Category Archives: the 99%

Modern Capitalism and the Bible

The New Face of Capitalism Compared to

Authentic Christianity and the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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the new face of capitalism

The capitalist, debt-based economic system that we find ourselves enslaved by for the last few decades – and even before that – has reared its ugly head yet again this past week. United Airlines had a paying passenger literally dragged off a plane, giving him a concussion, and broken nose and other cuts and bruises when he refused to give up his seat. The facts that he had prepaid his seat and that he was a doctor returning to work after a vacation who was expected to report at a preset time, made no difference to the ‘security thugs’ who treated that gentleman with callous disrespect and a total lack of regard for his personal safety. Our capitalist economic system, it turns out, has degenerated into a Mafiosi-style enforcement-at-all-costs roulette table that is tilted in favor of the house. Our economy is rigged against us, the government knows it and knows that we do too, and they don’t care because they’ve turned the country into a police state to dampen the spirit of revolution. But, as president Kennedy famously said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolt inevitable”.

There is lots more to this than just politics and overzealous enforcement. The ‘lots more’ of which I write can only be found in the Bible. Whether one believes everything in the Bible or not, and even of one does not believe in it at all, the Scripture that I am about to quote fits the economic conditions of our time nearly perfectly. Allow me to quote from the first of three passages in Scripture that back up what I am writing or speaking about today. The first comes from the Book of Exodus, the 2nd book in the Old Testament, and I quote: “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of you among my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” (Exodus 22, verses 21-27)

The above quote is an outline from God about how we are to treat disadvantaged people. We all have a moral, spiritual and social responsibility to look after those less fortunate than ourselves. That’s what this passage is all about, and it starts with foreigners. Do not, Moses wrote here, mistreat “aliens”. Today we call anyone who is known or suspected of being in our country illegally an ‘illegal alien’. Instead of following the Bible as they should, many people vilify foreign nationals whether they are here legally or not. These people coming across our borders aren’t an invading army, they’re economic and ‘drug war’ refugees from southern Mexico, at least some of Central America, plus a few from South America and Cuba. God has warned us not to mistreat these people even if we don’t like them being here. Those who do not do so are disobeying God whether they realize it or not.

Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” All the banks that refinanced anyone who wanted it and that sold houses to people who couldn’t afford it 10 or 15 years ago before the 2008 mortgage crisis – this is just one of many modern examples of this that would apply here. So called “upside down” car loans are another example, where a car or truck owner owes more on the vehicle than it’s worth. These predatory loans are often sold to unsuspecting customers who don’t know any better because no one ever took the time to show them how to navigate our predatory economic system we call ‘capitalism’. Those who take advantage of these people will be punished most severely if they do not repent of their ways!

If you lend money to one of you among my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.” Contrast that verse with today’s world of “compound interest”, where greed is king of the hill and militarism is what enforces this institutionalized greed. Credit and debit cards are a fixture of life, and everything in our dying world of today is driven by the profit motive, flying in the face of Scripture and even the Lord himself! Ask yourself why the bottom 99% of Americans are buried under mountains of debt? Because the system is designed that way, that’s why. So should no interest be charged on anything at all? Not necessarily, since businesses often operate with lines of credit, as do governments. They borrow from “moneylenders” as the Bible calls them. But to charge people interest for the roof over their head, or for the clothes they wear or the food they eat, is just plain wrong, according to this verse of Scripture.

If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” This can be translated into modern English as a short-term loan, such as pawning an item or two or taking out a “payday loan” as they are called, among other things. Another way to interpret this would be to declare it sinful and an offense to make anyone put up everything they own as collateral. This kind of thing happens all too frequently in a world where costs continue to race ahead of people’s take-home pay. Here in the United States, 25% of our children go to bed hungry each night, and this is happening in what is allegedly the richest nation in history. This, ladies and gentlemen, is inexcusable! And now let me move on to the final part of this message and another quote from Scripture, this time from the New Testament.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2, verses 44-47) How about that? Everyone who joined the early churches, which were held in people’s houses rather than in large, imposing buildings such as we have today, pooled their resources! Meaning, the entirety of humankind has had the solution to poverty and hunger right in front of them while failing to see it! And why has this escaped us all for so many centuries? Because people don’t read the Bible, nor do they regard the Word of God for the societal guidelines and the human owner’s manual that it truly is.

OK, now let me give you another similar quote from the Book of Acts. “All the believers were of one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet.” (Acts 4, verses 32-37)

So here we see the same thing we saw above – people pooling their resources and sharing their wealth and possessions! In the 20th century and before that, these kinds of organizations were called ‘communes’, ‘cults’ and worse, and were the target of much scorn and derision, as were the hippies that inhabited them. If we look at this from a political standpoint rather than an economic one, we would call those who practiced these things “communists” or “socialists” by today’s standards. The least common denominator here is that no one cared about how much money they had or how much profit they made in their business transactions. Although it was evidently not a problem for a head of household to see to the needs of his or her family, anything over and above that went to the church to which they belonged. Why can’t most people do this today? Greed, pure and simple. Everyone is so busy looking out for themselves that others who are in much more dire straights are being ignored. It is this very injustice that the Bible addresses, and it rightfully admonishes those who cause such circumstances to occur.

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. Here’s an example of how to tell whether the preaching or teaching of the Word is authentic or not. Is the power of God clearly present? Is that power Spiritual in nature rather than emotional? Is that power presented with grace, beauty and a peaceful spirit? If the answer to all 3 questions is ‘yes’, what you’re hearing is not only authentic, it’s coming straight from God, inspired by the Holy Spirit! There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” How many people – Christian or otherwise – would do this today? Chances are you’re a homeowner or know someone who is. Would you, your parents or whomever seriously consider selling their house, farm, condo, etc. and giving all the money to a home-based church based on nothing more than what their friends and family had told them? It can be said with certainty that less than 1% of the population would actually do this based on the world in which we are all living. Now you have an idea of just how far off base capitalism is with respect to authentic, nonreligious Christianity!

