Category Archives: inspirational

Renewing America As Progressive Christians Should

The USA Is Becoming A Failed State:

Seven Simple Steps to Turn It Around

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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As I look around me today, I see the United States of America as a failing country. There are just too many things going wrong with America today all at once! Failing to adequately tackle the inherent problems in our economic system: Failing to reflect on the deep flaws in our system of government: Failing to repair our image abroad: Failing in education, in health care, in human rights, and in religious tolerance. In fact, we look a lot like the USSR in 1990 – except with a lot more big-screen TV’s. And so I have composed this week’s commentary listing what I view as our worst problems, followed by some helpful suggestions for solutions to the mess that we Americans find ourselves in today.

 

First, a quick word about president Trump. I have already written at length about my feelings regarding Donald Trump’s handling – or mishandling, depending on your point of view, of his still-new presidency. But there is another side to all the hub-bub about president Trump, and that is the fact that he is a Washington outsider. Trump came into Washington, DC last January to shake things up, and he has run into a mountain of resistance from the existing political establishment. Instead of “draining the swamp”, the swamp has nearly swallowed up president Trump! But at the end of the day, much of the storm of controversy about the Trump presidency has been generated by the press, and at least as much as the Democrats, if not more.

 

Some people may well take issue with my contention that the political and governmental systems are broken, including the courts and penal systems, or even that we have a great health care system. I respect anyone’s right to those opinions – freedom of expression is one of the few things our country hasn’t managed to screw up in the last couple of hundred years. But in every case, the data backs me up. Allow me to try and substantiate my claims first, before suggesting a few possible solutions. First, let’s take a look at the economy: in 2009 alone, 131 banks failed. That number had dropped to 5 in 2016, and there have been 5 more so far in 2017 with more than 6 months to go. The 2008 bailout granted billions of dollars – with strings attached – to private companies who then used the money to short-sell the market, make countless billions more, hand the government back its money (removing the strings) and pay out lavish bonuses while Americans lost their jobs. Meanwhile, the median family income is less today than it was in 1970.

 

Our government, meanwhile, is no longer run by competing ideologies but by corporate interests (I include both parties in this category since both are moneymaking enterprises disguised as political parties). There are good Republicans who would prefer that your cancer-stricken child had health insurance. There are responsible Democrats who are horrified by our country’s ‘spend now and pay later’ approach to finance. But since they are beholden to their version of a higher power – corporate America, Wall St. and the almighty dollar – they have convinced themselves to vote with their wallets, not with their conscience. At the Federal level, AT&T and Goldman Sachs combined have contributed over $75M over the last 20 years to both political parties, and the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, plus the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, aren’t far behind.

 

Across the world America’s reputation is tarnished, perhaps irrevocably, and yet we find our President – in the words of former vice-president Dick Cheney – following the ‘Bush Doctrine’ of a surge in forces occupying a foreign country with seemingly little chance of categorical success. We are seen as an economic and religious bully, and we don’t seem to care. We vilify our political enemies for their human rights records, and import cheap goods from countries we know to exploit child labor. We are, to much of the world, intolerable hypocrites. About this Jesus said, “….you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11: 46) Isn’t this exactly where we find ourselves in 21st century America?

 

Apologists for the American health care system, not to mention “Obama-care” or so-called “Trump-care”, will continue to defend those systems at all costs, claiming that so-called ‘socialist’ states such as England, France and Sweden (which, incidentally, is actually a constitutional monarchy governed by a center-right coalition) kill their citizens at will in order to save money, or make you wait thirty years for a kidney transplant. Deflecting (especially with such utter garbage) doesn’t make our system any better, and it’s always bad business practice to spend too much time putting down the competition. When our own kids can’t get health care because mom and dad have no money to pay, something is terribly wrong. Any anthropologist will tell you that we took better care of our young when we were Neanderthals – so what’s changed? For one in six of our citizens to remain uninsured is a national disgrace. We deny basic human rights to our own people! Whom you choose to marry is not a matter for the government to decide, it is a matter for the individual (“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord”). So it is for what religion to follow, if any (although I will continue to vigorously preach pure Christianity as the only true way to eternal salvation). Some may not like our choices, but they are inalienable rights and you should be free to exercise them as you will. Our US Constitution says you can (search: First Amendment).

 

As far back as 2005, statistics showed that hate crimes against Muslims were increasing 50% year-on-year. Even so, the FBI reported that in 2016 hate crimes against homosexuals had increased 10% from 2015, and those motivated by religion had risen by 12%. This is outrageous in the extreme as far as I am concerned. The track we have taken over the last fifty years has been the wrong one, and America is way past due for a serious course correction. We have let corruption, greed, fame, intolerance and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge our problems almost ruin our nation. We are failing to live the American Dream, and if we don’t start now our children will never even know what it was. I have several fairly radical ideas. I’m sure you have some of your own, and I welcome them in the comments below. I have chosen not to expound on what I personally think the consequences of these actions would be, as I would be diving headlong into speculation.

 

1. Immediately and totally stop all corporations from giving money to political parties. Reverse Citizens United and make our elections publicly funded!

 

2. Make a promise to our children: you will be well-educated, and you will be treated with dignity and respect when you are sick.

 

3. Change the game. Capitalism is broken and must be replaced, and the smoothest transition I have found is that of a resource-based instead of a debt-based economic system. Any time you have less than 1% of America’s population controlling the upper 99% of the cash flow, some legislated redistribution is clearly called for (or maybe an executive order to that effect). We can start with worker owned businesses instead of shareholder ownership. Public business ownership will still exist, but smaller – such as a cooperative – will be much better in many cases.

