and then become a citizen of that nation by renouncing your American citizenship. Of course, you will need a passport and a work visa to whatever country one wishes to emigrate to. There will also be a waiting period in your country of choice before one can declare legal citizenship, and this varies from country to country. Where are good places to emigrate to? Plenty, with South America, western Europe, parts of coastal Mexico, southeast Asia, or Canada, if you don’t mind cold weather, being among the perennial favorites. There is also a big demand for English teachers in mainland China, and you won’t need a teaching degree either. I have never been to any of the above places except for Canada, so I can’t vouch for any of these countries. Do your own research.

What about older workers still stuck with old student loans that can’t be repaid? Their first choice is the same as above, if they are able to do so. Some will consider emigration to be too impractical, especially those with families and with a mortgage to repay. Unless, of course, you walk away from the mortgage and all your other loans when you emigrate. Some would consider this to be unethical, but with desperate times usually calling for desperate measures there is no law against doing this very thing, and it happens all the time. Besides, since our capitalistic economic system is so predatory anyway, I see nothing wrong with giving them a taste of their own medicine once and a while. Just don’t make a habit of it.

But what about the second choice for older workers who can’t repay their student loans because they can’t find suitable work? The one-word answer is disability, but before you recoil at my response please allow me the chance to point some things out. Age discrimination is an unfortunate fact of the American job market and American life. In numerous other cultures globally speaking, their elders are held in the highest esteem and are viewed as sources of knowledge and experience. In short, older people get a lot more respect overseas than they do here. I had the misfortune of finding this out the hard way. Four months after my 50th birthday, I had a stroke of moderate severity, and it took about 2 weeks to return to my job as a courier contractor. But I was soon unable to continue working due to a series of misfortunes that would take too long to explain. So I returned to my old field of endeavor, which was the technology business. I had worked as a computer and IT professional for 20 years prior to getting into the better-paying transportation business. But I had a lot of trouble finding long-term job assignments from the IT staffing agencies I was working with. Within just a couple of years, those jobs evaporated too.

After a while, my health started failing again, and I eventually would up on disability. Once the process was completed, which took me about 2 years, I called the company that was holding my old student loan and told them I had just been put on disability. I explained my reasons for not having made a payment if over 5 years, telling them my income had dropped by nearly 80% (which can and does happen), and pleading with them for better terms. That’s when I learned that people who have become disabled don’t have to repay the remainder of their student loans. Once one is considered unable to work, the balance on that person’s student loan(s) are forgiven no matter how much they owe. Period, end of story. That’s how I got out from under mine. My only mistake is that I could have filed for disability years before and hadn’t realized I was eligible. So basically, if you are older than 50 years of age here in America, if you lose your job and have no job prospects, you don’t have to have a stroke to get disability. Use some other medical condition – everybody has one – to get yours. You might as well. Your plight exists because your government allowed it to develop through their own mismanagement and malfeasance in office! Now that you’re down and out through no fault of your own, make the government help you get on your feet. There is never any shame in asking for help, and there is certainly no shame in demanding it when you have to!

One more thing about disability, and that is the unfortunate happenstance of court convictions for various crimes, particularly for people of color and minorities. Court convictions, even for nonviolent offenses, can oftentimes be a barrier to employment. In a worst-case scenario, being a convicted felon can qualify some people for disability simply because they’re felons. Sometimes this is for good reason, but not always. But if you’re a middle-aged man or woman, and especially if you’re older than that, disability may be your best way out. I guess that’s all I have to say, and I sure hope this helps a few people retake control of their finances. Everyone enjoy their day!

Tagged , , , ,

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

Fair Warning to All Rich Oppressors;

Not From Myself, But From God

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

For better small screen viewing, click here 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Free book sample #22 from author and blogger Rev. Paul J. Bern

Excerpt from chapter 6 (“Passing the Tipping Point”) of “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”

 

DCIM100MEDIA

Copyright (C) 2011 by Paul J. Bern; all rights reserved

Heeding Eisenhower’s Warning

 

Though it fields the most expensive and technologically sophisticated military force on the world stage, the U.S. government has not decisively won any major military conflict since 1945. Understanding these developments is necessary if Americans are to effectively address their nation’s economic decline and cultural deterioration. Eisenhower’s credibility can hardly be challenged. As FDR’s choice for the position of Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe, he was responsible for planning and supervising the invasion of France and Germany from the west. FDR had such confidence in him that Eisenhower sometimes worked directly with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to the chagrin of bypassed British leaders. He served as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s first supreme commander in 1951. As president (1953-1961), Eisenhower concluded negotiations with China to end the Korean War, maintained pressure on the Soviet Union, and avoided hostilities during two terms in the nation’s highest office, a time of peace. Eisenhower’s election as a Republican ended two decades of New Deal Coalition in the White House, but as president he continued New Deal policies, expanding Social Security and signing into law in 1956 the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, then the largest public works project in American history. Though he chose not to publicly criticize Sen. Joseph McCarthy, he helped remove the pathologically partisan Republican demagogue from power. Historians typically rank “Ike” among America’s 10 greatest presidents.