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet.” “Levite” means a priest in the Temple who leads worship, animal sacrifices, music, or any other function one can think of in a house of worship. Levitical priests worked for only room and board, they did not receive any payment for their services or duties. So this man Joseph, also called Barnabas (he is mentioned again in Acts chapters 9, 11, 13 and 14, plus Galatians and a couple other places) sold a field he presumably inherited since he had no money to buy it, and donated all the proceeds to the apostles. As before, nobody would do this in today’s world to the best of my knowledge. Again, this goes to show us all how far off course capitalism and its byproduct – greed – has taken us. But it’s not too late to start building a better world, and we can start by abiding by the Biblical precepts of which I have written today. So until next time, all your stuff is just that – stuff! It can be replaced, but a closer walk with Jesus through those green pastures and besides still waters, just like Psalm 23 says, is irreplaceable.

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Is America Becoming a Nation of Wannabe Dictators?

Acute Hitler Syndrome – Why Our Elected Officials

Are Adopting the Tactics of Tyrants

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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threat_from_washington

Spontaneous acts of tyranny have been cropping up lately like cancer tumors. Come to think of it, this began to occur around or just after January 20th – inauguration day. Let’s go through a few examples and see what the Bible has to say about this. If “Trump care” gets passed into law as it is, 24 million people will lose their health insurance, and the birth of a child will not be covered at all. Hear that, ladies? If you’re pregnant and don’t qualify for Trump-care, you’re on your own! Enjoy having your baby at home in the bathtub. Or if you deliver at the hospital, your new presidential administration doesn’t care that your medical bills will bankrupt you, either. The same goes for everyone else who will lose their coverage. Moreover, the “Meals On Wheels” program for the poor and infirm would also be eliminated. So if you’re sick and bedridden and unable to go to the grocery store, you’re going to starve if you have no other resources, and many of these people don’t. If the new Trump administration gets its way, America’s poor will be trampled underfoot by an ‘alt-right’ stampede.

I watched all this with a sense of sadness and disgrace for the human race. You know, the apostle James had something to say about this: “Listen, my dear brothers: Has God not chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?…Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of Him to whom you belong?” (James 2, verses 5-6) And then a realization hit me like a bolt of lightning – this is occurring because people are only following the examples set by others. These random acts of tyranny aren’t really random acts at all. They are the infantile acting-out of behaviors the childish American public has witnessed being demonstrated by their “leaders.” The TSA sexually molesting air travelers isn’t just a violation of fundamental human rights – it’s also a demonstration to the mindless masses that this is the new “normal” behavior in society. So as the masses observe Big Government reaching down their own pants, they now get the message that it’s okay to sexually molest little boys at church, or that it’s okay to take children away from parents, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

When the American people saw George Bush set up secret military prisons and condone water-boarding torture techniques during the 2nd Iraq war, only to see even more of the same from president Barack Obama after voting Bush’s party out of the White House, we the people are calling for president Trump to stop this practice for good. After all, past and present U.S. leaders will do to other human beings just as much as they think they can get away with. And yet, for some reason, these high-level government operatives who engage in these same torture techniques are never even questioned. This phenomenon of everyday American people mirroring the behavior of federal and law enforcement “authorities” who act as tyrants needed a name. So, I’m calling this phenomenon AHS, which stands for Acute Hitler Syndrome.

Just as children mimic the actions of their parents, the childish minds of the insecure (and fear-pummeled) mainstream masses also mimic the actions of their parental role models. To many Americans – and especially those of a more liberal mindset – government takes on the role of their parents. The government is supposed to tell you what to eat, what to buy, what to believe and of course how to express your patriotism when needed to justify the latest war launched by whomever. Government is the “authority” and the problem solver in the lives of these people. So naturally, in their childish mindset they seek to replicate the behaviors their parental role models are openly exhibiting.

Here’s how this looks on the street: Your average city police officer is a wannabe tyrant who now. By watching the criminality of the federal government, he or she feels they have permission to engage in the same tactics of intimidation and arrogance in ruling over the public (rather than serving to protect them). That’s why so many big-city police officers have recently morphed into paramilitary jack-booted thugs; dressing in black, unlawfully arresting people for no justifiable reason, tasering innocent victims in wheelchairs, and generally acting out what is essentially a childish reflection of the very same tyranny they witness being demonstrated by high-level tyrants in Washington D.C., right on up to the Oval Office. The FBI, for its part, is busy actually masterminding the very same “terror plots” that it then magically “prevents” with great fanfare. As recently exposed in The Guardian (and other newspapers), the FBI actually develops terror plots, provides the plans, weapons, funding, motivation and equipment necessary for these “terrorists” to carry out those plots (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/201…).

Acute Hitler Syndrome is also now being seen in local schools, where “zero-tolerance” rules get children kicked out of the public education system for merely bringing a butter knife in their home-packed lunch, for example. Or a child caught with an aspirin tablet is labeled a “drug abuser” and condemned to special remediation classes. The tyrants are everywhere in American society now. Think about the tyrants that have now descended upon you in your own life – the tyrant down at the DMV, the tyrant dog license enforcer, the tyrant building inspector and the tyrant food service worker, also sometimes known as “soup Nazis.” These types of people are setting examples to be followed by every single person across America who finds himself or herself in a position of authority. That’s it! We’ll just ALL be tyrants! What a perfect solution!!

Through its moronic (and completely fabricated) war on terror, the national leadership in the USA has made it politically correct to terrorize anyone over whom you exercise power. If you’re a librarian, you can terrorize little children over past-due books (that is, if children actually read books at all anymore). If you’re a septic tank inspector, you can terrorize people over the layout of their septic pipes. If you’re a doctor, you can terrorize people over flu shots and chemotherapy, all being aggressively pushed with the very same fear tactics now used at the highest levels of national government. The Trump administration justifies their brutal crackdown against “Love Trumps Hate” and “Black Lives Matter” protesters by pointing to how U.S. law enforcement bodies took a ‘firm stance’ against Occupy Wall Street protesters. ‘Love Trumps Hate’, Black Lives Matter’ and the #NODAPL protests at Standing Rock, S.D., are the new “Occupy” protesters, you can be sure about that.

Acute Hitler Syndrome happens because the political leaders of America have broadcast a message across the nation that terrorizing innocent people is not merely okay, but downright patriotic! Anyone who says they’re not going along with all the terror nonsense, the spy-on-your-neighbor paranoia and the “worship-your-imperialist-government” cultism is immediately branded an “extremist.” It’s now “extreme” to not believe in torture and home-grown terror as a way to keep the “sheeple” in line. “Extremism” is now defined as opening your eyes, asking some commonsense questions, and refusing to follow the hypnotized masses as they are marched off a high cliff by the globalist population controllers.

