Category Archives: racism

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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Free book excerpt #3 from the latest release from Pastor Paul J. Bern

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“Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Many cops favor legalization A Spring 2014 issue of Law Officer magazine provided a poll of its own showing an even more surprising finding: a majority of law enforcement officers also support marijuana policy reform. There is broad support for change among the readership of the publication as well, 97% of whom indicated they are or had been in law enforcement. Some of the most surprising results include 66% saying marijuana possession should be legalized, decriminalized, legalized for medical reasons or illegal but only punished with fines, with the largest plurality (37%) supporting legalization. Even more surprising, almost 27% supported legalizing “the sale of marijuana in large quantities” with 36% calling for some form of change from the current model. While support for decriminalizing possession of other drugs was significantly lower, 14% of this population (generally thought to be the most opposed to reform) supported changes in policy. Before president Nixon declared the war on drugs in the early 1970s, policing was a different creature altogether. Police were the “good guys” going after the “bad guys” – the rapists, the murderers, the child molesters – most people could agree society was better without. Since that time, the very nature of policing has changed. Today enforcing drug laws not only occupies a huge portion of police time, it forms much of the identity of the profession and of individual officers who dedicate their lives to serving the public. That’s why, to me, the finding that more officers support the legalization of marijuana possession than support the status quo is remarkable.

But in other ways, this finding is unsurprising. I have always believed that those in the trenches were those most privy to the injustice and the lack of logic to the war on drugs, and therefore the most dedicated to righting this wrong. Who better to question its results? That so many officers were brave enough to challenge the prohibition of marijuana – one of the pillars upon which their professional identity is founded – is an act of honor for the love of their profession. Although I commend Law Officer magazine for conducting this study, I find that the questions they didn’t ask are the ones most relevant to police officer and citizen alike: Will the legalization of marijuana and other drugs lead to a reduction in the power of street gangs and cartels that terrorize our citizens? Will it allow police officers to focus greater attention on violent crimes and restore good relations with the communities in which they operate? Ultimately, will it lead to less violence? I hope and believe that most officers brave enough to be honest with themselves about the answers can only answer in the affirmative to these questions. Cops on the street are the ones who see – every day – that the prohibition of drugs, just like the prohibition of alcohol from 90 years ago, is what provides the tremendous profits to the criminal organizations that provide the drugs on our streets. Picking up the petty drug dealer on the corner – the kinds of arrests that federal grants and asset forfeiture laws incentivize – does nothing to affect the long-term supply of drugs and only causes more violence as rival gangs battle to fill power vacuums. Moreover, all of this has caused society generally and our communities of color specifically to look upon the police as people to be feared rather than as public servants advancing public safety, and that that distrust, far from being merely an abstract concept, makes police officers jobs infinitely more difficult as community members shy away from cooperating in investigations.

Top 10 Reasons to Legalize Marijuana Now

10.) Hemp benefits are tremendous! Hemp can be made into paper, paneling, plastics, clothing and thousands of other useful products. The highly nutritious seeds can be used to make flour, cooking oil and cattle feed. This environmentally friendly plant grows without herbicides, nourishes the soil, matures quickly and provides high yields. It’s the number one biomass producer in the world – ten tons per acre in four months. It could be an excellent fuel-producing crop. Hemp, “nature’s perfect plant,” could bring a bonanza to hurting American farmers while greatly reducing America’s dependence on fossil fuels, which could significantly mitigate climate change.

9.) Prohibition diverts billions from the needy. More than 50 government agencies feed at the drug war trough. Food stamps and other social programs are being slashed while billions are spent trying to stop adults from using marijuana.

8.) Prohibition is clearly counterproductive. Guaranteeing massive profits to anyone on earth who can produce and deliver marijuana to our streets cannot do anything but assure that even more will be produced and delivered.

7.) Criminalizing marijuana lacks moral justification. A real crime implies a victim and a perpetrator. Can you imagine being jailed for robbing yourself? As insane as this sounds, our government has done the equivalent by making adult use of marijuana a crime. Only a depraved, corrupt government could invent a crime you commit against yourself.

6.) Marijuana users are not debased human beings. Cultures throughout history – and prehistory! – have altered their minds with a variety of drugs. Billions around the world derive positive benefits from mind-altering drugs (especially from alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and marijuana). Demonizing and criminalizing some drugs, while approving others without rational criteria, is clearly arbitrary and deceitful. Why are marijuana users criminals while alcohol and tobacco users are not? Why are marijuana dealers demonized, but alcohol and tobacco dealers are not?

5.) Marijuana is effective medicine. There’s overwhelming evidence that marijuana can safely relieve pain, nausea and vomiting caused by various illnesses. In fact, marijuana is patently safer than many commonly prescribed drugs.

4.) Promising medical research is thwarted. The discovery of naturally occurring marijuana-like substances in the human body that activate so-called cannabinoid receptors has opened up vast possibilities for new medicines derived from the 66 or so cannabinoids identified in marijuana. These receptors are not just in the brain, but also found in many other parts of the body including the immune, endocrine and reproductive systems.

3.) Billions in potential taxes go to drug cartels. Our cash-strapped states are being cheated out of billions that could be obtained by taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.

2.) Thousands of prohibition murders occur each year. Mexico is the world’s largest exporter of marijuana (most goes to the United States). There were at least 24,000 prohibition-related murders in Mexico since 2006. Thousands more died here, also a direct result of marijuana prohibition.

1.) Prohibition denies our most basic human right. Prohibition takes away our right of sovereignty over our own bodies and gives this power to government. Does any other human right make sense if we don’t have sovereignty over our own bodies? There’s a word for people who don’t have sovereignty over their own bodies: slaves.

