Category Archives: rigged system

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

The American Dream Has Become a Nightmare

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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

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

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

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as a whole sees this self-imposed isolation by its secular fellow Americans as an affirmation of his own similarly withdrawn theology.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

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

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

 

DCIM100MEDIA

DCIM100MEDIA

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

[1] Rights of Workers and Independent Contractors

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

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

But what about the times when the cost of living overwhelms us and a real financial emergency sets in, such as an unexpected car repair or a medical emergency? This brings me to the point that I wish to make, and it is this. In today’s world, if the net take-home pay of any given individual does not meet, or just barely meets, that same individuals daily cost of living, then that is tantamount to economic slavery. Let me say that again because this point simply cannot be overemphasized. If your take-home pay won’t even take you home, you are a slave. Oh, you are free to move around and to come and go as you choose, that is true. But if after you stop at the grocery store, pay the light bill (assuming you are fortunate enough to be able to do that), put gas in your tank (assuming you are lucky enough to still own a car) and set some money aside for next month’s rent or mortgage, then you peek into your wallet and realize that you have $7.00 left for the whole stinkin’ week, that’s when you know you are a slave. What happens to the people whose incomes are at or below minimum wage? They go hungry and are often homeless. And this is happening in the United States of America, supposedly the greatest country in the world, while millions of its people live in abject poverty. How much longer do we wait before taking matters into our own hands? After all, it’s the only way we are going to accomplish our goals.

On this point alone, there are enough issues on the collective dinner plate of the American people to foster open revolt throughout the land. Never mind everything else that I have written about. Think about it for a minute. How does it feel to be an economic slave? Makes you feel kind of angry, doesn’t it? It make us all feel violated because we have all been slaves, often without realizing it. The time to rise up and say, “No more!” has arrived. It’s time for all of us to get out from in front of out TV’s, our computers and our phones, and to get ourselves out into the streets and start protesting. Never mind your game consoles either, there’s no more time for that. And that’s just for this issue alone. Now allow me to mention the rest of these basic rights

The second right under worker’s rights is the right to better unemployment insurance, and to also allow independent contractors to draw unemployment provided certain conditions are met. Any worker who has lost his or her job through no fault of their own will be entitled to up to 52 weeks of unemployment compensation instead of the current maximum of 26 weeks of non-emergency benefits. Once the benefits have been exhausted, if the job seeker is unable to find full time work, they will have two options. The first will be to enlist in free vocational re-education, which will be offered for the lifetime of that worker or until retirement (more on that further below, so please stick with me). The second option will be to enlist as a worker in new public works projects, which will be described later in this chapter. Under this new 21st century plan, we can and will wipe out unemployment and poverty forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get it on Kindle ($7.95) from this link

For Sony, Kobo, Nook, Kindle & Fire, plus all Apple/Mac devices ($7.95), click here

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

Tagged , , , , , ,

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

God Wants Justice and Mercy, Not Religion,

and We’re Falling Short

by Pastor Paul J. Bern (Isaiah 58)

For better website or small screen viewing, click here 🙂

new-world-order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Swamp Isn’t Drained Yet, Mr. President. You’re Going to Need a Bigger Pump

The Ongoing Christian Hypocrisy In Washington D.C.

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

For better small screen viewing, click here 🙂

threat_from_washington Remember when we were kids in school? We used to recite the ‘pledge of allegiance’ to the flag every day. Among other things, the pledge calls us “one nation under God”. Judging from the way things are proceeding in Washington and the Middle East these days, America has become anything but that. We are faced with endless wars overseas with no end in sight, and these wars on multiple fronts have bankrupted our country. Meanwhile here at home, it is the American people who are faced with bankruptcy and even homelessness due to either long-term unemployment, or because of declining wages and rising costs for those who are working. Citizens everywhere continue to lose their houses to foreclosure under circumstances that are questionable at best or outright financial fraud at worst. The rapidly growing population of homeless people is already in the process of turning into a human tidal wave of misery and hopelessness. Here in Atlanta where I live, the homeless population on any given day averages around 5,000 or so, of which half are children! This is a gross social injustice, particularly considering that it is happening in the richest country in the world! Even the cave men lived in caves tens of thousands of years ago. So it is accurate to say that they had it better than the homeless folks do today. It is a basic human right to have a roof over your head. Shelter is not a privilege! Throwing men, women and children out into the elements for mere financial reasons is nothing short of barbaric!

 

As all this outrageous injustice continues, we see and hear our nation’s leaders in Washington invoking the name of God and quoting the Bible (out of context!) as a justification for waging immoral and illegal wars all over the globe, with many being of the clandestine variety. Meaning, the US taxpayers who are unknowingly funding their illegal activities have been clueless as to what is going on. But thanks to the Internet, people are rapidly waking up to what’s been going on, and this is happening on a global scale. Here at home, our nation’s lawmakers debate whether gay persons should serve openly in the military or not, and various individuals in our country’s leadership take a stand on whether they are pro-life or pro-choice. These side-issues are being debated while our country grapples with record deficits that threaten to swallow up what is left of the US economy, just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned. They pontificate about “family values” and their religious faith. In the meantime, one in every four American children doesn’t have enough to eat, and one in every five American school kids will be homeless at least once before they turn 18.

