Category Archives: we are the 99%

President Trump and former director Comey both need to change their ways

Regarding Judging or Accusing Other People:

Those Who Call Us Liars Should Examine Themselves

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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The 99% - Too big to fail

Watching this past week’s spectacle in Washington surrounding Russia-gate, former FBI director James Comey’s firing, and his subsequent testimony under oath has reminded me once again about the folly of judging others. President Trump and Mr. Comey calling each other liars on national TV has only solidified my opinion that both are equally guilty of much dishonesty and at-times downright childish behavior. What does the Bible say about judging, accusing and name-calling other people? This goes way beyond mere physical appearances such as race, unaccustomed mannerisms or various idiosyncrasies. It surpasses all concepts of right and wrong. The Bible defines judging others as having contempt for, looking down on, or possessing an arrogance towards people who are different than ourselves. It means considering ourselves better than others for racial, moral, economic, age, ethnic, religious or gender related reasons, and ditto for sexual preferences and gender identity. It is morally wrong to do all these things because we are all made in the image and likeness of the very same God, and God bestows his gifts and attributes to us on an equal basis. Moreover, the Bible teaches us that equality is ordained by God, as it is written: “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22: 2) Therefore, we are all equals in God’s sight, and I could write a whole sermon on that topic alone (in fact, I think I will). There are several good quotes from the Bible that I am going to use to make my point. The first is from the gospel of Matthew chapter 7, verses 1-5.

 

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

 

What this verse also says is the more harshly we judge other people, the more harshly we will be judged when it is our turn. Make no mistake, every one of us will get his or her turn at being judged by God when our lives are over. The only exceptions will be those who will be caught up in the rapture of the Church during the Great Tribulation that is prophesied by the book of Revelation, as well as by the apostle Paul in his letters to the Thessalonian church. And that, my dear readers, will only be a select few people. So what is the criteria for this? It will simply be how we treated other people, and by how good we made them feel. It’s going to be about how much unconditional love, kindness and patience we showed others. That’s why Jesus said during his sermon on the mountain, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5: 7). We are to be practicing gentleness when making discernment about others, otherwise our harshness and being judgmental will come back around and bite us in the tail.

 

This next Old Testament quote from Scripture is the basis for my quotations from the new one. “I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 7, verse 27). The more poorly we treat others, the meaner God will be towards us when our lives are over. If we treat people better and a lot more gently, being compassionate and considerate towards others even if they’re strangers, God will be gentle with us to the point where it shows up in the lives of those who habitually perform this good deed. Meaning, those who live their lives this way won’t have to wait until their physical lives are over to get rewarded for their good deeds and acts of random kindness. How then should we be living? We should be living as if God is watching everything we do and listening to everything we say (because, you know, He actually is). This means we should be taking care of others, nurturing and encouraging each other instead of criticizing and rejecting just because they don’t meet our lofty standards. We are not at the center of the universe, not are we meant to be! Remember that for every person who seems to come up short as far as we are concerned, there is another that feels the same way about us whether they tell us or not. People who are in the habit of acting this way toward others are always people who dislike themselves. They see something about themselves that they don’t like in the personality or character of someone else, so they go after that person tooth and nail. As long as they are attacking someone else, they don’t have to look at themselves.

 

The next 2 quotes are from the book of James in the New Testament. They take judging of others a step further by getting at the roots of passing judgment. “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 3: 11-12) Well said, James, my dear brother! Who do we think we are? Since everyone is a sinner in God’s sight, God can only save us if we are merciful towards one another. Jesus said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. The Bible commands us to love one another, and Jesus taught us to “love your neighbor as yourself”. We cannot simultaneously judge others and still be merciful towards them. We can’t claim to love others while sitting in judgment of them. Judgment and mercy are exact opposites, they are mutually exclusive of one another. The same goes for slander and love. There is no way to talk badly about your neighbor, friend, co-worker or relative and then profess your love for them. The apostle James then taught us what we should do instead when he wrote: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2: 12-13)

 

True judgment gives freedom according to James. Restrictive judgment says to those around us, ‘I think I’m better than you’. That kind of talk is never from God! It is man-made and it is derived from excessive pride, arrogance and conceit! Being merciful towards others no matter what they have said or done tends to motivate those people to want to do better, to seek ways of improving themselves and each other. Judging others, on the other hand, implies that they can’t do any better, so why not just write them off? It’s taking the easy way out, and that is never God’s way, either! Some Christians honestly believe that it is their duty to run around judging people, digging up dirt and spreading rumors. They think for them there will be some reward. But this is what Jesus says to these people: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’” (Matthew 25:31-46)

 