Learn more at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

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Free excerpt #2 from my recent book release “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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“OK, so now let me go deeper. Approximately 100,000 Americans die accidentally each year from legally obtained prescription drugs — that’s 270 per day or more than twice as many as there are killed in car accidents each day. This shows you how dangerous prescription medications truly are. To make matters worse, we are the only developed country that doesn’t control prescription drug prices, meaning that the drug companies can charge whatever they want to – even for drugs that don’t work very well. The pharmaceutical industry’s unlimited hikes in their prices have helped make health insurance unaffordable for most Americans. This is also why wages of American workers have stagnated. When health premiums rise, employers must get the extra money from somewhere, and employee raises are one of the first things to go. Get the price of prescription drugs under control, and this problem goes away on its own.

But what if some of that money that we are spending on apparently dangerous but legal prescription drugs was redirected towards medical marijuana? Has modern medicine been able to document the positive effects of cannabis medication? Research into possible medical uses of cannabis is enjoying a renaissance. In recent years, studies have shown potential for treating nausea, vomiting, premenstrual syndrome, insomnia, migraines, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, alcohol abuse, collagen-induced arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, bipolar disorder, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, sickle-cell anemia, sleep apnea, Alzheimer’s disease, glaucoma and anorexia nervosa. It is also documented to be very effective for patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. I sometimes use medical marijuana because it helps me manage bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and a permanent back injury. I can personally testify that, when used responsibly, medical cannabis can be surprisingly effective, and with zero side effects.

Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs in a groundbreaking law passed in 2000. Just last year, Uruguay in South America did the same. Now, the United States, which has waged a 40+ year, $1 trillion war on drugs, is looking for answers in both countries, which is reaping the benefits of what once looked like a dangerous gamble. White House drug czar at the time Gil Kerlikowske visited Portugal in September 2010 to learn about its drug reforms, and other countries — including Norway, Denmark, Australia and Peru — have taken interest, too. The disasters that were predicted by critics didn’t happen. The answer can be summed up in two little words – provide treatment! Here’s what happened in Portugal between 2000 and 2010 as a result of decriminalization of formerly illegal drugs:

• There were small increases in illicit drug use among adults, but decreases for adolescents and problem users, such as drug addicts and prisoners.

• Drug-related court cases dropped 66 percent.

• Drug-related HIV cases dropped 75 percent. In 2002, 49 percent of people with AIDS were addicts; by 2010 that number fell to 27 percent.

• The number of regular users held steady at less than 3 percent of the population for marijuana and less than 0.3 percent for heroin and cocaine — figures which show decriminalization brought no surge in drug use.

• The number of people treated for drug addiction rose 20 percent from 2001 to 2008.

Officials have not yet worked out the cost of the program, but they expect no increase in spending, since most of the money was diverted from the justice system to the public health service. The U.S. is spending $74 billion this year on criminal and court proceedings for drug offenders, compared with $3.6 billion for treatment. The result of the prohibition of alcohol sales and consumption during the 1920’s was the gangster era of Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde and scores of other lesser-known hoodlums and gangs that profited from the violent underground economy that Prohibition created. Today we have an identical situation since the drug trade is mostly in the hands of gangsters and thugs, with the criminals killing innocent bystanders and each other in fights over turf and cash flow. The fact that more people are being locked up while crime has decreased and our prisons are already bursting at the seams, particularly in minority communities, constitutes a 21st century civil rights issue of the highest order. It is time for the US government and law enforcement to ‘stand down red alert’ in the war on drugs. It’s time to end this madness and this stupidity.”

Written by a nondenominational minister, this book uses the Bible to provide a simple explanation for why marijuana criminalization is a sin against God. Order now on Kindle ($6.95) at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J1X7802 or buy the softback direct ($14.95, tax deductible) at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

One third of all proceeds will be donated to Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta, Inc. to be used for our “Feed and Educate” program for the homeless, and for operating expenses associated with this ministry.

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Of Refugees, Presidents and Scriptures

Immigration Issues, Progressive Christianity And The Golden Rule

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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After watching or hearing about all the back-and-forth from the Oval Office about president Trump’s 90-day immigration ban and subsequent court order temporarily suspending it this past week, I would first like to say that I have had a belly full of those who are ranting and raving about the flood of Muslim refugees who are entering Europe and America. I don’t talk, dress or worship as Muslims do either, but that does not give me license to hate them universally! In the first place, since I’m a Web minister and Christ follower it is impossible for me to hate, but I do not hesitate to voice strong disapproval of those who do. Those persons whose battle cry is, “GTHO” have forgotten – or chosen to ignore – that the United States is an entire nation of immigrants. Our country is a great melting pot for people of all nations, races, nationalities and faiths. It’s not like we’re being invaded by an army, although there are unquestionably some undesirable elements that must be rooted out. But we have law enforcement and intelligence agencies that take care of all that (plus a whole lot of vigilance on our part). So it’s time to get over our fear. What we actually have is a humanitarian crisis of colossal proportions. If a family dressed in Muslim attire came to your door asking for food, would you give it to them? Let’s not forget what it says on the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….”. Let’s also not forget what has been taught by Jesus Christ, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. The entire concept of unconditional love and acceptance while living in peace and harmony escapes those who are hateful, bigoted, prejudiced and intolerant, but children understand it completely – just ask one. Better yet, go and ask one of the so-called “illegal” children and teens crossing America’s borders. They come in search of peace and harmony because they have all escaped from the war zones down in southern Mexico and Central America.