 

Moreover, “conservatives” in Congress threaten to do away with the American social safety net at a time of 1970’s era wages and rampant homelessness, just when it is needed the most! If these neoconservatives succeed in taking away, or even succeed in reducing, the social safety net that millions are currently depending upon because they can’t find work or enough of it (and often because they can’t even feed their kids), you can be sure there will be rioting in the streets at best, or another US civil war like in Syria or Yemen at worst. These current events line up with much of what I have been saying on my web site (or blog) since day one about what is wrong with the world in which we live, and how we should proceed to make it better. Anyone can be religious, but I choose to take it to the next level. I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to make a real difference. I can be super-spiritual all day long, but if I’m too stingy to buy a homeless lady and her two little kids a $10.00 or $12.00 box of fried chicken with some ‘sides’, what good am I?

 

My own faith is a blend of leftist Christian (yes, there is such a thing; think “social gospel” minus the emphasis on ‘social salvation’ from that era), plus Teddy-Roosevelt-style Populism and Bernie Sanders-style progressiveness (hence my website name Progressive Christian Ministries). So now you know why I particularly enjoy going after big government and main-stream denominations at all levels, taking them all to task not just because of their sometimes-misguided leadership, but challenging their thinking and their values. For example, many Republicans in Washington keep talking about God and politics as if they are interchangeable. They like to make it look like they are on the side of God, as if God were a political conservative like themselves. And they love to make it seem like the Democrats and “liberals” are a party of loose morality, favoring abortion and gay marriage, and hanging around with terrorists both domestic and foreign. They are experts at crafting and delivering their message – good enough to inspire many middle-class white folks to vote against their own best interests in the 2016 presidential elections. Their message works because it appeals to people’s base emotions, not their intellects. And reacting is so much easier than critical thinking, especially when we’re so emotionally drained from these years of unemployment, or working multiple part time jobs, or home foreclosures. They are so effective with their message that they don’t think twice before selling the idea that God wanted George W. Bush to attack Iraq, God favors Republicans, and God wanted Sarah Palin to be President. Or maybe Mike Huckabee.

 

Our lawmakers completely ignore the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. The first amendment to the US Constitution begins by saying, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…….” To me, this means anyone who wishes to engineer a merger of government and organized religion either knows nothing about the Constitution or they openly wish to break it. Either way, that means they would be committing treason if these neocons and right-wing extremists were to actually pull off such a political stunt as that. They publicly thump the Bibles on which they were sworn into office. They brag about giving 10% of their incomes to the churches they belong to, even though many don’t attend church at all. And they make sure they’re seen praying, whether it be in church, in public, or on TV. Jesus had something to say about that, and those serene words of wisdom are just as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago when they were first spoken. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go to your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew chapter 6, verses 5-6)

 

As we set aside today’s ideological hysteria and look at the facts, Jesus was part liberal and part socialist by today’s standards (hence the inspiration for the “social gospel” of 1,900 years later), and much of the New Testament condemns the attitude of the so-called religious right (which is neither as far as I am concerned). For example, Jesus condemned the greedy rich, saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” [Matthew 19:24] He denounced the money changers in the temple at Jerusalem as He threw them out, saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.” [Matthew 21:13] And Jesus stood up for the poor and underprivileged, saying, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” [Matthew 25:40]

 

So then, how can our nation’s leadership, especially the conservative right-wingers, call themselves Christian? How does one call oneself a follower of Jesus Christ – and allegedly He alone – as they hold the unemployed, the disabled and retired pensioners hostage while fighting for more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires? They don’t care about us, and they don’t care if we know that or not. We the people, America’s middle and working classes, need not tolerate what amounts to being openly insulted. We can and should fight back! Who is with me today? I’m just one disabled man, all I can do is write from here in my apartment. So I need all you able-bodied people to please, please, get out in the streets and protest, or do something more if you can. Our situation here in America has become intolerable!

 

Jesus acknowledged the need for government as well as tax-supported government services, saying, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.” [Matthew 22:21] So then how can these war hawks of Washington call themselves ‘Christians’ as they rail against paying their fair share of taxes? Never mind the fact that this is the same bunch of people who vehemently oppose national health care and food programs for poor kids! Never mind that these same people (and their financial backers) are the ones voting in favor of increasing funding of the largest and most formidable military in world history. Last year the US government spent more money on military expenditures than all the rest of the world combined. Then again, there is the fact that the United States has more people in prison than all the rest of the world’s countries – again, combined. There is something very, very wrong with this picture, that’s for sure. When faced with all these facts, I am forced to come to the conclusion that America isn’t the world’s greatest country anymore, if it ever really was. The American people have woken up to the fact that we’ve all been bamboozled for generations. It’s on us to correct this glaring problem, everybody. It’s up to us, the American people, to turn this around.

 

Jesus healed the sick – even lepers – for free. He didn’t ask them for an insurance card first, nor did he have any legal forms for anyone to sign. Jesus just healed people because it was the right thing to do, but more importantly because that’s one of the things he came here to do (let’s not forget Jesus’ main reason; his blood which He shed on a cross for each of us!). Jesus was the original “socialized medicine” personified. So then, how can certain conservatives call themselves ‘Christian’ (that is, followers of Jesus Christ in Spirit and in truth) as they condemn the infinitely more profitable (and woefully insufficient) “Obamacare”? The truth of the matter is that much of the effectiveness of any government is directly proportional to how well it cares for its people. (By the way, it was Thomas Jefferson who first said that.) The United States is the last developed country in the world that does not have national health insurance for its citizens. Every other developed country – and many developing ones – has national health insurance, except for us. As I wrote above about shelter being a basic human right, so it is with health care.