 

4. Take a page out of the Bible and just treat everyone else with some genuine respect and unconditional love. If it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for you. About this the apostle John wrote, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us, so we ought to love one another” (1st John 4, verses 10-11). True love for each other means unconditional love with no strings attached! Respect others and yourself as well. Leave the gays alone. Leave the blacks alone. Leave the immigrants alone whether you think they’re here legally or not. Leave the Muslims or the Christians alone, too. Even the atheists, despite the fact that they’re all totally lost! Pray for them instead! When respect departs, enmity is the next train along.

 

5. Pay for it. Child labor is inexcusable! If it costs an extra ten bucks, or extra hundred bucks to buy something that was made by willing workers, pay for the darned thing! And the same goes for government. You want health care? Pay for it. More troops? Pay for them. Tax breaks for corporations? Not a chance, they have way too many of those already.

 

6. Form coalitions based on issues, not parties. Not every NRA member is anti-abortion. Not every tree-hugging hippie thinks that owning a gun is wrong. When a party tells you how you should think, and what issues should be thrown together into what bucket, you’re a lot closer to communism than you think you are.

 

7. Buy American whenever possible. From what I can tell, the great empires of yore – from Egypt to Rome to England – were ‘first-to-market’ with some manufacturing innovation or other, that led to more innovations, and greater strides, that in turn led to them becoming the largest producers of goods in their region. This happened to the USA from the dawn of the twentieth century until the ‘fifties. Then we began to transform into a service economy, just as those others did. Producing goods is what is making China become a world powerhouse, and if we are to compete, we must produce our own. American goods are always equal to the best even though they are almost never the cheapest, but if we are to reinstate our status as the world’s greatest country, we need to start by supporting our own businesses and workers. We’re in a really big mess, but if enough people commit to working together to solve our problems, we can do anything we set our minds to!

 

 

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

After Vietnam” 50 Years Later

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our modern world in prophecy from long ago

A Description of Our Modern World From 2,700 Years Ago

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this on my website, click here! 🙂

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For my first posting of this new year I’m feeling God nudging me – well okay, I mean encouraging me – to compose another warning about the tumultuous times that are rapidly approaching. I always get attacked on the Web for these kinds of postings. Some compare it to yelling “fire!” in a movie theater, and I’ve been called worse than that, but I don’t care. This is the mission God has given me, this is what I am doing with my life, and I will let nothing stand in my way! I can’t – it’s critically important that I bring you all up to speed, spiritually speaking, about the events that are currently unfolding, and what the Bible has to say about it all.

What I’m going to write about today will be the first 9 verses out of the 4th chapter of the Book of Hosea in the Old Testament (that’s right between Daniel and Joel in the latter part of the O.T.). So let me quote the first 5 verses for everyone, and it reads as follows: “Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying. But let no man bring a charge, let no man accuse another, for your people are like those who bring a charge against a priest. You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you.”

The Book of Hosea was written in the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the eighth century BC, during the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 BC). Hosea (הושֵעַ) prophesied during a dark and melancholic era of Israel‘s history, the period of the Northern Kingdom’s decline and fall in the 8th century BCE. The apostasy of the people was rampant, having turned away from God in order to serve both the calves of Jeroboam and Baal, a Canaanite god. During Hosea’s lifetime, the kings of the Northern Kingdom, their aristocratic supporters, and the priests had led the people away from the Law of God, as given in the Pentateuch. Forsaking the worship of God, they worshiped other gods, especially Baal, the Canaanite storm god, and Asherah, a Canaanite fertility god. Other sins followed, including homicide, perjury, theft, and sexual sin. Hosea declares that unless they repent of these sins, God will allow their nation to be destroyed, and the people will be taken into captivity by Assyria, the greatest nation of the time. The prophecy of Hosea centers around God’s unending love towards a sinful Israel. In this text, God’s agony is expressed over the betrayal of Israel.

Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.” There are two schools of thought regarding this first verse. The first are the traditionalists, who believe that the warnings are only for the Jewish nation (“you Israelites”). The second school of thought, of which I am a part, extrapolates this first verse, and by extension the entire Old Testament, as being applicable to both Jew and Gentile alike, since the apostle Paul wrote that “salvation is first for the Jew, and then for the Gentile”. So even though this is from a relatively obscure book of the Old Testament, it is still just as applicable today as it was in the 8th century BCE when this was written.

There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God…”. Isn’t that our very situation today? We lack faithfulness towards God and other people to whom we owe faithfulness, such as our families, our bosses and co-workers. So many of us are living only for ourselves, oblivious to their surroundings and those they are supposed to interact with, and ultimately oblivious to God. And, to put it bluntly, there are too many who refuse to acknowledge God. Many of these people (but not all!) are set in their ways to the point that I have stopped talking to them. All I can do is warn them. But those who go on being atheists or agnostics, I will not stand in your way any longer, so please continue as you are. Or those individuals who worship Satan, well, you’re on the wrong track in life, but God can and will bring you back if you are both willing. That’s all I care to say about that for now.

