Tag Archives: America

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

Having trouble reading this? Click here! 🙂

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.

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Renewing America As Progressive Christians Should

The USA Is Becoming A Failed State:

Seven Simple Steps to Turn It Around

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in your browser, click here! 🙂

fearless-lion

As I look around me today, I see the United States of America as a failing country. There are just too many things going wrong with America today all at once! Failing to adequately tackle the inherent problems in our economic system: Failing to reflect on the deep flaws in our system of government: Failing to repair our image abroad: Failing in education, in health care, in human rights, and in religious tolerance. In fact, we look a lot like the USSR in 1990 – except with a lot more big-screen TV’s. And so I have composed this week’s commentary listing what I view as our worst problems, followed by some helpful suggestions for solutions to the mess that we Americans find ourselves in today.

 

First, a quick word about president Trump. I have already written at length about my feelings regarding Donald Trump’s handling – or mishandling, depending on your point of view, of his still-new presidency. But there is another side to all the hub-bub about president Trump, and that is the fact that he is a Washington outsider. Trump came into Washington, DC last January to shake things up, and he has run into a mountain of resistance from the existing political establishment. Instead of “draining the swamp”, the swamp has nearly swallowed up president Trump! But at the end of the day, much of the storm of controversy about the Trump presidency has been generated by the press, and at least as much as the Democrats, if not more.

 

Some people may well take issue with my contention that the political and governmental systems are broken, including the courts and penal systems, or even that we have a great health care system. I respect anyone’s right to those opinions – freedom of expression is one of the few things our country hasn’t managed to screw up in the last couple of hundred years. But in every case, the data backs me up. Allow me to try and substantiate my claims first, before suggesting a few possible solutions. First, let’s take a look at the economy: in 2009 alone, 131 banks failed. That number had dropped to 5 in 2016, and there have been 5 more so far in 2017 with more than 6 months to go. The 2008 bailout granted billions of dollars – with strings attached – to private companies who then used the money to short-sell the market, make countless billions more, hand the government back its money (removing the strings) and pay out lavish bonuses while Americans lost their jobs. Meanwhile, the median family income is less today than it was in 1970.

 

Our government, meanwhile, is no longer run by competing ideologies but by corporate interests (I include both parties in this category since both are moneymaking enterprises disguised as political parties). There are good Republicans who would prefer that your cancer-stricken child had health insurance. There are responsible Democrats who are horrified by our country’s ‘spend now and pay later’ approach to finance. But since they are beholden to their version of a higher power – corporate America, Wall St. and the almighty dollar – they have convinced themselves to vote with their wallets, not with their conscience. At the Federal level, AT&T and Goldman Sachs combined have contributed over $75M over the last 20 years to both political parties, and the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, plus the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, aren’t far behind.

 

Across the world America’s reputation is tarnished, perhaps irrevocably, and yet we find our President – in the words of former vice-president Dick Cheney – following the ‘Bush Doctrine’ of a surge in forces occupying a foreign country with seemingly little chance of categorical success. We are seen as an economic and religious bully, and we don’t seem to care. We vilify our political enemies for their human rights records, and import cheap goods from countries we know to exploit child labor. We are, to much of the world, intolerable hypocrites. About this Jesus said, “….you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11: 46) Isn’t this exactly where we find ourselves in 21st century America?

 

Apologists for the American health care system, not to mention “Obama-care” or so-called “Trump-care”, will continue to defend those systems at all costs, claiming that so-called ‘socialist’ states such as England, France and Sweden (which, incidentally, is actually a constitutional monarchy governed by a center-right coalition) kill their citizens at will in order to save money, or make you wait thirty years for a kidney transplant. Deflecting (especially with such utter garbage) doesn’t make our system any better, and it’s always bad business practice to spend too much time putting down the competition. When our own kids can’t get health care because mom and dad have no money to pay, something is terribly wrong. Any anthropologist will tell you that we took better care of our young when we were Neanderthals – so what’s changed? For one in six of our citizens to remain uninsured is a national disgrace. We deny basic human rights to our own people! Whom you choose to marry is not a matter for the government to decide, it is a matter for the individual (“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord”). So it is for what religion to follow, if any (although I will continue to vigorously preach pure Christianity as the only true way to eternal salvation). Some may not like our choices, but they are inalienable rights and you should be free to exercise them as you will. Our US Constitution says you can (search: First Amendment).