Merely thinking for yourself, it turns out, is now “extreme.” It’s a brave new world after all, I suppose. Fear and paranoia is being marketed to the public in an attempt to transform the citizenry into a huge spy ring. The social acceptance of spying on your neighbors and promoting fear has reached a new fervor across America, very nearly reflecting that of Nazi Germany in the late 1930’s. It’s now okay to call 911 on somebody merely because they happen to be writing something down on a scrap of paper in a public park (that’s one of the signs of possible terrorism, according to ludicrous DHS public service videos that only breed paranoid thinking). It’s now okay to spy on everyone around you and secretly observe them to see what they’re doing. It’s now your duty to watch over every scrap of luggage at the airport and start screaming about terror threats if some poor sap walks more than 10 feet away from his bags for a few seconds. And when we’re out driving, if we see someone we think is driving way too fast, instead of calling in their tag number to 911, people will race to get ahead of that car and then cut in front of them and slam on their brakes, causing a chain-reaction collision! Here in Atlanta where I live and work, this kind of self-righteous behavior happens all too often.

Fortunately, there’s a ready solution to all this. The antidote to Acute Hitler Syndrome is decentralized management, a non-hierarchical model that can also be called “grassroots people power.” There will be no more psycho managers, control freaks or power mongers. This is what happens when ordinary, everyday citizens realize that all government power comes from the American people and that government is the servant of the people, not the other way around. So they take to the streets and protest. They take their money out of the accounts of globalist banks. They stop buying GMO’s. They fight against water fluoridation in their local towns. They spread the word about Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential primary. People Power is so powerful that it will sooner or later overcome Acute Hitler Syndrome, but only if enough people actually remember what liberty actually feels like. That’s why I urge you to practice liberty in everything you do. Don’t settle for tyranny when you can insist on liberty! After all, the Bill of Rights guarantees you a number of extremely important rights, many of which are now being quickly eroded. Stand up for restoring those rights and you will empower the phenomenon of People Power (grassroots liberty as defined in the Declaration of Independence as being “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”), which is the ultimate solution against Acute Hitler Syndrome.

You can also defend liberty by practicing common courtesy (and common sense) in your own positions of power. Don’t terrorize people just because you can. Exercise common human decency and compassion for those who deserve your assistance. When you practice random acts of kindness, you alter the entire emotional landscape across America, replacing fear with kindness, replacing terror with confidence, turning negatives into positives everywhere we go. If corporate CEO’s would practice this, then most corporations would probably go out of business because they’re mostly in the business of screwing people over for a profit. Remember, there is no such thing as a victim-less billionaire. That level of wealth accumulation simply doesn’t happen without taking from lots of others in the process. But remember: In the end, kindness will always win out over terror. Good triumphs over evil. Spread a little around, and you’ll see what a world of difference it can really make.

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You can have spirituality or prosperity, but not both

Wealth or Jesus: We Must Pick One or the Other

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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wealth_or_democracy

The definition of cognitive dissonance is a person’s brain trying to reconcile two contradicting realities. One common example of this is an abusive relationship, where the man/woman obviously understands there’s abuse from their significant other, yet they love them anyway. Often their brain will then develop excuses for such action. It’s their fault or the other person has just been under a lot of stress. The reality is their brain simply cannot accept two different realities that contradict, so it creates yet another. This is never more prevalent than when it comes to wealthy conservatives and Christianity. They are the proponents of policies that contradict much of what Jesus taught.

These top 1% folks, who are sitting on 99% of America’s wealth, allegedly do so in order for the rest of us to enjoy the windfall of their generosity through increases in top 1% revenue. Let that sink in for a second – an economic policy based upon this notion: ‘If we subsidize greed even more than it already is, the rest of society benefits as a result.’ When has greed ever benefited a society? While we’re at it, what does the Bible say about greed? “He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loves abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10) It becomes a driving obsession to acquire still more. Once the acquiring has happened, then comes the need to protect what has been acquired. This is selfishness and it is sin, as it is written: “There was a man all alone, he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling’, he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless – a miserable business!”(Ecclesiastes 4:8)

Once the greed-driven have acquired and secured everything in sight, they’re still not satisfied! They are never satisfied with all they have; their eyes always search for more, as it is written, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). This coveting begets more greed, which snowballs into more selfishness, and the selfishness begets more coveting and so on – to utter madness! “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much: but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:12) By this point, there is no room left for God. Money is now the master of the house, as it is written, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

Seems pretty straight forward to me, how about you? Greed is a vicious circle that feeds on itself, generating ever increasing amounts or degrees of craving still more. The more they have the more they want. Isn’t that what we’ve seen for the last 40 years? Isn’t this what “Trickle Down Economics” has given us? In the last 40 years the top 1% has grown exponentially, never more so than in the last decade. Yet what has it brought us? Economic failure caused by a cadre of millionaires crying out that they need even more. Many of the same businesses that proved in the 90′s, even with higher taxes, that they could yield historic growth are now fighting a return to those very same tax levels. They now claim economic prosperity isn’t obtainable at those “job destroying” levels of taxation. The fact is, they’re right. Their economic prosperity cannot be sustained at a higher level of taxation. The more we fed into this myth of Trickle Down Economics, the more lower taxes benefited them, the more they expect to expand their greedy nature. To raise their taxes would mean their giant profits would probably be taken down to just, well, significant profits.

This isn’t about these businesses making profits, they can easily do that, but they want larger profits. What they had in the 90′s is no longer good enough, they want more. Of course it’s impossible to return to the very same tax rates that brought us the best economic growth in our history, because then their greed would have to return to a lower level, and as the Bible says, greed is perpetual and never ends. We gave them more and now their solution to fix our problems? You guessed it, they want even more! Isn’t that exactly what the Bible warns will happen? Did we not have wealthy Americans in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s? The answer is yes, they just weren’t as wealthy. Trickle Down Economics was the catalyst for the acceptance of greed. It gave those with the most more, and any mention of returning it to their rightful owners is met with a horrific depictions of economic Armageddon.