There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.” Watch a Hollywood action movie and this is exactly what you see. There’s lots of cursing and killing, adultery and bloodshed, lying and stealing. Sadly, this is a reflection of American society in the early 21st century. The lyrics in much of popular music breaks all bounds. “Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.” What does this look like to you? I’ll tell you all what this is, it’s the mysterious animal, fish and bird deaths that are occurring globally for seemingly no reason. Dead fish washing up on beaches by the tens of thousands, birds dropping out of the air literally out of the blue, and vanishing species like the polar bear, the honey bee, the elephant and many more – all these are the hallmarks of our generation, a generation where humankind’s rampant pollution of our environment is literally poisoning the earth to death. It’s all our fault!

The Bible says clearly in Genesis chapter 1, verse 28, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’.” So it clearly states right here that God put us in charge of the earth, to properly conserve its resources and preserve all the life contained in the earth, and to manage it in a clean and orderly fashion. Well, we’ve trashed it instead! Even now as I write this, there is a sea of plastic bobbing up and down in the middle of the Pacific ocean that is literally the size of Texas! Our ground water has been polluted, the oceans have been poisoned, and the air contaminated. We have done this to ourselves, and even where we haven’t, this systemic poisoning has been done with our consent through our silence about the matter. It seems there have been too many people who are unwilling to stand up and fight the powers controlling our world. This too has to come to an end. Stand up and fight for your right to quality of life, because if you don’t we will lose it forever!

But let no man bring a charge, let no man accuse another…. You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you.” This is why nothing is being done about the pollution of the earth and the trashing of our own environment. Those in charge in government aren’t governing, and the leaders in the churches aren’t leading. Everyone is wallowing in their own complacency – and sometimes outright laziness – as they cash their paychecks every week or month or whatever while doing only the bare minimum of work required. The leaders we have selected are no better than ourselves, and are often worse! It’s all our own fault, we did this to ourselves – so let’s not accuse one another, for we are all just as guilty – meaning we have all got some repenting to do. And now let me conclude this week’s message, starting at verse 6:

So I will destroy your mother – my people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I have rejected you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I will also ignore your children. The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful. They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness. And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.” (Hosea 4, verses 6-9)

I will destroy your mother? Is God going to kill all our moms because we’ve all been bad? “Your mother” refers to ‘mother earth’, our planet! The prophet Hosea was warning us that if we persist in destroying the earth, God may decide to lend us a helping hand, so to speak. That ‘helping hand’s’ name is World War Three, and that is what God is going to send us if we don’t straighten up and mend our ways. “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge”. Ignorance and complacency are not blissful, they are what happens when we choose to disconnect ourselves from the world around us and the people in it. Ignorance and complacency are the negative results of not wanting to know, or of not caring enough to want to help initiate change for the better. Ignorance and complacency are the status quo.

Because you have rejected knowledge, I have rejected you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I will also ignore your children.” Rejected knowledge? Just look at all the mumbo-jumbo that passes for school textbook curriculum these days! Look at all the runaway kids and the ones who get kidnapped and sold to sex traffickers. What about the ones addicted to video games, online porn, drugs and alcohol? The list goes on and on, and it’s up to us to straighten this mess out. It’s about a reboot of our leadership from the bottom up, starting with the parents in the home. “They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness. And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.” If America does not repent of her sins against God, of her adulteries, thefts, murders and other crimes against one another, God is going to destroy this land the same way he destroyed ancient Israel during the time of Hosea the prophet – by military conquest! So repent, all you people who are living sinfully as I have just described, or America will soon be no more. The land will still be here, I think, but the country will be gone forever. What a sad day that will be! We’re running out of time, people. Let’s all band together and begin doing wonderful and laudable things with our lives. Who knows? Maybe we can change God’s mind if we try hard enough. Until next time.

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As the Annual Orgy of Materialism Draws Mercifully to a Close….

The Devolving of Christmas: An American Tragedy

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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To read this on my website, click here! 🙂

It’s that time of year again, the closing days of the holiday shopping season when people by the millions will finish spending an average of $750.00 each between now and December 31st on a bunch of cheap imported Chinese crap that nobody really needs. The worst part for American consumers is that all these inexpensive imported products from the sweat shops of the 3rd world are designed and manufactured in such a way as to make sure the items wear out sooner rather than later in the hopes that the American consumer will go out and buy a replacement, hopefully sooner rather than later. The giant US multinational corporations have figured out that if you make a product just good enough to hold out for a little while, you can still get people to buy it even though it is made as cheaply as possible. Unfortunately for these same monstrosity corporations, the American consumer has begun to wake up and realize they have been had and that things have been this way for a long time, and they’re getting a little madder about it each day. Their fury and rage first manifested itself in the Arab Spring of 2011, followed by rioting in Spain and England that summer, followed by civil unrest in Greece that has yet to completely simmer down. The civil war in Syria similarly rages on as I write this. This has been followed here in the US and Europe in the form of the Occupy Wall Street and “we are the 99%”, protest movements of which I am proud to be a part, and both of which are still very much ongoing, and most recently the Black Lives Matter movement.

All I’m saying is that people everywhere have become more questioning, more critical or have even become opposed to capitalism as we know it due to what is increasingly being viewed as its predatory nature and its emphasis of profits over people. Many of us, including myself, are completely up in arms over the state of our country. The Christmas shopping season is just one symptom of capitalism gone overboard, with a mad dash to acquire more and more material things just for their own sake at a time when we are supposed to be quietly celebrating the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is indicative of a society that has lost its sense of direction and lost touch with its purpose for being. I was one of millions of people who boycotted Black Friday last month as a way to peacefully protest being forced to live in a world where the main thing that matters most seems to be how much money one can make.