Did you notice that those who were welcomed by Jesus were wondering why they were welcomed and those who were not welcomed thought that they should have been? Modern-day evangelists and preachers often teach that if you are saved then you know it, but what Jesus teaches here is the complete opposite. If you are a Christian as you claim, you should be following the advice of your Lord and Savior and not be running around judging people. According to Jesus, if you are saved, you are running around feeding the hungry, quenching the thirst of those thirsty and clothing the naked. Many hunger for love and acceptance and thirst for justice and some feel shamed as if they were naked. We are supposed to be helping them, not judging them! But if you yourself are hungry for attention while loving and thirsting for justice, then you will in your own defense judge other people. Seek salvation for yourself rather than distributing judgment unto others. We know who you are, and so do you!

 

There is one more aspect of passing judgment that I think I should mention, and that is the often controversial subject of racism. Hatred, bigotry and intolerance directed towards others are the polar opposites of being merciful. The best way to achieve peace on earth is for everybody to start showing mercy and tolerance towards one another (provided that that mercy and tolerance is not abused by its recipient). The Bible says any time we display racism, intolerance, bigotry and prejudice towards one another, it is the same as hating God who made them all, as it is written: “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1st John 4, verses 20-21) Who are we to question the handiwork of the Lord? Besides, when we devalue others we ultimately devalue ourselves since God created everyone equally. These are simple truths, yet they seem to elude us the majority of the time. Imagine a world without hate or harsh judgment that is filled compassion and mercy for everyone. What a wonderful place to live that would be! The Bible already tells us how. It’s just that too few people are putting it into practice.

 

God has given each of us the responsibility of not being so quick to pass judgment on each other. Instead, we are to be merciful towards each other because “mercy triumphs over judgment”. Ask yourself this question right now. Am I too judgmental? Am I a prejudiced individual? Do I find certain groups of people distasteful just because I don’t like them? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it’s time to repent, to turn away from this behavior pattern, and to turn to God. Only God can provide all the answers you need. If you feel that you may not be strong enough to change, pray to God and ask Him to help you change into a better person. You will be surprised at how willing He actually is. Let’s practice together to not be judgmental towards one another, and to be merciful instead. It’s a much better way of life.

 

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An American Microcosm

A Microcosm of the USA and Christianity

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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The events of this past week have left the office of the American presidency in shambles, made the US the laughingstock of the world, and I – for one – am appalled at the state of my country. President Donald Trump – or at least so long as he remains president – has left all of Washington in disarray from the presidency on down. He is also proving once again, as president George W. Bush did after September 2001 and especially after March 2003, that those who vote straight conservative every election have very short memories. It is the Republican party who, prior to Bush 43, brought us endless wars, the 1995 government shutdown, Iran Contra, the Drug War, president Nixon and Watergate, and the Vietnam War and the phony “Gulf of Tonkin Incident” that started that war. They are also indirectly responsible for the assassinations of Rev. Dr. King and the Kennedy brothers, which makes them accessories to murder.

President Donald Trump is a microcosm of America because he represents what America represents, and as such is someone who is admired by many. Donald Trump represents the American dream of becoming wealthy from a capitalist economic system that allegedly gives everyone a fair shot at becoming a rich businessman or real estate tycoon like Donald Trump. But president Trump is finding out the hard way that being president of the United States is nothing at all like running a real estate empire! When he ran for election last year, he wanted a job that he wasn’t prepared to take on. Worse yet, he failed to appreciate the difficulty and long hours of being the US president. His assumption of the office of the President was poorly planned and is still being poorly executed. When it comes to the presidency, it appears that Donald Trump is a fish out of water. Our country, therefore, is in serious trouble, and this situation is serious enough to warrant our undivided attention.

So president Trump is more than a microcosm of America, he represents a microcosm of capitalism. As such, Trump represents everything that is wrong with America, and everything that is wrong with capitalism. The ugly truth is that Donald Trump didn’t become a mega-billionaire because he is an exceptionally shrewd individual, or because he has some kind of inside track in the business world. Donald Trump got rich by screwing people every chance he got. Since Donald Trump has been elected president, he has been sued 134 times, according to the Boston Globe. He has reportedly filed bankruptcy at least 4 times since the 1980’s, evidently for the sole express purpose of stiffing his creditors while short-selling the property(s) in question. Donald Trump is a human shark, and a big, menacing “great white” at that! He reveals capitalism for the essentially predatory economic system that it truly is. Trump is also a perfect example of the fact that, in a capitalist economy where everything is organized in a hierarchical manner, there are only a handful who end up at the top of the heap, just like Donald Trump. Everyone else winds up underneath, where many of them get financially crushed without mercy.