And there you have it, cognitive dissonance. The top 1%’s political ideology completely contradicts the realities we’ve seen and those the Bible supports. They preach Christian values at the same time they advocate a policy that says giving into greed will benefit our society. They vehemently denounce abortion while advocating war and conquest, resulting in 1.2 million civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan alone since 2001. So unborn babies get a great deal of attention in churches, but once you’re born, you’re screwed, especially if you live in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, etc., etc.! The human brain simply can’t handle two conflicting realities, so it creates one of its own. The more we allowed the wealthy to have, the more they asked us to give. We did this to the detriment of our own economy and ourselves. If trickle down economics works, shouldn’t their success and our success mirror one another? As they gain, we gain. You know, like ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’? However, that isn’t what happened because life no longer works that way thanks to the 1%. The more the 1% gains, the more they want, and they’ve made sure that everyone else chips in!

Think of a small fishing boat. If weight is equally dispersed it’ll stay buoyant and afloat. But what if the weight shifts more forward or backwards, what happens? The boat becomes unstable. Now imagine if suddenly all the weight is shifted forward, what would happen? Simple – the boat will suddenly suffer instability, capsize then sink. As our nations’ wealth rushed to the top 1% in the last decade, that’s exactly what happened – our boat capsized and then sank. Does this contradiction between faith and political ideology suggest that conservatives believe Jesus supported greed? It looks to me like they believe he condemned homosexuals and demeaned women, and considered the poor as lazy people seeking a handout. So why not perpetuate the belief that He would have supported greed? Don’t let the Bible scriptures sway your views, it’s much easier to simply allow yourself to give into and concoct a delusional reality.

What religious conservatives have done is a complete distortion of the Christian faith. The so-called “prosperity gospel” (LOL) doesn’t even fit into the very nature of what Jesus lived and died for! Every economic stance they support benefits the wealthy at the expense of the remaining 99% of us! How does it make any sense to have a portion of American society that pushes themselves as the Christian majority, the party of values and decency, and yet their entire economic stance contradicts what the Bible and Jesus says about greed? What religious conservatives claim to follow isn’t Christianity at all, and it sure doesn’t emulate Jesus. Remember what Jesus said about that, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”, meaning those who have the means to make a difference should do so unreservedly and unselfishly. Yet, to a religious conservative this is essentially “socialism”. It’s allegedly unfair. But isn’t Christianity about giving, loving, and helping those who cannot help themselves? These are the principles I try my best to live by as a practicing Christian.

But I’m neither Republican or Democrat. I’m neither liberal nor conservative because I think there are good points to both sides. On one hand I could be considered conservative because I am in favor of small government and free enterprise. But I could also be considered liberal because I’m a firm believer in universal health care (no, not Obama-care because it seems woefully inadequate to the task), free higher education and a $14.00 per hour minimum wage. We all know that the two-party US political monopoly lacks faith and morals. They envy the rich, and all of that rhetoric the “good” Christian Republicans use against people, yet none of it is true. Yet there they sit, a walking contradiction. A party who supports faith in God above anything and policies that favor greed over everything.

The Jesus I worship is a man who we should all strive to become because he is the Son of the Living God. Jesus was a man who didn’t casually judge people, who stood up for those who couldn’t stand for themselves, who never felt slighted or that life was unfair. Jesus was wary of people who spoke of God on their lips but lacked true faith in their hearts. He was a man who embraced everyone, even those who disagreed with him. A man who personified everything mankind should be. As for those conservatives, who knows what man they worship. If the policies they support are reflective of the faith they follow, it sure isn’t Christianity and that man sure wasn’t Jesus.

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Either the government works for the people, or the people begin to work against the government.

Congress and the President Had Better Learn to Work Together, or They Will Face the Wrath of the People

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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threat_from_washington

There is a well-known quote from the Book of Romans in the New Testament that says, “Everyone must submit themselves to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing…..” (Romans 13, verses 1-4). These four verses of scripture are still just as valid today, 20 centuries later. Unfortunately, these verses can be and have been used grossly out of context in the past, with Adolf Hitler being the most infamous example (Hitler was a Catholic).

I have known a few evangelical pastors and far more “Christian conservatives” in my 61 years on this great planet Earth (or at least what’s left of it) who have similarly misused these verses. They were all sure they were right and that every other person not of their faith, or who dared to disagree, was going to burn in hell forever. For decades these “Christians” have taught their racist, homophobic, divisive and hate-based message that has driven away so many millions of souls they should have been winning over to Christ! Consequently, I have come to the conclusion that some of the “religious” people that I’m writing about need to find something else to do with their lives. Instead, maybe they could try selling cars, especially since some TV evangelists have about the same level of credibility. Or better yet, they could become truck drivers – you know, see America and all that jazz. Just hit the road, Jack, and don’t you come back any more! Let the truly committed and dedicated followers of Jesus do the works of faith and perseverance in spreading the Gospel of Jesus, and may the pretenders have enough sense to step aside so the productive people can work!

One thing that has changed about those verses of scripture since they were first written down is the advent of representative democracy. Although I could argue that representative democracy, where a full time elected official goes to Washington on our behalf, is in the process of being replaced with direct voter participation democracy, where the voters and the government will be directly connected on the Web (congressional and senate representatives would be reduced to part time employees), I will set that aside for now. Suffice it to say that, thanks to the Bill of Rights, particularly the second, fourth, fifth and eight amendments, Romans 13: 1-4 has become a 2-way street! Although people should rightfully fear criminal prosecution (“he does not bear the sword for nothing”), the US Constitution – our supreme law of the land – is written in such a way that our elected government is responsible to the people. Since our right to “keep and bear arms” is spelled out in the Second Amendment, the American people do not bear their ‘swords’ for nothing, either! As Patrick Henry, one of the many heroes of the American Revolutionary War, famously said, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”

As a result of all this, the conservative paradigm, where all of the power – political, economic, executive, legislative and judicial – is being concentrated in the hands of a few, is in the process of being replaced by a more populist agenda, particularly with respect to president Trump. The Internet is decentralizing everything. Moreover, the American people are arming themselves to the teeth in response to government bullying, including things like Standing Rock South Dakota, the epidemic of police shootings of unarmed Black men, the outsourcing of millions of American middle class jobs, the poisoning of our food and water, and I could go on and on! Then there is the ticking time bomb of inequality, with 99% of the wealth in the hands of 1% of the world’s population. They are in the process of turning our country into one big minimum-wage sweatshop, and those who comprise this top 1% of America’s economic pie are seeking to end the rule of the people here in the USA. When they are finished, they will own all the property that is left in the US and we will all be paupers. As a direct result of all these things and many more, people are beginning to take a noticeably more Progressive (but not necessarily “liberal”) stance on all of the above, and that includes our religious faith (nonreligious people excluded). Progressive Christianity means faith that is focused sharply on Jesus Christ without all the added dogmas of religious denominations, minus the spiritual pollution of conservative politics, and without condemning any faith or group of people whether Christ-based or not.