I’ve been there and done all that. I owned a small computer store all through the 1990’s and made some real good money. I never got rich, but I’m okay with that. I know what it’s like to have all that, and do you know what I found out about wealth and riches? It’s just a big trap, a never-ending treadmill of the pursuit of profits until it consumes your whole life, until in the end you realize that it was all just an illusion. Like a game of Monopoly, when the profit machine comes to an end (and sooner or later they all do) and the game is over, everything goes back in the box only to start all over again. That’s all capitalism and the taking of profits is – one big Monopoly game where the person with the most money wins, and always at the expense of everybody else. Is it any wonder that capitalism and the taking of profits has ruined the spirit of Christmas, let alone the whole country? Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong at all with turning a nice profit, but not if it means ripping off your customers and cheating your employees!

What have we become? Like cattle and sheep headed to slaughter, we roll out at this time of the year at the bidding of shop-till-you-drop gimmicks. Meanwhile, we fight and claw for the blue light special at the various suburban box stores offering low wages and no benefits to staff. So, how much can we save? Wally World is offering 25% off, while Sneers is offering 30%. Let’s run to Sneers! It’s only 30 more miles down the road and we’ve got the gas! What about the Chinese people slaving in non union factories at pennies a day? What do they make off the deal? Who is actually winning? Is it really the mesmerized consumers teary and googly-eyed while giggling gleefully at 30, 40, and 50% off deals? Our politicians say it’s the American workers. Yes, it is our right to slave part time at minimum wages and no health benefits while we shop till we drop looking for that fantastic deal. We make this statement as employees of corporations are lining the pockets of senators, congressmen and supreme-court justices in Washington D.C. while seated on presidential cabinets making decisions regarding our planet’s future, our future, and our children’s future. Meanwhile our consumerism is devouring the planet into what might soon become more lifeless than the moon or, God forbid, a Wall Street tycoon. Yet, mesmerized by commercials with intelligence levels less than a jackass after having a lobotomy, we roll blindly into the gates of the shopping centers, the strip malls and humongous big box stores. For example, consider the following December 2013 release from the Associated Press.

“A shopper in Los Angeles pepper-sprayed her competition for an X-box and scuffles broke out elsewhere around the United States as bargain-hunters crowded malls and big-box stores in an earlier-than-usual start to the madness known as Black Friday. Toys R Us opened for the second straight year on Thanksgiving itself. And some shoppers arrived with sharp elbows. On Thanksgiving night, a Walmart in Los Angeles brought out a crate of discounted X-boxes, and as a crowd waited for the video game players to be unwrapped, a woman fired pepper spray at the other shoppers “in order to get an advantage,” police said. Ten people suffered cuts and bruises in the chaos, and 10 others had minor injuries from the spray, authorities said. The woman got away in the confusion, and it was not immediately clear whether she got an X-box. On Friday morning, police said, two women were injured and a man was charged after a fight broke out at an upstate New York Walmart. And a man was arrested in a scuffle at a jewelry counter at a Walmart in Kissimmee, Fla. In the U.S., Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, has taken steps in recent years to control its Black Friday crowds following the 2008 death of one of its workers in a stampede of shoppers. This year, it staggered its door-buster deals instead of offering them all at once.” (Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press)

Lennon and McCartney of the Beatles wrote in the song “Revolution”, “you say you want a revolution, well you know, we’d all love to change your head.” Yes, it is more than changing Wall Street. It is, ultimately, about changing ourselves. This Christmas, change how you celebrate. Speak from your heart to your kids about consumerism and how it is affecting the planet as well as our behavior. Ladies, instead of buying your guy a new bag of golf clubs, give him a night he will never forget. Be creative, be loving, be tender and compassionate. Enjoy each other. To enjoy is to enjoin, to enjoin is to unite. Consumerism keeps us isolated by gimmicks of sensationalist advertising of unrealistically beautiful women, “perfect” children and gorgeous hunks of men that are created off the corporate mold. And who is being molded by all these advertising gimmicks? You are! For what purpose? To make others rich. Don’t go there this year. Find richness in your heart and share that this Christmas. And keep more of your money.

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John Glenn — What a Legacy!

John Glenn Saw No Conflict Between Faith and Science

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Less Is More During This Year’s Holidays

Making Do With Less In A Season of Excess

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This just arrived at the White House and every church in America, all at once…..

If God Sent An Email To Our Leaders

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

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Given the state of affairs of leadership in general throughout the world, and particularly here in the US with the current crop of Christian “leaders” such as Sarah Pailin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckaby and Michelle Bachman, I can’t help but wonder what God must be thinking about all this. As you recall, Mr. Romney stated during the closing days of his 2012 presidential campaign that, if elected president, his first act as chief executive would be to launch an airstrike on Iran. Keep in mind that this is the same guy who is opposed to abortion and who calls himself “pro-life”. He fights for the rights of the unborn, but if you’re already alive and living in Iran, you’re toast. Go figure.

Of course, if you live in Syria, where the government is slaughtering the governed and where there is no oil, you’re on your own. Yet in Iraq, where there is plenty of oil, we have occupied that country since 2003 while killing over 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians, over half of whom were women and children. But that war was supposed to be different because we toppled a terrible dictator. Never mind that that same dictator, none other than Saddam Hussein himself, was a former CIA collaborator and “asset”. So much for loyalty among allies. Yes, that’s what our country has been doing in the Middle East since Gulf War 1 in 1990-91. And it is the American military-industrial-incarceration complex that has been doing this same thing throughout the globe since the Cold War of the 20th century.