 

“In his farewell address to the American people, broadcast live from the White House on January 17, 1961, Eisenhower focused specifically on and warned against the dangers attendant upon the unprecedented development of a permanent armaments industry and war machine. In part, he said: “Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations….”

 

“Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society….In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together….”

 

“Noting that technological developments were, “largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture,” Eisenhower warned against the “prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by “the power of money” and the “danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite,” saying that, “it is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system – ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society….” It was imperative, Eisenhower declared, that “we – you and I, and our government, avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow. During the long lane of the history yet to be written, America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield. Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose….”

 

Judging by President Eisenhower’s words, although he aspired elegantly to a better world just as we do, that dream has not yet been realized. We still live in a world of too much “fear and hate” when the mutual goal should be “a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect”. This excerpt from the following Internet posting makes my point for me as it warns against the sinister power of the US military-industrial complex. Fifty years after Dwight D. Eisenhower’s January 17, 1961 speech on the “military-industrial complex”, that threat has morphed into a far more powerful and sinister force than Eisenhower could have imagined. It has become a “Permanent War State”, with the power to keep the United States at war continuously for the indefinite future. But despite their seeming invulnerability, the vested interests behind U.S. militarism have been seriously shaken twice in the past four decades by some combination of public revulsion against a major war, opposition to high military spending, serious concern about the budget deficit and a change in perception of the external threat. Today, the Permanent War State faces the first three of those dangers to its power simultaneously — and in a larger context of the worst economic crisis since the great depression.

 

“The 9/11 attacks were the biggest single boon to the militarist alliance. The Bush administration exploited the climate of fear to railroad the country into a war of aggression against Iraq. The underlying strategy, approved by the military leadership after 9/11, was to use Iraq as a base from which to wage a campaign of regime change in a long list of countries. That fateful decision only spurred recruitment and greater activism by al Qaeda and other jihadist groups, which expanded into Iraq and other countries. Instead of reversing the ill-considered use of military force, however, the same coalition of officials pushed for an even more militarized approach to jihadism. Over the next few years, it too gained unprecedented power over resources and policy at home and further extended its reach abroad. The Special Operations Forces, which operate in almost complete secrecy, obtained extraordinary authority to track down and kill or capture al Qaeda suspects not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in many more countries.

 

The CIA sought and obtained virtually unlimited freedom to carry out drone strikes in secrecy and without any meaningful oversight by Congress. The Pentagon embraced the idea of the “long war”, a twenty-year strategy envisioning deployment of U.S. troops in dozens of countries, and the Army adopted the idea of “the era of persistent warfare” as its rationale for more budgetary resources. The military budget doubled from 1998 to 2008 in the biggest explosion of military spending since the early 1950s and now accounts for 56 percent of discretionary federal spending. The military leadership used its political clout to ensure that U.S. forces would continue to fight in Afghanistan indefinitely, even after the premises of its strategy were shown to have been false. The percentage of Americans who believe the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting has now reached 65 percent for the first time. And as the crisis over the federal debt reaches its climax, the swollen defense budget should bear the brunt of deep budget cuts.

 

As early as 2005, a Pew Research Center survey found that, when respondents were given the opportunity to express a preference for budget cuts by major accounts, they opted to reduce military spending by 31 percent. In another survey by the Pew Center a year ago, 76 percent of respondents, frustrated by the continued failure of the U.S. economy, wanted the United States to put top priority in its domestic problems. The only thing missing from this picture is a grassroots political movement organized specifically to demand an end to the Permanent War State. Such a movement could establish firm legal restraints on the institutions that threaten American Democratic institutions through a massive educational and lobbying effort. This is the right historical moment to harness the latent anti-militarist sentiment in the country to a conscious strategy for political change.

 

Tragically, the strategy for “political change” has not made itself known. What we have is more of the same – the same wars, the same unemployment, the same hunger, the same crime problems, the same homelessness, the same crushing load of debt, and we are all getting really tired of it all. We want out of the rat race, off of the treadmill, and away from the maze that has us all locked in and enslaved to the richest top 1% US money earners. We want our independence back with freedom to choose whatever profession one desires to undertake, and to make that education free and equal for everyone. To prevent hunger, homelessness and crime simply give every citizen the freedom to go back to school at any time, and it should all be free. We can have the best educated society in one generation if we choose this path. What we have instead is continuous war. Allow me to share with you a few facts regarding our troops activities overseas.

