Category Archives: we are the 99%

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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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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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

good_deeds_R_smart

To view this in a browser, click here! 🙂

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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The Laws of God and Those of Men

God’s Laws Always Supersede Our Own

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this on my website, click here! 🙂

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Now that Donald Trump – love him or hate him – is officially the POTUS, I am writing this week’s commentary with a plea for national unity on everyone’s part. I’ve been walking this earth for 6 decades now by the grace of God, and America is more divided today than I have ever seen. The divisions in our country from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s over the Vietnam war and racial inequality pale in comparison to America’s social and economic divisions of today. What deeply concerns me is that so few people seem to be aware of the great extent that our country has been divided, but I’m going to continue to make this known in an effort to make a contribution towards doing something about this. So when I hear the phrase, “Not my president”, what I’m hearing is the voice of still more division within the US. America’s citizens and those from other countries who are residing here equally need to put their differences aside and learn to work together, at least until the next election.

Yet by the same token, the reasons for the lack of unity throughout America are quite valid in the eyes of those who cherish these beliefs in their hearts. But to refuse to cooperate or declining to support the new president is equal to holding the laws created by the new presidential administration in contempt. To this some may say, “Good, that’s just what I intend to do!”, while others may say, “Hold on, not so fast until we think this through.” Both points of view have their own merit for different reasons. This led me to wonder whether God’s Word has anything to say about this, so I started searching. What I came away with was proof positive that, while it is wise and usually prudent to cooperate with and obey earthly authorities, if we pass any laws that are contrary to God’s Word, we (not just devout Christians – everybody!) are not duty-bound to obey those laws. In a worst case scenario, we would be obligated to disobey an unjust law. To document this I will be quoting from the Book of Acts chapter 5.

Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night, an angel of the Lord opened the door of the jail and brought them out. ‘Go, stand in the Temple courts’, he said, ‘and tell the people the full message of this new life’. At daybreak, they entered the Temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin – the full assembly of the elders of Israel – and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, ‘We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.’ On hearing this report, the captain of the Temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this. Then someone came and said, ‘Look! The men you put in jail are in the Temple courts teaching the people!’ At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they were afraid the people would stone them.” (Acts 5, verses 17-26)

The background on how this whole affair started was that the apostles, led by Peter, were having notable success in their efforts to spread Christianity throughout the known world at that time. The time frame is about three months after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it is a matter of days, or a week or two at the most, after the Holy Spirit descended upon the 120 apostles who were in the upper room on what we now call Pentecost. Peter and the other 119 apostles were quickly developing quite a following, and the ruling religious establishment over the Supreme Council at Jerusalem (equivalent to the Vatican of today for Catholics, or maybe Oral Roberts or Bob Jones universities for Protestants) had begun viewing the apostles as a threat. As a result, they had some of the apostles arrested and jailed like common criminals.

The next thing that happens is the arrival of an angel of the Lord’s – it doesn’t say which one – who sets them free in the middle of the night. These apostles, led by Peter, are then instructed to go and teach and bear witness in the Temple what the Lord did for them. That must have been quite a sermon! “The Lord Jesus Christ will set you free from sin”, Peter must have said, “and sometimes he will literally set you free! We were in jail for preaching the Gospel yesterday and last night, but look! Here we are today! God want to do this for you, too, through the saving grace and shed blood of his only Son!” Just about this time, the Temple guard, together with their captain, arrive to arrest Peter and the others who had been let out of jail. Notice here that Peter and the others willingly cooperated with the captain and his officers. Had they not done so, the outcome here would have been completely different, much to the detriment of the Gospel, and as this passage documents. Let’s continue now at verse 27.

Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name’, he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty for this man’s blood.’ Peter and the other apostles replied, ‘We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead – whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand, as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.’ When they heard this they were furious and wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. (Acts 5, verses 27-34)

The apostles had previously been brought before the Sanhedrin, and had been given the equivalent of probation, for the same ‘offense’. So here they were, back a second time, and some of those present among the Pharisees and Sadducees were calling for the death penalty! Sometimes missionaries who work in countries where Christianity has its enemies, or where the teaching of Christianity or possession of a Bible are outlawed, pay the ultimate penalty for their faith too. “ Peter and the other apostles replied, ‘We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead – whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree…. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him”. So here is a clear-cut case where the laws of God supersede the laws of humankind because man’s laws contradicted those of God. Jesus’ very crucifixion is the ultimate example of this. Jesus may have been crucified as a common criminal, but that didn’t change the fact that he was a Savior for the souls of all humankind. Peter and the other apostles tell the Sanhedrin that they are all accessories to the murder of the Son of God. This enrages the ruling council to the point of (not surprisingly) wanting the apostles to be executed on the spot. But that is just before Gamaliel gets up to give his little speech. So now let’s find out what he had to say as I begin to close out this week’s message, beginning at verse 35.