Moreover, Donald Trump represents all that is corrupt with Washington, D.C. Washington is overburdened with corruption from within, and crushing debt from without. In fact, Washington is so heavily laden with debt and corruption that it is slowly sinking into the soil it sits on. Not only that, but the entire District of Columbia is literally sinking, according to the US Geological Survey named in a 2015 article from CNN.com:

Washington, D.C. Has a ‘Fore-bulge’ Problem

By Jareen Imam, CNN, Updated Sat. August 1, 2015

 

(CNN) Washington, D.C., where the powers that reign over the United States reside, is sinking into the ocean.

Scientists predict that the land underneath the nation’s capital will drop more than 6 inches in the next 100 years, according to new research from the University of Vermont and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Surprisingly though, Washington’s sinking land is an entirely independent phenomenon from the rising sea levels, which scientists have attributed to climate change in the past.

For this study, researchers examined the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most rapidly subsiding and lowest-elevation surfaces, which borders the Chesapeake Bay.

The area is going through what geologists call a “fore-bulge collapse,” also known as the reason for many of Washington’s foreseeable geological woes. During the last ice age, a mile-high ice sheet pushed the land under the Chesapeake Bay region up. When the ice sheet melted 20,000 years ago, the bulging land began to settle back down.

“It’s a bit like sitting on one side of a water bed filled with very thick honey… when you stand, the bulge comes down again,” said former USGS geologist Ben DeJong, one of the lead authors on the study, who conducted the research at University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.”

President Trump is also a microcosm of the current state of mainstream Christianity, whether denominational or otherwise. In spite of doing all the things I already wrote about, president Trump is a regular churchgoer. President Trump, like much of the rest of America, seems to think he can do whatever is expedient for himself and his family real estate empire, and he undoubtedly calls himself ‘blessed’ because of it all. Well-to-do mainstream Christians are filled with people just like that every Sunday morning, believing God has blessed them when all they really did was to help themselves to all they could carry away from the ‘negotiating table’. Or sometimes, whatever they can take by force, it happens every day. They go to church every Sunday as a token of acknowledging their sinful natures and professing their devout beliefs, but then they go back to doing the same things the following week! Jesus had something to say about this issue, and I quote: “Looking at his disciples he said, ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you who hunger, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” (Luke chapter 6, verses 20-22)

But then Jesus continues: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6, verses 24-26) So based on this quote from our Lord and Savior, those who think they are richly blessed by God are actually on their way to hell! These are the people who think life is all about accumulating as much as we can, when in fact life is all about the legacy we leave behind. Instead of being focused on ourselves, we’re supposed to be focused on Christ and the blood he shed for us all! But what are today’s churches focused on? The bottom line, which is propelled by church membership and the money those members donate! Christianity isn’t about Christ at all; Jesus is more of an afterthought than anything else, and this is wrong!

Pulitzer prize winning author Chris Hedges was asked about corruption in churches during a forum with Mr. Robert Scheer, who said of Mr. Hedges, “There’s a complexity to your view. You come out of the mainstream Protestant Church. Your father, who is a minister, is a man you had enormous respect for, championed gay rights, civil rights when it was not popular. And I just wonder, and I know you resent when I say you have a prophetic voice, since I know nothing about scripture I probably don’t know anything about prophetic voices, but nonetheless it does seem to me your strength and clarity comes out of your Christian background.”

Chris Hedges responded, “Yeah, without question. And what I’m willing to do, which the mainstream church is not, is to denounce the Christian right as Christian heretics [applause]. You don’t have to, as I did, spend three years at Harvard Divinity School to realize that Jesus didn’t come to make us rich [laughter]. And he certainly didn’t come to make Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen rich. And what they have done is acculturate the worst aspects of American imperialism, capitalism, chauvinism, violence and bigotry into the Christian religion. And again let’s go back to Wiemar and the rise of Nazism. We saw the same thing in the so-called German Christian Church, which fused the iconography and language of Christianity with Nazism. It’s not a new phenomenon. It was the minority within that church, Bonhoeffer, Niemoller, Karl Barth, Schweizer who created the underground Confessing Church. And my great mentor at Harvard Divinity School, James Luther Adams [applause], was at the University of Heidelberg in 1935 and 1936 and dropped out and joined the Confessing Church. And when I had him in the early ’80s at Harvard, he used to tell us that when we were his age we would all be fighting the Christian fascists. Because, he understood that the Weimarization of the American working class, essentially pushing (America’s) working population into utter despair and hopelessness, coupled with a religious movement that fused national and religious symbols, was a recipe for fascism. And I think the great failure of the liberal tradition that I come out of is they were too frightened and too timid to stand up. I don’t know why they spent all the years in seminary if they didn’t realize that when they walked out the door they were going to have to fight for it. And they didn’t fight for it.”