 

As far back as 2005, statistics showed that hate crimes against Muslims were increasing 50% year-on-year. Even so, the FBI reported that in 2016 hate crimes against homosexuals had increased 10% from 2015, and those motivated by religion had risen by 12%. This is outrageous in the extreme as far as I am concerned. The track we have taken over the last fifty years has been the wrong one, and America is way past due for a serious course correction. We have let corruption, greed, fame, intolerance and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge our problems almost ruin our nation. We are failing to live the American Dream, and if we don’t start now our children will never even know what it was. I have several fairly radical ideas. I’m sure you have some of your own, and I welcome them in the comments below. I have chosen not to expound on what I personally think the consequences of these actions would be, as I would be diving headlong into speculation.

 

1. Immediately and totally stop all corporations from giving money to political parties. Reverse Citizens United and make our elections publicly funded!

 

2. Make a promise to our children: you will be well-educated, and you will be treated with dignity and respect when you are sick.

 

3. Change the game. Capitalism is broken and must be replaced, and the smoothest transition I have found is that of a resource-based instead of a debt-based economic system. Any time you have less than 1% of America’s population controlling the upper 99% of the cash flow, some legislated redistribution is clearly called for (or maybe an executive order to that effect). We can start with worker owned businesses instead of shareholder ownership. Public business ownership will still exist, but smaller – such as a cooperative – will be much better in many cases.

 

4. Take a page out of the Bible and just treat everyone else with some genuine respect and unconditional love. If it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for you. About this the apostle John wrote, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us, so we ought to love one another” (1st John 4, verses 10-11). True love for each other means unconditional love with no strings attached! Respect others and yourself as well. Leave the gays alone. Leave the blacks alone. Leave the immigrants alone whether you think they’re here legally or not. Leave the Muslims or the Christians alone, too. Even the atheists, despite the fact that they’re all totally lost! Pray for them instead! When respect departs, enmity is the next train along.

 

5. Pay for it. Child labor is inexcusable! If it costs an extra ten bucks, or extra hundred bucks to buy something that was made by willing workers, pay for the darned thing! And the same goes for government. You want health care? Pay for it. More troops? Pay for them. Tax breaks for corporations? Not a chance, they have way too many of those already.

 

6. Form coalitions based on issues, not parties. Not every NRA member is anti-abortion. Not every tree-hugging hippie thinks that owning a gun is wrong. When a party tells you how you should think, and what issues should be thrown together into what bucket, you’re a lot closer to communism than you think you are.

 

7. Buy American whenever possible. From what I can tell, the great empires of yore – from Egypt to Rome to England – were ‘first-to-market’ with some manufacturing innovation or other, that led to more innovations, and greater strides, that in turn led to them becoming the largest producers of goods in their region. This happened to the USA from the dawn of the twentieth century until the ‘fifties. Then we began to transform into a service economy, just as those others did. Producing goods is what is making China become a world powerhouse, and if we are to compete, we must produce our own. American goods are always equal to the best even though they are almost never the cheapest, but if we are to reinstate our status as the world’s greatest country, we need to start by supporting our own businesses and workers. We’re in a really big mess, but if enough people commit to working together to solve our problems, we can do anything we set our minds to!

 

 

Tagged , , , ,

Did America just avoid disaster? Only time will tell.

Did We Just Avert World War Three?