Meanwhile here at home, one person in five depends on SNAP benefits to eat. Lots of people can’t afford medical care or insurance so they show up at emergency rooms, only when they absolutely have to, knowing that the medical bills they are about to incur will bankrupt them. Twenty four million Americans can’t find sufficient work (if any), but since they can’t afford to go back to school and get retrained because of the staggering cost of America’s for-profit higher education system, they remain stuck in their situation with no relief in sight. As I wrote in my first book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” (scroll down after clicking the link), our country has more than enough money to pay for lifetime medical care and higher education for every single American who wants either or both. All they have to do is call off all the endless wars and bring our troops home.

As I explained in this 2011 book, if the US government took all the money that is spent in just one day on the wars/occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan and put it into an interest-bearing bank account, there would be ample funding for 4-year college educations for every school kid in America from pre-K through high school, including tuition, books, housing, food and transportation. Internet too. Yeah, just one day’s war expenditures would do that. Besides, there is sufficient legal precedent in doing this very thing in the form of the GI Bill that was passed by Congress after the end of World War 2. If they could reeducate G.I.’s back then (and that law remains in effect), they can do it for everybody now.

But what do we have instead? Overseas military adventures purely for the sake of economic domination by the US against any country regardless of cost. This is not just unsustainable, it is sheer madness! Our government has been taken over by a bunch of psychopaths. They operate from behind the scenes bent on world conquest at any cost, failing to understand that the “superpower” era is over, and they are an integral part of the so-called “new world order”. Unless they are stopped they will take the world over the brink of the abyss of World War 3. Yet these people are, by and large, religious conservatives of one church denomination or another. Their counterparts in the Muslim world are similarly conservative religious fundamentalists. Only their names for God are different. Yet, as far as I am concerned, there is only one true God who is undoubtedly far greater than the sum of all the world’s different religious faiths combined. If this very same almighty God, who is “The Great I Am”, sent us an email about all this mess down here on earth, I think it would be worded something like this:

“My children, I appear before you now to bestow upon you a supplemental to the New Testament. I offer this directly to the peoples of earth, without intermediary, cleric, or agent of any kind. Circumstances have compelled me to sever all ties, contracts and assignments with my earthly representatives. I have been, in fact, very dissatisfied with their performance of their duties for some time. Children get molested in some churches, adultery runs rampant in others, while still others have turned their churches into businesses and have enriched themselves with material possessions beyond all reason. You pastors and evangelists who drive around in cars with six-figure price tags while flying around in your own jets, you know who you are. There’s nothing wrong with having a nice car and a comfortable house, but a good bit of that plane money should have been used to feed the poor and house the homeless, whom you are ignoring. But the rape of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and other crimes committed in my name by the USA, not counting the additional war plans they have made, has forced my hand. All my earthly representatives are now terminated! They no longer speak for me.”

“Humankind, however, remains in my affections and always shall. But it would be remiss of me not to explain why I have taken such drastic measures. War displeases me. Five thousand years of war among the humans over the right way to pronounce my name, not to mention the earth’s resources which I gave you, has exhausted my patience. I will no longer be responsible for any more murders committed under color of my authority. Although I do not require that you worship me in any certain way, I much prefer that you who claim to believe in me should put some legs on your faith. It’s good when you fast and pray, but it’s far better to go and find someone in need and doing whatever you can to help him or her.”

“Someone who goes to church every Sunday but does nothing more during the week is not as faithful in my eyes as someone who donates to charity, who volunteers their free time, who is a role model for the fatherless, or who visits the sick, the elderly and the prisoner, and someone who is a defender of the widow, the orphan, the homeless, the mentally ill, and other vulnerable individuals. I created you with a divine spark, in my image. But you persist in snuffing out that spark and destroying that image in those who don’t agree with you about whether or not it is permitted to draw my face. Until you prove you can worship the divine spark I put in all of you, and desist from the mayhem and slaughter that you love more than me, I will summarily reject and disallow all your claims to my providence.”

“You have banded yourselves into tribes, nations and races and the results have not been pleasing to my eye. I take some responsibility for this distressing development; I should not have given you an earth so large. But had I started with a smaller Eden, you would have corrupted and polluted it until it became uninhabitable millenia ago. You have proven your refusal to understand the panoply of laws and wisdom I laid down for you when I set you upon the earth. I have been mistranslated by your spirit guides and abused by your leaders. Perhaps I was too complex. Let us try to simplify. Respect my creation and all the inhabitants thereof. Any so-called religious leader who tells you otherwise is a false prophet and does not represent me, my brethren or any part of my Kingdom which is to surely come.”

“Those of you who find comfort in organized religion may continue to do so. I understand – I created you as vessels for love and love rejoices in the presence of others. Keep your churches, mosques and synagogues, but cease your bickering. And remember, when you engage in bloodletting in My name, you commit blasphemy. I realize that in severing my ties with so many of the sects, denominations and “holy men” that you rely upon for moral guidance, I have created confusion where there was once certainty in your souls. But that cannot be helped. Your certainties were almost certainly wrong and most certainly misapplied.”

“But do not despair, my children, for I have not abandoned you. There is a little piece of me inside all of you, a fail-safe guide to good and evil, a moral compass that never leaves you, a true voice you can hear amid the storms of fire that drive you mad with hatred and confusion. It is called your conscience and it always points upward. Follow it and you will be walking in my light. Ignore it and you’ll be lost in the darkness cast by your own shadow. Here is your New, New Testament, starting with Commandment One:”

I have given you a conscience. Use it.”