Jesus said it, the apostle Paul wrote it, and I still believe it: There will be no cowards in heaven. Period, end of story! We as Christians have a moral obligation to stand up to tyranny, and to oppose greed and materialism as being the very antithesis of what it truly means to be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ, the Son of God! Moreover, the Bible has a few other things to say about rich people who are obsessed with obtaining even more wealth, just like president Trump, and I quote just a few of the many examples in the Bible:

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

1 Timothy 6:10

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Matthew 6:19-21

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Luke 12:33-34

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

1 Timothy 6:17-19

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

As you all can see, the above quotes, combined with the farcical nature of the Trump presidency and the corrupt nature of America’s political and economic systems, are a microcosm of what is wrong with America, capitalism and Christianity. I’m trying to sound the alarm about this because I see danger ahead, and we had better begin preparing for it now while we still have a little time left. Better hurry, too, or it will be too late.

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You Want Change? Then It’s On You to Be That Change Which You Seek

Instead of Complaining About the Status Quo,

Become the Change You Desire and Live It

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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We all need to look for ways to improve our lives and change our world for the better. We’re all here for a purpose. It’s why God put us all here. It’s nice to make and keep new year’s resolutions, put a troublesome person out of your life and break other old habits, but many more people are waking up to the fact that it’s smarter to improve our surroundings and make the kind of contributions that leave legacies than it is to merely break a bad habit. Breaking bad habits is good, but helping to build a better world is far better. To begin with, we can’t create a better world if we haven’t yet imagined it. How much better then, if we are able to touch such a world and experience it directly, can we enact in the here and now the world we actually want to live in. These kinds of organized grassroots efforts come in all shapes and sizes. At the bottom end of the scale we see Utopian flavored mass movements like “the 99%”, Black Lives Matter, the fight for a living wage, and Occupy Wall Street movements with their stands against inequality, and for free libraries, ethic of social and economic justice, and experiments in direct democracy. At the other extreme we see the ongoing civil war in Syria (and its predecessor, the Arab Spring of 2011) which continues to this day.

 

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality,” Buckminster Fuller once advised.“ To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” A brilliant insight, but he was only half right, because the best direct actions – and social movements – actually do both. Consider the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s. They were not only brave acts of resistance against the racism of the Jim Crow South, but they also beautifully and dramatically prefigured the kind of world the civil rights movement was trying to bring into being: blacks and whites sitting together as equals in public spaces. The young students didn’t ask anyone’s permission; they didn’t wait for society to evolve or for bad laws to change. In the best spirit of direct action, they walked in there and simply changed the world. At least for a few moments, in one place, they were living in an integrated South. They painted a picture of how the world could be, and the vicious response from white bystanders and police only proved how important it was to make it so.

 

Many people at the forefront of the nonviolent civil rights movement were moved to action by their Spiritual commitments. Be it the “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” of the Four Gospels, or Gandhi’s call to “Be the change you want to see in the world,” the ethical traditions of many religions have powerful roots in dogma that is largely the teachings of men. It is only when people of faith, such as followers of Jesus Christ like myself, try to live out their deep principles and actually walk their talk in the Spirit that they they tend to come up against the power of tradition. Jesus himself (who promised that anyone who followed his teaching would always be in trouble) was one of history’s more brilliant invaders of the human conscience. He didn’t merely argue that true greatness comes from humbly serving others, he illustrated it by washing his disciples’ dirty feet just before the Last Supper. By socializing with outcasts and the poor, visiting lepers, and always raising up “the least of these,” Jesus didn’t simply prophesy a future filled with a beloved community of believers, He made it manifest. And if Jesus did it, so should we!

 

With the dominance of market capitalism and its apologists proclaiming an “end of ideology” (whatever that is), provocations that stretch our political imaginations are more vital than ever. I would go a step further, arguing that we need to bring back Utopian thinking. Utopian thinking is necessary, because it provides a compass point to determine what direction to move toward and a measuring stick to determine how far one has come. However, in an era of media saturation and distrust, this is increasingly hard to do via criticism alone. Using dystopian visions to sound the alarm – a more and more popular strategy – is just another form of criticism that leaves the status quo standing. What is needed instead are direct interventions that both embody and point toward Utopian possibilities. Contemporary social movements, it turns out, are chock full of them.