Curiously enough, the majority of those in the top 1% consider themselves ‘Christian’. As such, they truly believe that those who have not been “saved” like they are (or as they see themselves), are not as enlightened as they are (LOL). Due to their own perceived ‘superiority’, they expect us to believe that we are incapable of knowing what is best for ourselves, and that because of this we are in need of supervision (a.k.a. centralized government). You should also know they do not believe that even centuries-old Christian communities (Catholics, Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, etc.) are “saved,” only those who are Christian political conservatives. I’ve seen this first hand, and it’s not pretty.

You might be thinking that a minority fundamentalist group of zealots can’t really take over the direction of a country, right? Well, just look at the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917, that’s exactly what the Communists did. They pulled it off with just a few thousand soldiers and about as many mercenaries. In modern times, look at Iran or the countless other places (until recently, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela) where people have allowed this to happen. But thanks to the Second Amendment, I do not believe that could happen in America. Does anyone seriously think that all the US population is really going to sit back and watch a few thousand people pulling off an armed coup against the US government without wanting to jump up and do something about it? I should think not! They have already begun to attack all sources of accurate information. That’s the reason former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura fled the United States and now resides in Mexico. Public radio and network TV were first, then came cable TV, along with the museums and school textbooks. Just listen to them argue against the scientific facts about the environmental peril our planet is facing, just because it does not fit in with their ideas. The 1% elitists represent a clear and present danger to America and the world. The only way to stop them as I see it is to find a way to cut off their money supply, and that would involve a tax revolt of some kind or another. We had better do something very soon!

If I told you that the Amish in Pennsylvania were running for public office in record numbers with the intention of outlawing electricity and forcing others to act, dress and think like them, you would not believe it. Well, that is exactly what is happening in America, only it is not the Amish, it is the Christian fundamentalists and extreme right-wingers. It is not outlawing electricity, it’s placing limits on being a human with free will. Enjoying art and music, loving the person of your choice, dancing – the things that fundamentalists call “sins” – are a big part of what it means to be a human. Instead of funding education, technology development, research into advances in medicine and science, conversion to clean energy and a new low-voltage, digital power grid, and the development of space exploration, we are devoting all available revenues to war and killing. Waging war and profligate military spending are the first things that have to stop if we’re going to improve life on this planet of ours. After all, it’s the only one we have, and thanks to an emerging awakening people everywhere are figuring this out. As a result, a lot of personal growth is currently taking place, and that’s always a good thing!

The good news is that we are witnessing the beginning of a new era in human existence. While we watch the demonstrations across the country against the US election results, we continue to witness the civil war in Syria, the human barrage of economic and wartime refugees in Europe and North America, the accelerating concentration of wealth into the hands of a few, and the growing exasperation and anger of the American people, we are seeing a great truth – that people have within them the natural desire to be free. It is so sad that as the people of the world are fighting for freedom, we here in the United States are going in the opposite direction. The far right, under the control of Christian fundamentalists, is declaring an all-out war on human progress. We must absolutely, positively fight back. After all, the consequences of not acting are very serious. We are not just fighting for ourselves. We are struggling to protect the future generations of Americans who will suffer from these ruthless actions of the far right. We are speaking out against the measures being taken against those in our community who can least afford to be marginalized. This system of enforced inequality is going to fall one way or the other because it is unsustainable. As the late President John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable”.

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More Injustice: Left In the Dust by Those Entrusted to Lead

Our Political, Business and Religious Leaders Are

Ignoring Their Taxpayers, Workers and Membership

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this on the Web, click here! 🙂

Sooner or later, it happens to each of us. There always will be at least one situation in our lives that we cannot fix, control, explain, change or even understand. Maybe you’ve been laid off from a job you’ve held for years. Perhaps you’ve experienced a nasty divorce (been there, done that). Or maybe the crisis is more subtle: One suddenly realizes they’ll never have the life they dreamed of living. Any life-changing moment can knock a person down. But it can also open doors if one learns how to “fall upward.”

Older Americans like myself face a two-sided problem: many religious leaders are paying more attention to the collection plate than to us, and the government has been trampling its constituency underfoot for decades while pandering to Wall Street and corporate America. President Trump has already started renegotiating trade agreements, but in many states like Georgia where I live, the minimum wage is still stuck at $7.25 hourly. Much of contemporary religion is geared toward teaching people how to navigate the first half of their lives, when they’re building careers and families, a kind of “goal-oriented” spirituality. Yet there’s less help for people dealing with the challenges of aging: age discrimination in the workplace (which is rampant), the loss of health, the death of friends, and coming to terms with mistakes that cannot be undone.

God can function as a spiritual survival guide for hard times as millions of Americans young and old struggle to cope with “falling”: losing their homes, careers and status. The phrase “falling upward” describes a paradox. Nearly everybody will fall in life because they’ll be confronted with some type of catastrophic loss or abject failure. Yet failure can lead to growth if a person makes the right decisions. I’ve met people who, because of the loss of things and security, have been able to find grace, freedom and new horizons. They have learned to make the best of what can often be a bad situation.

If you’re falling in any area of your life, one of the first skills to learn is accepting surprises. It’s easy for people to turn bitter when things don’t go as planned. God sees such people all the time, whether throwing tantrums at the airport because of long lines or flocking to angry rallies in opposition to some form of social change. If one doesn’t know how to deal with exceptions, surprise and spontaneity by the time they’re my age, one become a predictable series of responses of paranoia, blame and defensiveness. These circumstances often teach similar lessons about hard times:

[1] Suffering is necessary,

[2] the “false self” must be abandoned, and –

[3] everything belongs, even the sad, absurd and futile parts.

People have learned these hard lessons for centuries, sometimes through myth, but most of the time by trial and error. They must first experience humiliation, loss and suffering before finding enlightenment. They are often forced on their journey by a crisis.