Then he addressed them: ‘Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men…. in the present case I advise you: leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of men, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourself fighting against God.’ His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the Temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped preaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 5, verses 35, 36, and 38-42)

As you can see, Gamaliel was probably the smartest man in the room at this point. He cites examples in verse 37 of 2 men who had fomented revolt in the recent past, only to get themselves killed for their trouble. So Gamaliel was telling them that if that new religion known as ‘the Way’ was a human effort, it would come to nothing. But Gamaliel must have suspected there was something more to Christianity than mere ideology or philosophy. I think that’s why he told the other members of the ruling council that if Christianity was ordained of God, there would be no possible way to ever stop them from spreading the Gospel. And of course, he was right, and the rest is history – Christian history! So at the end, the apostles get flogged, or beaten with whips, as punishment for their ‘crime’. And, they’re happy about it despite enduring the extreme pain! Overjoyed, in fact! “Day after day, in the Temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped preaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus was the Christ.” If being persecuted and criminalized for their faith made the apostles overjoyed, it’s time we all got this same tough attitude.

We need to get an equally tough attitude about the laws of God versus those of humankind. It is in our own best interest to be law abiding citizens, there is no question in my mind about that. But it is even more so with God’s laws, the law of Jesus, the law of salvation by faith through the grace of God. If the government starts telling you to go and get an identification chip implanted in your right forearm or on your forehead, you know we should disobey that law because it’s the Mark of the Beast in the Book of Revelation. If anyone is suffering from seizures, PTSD, bipolar disorder, or going through chemotherapy, and the only effective thing they’re tried is cannabis oil or medical marijuana to alleviate their symptoms – which God made anyway (see Genesis chapter 1, verse 11) – then no government has the right to tell any citizen they may not use or ingest cannabis or its byproducts, nor do any laws passed against medical cannabis or cannabidiol have any validity whatsoever. I could cite more examples, but you get the idea. It’s our responsibility to use our brains about these matters. That what God gave us one for. Choose rightly, but always choose God.

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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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Our country treats us like crap. Everybody knows that, but here’s where I get down to details.

Seven Grievous Sins America’s Leaders Commit Against Their Own People, and What the Bible Says About That

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

wake_up

As the 2016 presidential race mercifully winds down, they are some things that need to be said about those in charge, and why every incumbent candidate or political party deserves to be voted out of office. The US is in such a state of disarray as I write this that we, the voters, need to start all over again on a clean sheet of paper. I can think of lots of things I’d like to see happen. Get the corporate and lobbyist money out of politics and outlaw the greed by overturning Citizens United and imposing Congressional term limits. Call off all the endless wars, close the bases and bring our troops home. The American people will soon need them to protect us from the government anyway. Cut the need for welfare and food assistance programs by doubling the minimum wage to a realistic level and offering free higher education without qualification. Offer low cost single payer health care by putting the whole country on Medicare, including those on Medicaid and Obama-care, and then abolish the latter two. It’s really not difficult to figure out what’s needed, all that’s required is some implementation on the part of Congress and our incoming president. If, that is, these crooks would get out of the office of their ‘lobbyist dujour‘ long enough to go to the House or Senate floor and vote on something once in a while!

I have assembled a list of every gut-wrenching, visceral injustice currently being committed by the very people that have been entrusted with the responsible and prudent leadership of what used to be the greatest country in the world, the USA., with a few interjections along the way from the Word of God regarding these matters. It has been my observation for some time now that the underpaid US workers that do have jobs, combined with the unemployed and sometimes even homeless American population, none of whom are able to find any work at all, are a ticking time bomb hidden in plain sight across America. The following is a listing of the abuses being heaped upon us, when in fact we deserve no such thing! The list doesn’t include our most grievous offenses, those of military and economic warfare against the rest of the world. Sinful enough is our own behavior at home because too many people aren’t holding their legislators – and the president – accountable enough. Let’s go over a few examples:

1. Sins against children

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for them to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves’.” (Luke 17: 1-3) Perhaps “sanctity of life” ends at birth. According to Census Bureau figures, one out of every five American children lives in poverty. For blacks and Hispanics, it’s one out of every three. UNICEF has reported that the U.S. has a higher child poverty rate than every industrialized country except Romania. We are near the bottom in all measures of inequality that affect our children, including material well-being, health, and education. One more fact before I move on: 1 out of every 4 American school children will rely on food stamps at some point while they’re growing up for their sustenance and nutrition. In communities of color, this figure jumps to a truly shocking – and outrageous – 1 out of 2.