 

Of course, we all know that this has about as much chance of occurring as the WTO has of abolishing itself, that GE is actually going to give back the taxes it dodged, or that DuPont is finally going to do the right thing and compensate the 100,000 victims of the Bhopal chemical spill for decades of suffering. Could we possibly ever live in such a world? “Yeah”, people are saying, “why don’t we live in such a world?” And we’re more motivated to go out there to make it happen!

 

In 2006 members from a coalition of environmental groups posed as a government agency – the Oil Enforcement Agency – that should have existed, but didn’t. Complete with SWAT-team-like caps and badges, agents ticketed SUVs, impounded fuel-inefficient vehicles at auto shows, and generally modeled a future in which government takes climate change seriously. Clever protest campaigns can bring little shards of utopia not just into the streets but also into our elections and even legislatures. When Jello Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1979, one of the planks in his platform called for beat cops to be voted on by the neighborhoods they patrolled. Once out in the open, this and other seemingly radical ideas were revealed as the reasonable proposals they were, and thousands of San Franciscans voted for Jello.

 

Even legislation can be Utopian. A legislative bill called, “What Would Finland Do?” aims to introduce a bill in the New York legislature to prorate traffic fines according to the net wealth of the driver. It wouldn’t pass, but a lot of New Yorkers might think: “Why not?” and the long fight for greater economic equality might inch a tiny bit forward. (Finland, by the way, has such a law, and in 2004 the 27-year-old heir to a sausage fortune was fined $204,000 for driving 50 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone.) Whether religious or artistic, a playful thought experiment, or a serious attempt to be true to one’s values in the face of state violence, Utopian engagement allows us to experience for ourselves (and demonstrate to others), that another world is necessary, possible, and maybe even beautiful.

 

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Pan Am Flight 103

Pan Am flight 103 was an inside job….

Left Hook by Dean Henderson

(Excerpted from Chapter 11: Noriega of Panama: Big Oil & Their Bankers…)

On December 21, 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland.  When President Bush was sworn into office a month later, he blamed the terrorist act on two Libyans- Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah.

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Another Warning From God About American Leadership

Think This Week Was Bad For America’s and Trump’s Reputation? Wait Until You See What God Has Shown Me About Her Future.

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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wake_up

Like any other person of faith, I read my Bible as often as I can. The Word says we’re supposed to read it every day, but even I can’t always do that. It’s like we all get so caught up in all the stuff that’s going on during our busy days that we find ourselves laying down to sleep nearly before we know it! This past week a colleague of mine showed me a passage out of Isaiah chapter 24 that directly applies to modern-day America and other nuclear-powered countries like her. The clarity and brutally frank language that’s used here by Isaiah, as he was prompted himself by the Holy Spirit, is startling and an ominous vision of the fairly near future.

The debacle inside the Beltway in Washington, D.C. this past week has made the USA and its president the laughingstock of the world! I see no way I can say this with too much emphasis. The Trump administration’s attempt to repeal Obama-care and replace it with what amounted to a forcible confiscation of the health care coverage of 24 million Americans – combined with yet another tax break for the rich – has revealed Donald Trump for what he is: an opportunist who is in the White House for his personal enrichment first, and America second. If the Trump administration’s failed efforts to repeal the ACA are any indication of how Washington is going to handle America’s domestic affairs, what will happen when it comes to America’s relations with the rest of the world? If America does not repent (turn away from) its ways, a great calamity will befall her, and that without remedy. Allow me to quote the first 6 verses of Isaiah 24:

See, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants – it will be the same for priest as for people, for master as for servant, for mistress as for maid, for seller as for buyer, for borrower as for lender, for debtor as for creditor. The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The Lord has spoken his word. The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.”

The earth as we know it, it says in the very first verse, is going to be destroyed. I don’t think this means we’re going to collide with another planet or wayward moon or anything like that. This includes all the talk about the so-called “planet X/Nibiru”, or whatever other names there are floating around out there. This planet is currently located somewhere between Neptune and Pluto. Assuming that “planet X/Nibiru” is closer to Neptune than to Pluto, juxtaposed with Neptune’s orbiting the sun every 160 years, that means if “Nibiru” is traveling at a similar speed to Neptune it will take it another 80 years (give or take) to reach earth. Moreover,it has been proven by NASA, backed up with corroborating data from the European and Japanese space agencies, that this 9th planet in our solar system is not – repeat is not – on a collision course with earth. So all you “Nibiru” fear mongers can put your fears to bed once and for all.