 

SOME QUICK FACTS ON WARS AND DEFENSE SPENDING

  • The National Security Advisor says there are less than 1000 ISIS operatives in Syria and Iraq and we have over 30,000 troops and probably as many mercenaries chasing them.
  • Maintaining one American soldier in Afghanistan for one year (yep, we’re still there too) costs one million dollars. This expenditure could be for twenty jobs at home with a salary of $50,000 each. Like, say, police officers and teachers,
  • There are now over 90,000 battlefield casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Over 500,000 veterans patients from these two wars have flooded into VA hospitals and clinics. That’s one new war casualty walking into a VA medical facility every five minutes of every day—about 9,000 new patients every month with no end in sight.
  • The Iraqis still don’t have a government and Christians are being ethnically cleansed.
  • The combined cost of the Iraq war alone is likely to be more than three trillion dollars. (Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel winning economist)
  • 190,000 AK-47s handed out by the US Army to Iraqi security force recruits vanished and wound up in the hands of militants.
  • Afghanistan soldiers were shooting our troops at the peak of the US occupation. This was rarely if ever reported by the Lame Stream Media.
  • The total DOD budget for the current fiscal year is over $700 billion. It is an amount just under what the entire rest of the world spends for defense and most of them are allies. America’s defense budget is about three times the combined budgets of China, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran.
  • The Defense Department spends in a few hours more than al Qaeda spends in an entire year. For this post-World War II high in spending, we get the smallest Army, Navy, and Air Force we have had since 1946. And, our tanks, ships, and aircraft are, on average, older than they have ever been before.$57,077.60. That’s what we’re paying per minute for the American Empire’s military activities in the Middle East and North Africa alone. Keep that in mind — just for a minute or so. It takes an estimated $1 million to send each of them surging into ‘wherever’ for one year. So a 30,000-person surge will be at least $30 billion, which brings us to that $57,077.60. That’s how much it will cost you, the taxpayer, for one minute of that surge. By the way, add up the yearly salary of a Marine from Camp Lejeune with four years of service, throw in his or her housing allowance, additional pay for dependents, and bonus pay for hazardous duty, imminent danger, and family separation, and you’ll still be many thousands of dollars short of that single minute’s sum. But perhaps this isn’t a time to quibble. After all, a job is a job, especially in the United States, which has lost seven million jobs since December 2007…..

 

Get yours direct from the author ($18.95) at www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations and scroll to bottom of page. Many thanks to all!

Get the digital version for iBooks, Kobo, Kindle, Nook, Sony and still more versions from Smashwords.com (only $4.95) at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/587473

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

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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

Sinister FDA Won’t Approve Cutting Edge Flu Drug,

Proves Our Government Is Working Against Us

by pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in any browser, click here 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Free book excerpt #18 from author and blogger Rev. Paul J. Bern

What If We Didn’t Need Money?

(excerpt from “Occupying America: We Shall Overcomeby Rev. Paul J. Bern)

Watch the video at http://youtu.be/Z20l9ohORN4

f0c38-new2boccupy2bcover

What are these law enforcement folks protecting to begin with? The assets, infrastructure and personal privacy and security of the top 1%, that’s what! The problem with that is the top 1% regard everything in sight as theirs, as if all the people in the lower income brackets – the other 99% – didn’t deserve one stinking thing. In short, its all a game of acquiring the most stuff, the biggest collection of material goods of one kind or another, the fastest or most luxurious car, the most powerful truck and the biggest house. And for what? If one of us should die tomorrow, he or she can take absolutely none of it with them. As Rev. Billy Graham used to preach, “nobody ever saw a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer behind it”. It’s all temporary, left behind when we are dead and gone, as all of us eventually will be, including me. It’s what we leave behind that counts.

Maybe we should ask ourselves – if you haven’t done so already – what kind of legacy do we want to leave? Not someone who did great things in the sight of others or who made a great fortune, but someone who took care of the needs of the people on a case by case basis. Not someone who is lauded with praise by men and women, but one who seeks the praise and approval of Almighty God as I and others like me do. I love giving some homeless guy a couple of dollars, paying an elderly widow’s electric bill to keep it from being turned off, donating a used computer to an inner city school kid who needs one, and never mind their skin color either. Performing volunteer work, giving generously to your church (it doesn’t have to be financial aid, there are many ways to help), sponsoring a hungry kid overseas, or adopting one here at home are the things people remember about us after we have passed, and so will God. We are to be leaving behind the things that people remember about us long after we are gone, and they must be positive things that build people up, not negative things that tear us down. We are to be contributors, being sure to give wherever possible and not living just to see how much we can earn, or even take. Takers are losers who leave holes in time.