The Bible has something to say about this, if only we will take a minute to look it up. “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt”. (Exodus 22: 21) This verse of scripture dates back to when Moses was at Mt. Sinai, well over 3,000 years ago, and its meaning remains unchanged over the centuries. And the apostle Paul wrote, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call upon his name, for ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’.” (Romans 10: 12-13) It looks to me like if there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, then by extension the same goes for Arabs and Americans or Arabs and Europeans. Granted, there have been terror attacks that have taken lives, a lot of lives, and these attacks demand a response that is even harder and meaner than the attacker(s). I’m all in favor of that, and if I were a younger man I might consider arming myself against the Islamic terrorists here on the home front and joining the fight. But we as Christians – and this goes for the nonreligious too, so all you secular readers please stay with me – can use the influx of Muslim refugees as an opportunity to sow the seeds of generational peace.

The majority of the Muslim refugees have a negative view of our country. The US military has bombed half of the Middle East back to the stone age, and they have enraged a multitude of people because of that. Well then, instead of killing them with our bullets and bombs, why not try killing them with kindness? We need to let these people know that there are many Americans who vehemently disagree with the New World Order and the Pentagon’s global militarism. Let’s be sure and remember what Jesus said about this: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you….” (Matt. 5: 44). This commandment from Christ, in and of itself, is one that is completely contrary to what is considered “normal” human though processes. Only he, the Son of God, could consistently do this repeatedly throughout his life. No one can duplicate this on a consistent basis – absolutely nobody! That is, in large part, the entire point of Jesus’ ministry, and it’s why he sacrificed himself for each of us.

But the most famous and timely quote from Christ regarding this entire issue can be summed up in one short paragraph. “The King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothed you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’.” (Matt. 25, verses 34-40) The righteous who did all these things during their physical lives will reap an eternal reward, but those who thought only of themselves will receive eternal condemnation.

We all know, or at least have heard of, the story of the Good Samaritan as told to us by Jesus Christ. I won’t quote the entire parable verbatim because my posting today is about how it applies to the subject of so-called “illegal immigration”. If I put the story into modern terms I can cite two different examples, one of how this could work out and the other as it actually did. A certain traveler from a foreign country was making their way through the US seeking to find suitable work and re-establish themselves in their newly adopted country. While on their journey, this hapless foreign national gets jacked up, beat up, and left semi-conscious and bleeding on the side of the road. A short while later a religious leader and church pastor who are passing by see the beaten and now-penniless victim, pause for a moment and say a quick prayer, and continue on their way. A few minutes after that, a well-paid IRS agent passes by the man and doesn’t even bother to stop and help even though he/she could have easily afforded to do so. An hour or two later, after this crime victim has been lying bleeding, severely injured and baking in the hot sun, a homeless man happens upon this person. This street person from the impoverished inner city (fill in the blank with the city of your choice) cleans up the victim’s wounds as best as he can, dials 911 on his/her prepaid flip phone, summons medical assistance to that location, and waits for the ambulance to arrive while protecting this luckless individual from further injury and harm. Once the ambulance has picked the injured person up and taken them to the nearest ER, the homeless person who helped the injured traveler goes on their way, enjoying a quiet satisfaction within themselves at the good deed they have done. But they say nothing to anyone about it, not wanting accolades or applause from anyone, but only to do good and to be merciful towards all God’s children. “Blessed are the merciful”, Jesus said, “for they will be shown mercy”. When the Last Trumpet sounds, guess who will be allowed in first?

We are, after all, a Christian nation, are we not? I know former president Obama said we weren’t, but I have never agreed with that. If we’re going to be a Christian or even a humanitarian nation, then I think it’s high time we started acting as if it were true! Didn’t Jesus heal the sick? Then we should be doing likewise, and the same goes for helping the less fortunate whenever and wherever we can. Anyone who disagrees with me on this point has forgotten their Christian heritage, lost touch with their humanity, or both. When I was a kid, I was taught that kindness wasn’t a choice, it was a command. It wasn’t something you considered doing; it was an automatic reaction that came straight from the heart. We just did it because that’s what Jesus would have us do. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This includes all immigrants, whether they are here legally or not!

Let me be absolutely clear about what I regard as the crux of the immigration issue. Immigrants, whether they are here legally or not, are not invaders from another country. They are economic and war refugees! I will use Mexico as an illustration. As you may know, the southern part of Mexico is a war zone between the drug cartels. But it’s worse than that. The average blue-collar worker in Mexico has a take-home pay in Pesos that is equal to about $50.00 a month in US dollars. When any given migrant worker comes to the US and takes a job at the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, that works out to a net pay after taxes of about $740.00 per month for a single person, more than a fifteen-fold increase over what they used to make. Now, let us ask ourselves this basic question: if we were offered a job in our profession in Canada, for example, at fifteen times our current pay rate, any one of us would naturally be eager for the chance, is that not correct? Of course you would! Now you know why so many economic refugees from the third world are coming here, and it’s not just from Mexico. They seek economic opportunity just like anyone else would, and it is a level of opportunity available in few places elsewhere. So if the American people want our government to do something about the influx of economic refugees from Mexico and Central America, we as a united people need to tell our leaders to change the economic conditions that is causing our borders (yes, it’s both – the Canadian border is just as porous as it is down south) to be overrun in the first place! How do we do that? One way would be a global minimum wage. Another would be direct economic aid to those affected countries by the federal government.

So why does this issue upset so many people? America is and always has been a nation of immigrants. There has never been a time in American history when this was not so. Every time we welcome one more immigrant into America, we take on the role of the Good Samaritan all over again. And that is a role we should all continue to emulate everywhere we go. Because at the end of the day, if we fail to do these things, we are discriminating. Discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion is banned in the Constitution as well as the laws of our land (see the 14th amendment section 1, our nation’s civil rights legislation of the 1960’s and 70’s, et. al.). The apostle James also had something to say about this when he wrote: “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against their brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?”. (James 4, verses 11-12) Why does this still apply today? Because the world has shrunk to a tiny fraction of its seemingly enormous size back then. Our neighbors are not just down the street or in our town any more. The Internet has connected everyone who wants to be connected, and more new people continue to log on each day. Meaning, everybody is now our neighbor, even if they’re on the other side of the world. Isn’t it time we started acting like it?