 

Proper medical care is not a privilege available only to those who can afford to pay! Good quality health care is a basic human right that must be available to everyone without qualification, including preexisting conditions. The money to implement such a plan is already available with plenty to spare. All the government has to do is call off all the illegal wars and occupations overseas and bring our troops home. Whatever money is left over can be used for giant public works projects to put all the long-term unemployed back to work, or to send them back to school to learn a trade. Is there sufficient money to accomplish and finance this worthy goal? Absolutely, and all without adding to the federal deficit. Here’s an example: If the US military set aside one day’s expenses for the twin occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq (Again? Wasn’t once enough?) and put those funds in an interest-bearing account, there would be enough money to send every single American school kid to four years of college – fully paid for. We’d get all that from just one days military expenditures! So don’t tell me we can’t afford quality education without qualification! Oh yes we can!!

 

As he stood and delivered his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of the living God.” [Matthew 5:9] Still, the conservatives call themselves ‘Christian’ as they continue to call for endless war, be it legally and morally justified or not. At the same time, they expound on how pro-life or anti-abortion they are. So, let me get this straight. In order to be a good Christian, one must be pro-war and pro-life simultaneously? Or, one must be pro-life but opposed to putting the entire country on Medicare, then? And then our military and “intelligence” establishment tries to justify torture by saying so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” saves lives? So I ask them as I ask you all; in the words of the popular button and bumper sticker: Who would Jesus torture?

 

In the end, I see many neoconservatives, Republicans and other right-wing extremists paying much homage to the Bible while ignoring what is in between its covers. As for myself, I could not stand to live like that, being a Washington hypocrite or a modern-day Pharisee. My conscience simply would not allow me to do such a thing, and especially without taking it to the Lord in prayer beforehand! Let’s vote these right wing-nuts out of office during this year’s midterm elections first, and we’ll see what happens. But if nothing changes and our plight continues to slowly worsen, it’s going to be time to start all over again on a clean sheet of paper in 2020. If our country is still here, that is. It’s the only way we can peacefully force things in Washington to change. But if things don’t start changing, and soon, the civil wars of Syria and Yemen will be mushrooming from within America’s heartland, and with maximum vengeance! If governing power cannot be returned to the American people peacefully, then things will deteriorate to the point where we will simply have to retake it by force. Get ready, everybody. And, if you’re not already praying, please start. It’s the least you can do.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Free book excerpt #23 from Author Paul J. Bern: this time it’s a whole chapter!

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

legalization cover 1

(C) 2016 by Rev. Paul J. Bern all rights reserved

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

Chapter One

The Drug War and the Bible

Of all the people throughout the world who are incarcerated, fully 25% of them are locked up right here in the US. The United States has more people locked up in state and federal prisons than all the rest of the countries of the world combined. Of all the US prisoners currently serving sentences in state and federal prisons, nearly 55% of them are locked up for nonviolent drug offenses such as simple pot or crack possession. When I looked at whether fewer people use drugs in countries like ours with stricter drug laws, I found that the World Health Organization looked at 17 countries in a 2008 study and found no such correlation. The US, despite its punitive – to the point of being draconian – drug policies, has the highest level of drug use, legal or otherwise, in the world. By any measure, making drugs illegal fails to achieve one of its primary objectives. But it is the unintended consequences of prohibition that make the most compelling case against it.

Prohibition fuels crime in many ways: without state aid, addicts may be forced to fund their habit through robbery, for instance, while youngsters can be drawn into the drug trade as a way to earn money and status. In countries such as Colombia and Mexico, the profits from illegal drugs have spawned armed criminal organizations whose resources rival those of the state. That process is ongoing here in America even as I write this. So what’s the alternative? There are several models for the legal provision of “recreational” drugs. They include prescriptions for medical marijuana by doctors, consumption at licensed premises such as bars and smoking lounges, and particularly sale on a similar basis to alcohol and tobacco, with its own taxation rates, health warnings, and age limitations to only those age 21 or older. If this prospect appalls you, consider the fact that in the US today, the majority of teenagers say they find it easier to buy cannabis than beer! According to sources in law enforcement as well as licensed therapists, close to of 40% of teens – and approximately half the US adult population – now say pot is safer than alcohol. Based on my own experiences I would agree completely even though my government is opposed to it. This opposition resulted in the so-called ‘War On Drugs’ that was declared by President Nixon back in 1971. What has this 45-year-long war on drugs gotten us? In all that time, taxpayers spent more than:

$20 billion to fight the drug gangs in their home countries. In Colombia, for example, the United States spent more than $6 billion, while coca cultivation increased and trafficking moved to Mexico — and the violence along with it.

$33 billion in marketing “Just Say No” messages to America’s youth and other “prevention” programs. High school students report the same rates of illegal drug use as they did in 1970, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses have “risen steadily” since the early 1970s to more than 20,000 last year.

$49 billion for law enforcement along America’s borders to cut off the flow of illegal drugs. This year, 25 million Americans will snort, swallow, inject and smoke illicit drugs, about 10 million more than in 1970, with the bulk of those drugs imported from Mexico.

$121 billion to arrest more than 37 million nonviolent drug offenders, about 10 million of them for possession of marijuana. Studies show that jail time tends to increase drug abuse.

$450 billion to lock those people up in federal prisons alone. Last year, half of all U.S. federal prisoners were serving sentences for drug offenses.

The $320 billion annual global drug industry now accounts for over 2 percent of all commerce on the planet. A full 12 percent of Mexico’s economy is built on drug proceeds. For every drug dealer you put in jail or kill, a line forms to replace him/her because the money is just that good. Today it is clearer than ever that cannabis prohibition not only does not work when it comes to drug law enforcement, it actually exacerbates the drug “problem” overall. The February 12, 1996 issue of the National Review had the headline in bold letters, “THE WAR ON DRUGS IS LOST”. Of course that was 20 years ago. Never mind about all those illegal drugs for now. Let’s start with one drug that has repeatedly demonstrated healing properties, and I’m talking about cannabis. That’s right – medical marijuana. Consider a few facts about America’s ‘weed war’:

  • It diverts hundreds of thousands of police agents from serious crimes to the pursuit of harmless smokers, including agents from the local and state police, FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, and U.S. Marshals, Secret Service, Border Patrol, Customs, and Postal Service.