Sort that out to my satisfaction and maybe next millennium we can talk about the dietary laws.”

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Fighting back against the powers that have enslaved us

Ways to Fight Back Against an Evil and Dangerous World

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

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America’s electoral process plows ahead towards what could turn out to be a Constitutional meltdown, although I sure hope not. Meanwhile, ever greater numbers of our senior citizens live into their 100’s while mired in poverty. The horrific specter of terrorism rears its ugly head as it spreads globally, threatening everything in its path over, ironically, religious differences. One priest/minister saves lepers and drives out demons, another abuses kids. One Nazi ran the ovens while others hid Jews. There’s life and death, positive and negative, good and bad in all kinds of folks, even the ‘bad’ ones. And when we marvel at those contradictions we have a ready explanation. There’s good and bad everywhere, in all races, nations, societies. We have yet to bridge our differences in race or culture or nationality or faith, but at least we can all agree on that simple truth while we continue to work on all the others.

We live in a 21st century of instant communication, jumbo jets, knowledge and computing power that grow exponentially, and everything on social media all the time. Nations are beginning to blur; races, ethnicities and various nationalities are mixing, our globe has shrunk to an overheated marble, yet the world seems more fractured than ever. So much divides us while so much more scares us half to death, like the ever-present threat of nuclear war, or a sudden and unexpected job layoff. What unites us? Religion? It could, but having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is much better, because it can unite us all when put into practice, as it is written, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2nd Timothy chapter 2, verses 11-13) Meaning that Jesus Christ, as always, is and has the answers we are all searching for. The maximum number of true Gods is only one. Yet we’ve been waging wars for millennia over what to call him and whether he likes his picture shown or not. But while religions, unfortunately, can’t agree on the real nature of God, they’re remarkably close on people. There is near universal agreement on what makes a good one.

Be kind to people, treat your neighbors well, be hospitable to strangers, pray for your enemies instead of attacking them, love one another, live honestly, and a dozen other virtues seem to comprise the teachings of Jesus. Its a definition of being as close to ‘the perfect human’ as we can possibly be. All societies agree on them without exception. It’s as plain as daytime in the Bible, starting with the four gospels. Humankind has been speaking these words since the first philosopher carved cuneiform into clay.

We must have an instinctive sense of goodness taught by our parents, teachers, pastors and all others who chip in to get the next generation on the right path in life. Goodness is not born into us. The Bible reprimands us that, “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans 3: 22-23). Rather than saying we are all sinners, which is still ever so true, let me put this in a more modern context. We – every last one of us, all of humanity, myself included – are born with a natural enmity towards our Creator. We are like disobedient children, wild horses that cannot be broken in, or dogs that cannot be trained. Not all of us are particularly grateful for being alive, some simply presume they’re supposed to be here.

Moreover, since God made us all with a free will, we are prone to abuse it without considering the consequences first. Many of us have no relationship with God at all, for various reasons that I will decline to judge, at least for now. That’s what “sinful nature” means. We also agree on what makes a bad person: The manipulator, the cheater, the bully, the taker, the liar, the murderer and the thief. We know who we are. The vast majority of us try not to hurt people. We try not to cheat, lie and steal and we’re ashamed of ourselves when life drives us to those ends, or when things don’t go according to plan. We profess peace on earth and goodwill towards men, yet we Americans in particular look the other way while the USDoD continues to stockpile nuclear weapons. And for ten thousand years we’ve let the bad people push us around and tell us what to do and whom to do it to. We’ve let them dominate us because they were mean and ruthless enough to force us, and we were too soft or lazy to stop them until they did terrible damage. We should not ever hesitate to stop evil people.

Bad people are very hard to ignore. You can’t avoid a bad person if he or she happens to be your boss at work. And that happens a lot, because bad people seem disproportionately to occupy corner offices and seats on the Board of Directors. They know how to play the cynical, cold hearted game of office politics. That can be rough on you if you work with them. But the worst people also know how to play the high-stakes game of real politics, and that’s rough on everybody. Bad people hate, and they convince ordinary good people to hate the same things. Oh sure, there are always a few saints who rise above the evil that bad people do, and they usually die for it. We know about them posthumously from the Bible (Christ’s crucifixion, the story of Stephen in Acts 6, 7 & 8, etc.), the King and Kennedy assassinations of the 1960’s, stories about 9/11, and books about the Holocaust.

But those aren’t good people, they’re great people, and we can’t count on them because they don’t come along every day. But there are always plain old good people around, because there’s good and bad in all kinds. To borrow a truism, the only reason bad people succeed is because good people stand by and do nothing. And so this is a call to arms for good people everywhere! We have to stop following the bad people immediately! Without us, bad people lose their power, bad governments lose their legitimacy, ditto for these huge corporations that pollute the earth and poison our food and water. Does anyone reading this who believes in a Higher Power seriously believe that God has not seen all this? Is there anyone remaining who does not understand that God is sitting back waiting for just the right time, just the right set of circumstances and for the worst possible moment to unleash the fury he has stored up for those who know only violence, death and cruelty??