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Our new president, the Bible, and racism in America

President Trump, Racism in America, and the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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Lately I have received a little negative feedback from some of my Christian readers saying that I should not be trying to blend religion and politics because it causes too much controversy. Interestingly enough, I’m not hearing any of that from my secular readers on this blog, nor on my other one, the 99% Blog (on WordPress.com or Blogspot.com). Same thing goes for my website, if you’re not already there. I have thought about this issue with considerable deliberation, and I have gone back and re-read some of what my Bible has to say about that. I use three different versions to study from, too, just to make sure I get things as close to being right as I can. Let me sum up my conclusion to this issue in just this one sentence: The two primary reasons Jesus was put to death on the cross was because he preached against organized government and organized religion. For what other reason did he say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me”?

You may say to yourself, “That’s all fine, but what does this have to do with mixing religion and politics”? Well, in a way, my above quote covers the religious aspect of this. For a quote from the Bible about the political side of this, with religion blended in, let’s go over to Matthew’s gospel chapter 23, verses 2-4, and I quote: “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 man’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Isn’t that what’s been happening today? Religious leaders demand ten percent of people’s incomes so they can afford to buy jet fuel for their planes and remodel their 50,000 square foot mansions. Police officers enforce the law on one hand while shooting unarmed people for committing minor traffic violations with the other. Our governments make the laws and administer our country, state and local governments, yet government corruption is well known, especially at the federal level. Jesus blended religion with politics, and there are many more examples besides this one. If Jesus did it then I as his follower, messenger and ambassador will do the same.

Which brings me to the topic of this week – our newly installed government. One of Donald Trump’s first appointees has been one Steve Bannon, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart.com, a right wing fringe website that can be so radical at times that it makes Alex Jones and Infowars.com look like child’s play. On CNN’s website Saturday morning, they had this to say, “Steve Bannon has no regrets. The ex-Breitbart executive, who serves as Trump’s chief strategist for the new administration, told The Hollywood Reporter that “darkness is good.” “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they (liberals) get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing,” he said in an interview published Friday, his first outside of Breitbart since the election.

Darkness is good? Satan equals power? Just as bad, this man idolizes Darth Vader and regards former vice president Dick Cheney as a role model?? I don’t know about you, but I am deeply concerned about Mr Bannon being in charge of anything in America’s government. What does the Bible say about this, and about people like Steve Bannon (and there’s plenty of them)? “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness instead of the light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done he has done through God.” (John 3: 19-21) Need more proof? You got it, and again I quote: “This is the message we have heard from him that we declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1st John 1: 5-7)

Now, let me tie all this together with one more quote from Scripture, this time from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” (Isaiah 5: 20-21) Although I have the greatest respect for Donald Trump, I have serious misgivings about his choice of Steve Bannon for his Chief of Staff, a man who is apparently quite proud of his ties to the so-called “White Nationalist Movement” and other right-wing extremist groups. The White Nationalists are basically the KKK with a fresh 21st century style makeover, and their political leanings are decidedly Nazi in nature. Many of these people openly admire Adolf Hitler, which tells us everything we need to know about all these people.

Steve Bannon is a demonic racist, pure and simple. Donald Trump knows that, or he certainly should, and evidently that does not bother him. Well, it bothers me a whole lot! The last thing America needs is a throwback to the bad old days of Jim Crow, the John Birch Society and the Ku Klux Klan. President Trump’s nomination of former senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general is nearly as bad. I grant you that Mr. Sessions is no neo-Nazi, but he’s still a redneck from Alabama who has little or no regard for people of color. The Bible has more than a few things to say about racism, and it’s all bad. Let me give you a couple examples: “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded him”. (1st John 2: 9-11)

OK, now that we have seen what the apostle John wrote about hateful people – and especially those who normalize that hatred and who try to make it seem acceptable – let’s see what Jesus himself had to say about it: “But I say if you are angry with someone you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. But if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” (Matt. 5: 22) So what Jesus was saying was these three things:

[1] Whatever level of anger we show towards our brothers and sisters, God will show right back to us.

[2] In whatever way we are abusive towards others whom we perceive to be inferior to ourselves, the ruling authorities will punish us accordingly in the same way, and deservedly so!

[3] When we curse others, we ultimately curse ourselves because the same God created us all in his image and likeness. Showing contempt for God’s creations is equally contemptuous in God’s sight.

In closing, I will confidently predict this one thing – if the new Trump administration starts showing contempt towards or begins to mistreat minorities and people of color, or if any attempt is made to begin massive deportations of undocumented aliens back to their home countries, there is going to be major civil unrest the likes of which have not been seen in over a generation. If fact, these protests will rival, and probably surpass, the antiwar protests of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. So if the new administration doesn’t get its act together and stops staffing our federal government with a bunch of nasty haters, and if the minimum wage is not raised substantially, there may well be political unrest all across the country soon. People are hungry and thirsty for change, and they’re all tired of government corruption and ineptitude! The main positive thing I can truly say about the incoming Trump administration is his pledge to normalize US-Russian relations, a process that has already begun. As a result, America and Russia are both breathing a sigh of relief, and I suspect the Lord is too. But there must not be even the appearance of racism and favoritism in our incoming presidential administration, or president Trump will have to answer to the people for it!