Events like the evaporation of a retirement fund or the death of a spouse can force us to summon strength we didn’t know we had. Forced liquidations of businesses that were once thriving enterprises is another example that comes to mind. The key is not resisting the crisis. We must learn to allow the circumstances of God and life to break us out of our egocentric responses to everything. If we allow ‘the others’ – other people, other events, other religions or cultures – to influence us, we just keep growing. That growth, though, is accompanied by death – the death of the “false self”. The false self is the part of our selves tied to our achievements and possessions. When our false self dies, we start learning how to base our happiness on more eternal sources. We start drawing from our walk with Christ. We learn to distinguish from the essential self and the self that’s only window dressing.

Those who break through the crisis and lose their false selves become different people: Less judgmental, more generous and better able to ignore the evil, selfish or stupid deeds of others. It may sound esoteric, but many of us have met older people like this. They possess what I call “a muted enlightenment” – they’ve suffered but they still smile and give. I’ve seen that in the wonderful older people in my life. There’s a kind of gravitas they have. There’s an easy smile on their faces. These are the people who laugh, who heal, who build bridges, who don’t turn bitter. This “muted enlightenment” shouldn’t be confined to older people. I’ve met 11-year-old children in cancer wards who are in the second half of life, and I have met 61-year-old men like me who are still in the first half of life.

I challenge the popular notion that success is a natural result of being religious. Our culture is prone to imagine that growth takes place in a sort of constant, upward movement. Even our religious culture tends to focus on success and stability as ideals for religious growth, while overlooking the grace of failure, from which far more growth originates. With Progressive Christianity tradition, loss, collapse and failure have always been seen as not only unavoidable, but even necessary on the path to wisdom, freedom and personal maturity. I know older people like myself, all of whom have vast work experience, who struggled to rebuild their identities after they poured much of their earlier lives’ energies into professional and personal success. That is what happened to me after 2008, when I found myself forced out of the technology profession after an 18-month absence due to several health issues.

Our culture tends to be youth-oriented, and a lot of spirituality is youth oriented. But our elders are the embodiment of the wisdom that life matters at a much deeper level than what we can achieve and produce. Imperfect people are sometimes more equipped than perfect people to help those who are struggling. The person who never makes a mistake and always manages to obey the rules is often a person devoid of compassion. He or she sees people for whom the wheels have fallen off and they wonder ‘what’s wrong with them’. But the person who feels that he or she has ruined their life often has more capacity for humility and compassion. I’m embarrassed as I’m getting older about how much of my energy and vitality as a younger man was driven by my ego and a win-lose mentality.

As I’ve gotten older I find myself driven by something altogether different: The need for rest, and a need for more time for contemplation. As a teacher once told me, “The first half of life, you write the text. The second half of your life is when you write the commentary. You have to process what it all meant.” I will be challenged to follow his and my own advice, and I encourage all of you to do the same. I will spend less energy on my “false self” as my old self dissolves. It will be a relief to me when the process is over. I am ready, though, to fall upward. If I lose my position as a web minister, author and respected church member, I would still feel secure. Most of us don’t learn this until it is taken away, like losing the security of your 401K as your entire career evaporates before your eyes. Then the learning either starts or you circle the wagons.

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Free excerpt from my nonfiction book, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”

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http://youtu.be/Z20l9ohORN4

What are these law enforcement folks protecting to begin with? The assets, infrastructure and personal privacy and security of the top 1%, that’s what! The problem with that is the top 1% regard everything in sight as theirs, as if all the people in the lower income brackets – the other 99% – didn’t deserve one stinking thing. In short, its all a game of acquiring the most stuff, the biggest collection of material goods of one kind or another, the fastest or most luxurious car, the most powerful truck and the biggest house. And for what? If one of us should die tomorrow, he or she can take absolutely none of it with them. As Rev. Billy Graham used to preach, “nobody ever saw a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer behind it”. It’s all temporary, left behind when we are dead and gone, as all of us eventually will be, including me. It’s what we leave behind that counts. Maybe we should ask ourselves – if you haven’t done so already – what kind of legacy do we want to leave? Not someone who did great things in the sight of others or who made a great fortune, but someone who took care of the needs of the people on a case by case basis. Not someone who is lauded with praise by men and women, but one who seeks the praise and approval of Almighty God as I and others like me do. I love giving some homeless guy a couple of dollars, paying an elderly widow’s electric bill to keep it from being turned off, donating a used computer to an inner city school kid who needs one, and never mind their skin color either. Performing volunteer work, giving generously to your church (it doesn’t have to be financial aid, there are many ways to help), sponsoring a hungry kid overseas, or adopting one here at home are the things people remember about us after we have passed, and so will God. We are to be leaving behind the things that people remember about us long after we are gone, and they must be positive things that build people up, not negative things that tear us down. We are to be contributors, being sure to give wherever possible and not living just to see how much we can earn, or even take. Takers are losers who leave holes in time.

What if we didn’t need money at all? What if we had an alternative way to buy things without using traditional cash, checks or plastic? What if we didn’t have to work at all, or maybe not nearly as much? Using profit as a mechanism for the control of liquid assets by and for the top 1% when the overwhelming majority of Americans have no access to those assets is obviously an economic barrier that keeps the remaining 99% of us in a bare subsistence mode that is clearly unethical and discriminatory and therefore illegal. Eliminating the need for money instantly wipes out poverty while putting the 99% in a favorable position to have all their basic needs met (never mind all the fancy BS stuff, just the basics of life). The replacement of money, and of the work that is necessary in order to earn it, are already being accomplished by computers and robots.

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

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

The Devolving of Christmas: An American Tragedy

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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To read this on my website, click here! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More Lies From Our Government

This Week’s Bogus Unemployment Report Is a Sin Against Us All

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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take back your country

I have always believed that being a good Christian means standing up against social and economic injustice. After all, being religious without putting one’s faith into action is like calling oneself a Democrat or Republican without ever voting. The Bible says in the New Testament, “Faith without works is dead”, and I’m a firm believer in putting that into practice. One social injustice that I wrote about in my 2011 book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” was the outsourcing overseas of what used to be good American middle class jobs. I have some ideas about what is wrong or unjust in this great country of ours, and the following is just one example of what I would like to see fixed within society at large. I am talking about this week’s federal government’s press release that puts American unemployment at 4.6%. This simply hilarious number is being peddled to the American people at a time when only 61% of American adults are working. So, we’re supposed to believe America has 4.6% unemployment while over one third of our workforce has given up looking for work out of sheer discouragement!