What if we didn’t need money at all? What if we had an alternative way to buy things without using traditional cash, checks or plastic? What if we didn’t have to work at all, or maybe not nearly as much? Using profit as a mechanism for the control of liquid assets by and for the top 1% when the overwhelming majority of Americans have no access to those assets is obviously an economic barrier that keeps the remaining 99% of us in a bare subsistence mode. This is clearly unethical – moreover, it is discriminatory and so its constitutionality is questionable at best! Eliminating the need for money instantly wipes out poverty while putting the 99% in a favorable position to have all their basic needs met, such as shelter with a minimum of 500 square feet per resident, clean and safe food and drinking water, electricity and internet access. The 3D printing technology already in use – and still being developed – can be used to manufacture much of what else we will need. The replacement of money, and of the work that is necessary in order to earn it, are already being accomplished by computers and robots.

Technology has eliminated jobs across the board on an alarming scale – from secretarial positions to auto workers. The resulting crisis is compounded by our culture’s deep denial of the basic problem. I’m old enough to remember the ’60s and ’70s when so many pundits described the coming glories of the “cybernetic age.” Then computers would at last liberate us, they promised, from the drudgery of 9 – 5 jobs. Back then the worry was, what would we do with all that leisure time? That leisure time has since proven frustratingly elusive. Instead, most of us are working harder than ever as our employing firms “downsize.” Alternatively, we’re pounding the pavement looking for non-existent jobs to replace those that have been “outsourced” to Asia somewhere. Moreover, so many of the “jobs” available to the more recently laid off labor force are extremely low-paying to a humiliating degree (such as the current and pathetic minimum wage of $7.25 hourly here in Atlanta; in rural Georgia it’s a paltry $5.25!). In the end, these “jobs” are nothing more than useless make-work projects that are completely unnecessary, and in some cases even destructive. Things like weapons manufacturing, the military itself, many (but not all) telemarketing companies, most insurance companies and – above all! – Wall Street jobs connected with financial speculation. None of these occupations are truly productive. And naming them as I have represents only the tip of the iceberg.

Still other jobs can easily be eliminated by technology. Think of what happened to Encyclopedia Britannica that didn’t see Wikipedia coming. Think of the music industry recently involuntarily “downsized” by file sharing. And what about newspapers, currently in crisis because of alternative media websites like Democracy Now!, The Corbett Report, Alternet, Rick Hunter, Op-ed News and Truthdig, among others? Similarly Web-based education (sometimes called “distance learning”) is having its own impact on higher education as brick-and-mortar campuses find themselves headed for financial oblivion. Even the oil industry is sun-setting. Imagine what that means for an entire economy and lifestyle absolutely dependent on oil. New technology will soon turn every building into an energy power plant. Surplus energy will be stored in hydrogen cells. And the energy produced will be shared person-to-person across a “smart grid”. Think of the jobs that will be eliminated as a result – including those required by the energy wars that will be rendered superfluous. We are kept from discussing it only because our “drill, baby, drill” politicians have their heads so firmly stuck in the tar sands of Canada and the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. Consequently, the U.S. economy is being left in the dust.

There is an enormous amount of productive work crying out to be done across our country. The U.S. infrastructure is crumbling at an alarming rate. Green technologies in general, particularly the “smart grid”, high speed rail and public transportation are the most obvious needs. The number of potential jobs connected with them is in the millions. But there are not nearly enough green jobs to replace the ones that have been eliminated by technology and those that should be discarded because they are unsustainable, environmentally destructive and morally deficient.

So what should be done about all of this? Share the work! None of us has to work that hard unless we want to. Thanks to new technologies we could work four-hour days or three-day weeks, or for only six months a year, or every other year and still make a living wage. We could retire at 40. And this is possible world-wide. And how to pay for all of this? For starters, cut back the military budget 60%. That alone would make billions of dollars available every day just in the U.S. alone Tax the rich and the corporations – those who make up the “1%” that has ripped off the U.S. working class on an unprecedented scale over the last 30 years and more. (Remember the 91% top-level tax bracket that was in place following World War II? We could reinstate that!) Share the excess wealth or risk losing it. Boldly restructure the economy. Embrace new technology’s promise along with the life of leisure and volunteer service that it offers. It is all now within our grasp. Since the government is unwilling or incapable of the restructuring I am calling for, it is up to us, “we the people”, to get the job done ourselves. Worker-owned co-ops and factories, little 1 or 2 person micro-businesses, and non-profits would make up the greater part of the business world of tomorrow…..

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

Buy the print version on Amazon by clicking here 🙂

Now available in Kobo, Nook, Kindle & Fire, plus all Apple/Mac devices!! $3.95 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/587480

Get it in audio format at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daudible&field-keywords=occupying+america%3A+we+shall+overcome

Watch the video at http://youtu.be/Z20l9ohORN4

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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

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

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

legalization cover 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy direct (reduced to $9.95, 200 pages) at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

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

Get it on Kindle ($4.95) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=cannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A154606011%2Ck%3Acannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible

Get it on Smashwords.com (all Apple/Mac devices, Nook, Kobo, Fire and more) at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/666084

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,
Advertisements