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If you’re poor or a person of color in America, you’re presumed to be a criminal

Criminalizing America’s Poor and People of Color

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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The number of laws criminalizing poverty and race are increasing as police shootings and homelessness worsens in America. From 2006 to 2012 there was a 12 percent increase in laws prohibiting camping out in public places, a 14 percent increase in laws prohibiting loitering, a 9 percent increase in laws prohibiting begging and a 8 percent increase in laws prohibiting “aggressive panhandling” (I would call that ‘frantic begging by some really scared and desperate people’), according to a 2013 report by The National Coalition for the Homeless. At the same time, after a double-digit jump in 2008, homelessness increased by an average of 7 percent from 2009 to 2010, and an additional 7% increase from 2010 to 2012, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness.

Since 2012, America’s twin social diseases, poverty and racism, have increased even more. At the rate this problem is growing, somewhere between 1 in 3 to 1 in 4 people will be homeless in America in another 15 years or so. That’s how severe homelessness is becoming even as I write this. Among families with children, homelessness increased by 14 percent from 2012 to 2015, the last year for which figures are currently available. An average of 33 percent of homeless persons did not receive any assistance at all in 2015 because there weren’t enough beds in the shelters, or because homeless shelters would not accept women (or men) with children. So, if you have kids and you wind up homeless in America, too bad for you! You and your children will freeze together in the cold. If you die from exposure to the elements on some January night, at least you’ll all go out together. Gee, isn’t that nice! And do these shelters who routinely discriminate against single parents and their kids think that God doesn’t see what they are doing, or that He doesn’t care? You can be sure that God will eternally punish these goody-two-shoes, self appointed public servants most severely!!

In today’s economy, cities are facing really tight budgets, so they are often unable to build up or fund housing to meet this need. Many people are being forced to live out on the streets. The lucky ones get to sleep in their cars. The unlucky ones are found the following morning, beaten or frozen to death. In an essay published in 2012 in The Guardian, Barbara Ehrenreich, author of the New York Times bestselling book “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,” tells the story of a 62-year-old disabled veteran who was dragged from a homeless shelter to jail because he had an outstanding warrant for “criminal trespassing,” which is how Washington, D.C., defines sleeping on the streets. In some areas of the country, cities are even beginning to crack down on well-meaning individuals who want to hand out free food to the homeless. Las Vegas passed an ordinance forbidding the sharing of food with any “person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive” public assistance. In Florida, Gainesville law limits the number of people soup kitchens may serve daily. In Phoenix, zoning officials actually stopped a local church from serving breakfast to homeless people.

Then, of course, there are the spate of police shootings. According to Minute News Press, Though Americans commonly believe law enforcement’s role in society is to protect them and ensure peace and stability within the community, the sad reality is that police departments are often more focused on enforcing laws, making arrests and issuing citations. As a result of this, as well as an increase in militarized policing techniques, Americans are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist, estimates a Washington’s Blog report based on official statistical data. Though the U.S. government does not have a database collecting information about the total number of police involved shootings each year, it’s estimated that between 600 and 1,000 Americans are killed by police officers each year. Since 9/11, over 5,000 Americans have been killed by U.S. police officers, which is equivalent to the number of U.S. soldiers who were killed in the line of duty in Iraq.” In an article from November 11, 2014, USA Today reported, “Police killings highest in two decades”, and I quote, “The number of felony suspects fatally shot by police last year — 461— was the most in two decades, according to a new FBI report. The justifiable homicide count, contained in the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, has become increasingly scrutinized in recent months as questions continue to be raised about the use of lethal force by law enforcement. National attention has been drawn to cases from New York to Albuquerque, though much of the focus is on Ferguson, Mo., where the restive St. Louis suburb awaits the decision of a grand jury weighing the fatal shooting in August of a black teenager by a white police officer.” In the most egregious example to date that I know of, just this past week the police shot a six year old boy down in Florida. Six years old!!! Moreover, my black brothers and sisters are 2.5 times more likely to be shot by the police than whites. Considering that African-American people comprise about 15% of the US population, that number becomes even more disproportionate.

The phenomenon of criminalizing poverty isn’t limited to the homeless, though. Speaking from experience – having been homeless myself up until 7 years ago – I would compare applying for welfare and food benefits – which often entails mug shots, fingerprinting and lengthy interrogations about child paternity – to being booked by the police. In Florida, legislators recently passed a law requiring welfare recipients to undergo drug screenings, according to CNN. In response to criticism from the ACLU over his decision to approve drug testing for welfare beneficiaries, former Florida Gov. Rick Scott told CNN the law encourages “personal accountability.” People who can’t afford to pay court fees or traffic tickets in Michigan are made to sit in jail. Pay-or-stay sentences are no choice for the poor. They translate to rich people pulling out a credit card and going home and poor people going to jail. It’s a modern-day debtor’s prison. This two-tiered system of justice is shameful, it’s a waste of resources, it is unconstitutional, it is a gross violation of human rights and civil rights, and it urgently needs be changed.

As governments have cut funds to social welfare programs and passed laws that discriminate against the poor and people of color, the experience of America’s poor has come to resemble that of a rat in a cage scrambling to avoid erratically administered electric shocks. Officials argue, though, that making it illegal to sleep, sit or store personal belongings in public spaces is not discriminatory, according to USA Today. “If you’re lying on a sidewalk, whether you’re homeless or a millionaire, you’re in violation of the ordinance,” said Joseph Patner, a city attorney who represented St. Petersburg, Fla, in 2009 when six homeless people filed a lawsuit against the city. “It’s not right for taxpayer money to be paying for somebody’s drug addiction,” he said. “On top of that, this is going to increase personal responsibility, personal accountability. We shouldn’t be subsidizing people’s addiction.”