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

endless war

With the 2016 election new receding into America’s and the world’s rear view mirror, I find myself taking stock of the current political situation so I can get my bearings straight. We have just been through a tumultuous election that has changed the course of the entire globe. Two things remain certain – Donald Trump shocked everybody when he won the presidential election, and like him or not, he is determined to change the course of America. And, a change of course is not only what America needed, it has been long overdue. Having said that, let me quickly add that I was no Trump supporter. I was initially for Bernie Sanders, and when that didn’t pan out, I ended up casting a protest vote for Trump. I was going to vote for Jill Stein, but she wasn’t on the ballot here in Georgia. As far as I was concerned, she was the only remaining choice, and that’s all I care to say about that. Debating who should have won the election is not this week’s topic.

Although Barack Obama got a lot of good things accomplished during his 8 years in office, there were three things he did that I didn’t like. The first was ‘Obama-care’. It was not necessary to reinvent health care in America in order to have national health insurance. All we have to do is put the whole country on Medicare. Then let’s take every citizen on Medicaid, Obama-care and VA Health Care and roll them over into Medicare. Once that is completed, we should simply defund all three of the latter, saving the country a total of about $3.5 trillion annually, give or take. Last but not least, as a budget-cutting measure, the people working in those bureaucracies will, for the most part, have to be let go. When all those government workers object to that, and they surely will, let’s remind them that when they stand back and allow corporate America to export all the good middle class jobs overseas, they ultimately eliminate their own jobs.

The second thing president Obama did that I didn’t like was his treatment of, and his relationship with, Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Obama treated Putin like they were still on the streets of Chicago, like a feud between gang leaders. Sorry to have to point this out to all the Obama fans, but it looks to me like Vladimir Putin is pretty much out of Obama’s league. US troops on the ground in Syria, a ring of US military bases in eastern Europe near Russia’s western border, adding US missile bases in Poland and Romania, and US naval incursions in the Baltic sea and elsewhere, are not the way to improve relations between America and Russia! This is one of the ways president Obama has taken the world closer to a world war. President-elect Trump has stated that he will renew and reinvigorate US relations with Russia. I am nervously watching to see if Donald Trump follows through on that promise. I sure hope he does.

The third thing I disliked about the Obama administration was his open dislike for Israel. By handling US-Israeli relations as poorly as he did, he isolates Israel, which is God’s chosen land and people. This will undoubtedly escalate tensions in the Middle East that can result in World War Three as prophesied about in the Bible (see Revelation chapter 18, Jeremiah chapter 51 and other places for the actual prophecies). This has been reckless conduct on his part, which could tarnish his legacy as president after he leaves office. Only time will tell, but on these points, president Obama’s apparent attempts to intimidate Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu have blown up in his face at the end of his presidency. As before, this could diminish his legacy as president after he leaves office.

But at the end of the day, America has elected an outsider, a troubleshooter from the business world and a successful businessman in his own right, to start running things in Washington. Being out of the political mainstream gives Donald Trump and America an opportunity for passing some badly needed reforms, a chance to reboot the country, and to do something about our economy, which is not in nearly as good a shape as the media portrays it. Barack Obama promised us “change you can believe in”. We got change all right, but not like the American people envisioned at all. Hopefully Donald Trump will take the opportunity God has given him to institute some real change for the better.

What kind of real change, you may ask? Trump has already named a few things that sound promising. Replacing Obama-care while keeping some of the best parts, congressional term limits, tight new regulations for the lobbyist ‘industry’ in Washington, vastly improved relations between Russia and America, ditto for Israel, labeling Red China a “currency manipulator”, and many others. By doing all these things, president Trump seems to be getting his new administration off on the right foot. But if he does this correctly, he can avert an all-out war between the US and Russia, which would be disastrous for the entire world. It’s not hard to see why. If the US and Russia were to go to war, Red China would come in on Russia’s side. That’s because China and Russia signed a mutual defense and trade treaty just last year in the summer of 2015. If Russia and China were to attack the US simultaneously, America’s survival would be in doubt. The only thing for certain in that case would be the world’s population being cut just about in half, and the same goes for all the wildlife.