Good people everywhere, I’m speaking to every one of you. We need to go on strike against the world! Let’s tell the bullies and haters they no longer exist as far as we’re concerned. Let’s tell the warmongers we refuse to go to foreign lands and fight their wars, because we don’t want to have to kill any more people for the benefit of a few. Let’s laugh at the conspiracies of their ‘intelligence communities’, reject the twisted right wing-nut theories of “American exceptional-ism”, and refuse to be provoked by the aggression of small minorities. Let’s tell them we won’t play their deadly games anymore! Let’s tell them it’s over! We’re not going to buy their stuff any more, either!Let’s tell all the capitalists where they can go with all their junky merchandise, and exactly how to get there! Maybe we can give them an island where they can fight it out to their black hearts’ content. Greenland comes to mind, so does Antarctica. Maybe they’ll all just kill each other off there, on the island of the damned. Maybe then, and only then, the rest of us can finally have some peace and quiet.

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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Five Hundred Dead Cannot Be Ignored

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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The United States of America, together with the city of Chicago, has passed a gruesome and heinous milestone this past week. As of this past Friday, September 9th, 2016, 500 people have been shot to death in Chicago so far this year, and we have just over three and a half months to go before the end of the year. This damnable statistic is a scathing indictment of American “society” in general, and the city of Chicago in particular. As of this writing I do not know anyone who has relocated, or who has plans to relocate, to Chicago for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t take a blooming genius to figure out why – the average citizen living in Chicago has a greater chance of being shot than US military personnel do in Afghanistan or Iraq. Only Syria would be a scarier place to live right now, and that’s nothing for Chicago to brag about. But it’s not just Chicago, as I wrote above. These shooting deaths are an absolutely horrific portrait of American society.

There are many who say the proliferation of guns and the gun culture in America that accompanies it is the culprit. Take all the guns off the streets, they say, and the problem of excessive gun violence will be solved. To me, quite frankly, this ‘solution’ is laughable for its naivety and ignorance of the Constitution. You might say, “What do you mean, naive?” Simply put, I find it astonishingly naive that anyone would assume that outlawing guns would solve the gun violence problem. You see, the people doing all the shooting are exhibiting criminal behavior. Criminals don’t obey laws to begin with, so the net effect of outlawing gun ownership would be that only outlaws and the police would be armed. The remainder of us, the other 98%, would be reduced to moving targets. If there is anyone out there who thinks the police shootings would stop, or that gun violence would cease, if the general public were to be disarmed, they had better think twice – and very carefully too! Moreover, with a disarmed population robberies, sex crimes, and domestic terrorism would increase exponentially since only outlaws would have weapons. A disarmed public would only embolden all the predators out there, not to mention all the trigger-crazy police. Moreover, an infamous man once famously said, “The first step to taking over a country is to disarm its citizens”. That infamous man was Adolf Hitler. Josef Stalin did the same thing in Russia from the mid-1920’s to the early 1930’s. Look it up.

Then there is the problem with the US Constitution, or more accurately the interpretation thereof. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution reads as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. There it is in black and white, folks, from our supreme law of the land, the Constitution of the United States. So now we can see that the only way for the government – law enforcement in this case – to legally take away our primary means of self-protection would be to change the Constitution. That would mean calling for a Constitutional convention consisting of Congress and representatives of the President and his Cabinet, something not likely to happen without a citizen’s revolt. Yet by the same token, a revolution is exactly what America needs for such reforms to take place. While I personally do not own any firearms – something I’ve been rethinking lately – I am very much a pro-2nd-amendment kind of guy.

I can see two main reasons for all the gun violence. The first I can sum up in two words – anger management, or more accurately the lack thereof on the part of all too many Americans of all races, enthnicities and complexions. Too many people are using their emotions instead of their minds for processing thoughts and feelings. The second I can sum up in one word – greed! There are too many people trying to shake down too many others for a quick, easy profit. The fact that much of this stems from the lack of economic opportunity, combined with wages that are on par with the 1960’s, changes nothing. Allow me to share a few examples of what the Bible says about this. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul; let’s swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot with us, and we will share a common purse” – my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; for their feet rush into sin, and they are swift to shed blood.” (Proverbs chapter 1, verses 8-16) These verses remind me of the gang problem here in the US, which is substantial to be sure. As you know, youth plus a sense of belonging, minus any positive role models at home, and minus any real chance at economic or educational opportunities, equals future gang members. If our youth can’t find the love, acceptance and guidance they need from home and church, they will go and get it somewhere else.

But there is more to America’s anger management issues. Much of the gun violence Chicago and other American cities are experiencing is due to hot-tempered individuals – those who don’t stop and think before they act. Once again, as a Web minister and Christian blogger, I consider it my duty as well as being part of my job description to point out what the Bible has to say about this. Rather than pontificate about this, I will let the Word of God speak for me. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver, and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace it; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.” (Proverbs chapter 3, verses 13-18) People react emotionally instead of thoughtfully because they allow evil things like greed, pride and a bad temper to rule over them, as it is written: “A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.” (Proverbs 10: 23) But isn’t there more to it than just that, you ask? You’re right, it’s more than just a lack of understanding. Some people need to grow up and learn to control their tempers, and to cease provoking others. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”. (Proverbs 15: 1) And again it is written in that same Book of Proverbs: “A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” (Proverbs 15: 18)

But at the end of the day, the reasons for gun violence have one common denominator – a lack of love. Hatred has replaced love in a world that can’t stop hating because it doesn’t know how. The reason some people don’t know how to stop hating nor how to start loving is because they refuse to take the Bible and its teachings seriously. Moreover, there is no love because there is no trust due to fear – people are afraid to trust one another because they’re afraid if they do they might miss out on something beneficial, having forgotten that mutual trust is itself beneficial, as is mutual love. The apostle John put it best when he wrote: “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: that we should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1st John chapter 3, verses 11-16) But Jesus said it best of all. “’Teacher, what is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second one is like it; love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.’” (Matthew chapter 22, verses 36-40)

So this is how we can stop all the gun violence in Chicago and all across the country. Love your neighbor as yourself, a commandment from Christ that should be taken to heart, but sadly it is not for a disturbingly large cross-section of the population. Read the Bible and start taking it seriously! Follow Jesus instead of the desires of your belly, your sex drive, and your emotions. Use your brain for thinking, not your heart. And may the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding be with you all!