“….. he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants.” The words ‘scattered inhabitants’ suggest that population centers – cities – will be destroyed, and that casualties will be high in number. “…. it will be the same for priest as for people, for master as for servant, for mistress as for maid, for seller as for buyer, for borrower as for lender, for debtor as for creditor. The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The Lord has spoken his word. The same fate will befall everybody, and there will be only a lucky few who escape. Moreover, the complete destruction of the cities of the earth is the only thing that will destroy economic inequality. To put that another way, the only way to destroy inequality will be to destroy the financial centers of the world, beginning with the US. Although I can’t say exactly how this will happen, it definitely will. “The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish.” There will be a huge global drought, crops will fail, and people are going to starve to death, even in the Western world where this normally never occurs.

The earth is defiled by its people…..” What does this mean to our modern world? Do these words still have any meaning after all these centuries? The answer to this question is an emphatic ‘yes’! How have we managed to do this, you ask? When did I defile the earth? Every time we throw a piece of trash on the ground, or throw a wrapper or scrap of paper out of our car or truck window while driving, every time we throw anything (!) in a landfill, pour our old engine oil down a drain or elsewhere – need I go on? – we defile the earth. There is a gigantic flotilla of plastic bottles and other similar scrap items the size of the entire state of Texas floating in the middle of the Pacific ocean as I write this. Need still more proof we are in grievous sin?? The permanently damaged nuclear reactors at Fukishima, Japan (there are 4 of them) are leaking radioactive water into the north Pacific ocean at a rate of 400 million gallons per day! At this rate, the entire northern Pacific ocean from Japan to the west coast of North America will be devoid of life in no more than 10 years!

Suppose you (somehow) made a planet and inhabited it with 7 billion people, giving them life and the power and will to live it, and they turned around and destroyed it just because they could. How would you react? Now you know how God feels. “They have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth….” What laws? We could start with the 10 commandments. When you break one, you break them all, that’s what the Bible says. Or how about the two greatest commandments: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself’? As before; if we break one even once, we have broken them all as far as God is concerned. “Therefore a curse consumes the earth”. Does this mean God will curse the planet and everything on it? Of course not, don’t be so fearful! Is God going to personally intervene and cause all this to occur? No, it does not appear so, as we further examine this quote from Scripture. “Its people must bear their guilt.

Guilt for what, you’re probably thinking? For all the things I mentioned above, from ruining the Pacific ocean to the 10 commandments and so on, but that’s not all. Nope, sorry, there’s one more major thing – waging war. Although people will accuse me of being unpatriotic, and I do not wish to be offensive to anyone, the USA is addicted to war, and has been for at least the last 75 years. Our national economy depends on it and has been ever since I’ve been alive, and I’m 61. Moreover, we remain the only country in the world to have used nuclear weapons in a time of war. America has let the nuclear genie out of the bottle, and it cannot be put back no matter how great and well intentioned the effort. Meaning, we are indirectly responsible for the Fukishima disaster, as well as for any future nuclear conflicts regardless of who starts it. Granted, no one could have predicted an earthquake and tsunami of that magnitude, but the reactors should never have been located that close to the ocean in the first place. Not in an earthquake-prone country like Japan, at the very least! So in the end, the nuclear threat that we face globally is America’s fault, and we’re going to end up paying the price.

How? “Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left. Nuclear war. What else could this be describing, just read it and let it sink in. This is what the Bible says will happen to us if we don’ t change our ways. The heat generated by a thermonuclear explosion is 10 times that of the surface of the sun. Those who are caught up in what I suspect will be the coming nuclear conflagration – again, unless America changes its ways – will be instantly vaporized. Not a pleasant thought, to say the least. How do we stop this? By protesting in the streets and getting involved in our country’s political process. I see no other way. Besides, in the process of protesting, we’ll be siding with God. Suits me fine.

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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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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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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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The Conservative Christians Just Got a Bloody Nose From Their Own President

The ‘Spiritual, Not Religious’ Gospel of Progressive Christianity Grows as More Become Disenchanted With Traditional Religion

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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So-called “experts” call them “unaffiliated,” as in a recent Pew poll, or “nones” – or even just ‘not very religious.’ A 2013 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute divided these groups further into “unattached,” “atheists”, “agnostics,” and “seculars.” One thing is for sure; this ever-growing cohort of non-Church Americans made up, at 23 percent, the single largest segment of Barack Obama’s “religious coalition” that helped him win reelection in 2012 (compared to the 37 percent of white evangelicals who supported Mitt Romney). As a result of this, the unaffiliated clearly had their moment. Media analysis, however, did not go very deep – there was a story that went beyond these names and numbers.