If Trump succeeds in normalizing relations with Russia like he has stated, he can reverse the course America is on with respect to its relations with Russia. He can turn Vladimir Putin from a suspicious rival into a friend and trading partner. In so doing, he would largely negate the threat Red China poses to America. In short, he would avert what was shaping up to be world war three. He could transform himself from a brash capitalist to a peacemaker. Jesus talked about that in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the ‘sons of God’.” (Matt. 5: 7) Let’s hope these words from our Lord and Savior can be fulfilled in a Trump presidency.

Tagged , , , , , ,

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

Criminalizing America’s Poor and People of Color

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

caught_with_drugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Just released by Author Rev. Paul J. Bern…..

DCIM100MEDIA

Didn’t God Make That Plant to Begin With?

It’s finally here!! The latest offering from Rev. Paul J. Bern; “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible Or Not?” Reveals the “war on drugs” for the race-based, legislated criminal enterprise that it really is, shatters the myths about the allegedly addictive properties of marijuana, exposes America’s prison-for-profit prison and court systems. Goes into great detail about the huge economic benefits of legalizing marijuana and its sister plant, hemp. Written by a nondenominational Christian minister and blogger, this book uses the Bible to provide a simple explanation for why marijuana criminalization is a sin against God. This book shoots the “War On Drugs” right out of the sky while proving conclusively that the ‘drug war’ is actually an all-out war on the American people. Our time to rise up has come!! Making its debut at only $19.95; buy it now at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J1X7802 or at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

Tagged , , , , , , ,

A Memo From Jesus to the USA

If Jesus Wrote A Letter To America, I Wonder What He’d Say?

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

Jesus1

If Jesus wrote a letter to America, and particularly its leadership (I’m using ‘leadership’ in the loosest possible terms), I wonder what would He say to us? Would He give America two thumbs up for being the richest country in the world, or for having the most powerful military? Would He congratulate us for a job well done when it comes to race relations in our country? Would He praise America’s business community for its shrewdness and cunning for shipping all our middle class jobs overseas, leaving its constituency destitute, or in some cases homeless? Or, how about the fact that 1 in 4 US school children goes to bed hungry each night? Would we receive accolades galore? On the contrary – it would go something like this: Woe to you American Christians! You say I’m the “Son of God” and yet you bully the defenseless, shoot unarmed civilians, wage religious wars disguised as anti-terror campaigns, and trample the vulnerable underfoot in my name. Do you not understand the parable of the Good Samaritan? Allow me to refresh your memory.

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus then replied with what I’ll call a modernized version of the parable of the good Samaritan:

“A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Washington to New York when he was attacked by carjackers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road after driving off in his car. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A rich man walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then an African-American came along, one who had just been released from prison, and when he saw the man he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the ex-con soothed his wounds with hydrogen peroxide and bandaged them. Then he used his transit card and took him by bus to the homeless shelter where he was staying, where he took care of him. The next day he paid for a single night, telling the folks running the shelter, ‘Here is the money for a night’s stay here. I’m going to work as a day laborer early tomorrow morning, so please take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by thugs?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

In case you missed the point of that parable as I’m quoted as telling it in the Book of Luke (see chapter 10, verses 25-37), it was that the theologically correct evangelical born-again “saved” person passed by on the other side of the road when confronted with a human being in need. Ditto for the priest. It was the “unsaved” theologically incorrect Samaritan, today’s equivalent of agnostics, Muslims, gay men and women, minorities and people of color, the unloved and the outcast who stopped and did my Father’s will and took care of the injured man. To put it another way as only Jesus could have: “Did you miss the point when I said that those who come to me saying ‘Lord, Lord we followed you and believed correctly’ are the very ones that I will cast out of the Kingdom of Heaven, since they did not care for the least of these, the downtrodden, the poor and the oppressed? Didn’t you get it when I said that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the humble, and the outcasts; those who mourn and to the poor in spirit? Who do you think will inherit the earth: the wealthy leaders of your colossal mega-churches, or the downtrodden gay people, minorities and people of color, peace activists, “occupiers”, foster kids, ex-cons, the mentally ill, and others who are scorned and mocked by society? Whose side do you think God is on: the bullied and outcast or the powerful religious leaders with their false smiles? Who will qualify for calling themselves my sons and daughters: The meek who mourn or the proud who say: ‘Lord, I thank you that I’m not like these gay men and women and these illegal immigrants, and these lazy poor people who deserve no health care and these Muslims?’ You hypocrites! Don’t you get it?”