  • By even the most conservative estimate, the outlay from US taxpayers now tops $10 billion a year in direct spending just to catch, prosecute, and incarcerate marijuana users and sellers, not counting other illegal drugs and such indirect costs as militarizing our border with Mexico in a hopeless and pathetic effort to stop marijuana imports.

  • Police agents at all levels trample our Bill of Rights in their eagerness to nab pot consumers by conducting illegal car searches, phone and email taps, garbage scrounging, stop-and-frisks out in public without just cause just because they can, and door-busting night raids, many of which are not accompanied by Constitutionally required search warrants.

  • Even people who are merely suspected of marijuana violations and have had no charges filed against them can (and regularly do) have their cars, money, computers, and other property confiscated by police. In a reversal of America’s fundamental legal principles, it is up to these suspects to prove that their property is “innocent” of any crime.

  • People convicted of possessing even one ounce of marijuana can face mandatory minimum sentences of a year in jail, and having even one plant in your yard is a federal felony.

  • At least 490,000 Americans are in federal or state prisons as I write this. All are being held on marijuana charges, not counting people in city and county jails, in which there are even more than the prison systems.

  • 89% of all marijuana arrests are for simple possession of the weed, not for producing or selling it. In short, marijuana prohibition is not, and will not, reduce demand. So then, it’s time to regulate the supply. It is time to remove the production and distribution of marijuana out of the hands of violent criminals and into the hands of licensed businesses, and the only practical way to do that is through legalization, regulation and taxation.

Another thing about the drug war is that we are forced to draw connections between the war on drugs and the disintegration of low-income and minority communities in America. As Dr. King so poignantly reminded us in his critique of the Vietnam War, “a time comes when silence is betrayal.” With many communities disparately impacted by the drug war, many of us working for justice have come to the realization that America’s war on drugs is really a war on families and communities. In the spirit of Rev. Dr. King, we must now ask: Has this drug war assault on the poor and the marginalized become the next big civil rights struggle? In view of the repeated police killings of unarmed black civilians across America, the answer appears to be an emphatic yes! Civil rights advocates are honoring Dr. King’s legacy by standing up against the “new Jim Crow” – mass incarceration through the racially disproportionate war on drugs. It is impossible to talk frankly and honestly about racism without talking about the drug war. Few U.S. policies have had such a devastating effect on Blacks, Latinos and other racial minorities than the drug war. Every aspect of the war on drugs – from arrests to prosecutions to sentencing – is disproportionately carried out against minorities. Speaking as a minister who speaks up for the poor, minorities, the mentally ill and the outcast, this is inexcusable in an allegedly Christian country like the US. Why is this being allowed to continue? Join the folks in Ferguson, Mo., and from Atlanta to Chicago to Milwaukee and get out in the streets and protest! It’s your patriotic duty to do so!

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.

The fact of the matter is that if cannabis was legalized and regulated, the medical profession would have a new and completely natural weapon to use against chronic pain, the side effects of chemotherapy, glaucoma and a veritable laundry list of other ailments already mentioned. All the claims about cannabis being harmful and addictive have long since been disproved by reputable scientific researchers. Moreover, if cannabis was legalized and taxed at the state and federal levels, American taxpayers and lawmakers alike would be looking at a new revenue stream well in excess of $400 billion dollars annually at the federal level alone. This is not counting fresh revenues in the amount of tens of billions annually that each state would collect as a result of legalization, times all 50 states and US territories. And let’s not forget that cannabis legalization across the country has already been estimated to create anywhere from several hundred thousand to well in excess of one million new jobs (just look at Colorado, Washington state, and Alaska, and they’re just getting started). That’s the part the elite 1% can’t stand; the idea that multitudes of long-time unemployed US workers could get back on their feet financially – even if pot were the only currently illegal drug to be decriminalized – along with its sister plant hemp (more on that in this book’s final chapter), and the additional hundreds of thousands of jobs hemp legalization would create. That should be the first step for the American people to take back their country from the Globalist Elite. The more jobs we create, the more money gets taken away from Wall Street, Washington and ultimately the Federal Reserve.

Finally, if cannabis were to be decriminalized, all the combined resources of law enforcement at all levels could redirect their time and effort to the main things that they do best, which is to stop violent crime in its tracks, and to detect and expose those who are involved with terrorism and human smuggling or trafficking across or within our borders. It is much easier for law enforcement at all levels to protect the public when they do not have to waste time prosecuting certain persons for smoking a harmless plant. Cigarettes are legal; when someone lights one up they are also smoking a plant, so (speaking as a minister who has no problem with taking a stand against bad laws that are civil rights violations at best and Constitutional breaches at worst) morally there is no difference. It is a documented fact that cigarette smoking kills between 40 and 50 thousand people per year in the US alone. By the same token, nobody ever died from smoking cannabis. Absolutely nobody. Ever.