I first published this website after I began to understand who the current crop of unaffiliated people are, what they believe in, and who or what inspires them. Yet we have precious little historical understanding of this critical and rapidly growing demographic. What are their roots? What religious, cultural, economic, demographic, and political processes shaped their sensibilities, habits, and makeup? In order to understand these still-believing nonreligious/unaffiliated/agnostics etc., we need to understand that much of the religious dynamism in the United States happens outside the church walls. Moreover, this has been ongoing for quite some time now. The “rise of the non-religious believers” is but the latest phase in the long transformation of religion into what we now commonly call “spirituality.” In my case and that of my peers, it is Christianity and the strongly held belief in Jesus Christ, not as a distant and mysterious god, but as the Son of God who we can develop a relationship with on a personal level. So if you want to get closer to God, just get one-on-one with Jesus. How do we accomplish that? By asking Him into your hearts, to come and dwell there forever. There is truly no other way to get to know him! By the same token, spirituality can mean many things to many people. The language of spirituality is used by traditional religious adherents as well as the religiously unaffiliated. But only the “nonreligious” have made it into a cliche: “spiritual but not religious.”

The history of American spirituality reveals that our commonplace understanding of spirituality — as the individual, experiential dimension of human encounter with the sacred — arose from the clash of American Protestantism with the forces of modern life back in the nineteenth century. While religious conservatives fought to stem the tide, giving rise to fundamentalism, religious Progressives like myself have adapted their faith to the 21st century, often by discarding orthodoxies (such as my strict Catholic upbringing) in favor of maintaining one’s mental health just as anyone would do for a physical ailment, combined with or as a supplement to a personal relationship with our risen Savior. It looks to me like the majority of today’s nonreligious individuals – those who claim no religion but still embrace some form of spirituality – are engaged in the same task of renovating their faith for a new historical moment of major awakening! I am convinced that this moment has in fact arrived in the form of resistance to the Donald Trump presidency. Because this has occurred, right-wing conservatism and the religious right are being dealt a blow from which it will take them a long time to recover, if ever. The Progressive Christians, as I have been calling folks like us (not “liberal”!), will get the football the first time something goes horribly wrong in the Trump White House (only time will tell). It will be up to us to score when that happens, so let’s start planning now!

Today’s unaffiliated and nonreligious, like the liberals of previous generations, typically shun dogma and creed in favor of a faith that is truthful, genuine, practical, psychologically attuned, ecumenical and ethically oriented. Of course, Americans of all religious varieties have allowed themselves to be deeply influenced by consumerism, but media and markets are shaping the religious lives of those without formal institutional or community ties. The religiously unaffiliated might not attend services, but they “have” their religion in many other ways: they watch religion on TV and listen to it on the radio; find inspiration on the web; attend retreats, seminars, workshops, and classes; buy candles and statues, bumper stickers and yoga pants; take spiritually motivated trips; and, perhaps most significantly, buy and read books. Books have been the most important conduit for spreading the ‘spiritual but not religious’ gospel.

This dependency on the consumer marketplace, and especially books, has had significant consequences for the religious lives of all Americans, especially the unaffiliated. First, it has enhanced the tendencies within American religion toward a therapeutic understanding of life from a spiritual vantage point. The profit-oriented commercial presses that came to dominate religious publishing naturally pursued the largest market possible for their goods, and seized on the nondenominational, nonsectarian, and psychologically modern forms of faith advanced by the religious left as a common American Christian vernacular. These trends have only accelerated from the 1920s to the present, so that now the line between religion and self-help sometimes disappears in the spirituality section of Amazon. Second, spiritual consumerism has fostered books that allow some readers entry into religious worlds to which they have not been previously exposed. Since the invention of the printing press, the lines of denomination and tradition have gradually mattered less and less. This process has accelerated greatly with the relatively recent invention of the Internet.

Progressive Christianity’s rise and liberal Protestantism’s organizational decline has been accompanied by and is in part arguably the consequence of the fact that the Republican party has recently won the White House and Congress. The cultural victory that is the anti-Trump backlash is happening now because more Americans have been driven away by conservatism in light of a Trump presidency. In other words, leftist religious values and sensibilities became more and more normalized culturally speaking. The recent chapter 7 bankruptcy of Family Christian Stores is only the latest example of the decline of “Religion, Inc.” Even as religious affiliations continue to decline, on-line churches combined with Christian but nondenominational book sales and TV shows are continuing to proliferate. In the process, Christianity is becoming as interconnected as the rest of the world, which can only result in more rapid growth. This is very encouraging news for people like me who wish to spread the Gospel as widely and effectively as they can!

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Reasons to Legalize Marijuana Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When the Truth Becomes Lies and Lies Become Truth

The 7 Biggest Lies of the Conservatives and the G.O.P.