“You say you take everything in the Bible seriously and yet you ignore all the many verses about loving each other, divorce and adultery, and somehow paper that over because a majority of America buys into divorce now and you don’t want to lose your congregations! And half your pastors and religious leaders are divorced and remarried. But you stick it to gays and minorities because they are easy to pick on! Why wax moralistic about one thing you call sin and yet stick it to a minority? For instance, I actually broke the biblical law when I said that the people who brought me the adulterous woman should not stone her to death. In other words I said: ‘forget what the Bible says, only kill her if you’re perfect.’ Well, no one was such, so they quit picking on her and left her alone. Then I did the most important part – I forgave her and told her to sin no more. Since then I’ve given my followers that very thing as a reason to ignore the harsh, and sometimes mistranslated, parts of the Bible. Didn’t you get it when I said that if you lust in your heart towards a married woman or man that it’s the same as committing adultery? You twisted my words to make it seem as if I’m a moralistic “church goer” like you idiots, but I intended the exact opposite! What I meant was that since everyone lusts anyway, the difference between how we think and feel regarding temptation and what we do is painfully obvious in terms of how God sees us. The whole point was that we’re not to judge other people because we ourselves think the same thoughts. So no one is better than anyone else. Remember what I said in my sermon on the mount? “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” (Matthew 7, verses 1-2, NIV)

You judgmental holy rollers are like banks always making a mistake in their own favor! Why do so-called religious conservative Americans always pick on the little guy, the disenfranchised, blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, women or gay people? I’ll tell you why! Because you are bullies! You are the Pharisees passing by on the other side of the road, those who are so sure they’re saved because of some nonsense that they believe in my name. Wrong! You American Christians utterly deface the name of Christianity with your racism, your economic slavery and your discrimination against women! And now you’re doing it again in your war against gays and Muslims, your bogus, hypocritical drug war, and in your economic war against the poor and working class people. Some of you even have had it as part of your wicked program to reestablish the Biblical law demanding death to gay people that I clearly showed must be broken by the greater law of love. Well, as you judge so you will be judged. Good luck with that!

Do you think the Kingdom of God is more likely to belong to a wealthy “Christian” leader who preaches hate and exclusion (even when saying “hate the sin but love the sinner”) or to the least of these, the poor and disenfranchised who want nothing more than to enjoy the same rights of other citizens? Do you think God does not see that the poor have no care and die because your greedy (lying) insurance lobby has your so- called Congress in their pockets? You hypocrites and liars! You say you’re preaching my gospel when my Gospel never was about correct belief or correct behavior. My gospel was about loving God, not judging others, making room for everyone at the table, and loving your neighbor as you love yourself. If gays and minorities are your enemy then, as you know, I commanded you to love them! And if they are asking to be allowed to marry I commanded you to give to him who asks of you! Besides, you don’t own America. This is a democracy and yours is just one opinion. How did it come to this?

How do those who claim that they serve and represent me misuse the Bible to the extent that they make bumper stickers and coffee mugs calling for the death of the President by misquoting Psalm 109 verse 8? (By the way, in case you want to know, he’s doing his best to follow the law of love right now, even though it’s almost impossible to do that because the fool who ruled before him – talk about a burning Bush! – left the biggest mess since the fall of Roman Empire!) Do you think I am on the side of a those who want to make the First Lady of the United States (who happens to be a daughter of mine!) a widow and the daughters of the President orphans as this Psalm is misconstrued to “call for”? You American Christians utterly deface the name of Christianity with your racism, economic slavery and your bigotry against women and minorities. And now you’re doing it again in your war against gays and minorities, your “drug war” which is little more than open warfare against your own citizens, and in your economic war against the poor, the homeless, the elderly and particularly your children. You are like the Pharisees I used to know and who strained out the smallest gnat of others’ so-called misbehavior while turning a blind eye to their own wickedness, hypocrisy and lies! Remember what I said about taking the beam out of your own eye before removing the speck from your brother’s?