Here in Atlanta where I live, it’s just as bad if not worse. In the inner city neighborhood just west of downtown where I live and work, anywhere from one-third to one-half of the single-family homes are abandoned and/or boarded up. At least 10 to 20 percent of these orphaned homes are in such bad shape that a bulldozer is the only correct solution. But the majority of the other ones, though they are older dwellings, could be rehabilitated and lived in once again. But, since they are in an admittedly high-crime area, nobody wants them even though they are located only 5-10 minutes away from the mostly-revitalized downtown area. But since they are largely unwanted, many of these abandoned homes are inhabited by squatters who would otherwise be sleeping out in the weather. But as I wrote above, when the city of Atlanta police find people in these dwellings, they are immediately arrested for “criminal trespassing” and hauled off to jail. Few if any of these unlucky persons can bail themselves out of jail, so they languish behind bars until their court date, which can be anywhere from several weeks to several months. The fact that it costs the city an average of $65.00 per day to incarcerate these otherwise harmless individuals doesn’t matter to the entrenched powers down at Atlanta City Hall.

To make matters worse, if there are children involved, they are forcibly taken away from their parents and placed in foster homes at best, or even juvenile detention at worst. This exacerbates the cycle of homelessness and poverty while creating new caseloads for social workers, therapists, psychiatrists and probation officers, among others. In so doing, the seeds of rage, addiction and abuse are planted within these impressionable young minds until they wind up being institutionalized as teens or adults, one way or the other. And all this continues to occur because certain wealthy and influential property owners would rather board up these abandoned houses that (allegedly) nobody wants, rather than sell them at a hefty discount for less profit. It is these wealthy and incredibly greedy property owners who should be in jail, not the homeless squatters who have no where else to go!

Is there a solution that we can afford as conscientious Americans? You can bet your bottom dollar there is! I explained it the following way in my 2011 nonfiction book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”. If the US government took all the money it spends in just one day on the military budget for its clandestine presence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Pakistan – among other places such as Western Europe – and invested those funds in an interest-bearing account at a bank, credit union or money market fund, there would be enough money to build a new 2,500 square foot house for every homeless person and/or family currently in America, fully furnished and with a year’s supply of groceries for a family of four. That’s right everyone – just one day’s needless and pointless military expenditures would pay for all that! In closing, then, the fairness, compassion and equity of developed countries and their so-called “societies” can best be judged by how well they treat their least fortunate citizens. In that regard, I would say America has got a lot of work to do.

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It’s time for America to get a grip already!!

All Right Now, That’s Enough!!

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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As I begin to compose this week’s message, I find myself shaking my head as I struggle to find a comfortable place to start. I saw video of a white cop shooting a black man to death for selling CD’s and resisting arrest. Yes I know, he was armed, but if you watch all the videos taken of the incident (which I admit are hard to look at), Alton Sterling’s gun came out of his pocket during the scuffle, but he did not attempt to shoot at either of the officers. Alton Sterling was executed. The video of Philando Castille getting shot to death when he reached for his wallet – not his gun – is even harder to watch. Hearing his fiancee’ plead with the police officer for her life, while asking the officer why he had just killed Mr. Castille in that calm, even voice of hers is truly unforgettable. That is one strong lady, and she has my heart-felt sympathy and especially my deepest respect.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. This past Friday 5 cops who were just doing their jobs were shot to death in the line of duty, and seven more were wounded. As of this writing I think there are 3 still in the hospital, and I pray fervently for a speedy recovery for them all. Now – let me be clear. Was it a miscarriage of justice that Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castille wound up dead for what amounts to petty stuff? Yes, absolutely, and I predict that one or more of those police officers will end up facing charges for their mishandling of the incidents. But under NO circumstances did that justify setting up a clever little sniper’s nest down in Dallas the following day for the sole express purpose of picking off police officers in retaliation!! I am deeply, very deeply upset about the assassination of these cops and the wounding of seven more. This, my dear readers and social media followers, is not how Americans are to be settling their internal problems. I even saw a preposterous video posted on You-tube just last evening about people wanting to start a “race war”. Let me point something out to the people who want a “race war” in America: We’ve already been there, done that, and bought the stinkin’ T-shirt! It was called the American Civil War of 1861-1865, and there were 620,000 American soldiers and civilians killed in that conflict. Understand now – the population of the United states at the end of that war in 1865 was approximately 32 million, slightly less than one tenth of America’s population today. So if a second US civil war were to actually occur with the population being ten times greater than the first Civil War, then it is reasonable to conclude that the casualties from such a war would be ten times as much as the first, or 6.2 million people. Does anyone reading this seriously believe a 2nd US civil war in which 6.2 million Americans died would be good for our country?? If so, then go ahead and fight your damned-to-hell civil war, but consider this before you proceed. When all the killing and the carnage is finished, the perpetrators of this 2nd US civil war will be hunted down, rounded up, and sentenced to hang from the gallows. If there is none handy, Mr./Mrs./Ms. “race war” fighter, then we will build one immediately, just outside your jail cell. Then, maybe at long last, the rest of us can finally have some peace and quiet!

So what’s the root cause of all these shootings? Is it because we have too many guns, or is this problem due to lax gun laws, as some people say? There can be no question that the gun control laws currently in place could be strengthened, and that background checks could be strengthened as well. But the right to own hand guns and long guns is clearly defined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, and the clear purpose of that particular amendment is to give the US populace a right to defend themselves against intruders for whatever reason, as well as to defend ourselves against the government, should things in Washington get out of control. And, when it comes to Washington being out of control, we’re already there. So gun violence is a symptom, but it’s not the problem. What about the police? Why are all these cops so trigger-happy? Is racism a part of it? This is unquestionably true, and racism – sad to say – remains deeply embedded in American culture. I also suspect there is some job frustration on the part of some police officers, but there is also a significant amount of racism as well.