If “we the people”, America’s 99%, want an effective way to take away what I regard as excess authority that is being abused by the uniformed minions and henchmen of the top 1%, then ending the war on drugs would be one very good place to start. The war on drugs, like the ticking time bomb of economic inequality and the resulting class warfare that is ongoing in America, is the new civil rights battle cry of the 21st century. As a watchman on the wall for the Lord protecting a boundary that shields the human rights of mankind, it is my job to sound this warning, and I am not alone in doing so. All one has to do is listen and you will hear their voices, that it’s time to take back our country from the unscrupulous minions of Wall St., starting with the big banks, and their armies of Washington lobbyists who have seized control of our country in a (nearly) bloodless coup de etat on November 22nd, 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated. Let’s not forget the Federal Reserve while we’re at it, who financed the whole debacle of the 2008 financial crash. Worst of all, stories are beginning to circulate about a probable collapse of the debt-based capitalist economic system we are all stuck living under. In that event, having enough food and water to last for at least a month up to a year or more would be prudent indeed.

As the struggle to regain control of America gets started in earnest by its citizens, a resounding crescendo of voices of the multitudes who are completely fed up with an existence of bare bones survival will rise up and speak the truth to the power of big corporate money. We who are rising up will say with one voice, “Enough is enough!”, and by the force of sheer numbers we will overwhelm those who hoard wealth, assets and possessions at the expense of everyone else. The years 2016 and beyond will be a time of reckoning. If “we the people” are denied a hearing for our “redress of grievances” as guaranteed by the US Constitution, then we will take to the streets in protest. “We the people” can shut down the entire country if we want, even if only for a day. Then the top 1%-‘ers will see that resisting us will only turn America into another Tunisia, another Egypt, another Yemen, another Spain, or (God forbid) another Syria, or maybe another Greece. It is time for everyone to make a choice. If we do not make ourselves part of the solution, then we default to being part of the problem. Become part of the solution! Occupy America for legalized cannabis in 2016 and beyond, and praise Almighty God, who made the marijuana plant in the first place!

Where does it say that in the Bible, you ask? In Genesis chapter one, the very first book in the Bible, and I quote from verses eleven and twelve: “Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation; seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day.” So now you can plainly see the plant life was made on the third day of creation. Even if you’re reading this and you’re not religious, the Bible still says that God created marijuana along with all the other “seed-bearing” plant life. If you’ve ever seen the cannabis plant (the scientific name for weed), you know they have a kind of flower colloquially called ‘buds’, and these buds do contain seeds, although some varieties have more than others. So marijuana is undoubtedly a creation of God’s. Of course the skeptics, conservatives including most conservative Christians, and law enforcement would undoubtedly take great exception to that, be it Biblical or not. In response, allow me to show some additional Scripture, this time in the New Testament instead of the old one. “At about noon the following day….Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ ‘Surely not, Lord!’, Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean’. The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean’. This happened three times, and the sheet was immediately taken back up to heaven.” [Acts chapter 10, verses 9-16]

Explaining this passage of Scripture is easier than it may look. Peter, along with 11 of the original 12 apostles, were what we would call traditional Jews today. After all, Jesus himself walked the earth as a Jewish man, so this comes as no surprise. As such, Peter was forbidden by the Hebrew traditions of old from eating certain foods, such as pork and some kinds of shellfish. (See Leviticus chapter 11 in the Old Testament for a detailed explanation of what was ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ for devout Jews to consume.) Yet the voice of Jesus, the source of the voice the apostle Peter was hearing, told him “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean”. Obviously this applies to the plant life as well as animals, since God made them all, just as it is written in the Book of Psalms, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it”. Moreover, since we are not legally bound to obey a law that disobeys one of the Laws of God, or more accurately of Jesus, the laws that criminalize marijuana, a documented creation of Almighty God, are by their very nature invalid and immoral. This book, then, is based on these three passages of Scripture, and I will now devote the remainder of this book to expose the immorality of marijuana and hemp prohibition, as well as the extreme immorality and racism of America’s prisons-for-profit.

Buy it now at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J1X7802

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

Get it on Kindle ($7.95) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=cannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A154606011%2Ck%3Acannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible

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

Tagged , , , , ,

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

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

 

DCIM100MEDIA

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

Heeding Eisenhower’s Warning

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

SOME QUICK FACTS ON WARS AND DEFENSE SPENDING

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

 

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

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

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

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Free book excerpt #21 from blogger and nonfiction author Rev. Paul J. Bern

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

Today’s post includes an in-depth interview with Shane at the pro-legalization website and blog Cheap Home Grow (cheaphomegrow.com); check it out from right here

legalization cover 1

Chapter Five

This Is What A Police State Looks Like

For nearly half a century, America’s police forces have undergone a process of militarization. They’ve upped their cache of assault weapons and military defense gear, increasingly deployed SWAT teams to conduct ops-style missions on civilians, and cultivated a warrior attitude within their rank. While major metropolitan areas have maintained SWAT teams for decades, by the mid 2000s, 80 percent of small towns also had their own paramilitary forces. But, beyond deep reporting of individual journalists and scholars, little is known about the extent of police militarization across the country. The ACLU has attempted to bridge that knowledge gap with a fairly recent report called “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.” Below are some of its most significant findings:

1). The federal government’s war on drugs is the single greatest catalyst for local police militarization. Far from being used for emergencies such as hostage situations, the ACLU found that 62% of all SWAT deployments were for the purpose of drug searches, and 79% were to search a person’s home with or without a search warrant — usually for drugs. These deployments are invariably violent and feature bands of heavily armed officers ramming down doors or chucking ‘flash bang’ grenades into people’s homes. Innocent people are often caught up, and sometimes killed, in the ensuing chaos. Examples of this include Eurie Stamp, a Massachusetts grandfather who was shot dead by an officer as police attempted to locate Stamp’s girlfriend’s son for a drug offense. Other SWAT-induced tragedies abound: The ACLU has found that dozens of people were killed or injured as a result of paramilitary deployment. For decades, the federal government — in its quixotic quest to eliminate drug use — has abetted these aggressive tactics with programs that create incentives for militarization. One is called the 1033 program, which was launched in the 1980’s to create a pipeline for military equipment between the Department of Defense and local law enforcement. There are few limitations or requirements imposed on agencies that participate in the 1033 Program. In addition, equipment transferred under the 1033 Program is free to receiving agencies, though they are required to pay for transport and maintenance. The federal government requires agencies that receive 1033 equipment to use it within one year of receipt. Equally to blame is the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, another 80’s artifact that gives local police forces incentives to seek out low-level drug offenders in exchange for grant money. US Attorney General Eric Holder has called for the need to ensure that the police have the trust of the community, and it has the potential to do some really good work. But I am concerned that if the Justice Department continues to grant money to local police departments, money they use to engage in paramilitary weapons and tactics, the Attorney Generals’ good work will be undermined.

2). Militarization is occurring with almost no oversight There is virtually no oversight for SWAT deployment at the state level, meaning no agency or governing body tracks how, and for what purposes, SWAT teams are dispatched. There are few exceptions. Maryland passed a law mandating the state to track SWAT deployment after the mayor of a small municipality had his home raided, but that law is unlikely to be renewed this year. The Utah state legislature recently agreed on a bill to track SWAT deployment and is currently going forward with implementing the law. Local agencies usually engaged in after-action reports of SWAT use, but the ACLU found these reports were “woefully incomplete.” The ACLU also discovered there are no uniform standards for deploying SWAT teams. Discretion ultimately rests with police officers themselves.

3). Non-whites are more likely to be targeted by SWAT deployments. It should come as no surprise that the people most persecuted by police in their communities are also more likely to have their front doors bashed down by a police battering ram. Many of the SWAT teams examined by the ACLU “either do not record race information or record it unsystematically.” Nevertheless, the report found that for all people affected by a SWAT deployment, 37 percent were Black, 12 percent were Latino, 19 were white, and race was unknown for the rest of the people impacted. Racial disparities were even more pronounced when examining the purpose for SWAT deployment. When SWAT was dispatched for drug raids, 68 percent of the time their targets were Blacks or Latinos, while targets were white only 38 percent of the time. Similarly, when SWAT was dispatched with warrants to search homes, non-whites were affected to a greater degree than whites. In contrast, nearly half of those affected when SWAT was deployed for emergency situations (hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios) were white, while only 23% were non-white. Basically, non-whites were not only more likely to come into contact with paramilitary police forces, but their contact was usually prompted by drug searches rather than the sort of emergencies where you may actually want police to show up.

4). Police are secretive about their use of SWAT Overall, the ACLU report lacks the sort of robustness you might expect for a definitive report on police militarization in America. This is largely the fault of police agencies themselves, who denied nearly half of the ACLU’s public records requests in part or in full, and who keep poor records of their own SWAT use. Those difficulties seem to inform much of the ACLU’s recommendations to local, state and federal officials. Above all, the organization calls for a streamlined system of record keeping for SWAT deployment and equipment procurement. No such system currently exists. The ACLU also asks that standards for deployment be bolstered and unified across precincts, and that federal programs incentivizing militarization be weakened or dismantled outright.

How did we allow our law enforcement apparatus to descend into militaristic chaos? Traditionally, the role of civilian police has been to maintain the peace and safety of the community while upholding the civil liberties of residents in their respective jurisdictions. In stark contrast, the military soldier is an agent of war, trained to kill the enemy. Clearly, the mission of the police officer is incompatible with that of a soldier, so why is it that local police departments are looking more and more like paramilitary units in a combat zone? The line between military and civilian law enforcement has been drawn for good reason, but following the drug war and more recently, the war on terror, that line is inconspicuously eroding, a trend that appears to be worsening by the year.

Originally called the Special Weapons Attack Team, the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units were inspired by an incident in 1966, when an armed man climbed to the top of the 32-story clock tower at the University of Texas in Austin and fired randomly for 90 minutes, shooting 46 people and killing 15, until two police officers got to the top of the tower and killed him. This episode is said to have “shattered the last myth of safety Americans enjoyed [and] was the final impetus the chiefs of police needed” to form their own SWAT teams. Use of these paramilitary units gradually increased throughout the 1970s, mostly in urban settings. The introduction of paramilitary units in America laid the foundation for the erosion of the barrier between police and military, a trend which accelerated in the 1980s under President Reagan. In 1981, Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which amended Posse Comitatus by directing the military to give local, state and federal law enforcement access to military equipment, research and training for use in the drug war. Following the authorization of domestic police and military cooperation, the 1980s saw a series of additional congressional and presidential maneuvers that blurred the line between soldier and police officer, ultimately culminating in the passage of the National Defense Authorization Security Act which created the Law Enforcement Support Program, an agency tasked with accelerating the transfer of military equipment to civilian police departments. Between 1995 and 1997 the Department of Defense gave 1.2 million pieces of military hardware, including 3,800 M-16s, 2,185 M-14s, 73 grenade launchers and 112 armored personnel carriers to civilian police agencies across the country. Between January 1997 and October 1999 alone, LEAP facilitated the distribution of 3.4 million orders of Pentagon equipment to over 11,000 domestic police agencies in all 50 states. By December 2005, that number increased to 17,000. The agreement authorized the transfer of federal military technology to local police forces, essentially flooding civilian law enforcement with surplus military gear previously reserved for use during wartime. But this was only the beginning.