Quit worrying about gays and minorities and start worrying about your so-called churches, those ash heaps of stinking bigotry and hate. The way you hate your first black president is all I need to know about you. So is the fact that your courts dish out life sentences to people who trade in the marijuana plant my Father created! So stop worrying about other people’s “sins” and start worrying about all the lies you are telling your children in my name! And all your talk about patriotism will do you no good unless you love every American as you love yourself – including gay Americans, poor people, the mentally ill, the disenfranchised and yes, women who have abortions and the “illegal” immigrants. And who do you think you are criminalizing my Father’s creations in the first place? They ask mercy of you! Give to them! Or did you miss that part of my teaching too?

Do you really think I’m on the side of those who hate others? Have you forgotten what my Apostle John wrote? “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, and yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1st John 4,:20, NIV) It’s as if you are crucifying me again! The point is to have a chance to sanctify love in every generation – unconditionally! If I walked here on Earth again with you, you’d kill me again, just as you are going to kill all that is good in my name, just as some of you are praying for the death of your president who you even call “Anti-Christ.” Let me tell you who is Anti-Christ: Christian “saved” America, meaning those who are too busy taking care of themselves to have time for anyone else (see Revelation chapter 18). You are so religious on Sunday mornings, and yet you all turn into selfish, demonic pigs during the week. So depart from me, come up with a new name for whatever you are, and drop the word “Christ” out of your name. You’ve destroyed my reputation!

Tagged , , , , ,

America is sick with greed, and I’m just plain sick of it

America’s Sick Culture of Greed – the 7 Warning Signs

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

wealth_or_democracy

The apostle Paul, in his first letter to his deacon Timothy, admonished him to be wary of the pursuit of money and material wealth. About 1,950 years ago, Paul wrote, “But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1st Timothy chapter six, verses 6-10, NIV) The love of money for money’s sake, as in the days of the early Church, remains the social and societal disease of our time. We see it all around us; in the celebration of ill-gotten financial gain, public admiration for the heads of criminal banks, the lyrics to some popular songs, and in the commercialization of charity and spirituality. This adoration of wealth isn’t a new thing, of course. Back in elementary school I remember being sent to the principal’s office for being moody, unfocused and temperamental – in other words, for being either a rebellious revolutionary, a writer in the making, or a trouble-maker. I still remember my report cards from elementary school that said I “failed to concentrate on the task at hand”, and that I had “too casual an attitude”. In other words, I was a misfit deemed to be a failure in life. That, of course, depends on how one defines the words ‘misfit’ and ‘failure’.

In defense of my childhood self, the Beatles were famous for their Rolls-Royce’s at that time and the Beatles seemed happy. A group called the “Dave Clark Five” went out and bought five matching Jaguar XKE convertibles (anybody else remember that?). Like any good consumer in the making, I had internalized these images of wealth and had come to equate them with happiness. The United States of the 1960s was a nation filled with optimism. For many (though definitely not all) Americans, it was a time of unparalleled opportunity. Education was affordable, families could live comfortably on a single adult income, and the country seem to be on an endless upward trajectory of prosperity. We were expanding in every way, so rapidly that only the depths of space seemed able to contain the people we were about to become. The fantasy of wealth seemed somehow different in that context. Today, we’re a nation being preached to by “bipartisan” corporate politicians who lecture us on the impossibility of expecting a livable Social Security income in our old age. Or a living wage in our working years. Or an affordable education, so our children can live a better life economically than we did. Yet we’re more infatuated with the fruits of unproductive greed today, it seems, then we were back then. Here are seven signs that American culture is sick with greed.

1.) There’s still no public shame in profiting off Wall Street fraud.