Now that Washington is waking up to the destructive impact of outsourcing good middle class jobs overseas, something the American people have known about for years, globalism’s advocates have decided this facade of lies has to be maintained by the elite 1% at all costs. The Wall Street Journal, a supposed bastion of truth, recently stated that “the fact is that for every job outsourced to Bangalore, nearly two jobs are created in Buffalo and other American cities.” I bet “Buffalo and other American cities” would like to know where these jobs are. On October 25, 2011, 60 Minutes had a program on unemployment in Silicon Valley, where formerly high-earning professionals have been out of work for two years and, today, cannot even find part-time $9 an hour jobs at Target.

The claim that jobs outsourced by US corporations increases domestic employment in the US is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American public (excluding the biggest one, which is the so-called “Federal Reserve”). Based on a bit of research that I have done from an economics standpoint, I can tell you that our country’s governmental and business leaders have reached this erroneous conclusion by counting the growth in multinational jobs in the U.S. without adjusting the data to reflect the acquisition of existing firms by multinationals, and for existing firms who have turned themselves into multinationals by establishing foreign operations for the first time. There is no new multinational employment in the U.S. Absolutely zero. Existing employment simply moved into the multinational category from a change in the status of firms to multinational. American workers have become expendable because corporate America has decided they are too expensive to keep around. I know this to be true because it once happened to me.

The jobs that replaced the ones that were outsourced overseas for pennies on the dollar consist of waitresses and bartenders, health care workers, social services, retail clerks, and while the bubble lasted, construction. These are not the high-tech, high-paying jobs that the “New Economy” promised, and they are not jobs that can be associated with global corporations. Moreover, these domestic service jobs are themselves scarce. Just ask anybody trying to find one. Until this past year the construction jobs had all but vanished. Did you ever wonder how it was possible to have simultaneously millions of new good-paying middle class jobs and virtually the worst income inequality in the developed world, with all income gains accruing to the mega-rich? Or was that just me?

Education is no longer the solution it once was. For example, we already have more engineers than we have jobs for them due to outsourcing. A Philadelphia marketing and research firm called “Twentysomething” found that 85% of recent college graduates planned to move back home with parents. Even if members of the “boomerang generation” find jobs, the jobs don’t pay enough to support an independent existence. And let’s not forget that nearly all of these recent graduates have student loans with payoff balances in the tens of thousands of dollars. This in turn ruins their credit, which makes finding employment even more difficult. Reporters repeat the lie that the unemployment rate is 4.6%. The government’s own more inclusive rate stands at 17%. Statistician John Williams, who counts unemployment the way it is supposed to be counted, finds the unemployment rate to be 22%. In my 2012 book, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”, I estimated the total unemployment rate to be 24%. Near the end of 2016 as I write this, total unemployment plus under-employment remains stuck at roughly the same figure.

To keep our eyes off the loss of jobs to outsourcing, policymakers and their minions in the financial press blame US unemployment on alleged currency manipulation by China and on the financial crisis. The financial crisis itself is blamed by conservatives on low-income Americans who took out mortgages that they could not afford, and on US “entitlement” programs. In other words, the problem is China and the greedy American poor who tried to live above their means, or who are allegedly too lazy to work. With this being the American mindset, you can see why nothing is being done to save the US economy.

We need to stop blaming poor people and minorities for America’s problems. If anyone wants to know what is wrong with our country, the answers are located inside the D.C. Beltway, and they are there in abundance. This country can end or greatly limit unemployment, homelessness, poverty and economic inequality by simply reeducating its population. The Bible says in the Old Testament, “The people perish for a lack of knowledge”, and it’s ever so true even after all the centuries that have gone by. The US is the only remaining developed country that does not do this for its citizens. The same can and should be done today, and I think it should also be a jumping-off point for overhauling or replacing the US public school system.

Take all the long-term unemployed, particularly older workers like I was, and send them back to school for up to two years (four year programs would be available at extra cost using my idea), and allow them to earn the degree, diploma or professional certification of their choice. Do the same for all parolees, as well as all homeless individuals who are judged healthy enough to work – anyone who might otherwise find it nearly impossible to find employment. Should the taxpayers pick up the tab for this? No way, let corporate America be compelled by law to pay for the retraining of these still-valuable US workers! If they can afford to send our jobs overseas for pennies on the dollar, then paying for up to 2 years of school to teach new trades to anyone who wants retraining should similarly only cost them pennies on the dollar relative to their exorbitant annual profits. Moreover, these multinational corporations already engage in enough tax dodging and evasion to pay for all of it!

There is a price to be paid for social and economic injustice, and it’s a steep price too. Human being are driven by, among many other things, a desire for achievement, or to better one’s lot in life. Those who see opportunities to improve themselves or their situation are by nature predisposed to take advantage of that opportunity, whatever it might be. So, when people find themselves being denied opportunities to succeed, along with the rewards that accompany that success, they resent it. It hurts our feelings because it seems as if we are being punished for wanting to better ourselves, as if we have done something wrong. There are those who might say, “This is something that’s beyond my control”. But I continue to maintain that only happens when one capitulates to that ‘something’, whatever it may be. But if we band together and fight the 1% elitists, we have them outnumbered by 99 to 1, and I predict that is exactly what will happen if our new president sells out to Wall Street like he seems to be doing. As the late president Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make a violent revolt inevitable.”

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Less Is More During This Year’s Holidays

Making Do With Less In A Season of Excess

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The US Economy Is A Scam

Wells Fargo, the Problem With Capitalism, and the Bible

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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I was alive and kicking back in 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell, and in the ensuing years when Communism imploded all across Russia, and Red China soon after. The American political and military leadership smugly congratulated one another when Communism fell. “Well, looks like we won the Cold War”, they said among themselves. What nobody realized at the time was that America was going to be next. It’s just that it’s taking a lot longer for that to play out over here. America has an ‘ace in the hole’ that the USSR never had – free enterprise. I’m strongly in favor of free enterprise and private ownership. I always have been, so I’m no communist or socialist, but what I disapprove of is when our economic system gets abused by people whose greed is out of control. These are a set of financial predators who are in need of arrest and restraint!