So, we’ve touched on the cops shooting civilians and on civilians assassinating cops, plus we’ve touched on race. All three of these played a major part in the recent wave of shootings, but they are not the sole cause. The root cause of all the violence that has wracked America is – to sum it up – poisoning. Some of this systematic poisoning is spiritual in nature – such as all the distasteful shows on TV and at the movies, the super-violent video games, the subliminal messages contained in popular music as well as TV, and particularly all the pornography, which America seems to be flooded with. Other sources of this spiritual poisoning can be found in certain churches that preach false doctrines, such as the “prosperity gospel” and the “pre-tribulation rapture”. Although I’m not going to expound at length on any of these topics for now, I have done so in the past in some of my other postings dating back to 2011 or so.

So, we know that part of this ‘poisoning’, as I call it, is spiritual, but it’s equally important to know that the rest of this systemic poisoning is purely physical in nature. America has been fluoridating its water supply ever since the end of WW2. Consumption of fluoride was proven as far back as 50 years ago to be toxic to humans. Moreover, consumption of fluoride, even in small amounts such as toothpaste, has been proven to lower the IQ of any given human being by about 10 percentage points over the course of a 70-year human lifespan. So there we can see our water supply has been poisoned. Then there’s humankind’s air supply, which is bring polluted by “chem-trails” to humankind’s detriment. These “chem-trails” are being sprayed from ordinary jet aircraft, and they contain mainly aluminum particulates that are designed to block out the sun and slow global warming. Unfortunately for folks like you and I, these aluminum particulates are carcinogenic to humans, but the government keeps paying subcontractors to do this “dirty work” anyway. Last but not least are vaccines – all of them, which have been linked to autism, ADD, hyperactivity in children and other behavioral abnormalities, all of which have lasting effects into adulthood.

With these facts staring us in the face, is it any wonder that people everywhere are simply starting to snap? If I load a program on my computer that has a virus, won’t my PC workstation start acting crazy? The human brain is like a computer, but with a bio-electric-chemical compound interface. If we allow bad programming – violent TV and video games, pornography and the like – to get into our heads, or if we let our kids listen to all that junk on commercial radio, it won’t be long and those individuals are going to sustain heavy psychological damage. Everybody the world over has sustained serious physiological damage from environmental pollution, fluoridated water, lead and mercury poisoning, etc. Add to that the inescapable fact that people nearly everywhere are in a life-and-death struggle with their finances – unless, of course, you’re in the top 1% income bracket in America. Being under pressure from all sides financially, while imploding on the inside from a slow but systematic poisoning, leads to a personal meltdown! That’s why people everywhere are exploding with rage! And if you’re African-American, you are dealing with all of the above combined with being under a constant state of siege from the police. That is enough to drive anybody insane, even the very best of people and regardless of race!

Ladies and gentlemen, my dear readers whom I love so very much, the moment has arrived where we must come together collectively as a people and say, “no more”! Either we stop the violence or it will eventually consume us. But, in an effort to stop that from occurring, the government will undoubtedly step in at some point, “to restore order”. That, of course, will be the government’s brand of order – the New World Order. Let’s not go there, people, let’s not allow ourselves to be enslaved so we can have so-called “security”. There is no such thing as real security except in the loving arms of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Other than that, we take a risk just by getting out of bed each morning. A tree could fall on us and crush us while we’re in the bathroom, before we even make it out to the kitchen. We could step outside our door and get hit by a bolt of lightning, but we go anyway. As it is when we take charge of our lives and accept the risks involved, so it is when we have to physically step in and stop the violence, or when we stop others from doing so. It is up to each and every one of us to take responsibility and to take charge of our country, especially since those in charge are in power for all the wrong reasons. No wonder nothing significant ever gets done in Washington! It’s time to collectively tell everybody inside the ‘beltway’, “You’re fired”! It’s time for “we the people” to retake control of our country. If we can’t do this at the ballot box this fall, more drastic means will have to be employed. Do we want our country back, or do we want to be slaves? Time to go to ‘red alert’.

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America, we have a race problem

America, We Have A Problem

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

the struggle continues for both black and white

the struggle continues for both black and white

People of good conscience everywhere are still processing what happened in Charleston, South Carolina this past Wednesday. Much has been said and written about this already, so I will be careful to not be too redundant. What is not being emphasized anywhere nearly enough is the gravity, the scope and the depth of the massacre of the Charleston Nine. To call this a ‘hate crime’ only scratches the surface of what actually transpired this past week. Many of my African-American friends on and off the Web are accurately calling the events in Charleston an act of domestic terrorism. Dylann Roof and others like him are an offense, an embarrassment and a humiliation to every white/Caucasian American citizen and/or legally residing foreign national. I saw President Obama on the Internet yesterday talking about America’s “gun problem”, but I do not share this view. If Congress or the president outlaws guns, those with evil intent who manage to get their hands on a firearm will be more emboldened than ever before. Outlawing guns will make America less peaceful, not more so as has been suggested. Besides, being the Constitutionalist that I am, I’m a firm believer in the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms. The issue isn’t guns, it’s race.