2. Sins against the poor

Now listen, all you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days! Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have flattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you.” (James 5: 1-6) The U.S. poverty rate grew from 11.3% to 15.0%, a 30% jump, in just the last 11 years. The impact was felt primarily by minorities and women. The median wealth for single black and Hispanic women is shockingly low, at just over $1000.00 (compared to $41,500 for single white women). Even more shocking – For every dollar of non-home wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent. Despite the continued economic assault on already-poor Americans, the number of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cases has dropped by 60 percent over the last 16 years.

3. Sins against students

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6: 4) Students at all levels have been losing their nation’s support. States reduced their education budgets by $12.7 billion in 2012, and here in 2016 the majority of states will be cutting spending even more. At higher educational levels, Americans are paying much more than students in other countries. Only 38% of college expenses come from public funding, compared to 70% in other wealthier “first world” countries. While other nations continue to offer free tuition, with the recognition that education leads to long-term prosperity, the U.S. system has become more incorporated, to the point that expensive programs like nursing, engineering, and computer science have been eliminated to cut costs. The profit motive has blocked the path to academic excellence. But the worst part of America’s treatment of its students has been the greed-driven debacle of over $1 trillion in predatory student loan debts, much of which can never be repaid. The same graduates who are obligated to repay those debts are the ones who can’t find jobs, or who wind up working at jobs for which they are grossly overqualified. When you enrage a nation’s youth, the seeds of insurrection have already been sown. All it will take is one good storm to make those seeds sprout, and the 2nd American Revolution will be underway. And yes, it is coming, you can be sure of that.

4. Sins against the middle class

Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in the land of 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 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, for the 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 20: 21-27) The middle class, to say the least, is shrinking. In fact, America’s middle class is slowly being liquidated. In 2011, according to a Pew Research analysis, 51% of the nation’s households earned from two-thirds to double the national median income. In the 1970s it was 61%. One-quarter of America’s workers are now making less than $22,000 a year, the poverty line for a family of four as of 2012. Thirty million Americans are making between $7.25 (minimum wage) and $10.00 per hour. With the transition of middle-class workers to low-income status, entrepreneurship is disappearing. Innovation doesn’t come from the upper class. A recent study found that less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs came from very rich or very poor backgrounds. Small business creators come from the hard-working, risk-taking, nothing-to-lose middle of America, but their entrepreneurial numbers are down – over 50% since 1977.

5. Sins against the common good

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1st Peter 2: 9-10) A recent Tax Justice Network report placed total hidden offshore assets at somewhere between $21 trillion and $32 trillion. With about 40% of the world’s most mega-rich individuals in the U.S., up to $12.8 trillion of untaxed revenue sits overseas. Based on a historical 6% rate of return, this is a tax loss of up to $300 billion per year, money that should be paying for the public needs of education and infrastructure. Tax avoidance is so appealing that 1,700 Americans renounced their citizenship last year. The American Thinker Blog argued that “the U.S. tax code is so oppressive that smart and successful people are compelled to renounce their citizenship in order to keep more of their own hard-earned wages.” Hard-earned, in truth, by the thousands of contributors to their financial success.

6. Sins against nature

Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell among the Israelites.” (Numbers 35: 33-34) Has it ever occurred to anyone that God lives on the land he creates? What we’re doing to the land, the water and the air, we do to God. A number of studies show that investment in renewable energy will create many more jobs than the fossil fuel industry. And the investment will certainly pay off over the coming decades. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory analysis determined that “renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today… are more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050.” But now the prospect of cheap natural gas is leading us back to a dirty form of energy independence, with a continuing reliance on fossil fuels, and on the “fracking” technology that despoils our land and pollutes our water and air. The national commitment and political will needed for the long-term health of our nation is more elusive than ever.

7. Sins against common sense

Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud: To you, oh men, I cry out. I raise my voice to all mankind; you who are simple, gain prudence, you who are foolish, gain understanding. Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. To the discerning, all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge. Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge more than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” (Proverbs 8: 1-11) The economic deception began, at least in the modern age, with Milton Friedman, who said “The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people… He moves fastest who moves alone.” This unflagging adherence to egocentric free enterprise individualism is consistent with Social Darwinism, the belief that survival of the fittest (richest) will somehow benefit society, and that the millions of people suffering from financial malfeasance are simply lacking the motivation to help themselves. Social Darwinism is a feel-good delusion for those at the top. Or, as described by John Kenneth Galbraith, a continuing “search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” A mainstay of the Progressive Movement is that a strong society will create opportunities for a greater number of people, thereby leading to more instances of individual success. This is the common sense attitude that has been suppressed by conservatives for over 30 years. I’m hoping this election year will change that paradigm. But if not, open revolt will be the American people’s only remaining option.

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