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The National Election and the American People — On the Same Page?

One Web Pastor’s Biblical Argument on Why Sanders

Should Have Won, and What Would Have Happened

If He Did

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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With both of the conventions that nominated America’s next presidential candidates having concluded, I have already come to the conclusion that this year’s choice for presidential candidates is really no choice at all. We the 99% have two candidates to choose from who are both from the top .1% in America’s economic pecking order, candidates who are clearly bought and paid for by Wall Street, corporate America, and the military-industrial-incarceration complex. “We the people” have the worst choice of candidates since Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson way back in 1964! When Bernie Sanders ran for president he was hoping to initiate what he called a “civil discourse.” He has done far more than that. He inspired a cross-section of American generations who plainly see that our country can do far better than it is, and he inspired this Web pastor, published author and blogger to write this week’s message stating such because I stand with Jesus Christ, and I also stand with Bernie Sanders. My biblical argument lies with two rather unconventional Jews. When I saw Bernie Sanders on stage, I saw someone akin to John the Baptist. I saw the wild-haired, roughly-clothed John the Baptist, eating honey and wearing camel’s hair, and crying out to the religious leaders, the Pharisees of his day, calling them corrupt and complicit with those who have all the power and all the money and all the wealth, and for abandoning the people that God loves, that God cares about.

Never mind that Sanders supports a woman’s right to choose, to have control over her own body, as well as supporting gay rights and cannabis legalization. Those evangelicals who would have others believe that that’s what Jesus cared about most have simply have never read the Bible. If they had, they wouldn’t dare say such things about our Savior. Sanders said: “The great irony is if you read the red letters of Jesus, there are no statements on abortion. There are no statements on gay marriage. Now, that’s not to say the Bible doesn’t speak about these things, but it certainly is to say that Jesus, founder and master of our faith, did not see fit to make these high-priority topics.” There is one thing — one major thing — that Jesus did care about. The Jewish prophet John the Baptist cried out in the desert to warn the Pharisees, “ Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord, and make straight paths for him” (Matt. 3: 2-3) I have often tried, sometimes fruitlessly, to point out to the religious right that they have strayed far from the path, and the words, of Jesus. I make a point of bluntly confronting them with Jesus’ own words and have lately begun to equate that with Bernie Sanders’ words, or maybe vice-verse. Sanders said on stage during a speech at Liberty University, “I believe that my views are 100% consistent. And so I think that the shock value for that comes in beginning to appreciate that the Bible and Jesus, in my opinion and in my very moderate reading of the Bible and the words of Christ, leads us to a Progressive worldview.” The words of Jesus resonate in the words of Bernie Sanders. He quotes Jesus from the Book of Luke: “I have come to bring Gospel — good news — to the poor.”

But there is more, so much more! Jesus taught in all four gospels, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” But He didn’t stop there, he went after the religious leaders. “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them’…..’Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.’” (Matthew chapter 23, verses 1-4; verses 23-24)

Those were the words that came to my mind when I watched Sanders on stage, calling out evangelical leaders for abandoning the poor. It was a trans-formative moment for American politics! We commit to the mental gymnastics necessary that allows us to abandon “the least of my brethren”, to abandon the poor, to abandon the immigrants, to abandon those who are in prison, to abandon those who suffer from mental illness or addiction. As I watched Bernie Sanders, he said he wanted to welcome the immigrants and give them dignity. He said he wanted to care for the sick children, and their mothers and fathers, who do not have health care. He said he wanted to decrease the amount of human beings who are corralled like cattle in our for-profit prisons. He said he wanted to end this extortion racket known as for-profit education, and make higher education freely available to all without qualification. He said he wanted to do justice for those who have nothing and live homeless. All these things are the things Christ would be doing if he returned today. The wonder for the rest of us may be that it has taken so long – not for an evangelical to come to this moment, but a Jewish gentleman to realize that the poor, the sick, the homeless are the true mission of Christianity and of America. “The first job of any government”, said Thomas Jefferson, “is for the care and well-being of its citizens.” But those layers of defense, those mental gymnastics that the faithful have labored under for decades are heavy and thick. It’s no wonder, after all the reinforcement from their so-called ‘leaders’, that the light of realization has failed to penetrate.

This kind of breakthrough and willingness to speak out are not only invaluable, but demonstrate the ability of Bernie Sanders to draw together a diverse base of support. That base had, and still has, one thing in common. Religious or not, its members have heart, and compassion, and want the country to be a compassionate, loving, and forgiving place. When we choose to follow Jesus we decide that the Kingdom of God, and the men and women and children of this world contained therein, are more important than the individual. Moreover, that accidentally makes us all Progressives. The day we decided to follow Christ, and the day we decided that we value other human beings more than ourselves, we accidentally became Progressives, or maybe social democrats like in Europe. Accidental perhaps, but we are all Progressive Christians as a result of our faith as well as our politics. It’s a concept whose time has most definitely arrived.

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