In 1997, Congress, not yet satisfied with the flow of military hardware to local police, allocated $727 million worth of this equipment. Among the hand-me-downs were 253 aircraft (including six- and seven-passenger airplanes, and UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-1 Huey helicopters), 7,856 M-16 rifles, 181 grenade launchers, 8,131 bulletproof helmets, and 1,161 pairs of night-vision goggles. The military surplus program and paramilitary units feed off one another in a cyclical loop that has caused an explosive growth in militarized crime control techniques. With all the new high-tech military toys the federal government has been funneling into local police departments, SWAT teams have inevitably multiplied and spread across American cities and towns in both volume and deployment frequency. Criminologist Peter Kraska found that the frequency of SWAT operations soared from just 3,000 annual deployments in the early 1980s to an astonishing 40,000 raids per year by 2001, 75-80 percent of which were used to deliver search warrants.

Then there are the effects of the war on terror, which sparked the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the introduction of DHS grants to local police departments. These grants are used to purchase policing equipment, although law enforcement is investing in more than just bullet-proof vests and walkie-talkies. DHS grants have led to a booming law enforcement industry that specifically markets military-style weaponry to local police departments. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is law enforcement’s version of the military-industrial-complex. By instituting public policies that encouraged the collaboration of military and domestic policing, the US government handed a massive and highly profitable clientele to private suppliers of paramilitary gear. Following the breakdown of Posse Comitatus in the 1980s and ’90s, gun companies, perceiving a profitable trend, began aggressively marketing automatic weapons to local police departments, holding seminars, and sending out color brochures redolent with ninja-style imagery. Private suppliers of military equipment advertise a glorified version of military-style policing attire to local police departments and SWAT teams. One such defense manufacturing company, Heckler and Koch, epitomized this aggressive marketing tactic with its slogan for the MP5 submachine gun, “From the Gulf War to the Drug War — Battle Proven.”

The most widely used justification for the purchase of heavily armored war machines is that violence against police officers has increased exponentially, necessitating tanks for the protection of the men and women who serve our communities. But examination of the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, a database that tracks the number of law enforcement officers killed and assaulted each year, reveals that this is simply not true. According to the UCR, since 2000 an average yearly toll of about 50 police officers have been killed in the line of duty, the highest reaching 70 in 2001. So the notion that militarization is a necessary reaction to a growth in violence against police officers is absurd, considering that violent crime is trending downward. Others argue these tanks are needed in case of a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. But on September 11, 2001, I do not recall the NYPD complaining that a lack of armored tanks was impeding its policing efforts. And during the catastrophic tornado that tore through Joplin, Missouri several years ago, heavily armored vehicles weren’t present nor were they needed to assist in the aftermath. The majority of paramilitary drug raid proponents maintain that military-style law enforcement is required to reduce the risk of potential violence, injury and death to both police officers and innocents. The reality is that SWAT team raids actually escalate provocation, usually resulting in senseless violence in what would otherwise be a routine, nonviolent police procedure. Just consider your reaction in the event of a SWAT team breaking down your door in the middle of night, possibly even blowing off the hinges with explosives, while you and your family are asleep. Imagine the terror of waking up to find complete strangers forcing their way into your home and detonating a flash-bang grenade, meant to disorient you. Assuming nobody is hurt, what thoughts might be raging in your mind while the police forcefully incapacitate you and your loved ones, most likely at gunpoint, while carrying out a search warrant of your home. Assuming you were able to contain the mix of fear and rage going through your body, consider how helpless you would feel to know that any perceived noncompliance would most certainly be met with lethal force.

We have created circumstances under which the American people are no longer individuals protected by the Bill of Rights, but rather “enemy combatants.” The consequences of such a mindset have proven time and again to be lethal, as we now rely on military ideology and practice to respond to crime and justice. For some insight into the implications, one needn’t look any further than minority communities, which have long been the victims of paramilitary forces posing as police officers. Black and Latino communities in the inner-cities of Washington DC, Detroit and Chicago have witnessed first-hand the deadly consequences of militarization on American soil. Military culture now permeates all aspects of our society. Does anyone really believe that heavily armed soldiers trained to kill are capable of maintaining an atmosphere of nonviolence?

Asset forfeiture, another means of enriching law enforcement at the expense of the very people the cops are paid to protect, is on the rise. Civil asset forfeiture is government seizure of property and cash, even when the owner isn’t charged with a crime. Innocent owners must go through a costly, time-consuming process to get their property back — and even then they may be denied. Police departments get to sell the seized property and keep most of the proceeds. This author predicts that because of the shaky US economy and budget crunches, police will continue to increase searches, raids, and seizures to generate more revenue. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2010 alone, federal, state, and local government stole homes, cars, boats, and cash in more than 15,000 cases. The total take topped $2.5 billion, more than doubling in the next five years, the last year that these figures were available as of this writing. Top federal officials are also pushing for greater use of civil-forfeiture proceedings, in which assets can be taken without criminal charges being filed against the owner. Unlike in criminal cases, the poor are not entitled to free legal representation to help them get their property back. This means, to anyone with common sense, that an individual’s property could be seized without due process of law, a CLEAR violation of the Fifth Amendment…..

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

Written by a pan-denominational Christian minister and blogger, this book uses the Bible to provide a simple explanation for why marijuana criminalization is a sin against God. Buy direct ($9.95, 200 pages) at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

Available for iPhone, iPad, Kobo, Nook, Sony and more from Smashwords.com at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/666084

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

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

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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

Sinister FDA Won’t Approve Cutting Edge Flu Drug,

Proves Our Government Is Working Against Us

by pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in any browser, click here 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Why Watching TV Can Destroy Your Soul

Reasons to Stop Watching T.V.