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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One of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall not lie”. (Exodus 20, verse 16) It says still more about dishonesty in government in chapter 23, verse 8 of that same book of the Bible: “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous.” While I’m not about to accuse anyone in the new US presidential administration of accepting bribes, I am dismayed at the barrage of confusing signals coming from the Trump administration. First, we were going to have a travel ban on Muslims because president Trump made it a campaign promise. Predictably, the courts have shot it down. The travel ban was unconstitutional right from the start. President Trump should have known that. The US Constitution has a system of checks and balances written into it so that none of America’s 3 branches of government will gain too much authority over the other two. I think it is highly commendable that our system of government still works so well, even after all these years.

The debacle of president Trump’s travel ban, combined with the large public protests against his administration, is morphing into a new Occupy or “We are the 99%” movement. The beginning of the end of the American political machine, the Republican-Democrat paradigm, has already begun. The Occupiers on Wall Street, at Standing Rock, South Dakota and elsewhere, combined with the various anti-government and antiwar protesters, can’t become a national movement for a more equitable society unless more Americans know the truth about the economy. Everything revolves around the economy because we all need money to survive. America’s trade imbalance, social, environmental and economic issues all revolve around a debt-based economy. This economic paradigm is coming to an end, and I’m going to list 7 reasons why.

1.) Tax cuts for the rich trickle down to everyone else. In actuality, quite the reverse is true. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both sliced taxes on the rich and what happened? Most Americans’ wages (measured by the real median wage) began flattening under Reagan and has been dropping since George W. Bush. Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke. In reality, “trickle down” means “piss on” the poor, minorities and people of color, the disabled and the elderly.

2.) Higher taxes on the rich would hurt the economy and slow job growth. False. From the end of World War II until 1981, the richest Americans faced a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent or above. Under Dwight Eisenhower it was 91 percent. Even after all deductions and credits, the top taxes on the very rich were far higher than they’ve been since. Yet the economy grew faster during those years than it has since. Why are the country’s wealthiest families being allowed to skate on by the IRS while the rest of the country gets hammered by falling wages?

3.) Shrinking government generates more jobs. Wrong again. It means fewer government workers – everyone from teachers, fire fighters, police officers, and social workers at the state and local levels to safety inspectors and military personnel at the federal. And, fewer government contractors would employ fewer private-sector workers. On the contrary; to create more jobs and economic prosperity, raise the minimum wage to a realistic level! More money in people’s pockets equals more spending, which generates more economic activity, which creates more jobs and business start-ups. Plus, the additional spending and jobs create more tax revenue that ultimately makes its way back into the communities it serves.

4.) Cutting the budget deficit now is more important than boosting the economy. Whose lame-brained idea was this? Probably someone from within the Federal Reserve, since the Federal Reserve owns America’s budget deficit. Every time America makes a payment on our “national debt”, the money goes to the Federal Reserve! With so many Americans out of work or working part time instead of full time, additional budget cuts now will shrink the US economy even further. They’ll increase unemployment and reduce tax revenues. That will worsen the ratio of the debt to the total economy. The first priority must be getting jobs and growth back by boosting the economy. Only then, when jobs and growth are returning vigorously, should we turn to cutting the deficit.

5.) Medicare and Medicaid are the major drivers of budget deficits. Wrong. Medicare and Medicaid spending is rising quickly, to be sure. But that’s because the nation’s health-care costs are rising so fast. One of the best ways of slowing these costs is to use Medicare and Medicaid’s bargaining power over drug companies and hospitals to reduce costs, and to move from a fee-for-service system to a fee-for-healthy outcomes system. And since Medicare has far lower administrative costs than private health insurers, we should make Medicare available to everyone. All America has to do is take everyone who is signed up for Obama-care, Medicaid, the VA hospital system, plus all government employees, and roll them over into Medicare. Then we’ll just eliminate Obama-care and Medicaid by de-funding them both, saving over $1 trillion in the first year alone.

6.) Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. No way! Social Security is solvent for the next 26 years just as it is. It could be solvent for the next century or more if we raised the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax. That ceiling is now $106,800. Raising that amount to $250,000 will do the job very nicely! All it takes is a little common sense, something that seems to be in short supply inside the Beltway these days.

7.) It’s unfair that lower-income Americans don’t pay income tax. This is patently ridiculous. In a worst case, it criminalizes the poor. In truth, there’s nothing unfair about it. Lower-income Americans pay out a larger share of their paychecks in payroll taxes, sales taxes, user fees, and tolls than everyone else especially when compared to the top 1%.

Demagogues through history have known that big lies, repeated often enough, start being believed — unless they’re rebutted. These seven economic deceptions are just plain wrong. Make sure you know the truth – and spread it around to everyone you meet!

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