America’s race problem dates back 400 years to before there was a United States of America. Slavery in the ‘land of the free’ was and always will be what some historians call “America’s peculiar institution”. The ugly truth of the matter is that today’s African Americans are the descendants of slaves who arrived here by being forcibly removed from their homeland. To put it in modern terms, these African slaves were victims of human trafficking. They are the descendants of kidnapping victims who had no way to call home. They had no phones, no internet, nothing at all! One day they are at home, wherever that was, and the next they’re in chains on a ship bound for North America. After that, they were enslaved for 300 years and endured another 100 years of Jim Crow. And we wonder why some black folks mistrust white people to this very day, or why they’re seemingly so “uppity” towards us. If my ancestors were enslaved, humiliated, terrorized and murdered for 400 years, I’d be mad as hell too! It’s ultimately white people’s fault that the state of race relations has gone backward instead of forward so far in the 21st century. We brought the black folks over here to begin with. Even after slavery was abolished by Abraham Lincoln and the passage by Congress of the Thirteenth Amendment in December of 1865, former slaves lacked the skills and the resources to build ships to return to their homeland. So, even after the emancipation of former slaves, the brutal reality is that they were all stuck here, stranded, and they’ve been here ever since. This, I am convinced, is the true source of white rage towards black folks – their rage exists to hide their inescapable guilt.

What did Jesus say about hatred between races? How many people know that the Bible has several things to say about racial hatred? The first example comes from Christ himself, who stated, “You have heard it said to the people of long ago, ‘do not murder’ and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew chapter 5, verses 21-22, NIV) “Raca” was an Aramaic word of contempt expressed towards those who were somehow deemed inferior, such as Samaritans. So Jesus was telling us that human equality is in fact ordained by God, and that there is no such thing as an inferior or defective human being. But then Jesus took it a step further when He said, “…anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Simply put, any human being who considers another to be worthless, unredeemable, inferior, useless, or who considers others as enemies based on pure bigotry, hatred, contemptuousness and condescension because of race, creed, nationality, heritage, or just plain conceit and maliciousness, could very well wind up in hell in the very place of those he or she condemns as being allegedly of lesser worth than themselves. Anyone who holds in contempt that which God has created holds their Creator in contempt as well. This is the exact reason that racial bigotry is so evil! Who do we think we are questioning God’s motives or rationale, as if rationalization were even possible for the Lord to begin with!

The apostle John, the younger half brother of Jesus, summed hate up in one little sentence in 1st John chapter three, verse 15 and I quote, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.” Jesus once said, “It is written, ‘You shall not commit adultery’. But I tell you that if you even so much as look at a married woman with lustful eyes, you have already committed adultery with her in your heart”. (Matthew 5, verse 27) As it is with adultery, so it is with hate in the eyes of the Lord your God. If anyone hates another without just cause, or hates because he/she holds a grudge or refuses to forgive someone, they have already committed murder in their heart. Morally, in God’s sight, such a person is no better than an unrepentant death row inmate in a maximum security prison. The apostle John resounded this theme again later in chapter four when he wrote in verses 20 and 21, “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, and yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” My dear readers, it doesn’t get any clearer than this, and as for me John’s point here is well taken. You either love the One who made you or you don’t. If you don’t, then you despise God, meaning you ultimately despise yourself. If anyone reading this is wearing those kind of shoes, it’s high time for a new pair of shoes.

Here in the early 21st century there is simply no excuse for racial hatred towards any person by any other individual. Those who continue to harbor hatred, intolerance, bigotry and prejudice towards others who are allegedly inferior to themselves cause themselves to devolve into a lesser form of human being, one who has not yet developed an open mind, or who refuse to repent from being closed-minded, hateful individuals. Under no circumstances are these things any just cause to murder another human being, let alone nine of them. This kid Dylan Roof has put the spotlight on America’s ongoing race problem. He has exposed racism for what it truly is – one group of people wanting to commit genocide against another based on skin color. I want all my black brothers and sisters to know that Dylan Roof, and all the others like him, are an offense, an embarrassment, and a humiliation to white people everywhere. Racism is deeply ingrained into American culture, but it has its roots in slavery. Although this has been going on for several hundred years, America could do away with its race problem in a single generation. How can we accomplish this noble task? There are two ways to approach this problem long term. The first is what every American needs – free higher education at the public college or university of their choice. Education is not a privilege, it’s a basic human right. Knowledge is power, and no one has the right or the authority to deny that power to anyone no matter what the reason.

The other way to level the playing field for all people of color is already underway. To sum it up, it’s computer and information technology. Even poor black kids have smart phones. Within 10-15 years we will see all minorities catching up to their white counterparts because of access to technology and the Internet. This in turn will be the trigger for an entirely new industry of space exploration, colonization and commerce, and that’s just for starters. Of course, this is all well and good for the future, but what can we do right now? What’s the least common denominator that all races, creeds and nationalities have in common? Remember what the apostle John said? “Any man who says, ‘I love God’, and yet hates his brother is a liar.” God is our least common denominator. We all bleed the same shade of red, and we all have five quarts of that same blood pumping through our veins and arteries 24/7, that is also true. But Almighty God mafe all of it, just as King David wrote in his psalms, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”. So, in solving America’s race problem, what’s the first step? Here is what I insist needs to be done. Next Sunday morning, I’d love to see an army of white people attend all-black churches somewhere – anywhere! A dozen here, ten more somewhere else, or just take your family down into the inner city, find a church and find a parking place. After all, the healing process must begin within ourselves, and the process of being able to forgive also must begin within ourselves. If they ask you what made you pick that particular church simply tell them, “I want to help heal the wounds of slavery we have inflicted on your people, and I’m/we’re here to ask your forgiveness, and if you would mind if we came and worshiped with you this morning”. I’d actually be surprised if anyone turns you away, all you Caucasians. So go ahead – I challenge you to worship in a black church if you’re white, or vice versa if you’re black. Go ahead, what are you afraid of, all you well-to-do white folks? I think I know – it’s acknowledging the sins of our ancestors. But it’s got to be done. It’s long past time for America to begin to heal from slavery, and the best place to start the healing process is at church on Sunday morning.

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