For Secular and Christian Alike

by pastor Paul J. Bern

For viewing in any browser, click here 🙂

threat_from_washington I was asked by a reader this past week if I had ever considered posting a piece on the evils of watching television. Actually, in the past I had considered doing exactly that, but every time I got ready to, something of greater importance would come up with respect to current events. For example, I could have wrote about the US government shut-down that just occurred this past Friday, but everybody saw that one coming anyway. Besides, I’m hoping this shut-down will be short-lived! Moreover 0, since so much of this is continuously being disseminated in the Lame Stream Media, I will leave reporting on the US government shut down to them. The larger aspect of this is that the shut-down, along with all the other information you can possibly stand whether you like it or not, is being presented to the public via television.

According to some facts and figures from TV-Free America (1322 18th Street, NW Washington, DC 20036) regarding American television viewing habits, I categorize them as follows:

[1] FAMILY LIFE

  • Percentage of households that possess at least one television: 99
  • Number of TV sets in the average U.S. household: 2.24
  • Percentage of U.S. homes with three or more TV sets: 66
  • Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes
  • Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner: 66
  • Number of hours of TV watched annually by Americans: 270 billion
  • Value of that time assuming an average wage of $10/hour: $2.5 trillion
  • Percentage of Americans who pay for cable TV: 66
  • Number of videos rented daily in the U.S.: 7 million
  • Number of public library items checked out daily: 3 million
  • Percentage of Americans who say they watch too much TV: 49

[2] CHILDREN

  • Approximate number of studies examining TV’s effects on children: 5,000
  • Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful
  • conversation with their children: 3.5
  • Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680
  • Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 77
  • Percentage of parents who would like to limit their children’s TV watching: 77
  • Percentage of 4-6-year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV

    and spending time with their fathers, preferred television: 54

  • Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours
  • Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500

[3] VIOLENCE

  • Number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8,000
  • Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18: 200,000
  • Percentage of Americans who believe TV violence helps precipitate real life mayhem: 79

[4] COMMERCIALISM

  • Number of 30-second TV commercials per hour: 40
  • Percentage of local TV news broadcast time devoted to advertising: 30
  • Percentage devoted to stories about crime, disaster and war: 53.8
  • Percentage devoted to public service announcements: 0.7
  • Percentage of Americans who can name The Three Stooges: 59
  • Percentage who can name at least three justices of the U.S. Supreme Court: 17
  • Number of TV commercials seen by the average person by age 65: 2 million
  • Percentage of survey participants (1993) who said that TV commercials
  • aimed at children make them too materialistic: 93
  • Rank of food products/fast-food restaurants among TV advertisements to kids: 1
  • Total spending by 100 leading TV advertisers in 1993: $15 billion

 

According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube. Let me select a quote from the Old Testament about that: “You shall have no other gods before me, You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love for a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20, verses 3-5) Can your television become an idol? In many cases and with many individuals and even whole families, evidently so!

Let’s review, shall we? Americans spend an average of 6 ¾ hours daily watching or streaming TV. Half of Americans admit they watch too much TV – the rest just don’t realize it yet. School age children watch nearly 1,700 minutes of TV weekly, while half of those kids would rather watch TV than spend time with their fathers. This fact in and of itself is a scathing indictment of American dads because it points to a lack of parenting.

 

Elementary school kids see 8,000 acts of violence on TV by the time they move on to junior high school. By the time they finish high school that number jumps to a breathtaking 200,000! Is it any wonder there is so much violence and even fatal shootings in our schools? Our children are being bombarded with violence nearly 24/7! At every turn all they see and feel is violence, inappropriate sexuality and a general disconnect from reality via the technology they’re using that is very unhealthy. Moreover, one third of TV viewing consists of one commercial after another, while any given person watches 40 commercials for every hour of viewing. So now you know the real, underlying reason the networks advertise their news programs so much! They want to bombard you with a bunch of third world crap that none of us needs or wants. Everybody has had just about enough of these abuses, and that includes myself! And yes, by the way, your TV is your idol! You Christians spend an hour or two each week at church but you watch 6 ¾ hours of TV per day? You are all in idolatry! Repent of your sins, every one of you! Unsubscribe from your cable or satellite TV, and get a set of rabbit ears for the local news if you want. Stream what you want to watch over the Internet, and if you have children at home, block the TV on their phones so they can’t watch it. If you really love your kids you will be glad to do this for them.

 

In closing, I will leave you with a quote from James chapter 1, verses 26-27: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” OK, so if we want to emulate the apostle James – who was martyred for his apostleship – and keep ourselves pure, we will have to make a choice – devotion to Jesus or devotion to our televisions. The fact that we are spending at least 20 times more time with our TV’s than at church, even more if we count our prayer time, speaks volumes about where our hearts are. So do yourselves and your souls a favor – turn off your TV and disconnect your cable or dish and use that time to find someone who needs help. Go volunteer somewhere. All you parents, start spending more time with your kids instead of using your televisions for babysitters. The kids will appreciate you for it, and their grades will get better in school if they know their parents really care. Mass entertainment does more harm than good. The novelty of television wore off decades ago. Nowadays it’s just a nuisance. Better still, take your TV out to the back yard and kill it.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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

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

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

adbbd-new2bmanifesto2bcover

I Dare To Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also available on Kindle ($3.95) at

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

For Apple devices or those using Kobo, Droid, Sony or Windows OS, click here ($3.95)

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

Tagged , , , , , ,
Advertisements