As a result of these occurrences, the capitalist economic system is ripe for a collapse reminiscent of Communism’s collapse a quarter century ago. Interest on America’s national debt is accruing faster than than the principal can be paid down. Our country is buried under a mountain of debt from which it is impossible to extricate ourselves. The fault for this lies with the so-called ‘Federal Reserve’, which in fact is neither. The Constitution of the United States says in Article 1, Section 8, “The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, …. coin money and regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin….”. Nowhere does it say “print money”, nor does it say anything about a Federal Reserve. Real money must be coined, not printed, and only Congress is authorized to coin money by the Constitution. The very existence of the Federal Reserve is unconstitutional! The so-called ‘national debt’ is a scam, a fraud, a federal crime and an assault on the freedom of all Americans everywhere! The Federal Reserve is something that clearly needs to be stopped, and preferably nationalized. Fortunately, “we the people” probably won’t need to stage a revolt to make this occur. Like Soviet Russia, capitalism will collapse on its own. It won’t need any help. I can sum up the reason why in one little word – debt.

Not only is debt and the accompanying compounded interest reaching a point of no return, America is faced with the indisputable fact that the super-power era is at its end as far as world history is concerned. Nations in other parts of the world, particularly in emerging economies, have started to figure out that mutual cooperation for profit is in everyone’s best interests. Unfortunately, my country, the venerable USA, has yet to get the message. The US refuses to abandon its war-based and debt-based economy, because if it does, it would be tantamount to voluntary relinquishing America’s role as the sole remaining super power. The nail in the coffin of American ‘supremacy’ will be the forcible replacement of the US dollar as the world’s standard currency. Russia and Red China have already signed the trade and economic treaties to accomplish this, it’s a done deal. It’s only a matter of time as to how long this will take to play out.

But the war is also being waged right here at home, a fact that millions of Americans are just now beginning to wake up to. People’s bank accounts are being raided by the very banks that purport to serve them as loyal customers. The most notable example of this was this past week’s disclosure by the US Department of Justice of Wells Fargo Bank opening multiple accounts in its customers’ names, unbeknownst to those customers, and getting commissions and bonuses as a result of this nefarious and fraudulent financial activity. In an article posted Wednesday Sept 21, 2016 on CNN.com written by Walter Einenkel, he wrote:

A couple of weeks ago, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $185 million in penalties for perpetrating a massive fraud on customers. Wells Fargo executives boasted that they had fired 5,300 workers involved in improprieties, but not a single executive was punished. In fact, executives that literally oversaw the departments where the gargantuan fraud was committed were very well compensated, and lauded. Yesterday, Wells Fargo CEO — and blame-game champion — John Stumpf went in front of a Senate Banking Committee where he was rightfully castigated by Senator Elizabeth Warren for his “gutless leadership.” Part of Stumpf’s “apology” was to say that Wells Fargo didn’t do this as much as bad apples did it. It’s a similar defense used by people who murder citizens.”

Now CNN Money is hearing from former Wells Fargo (WFC) workers around the country who tried to put a stop to these illegal tactics. Almost half a dozen workers who spoke with us say they paid dearly for trying to do the right thing: they were fired. “They ruined my life,” Bill Bado, a former Wells Fargo banker in Pennsylvania, told CNN Money. Bado not only refused orders to open phony bank and credit accounts. The New Jersey man called an ethics hot-line and sent an email to human resources in September 2013, flagging unethical sales activities he was being instructed to do.”

Eight days after that email, a copy of which CNN Money obtained, Bado was terminated. The stated reason? Tardiness…. Retaliating against whistle blowers is a major breach of trust. Ethics hot-lines are exactly the kind of safeguards put in place to prevent illegal activity from taking place and provide refuge to employees from dangerous work environments….”

Another six former Wells Fargo employees told CNN Money they witnessed similar behavior at Wells Fargo — even though the company has a policy in place that is supposed to prevent retaliation against whistle blowers. CNN Money has taken steps to confirm that the workers who spoke anonymously did work at Wells Fargo and in some cases interviewed colleagues who corroborated their reports. It’s possible Wells Fargo could face legal consequences for any retaliation that occurred against employees who called the ethics line …. It is clearly against the law for any company (or executives of such companies) to try to suppress whistle blowing,” Harvey Pitt, former chairman of the SEC, told CNN Money in an email…”.

As you can clearly see, America’s financial system is making all the money it can, every way they possibly can, because they know this collapse is coming. That’s why stuff like the shenanigans over at Wells Fargo is going on behind the scenes. The whole stinking system is corrupt from top to bottom, and people are figuring it out in growing numbers. Whatever you do, if you have an account with Wells Fargo, move your money to a credit union. Unlike banks, credit unions are non-profits, and they’re far more personalized than banks. But it’s not just a violation of our laws that our financial system is a criminal enterprise, it’s a violation of God’s laws too. And not just the criminal and civil violations mentioned above, either. Let me take you to the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament, chapter 22, beginning at verse 22:

Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”

As you can clearly see, it is immoral in the sight of God to charge interest beyond the borrower’s ability to pay. It is also wrong for lenders to take everything but the clothes off their customer’s back, which happens with disturbing frequency. Yet this is exactly the situation the entire world is currently faced with. We have the Federal Reserve in the US, the British “Royal Family” in the UK, and the Rothschilds in Europe who basically control the world’s flow of money and liquid assets. Just beneath them in the economic pecking order are the elite rich, government and corporate leadership, and religious denominations of various kinds. But the remainder of us, “the 99%”, have little or nothing. Economic inequality has become like a ticking time bomb across the globe. There are simply so many angry, frustrated, disenfranchised and often disenchanted individuals like ourselves who are hungry and thirsty for real change that the fuse on this socioeconomic time bomb has already been lit. Our entire capitalist, debt-based economic system is based on something the Bible said was a great sin nearly 3,500 years ago. The Bible does not change, and neither does God! By incurring a debt that currently stands at $17 or $18 trillion, America is reaping what it has sown. God says to America, “You want debt, do ya? Well all right, then, I’m going to give you a trainload of it!” Is it any wonder we are in the shape we are in? We are bankrupt, we have been for a very long time, and it’s our own fault. Although the US government has been concealing the true extent of this indebtedness from its citizens, the people are catching on quickly. Our government has declared war on its own citizens, and the soldiers are none other than police offers who are sworn to protect and serve. Instead, they harass and intimidate all they come into contact with, and they routinely kill unarmed citizens just because they can. This cannot continue indefinitely, and the standoff between the police and the rest of the country continues to escalate. The fuse has been lit. And there is a very large powder keg at the end of it.

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