Wall Street has been celebrating the investment opportunities created by the wave of criminality and fraud which has overtaken JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and others. JP Morgan Chase’s epidemic of internal fraud has led to tens of billions in fines during the tenure of CEO Jamie Dimon. The investigation’s report goes on to describe how JP Morgan’s stock has risen despite the record fraud settlements against the bank and multiple ongoing civil and criminal investigations. What the report is saying is that banks are essential to the functioning of society, like a public utility. But unlike traditional public utilities, they’re entrusted to profit-driven executives with a long history of documented criminality. And yet there have been no indictments of senior Wall Street executives to date because senior government officials have made it clear they don’t want to endanger the banks by enforcing the law. Legal and political implications aside, what’s astonishing to me is the complete lack of shame associated with being a bank executive whose organization has committed so many crimes — or an investment analyst to openly celebrate those crimes as an opportunity to make money at society’s expense.

Even as the world was still learning of Wall Street’s extensive criminality, Dimon was the subject of a fawning profile several years ago in the New York Times Sunday magazine, which detailed at length Dimon’s hurt feelings and irritation toward those audacious enough to criticize him. Andrew Ross Sorkin did the same thing for the same newspaper three years later, dismissing as “blood lust” calls for Dimon’s resignation in the wake of yet more billion-dollar fraud revelations about his bank. Even now, after all the revelations of crimes which include investor fraud, shareholder fraud, perjury, forgery, violation of international sanctions laws and laws designed to protect members of the US Armed Forces — even now it’s possible to treat bank CEOs as victims in the pages of our country’s newspaper of record. Condemning that record isn’t blood lust. It’s morality.

2.) Greedy CEOs still have credibility in the media.

It’s not just Jamie Dimon, of course. Having shattered the middle class through their accumulation of wealth, the devastation they inflicted on the global economy, and their mistreatment of employee pension funds, Wall Street CEO’s apparently still have enough credibility in some quarters to be treated as experts in fiscal responsibility. They’re using that credibility to suggest that America’s middle-class accept cuts to Social Security and Medicare, two of the few programs left to protect them from the effects of runaway corporate greed. American news outlets accord these CEOs an extraordinary and unearned measure of respectability and authority. Very few articles about ‘Fix the Debt’ mention the massive fraud settlements and fines levied against these CEO’s institutions. Although CEO’s aren’t greedy by definition, most of the ones on ‘Fix the Debt’s’ list fit that description. Most of the ones who aren’t running Wall Street banks lead defense contracting firms that earn excessive profits from the US taxpayer, while lecturing those same taxpayers on the need for the middle class to cut back on its expectations of financial security when it reaches retirement age. ‘Fix the Debt’ is one of a number of interlocking organizations which are largely financed by right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson, who made his money in the hedge fund business and yet is treated by many journalists as if he were Mother Teresa.

3.) Corporate executives are now trained to rip people off.

This writer spent a number of years in the business world during the 1990s, as the owner of a small technology-based retail storefront operation. During this time, corporate America was transforming itself from a customer-driven set of industries to a greed-driven and conscience-less wealth extraction machine for the investor class. Let me use the Gillette Company as an example. As most bearded men know, the Gillette business model is a sneaky one. The company ropes customers in with low-cost razors and then charges an outrageous amount for replacement blades. This is obviously a deceptive business model. Another example from the 1990’s and (to a lesser degree) 2000’s is that of the pay phone industry, which wanted to increase turnover in the use of its phones. The allegedly ‘brilliant’ thinking of a junior executive taken directly from the minutes of board meetings (I will decline to name the company) proposed that bricks be put in the handsets of all their phones. In the same “brainstorming” session, which sometimes are innocuously called “meetings”, another executive suggested making the surfaces underneath the phones slanted, so that people couldn’t leave their things there while they spoke on the phone. The net result was that people paid a quarter to use a pay phone, but then grew uncomfortable and were unable to complete their calls. The beauty of it – from the company’s point of view – was that they didn’t even know why they were hanging up. They merely had an unsatisfying customer experience, while the phone company got to turn over customers more quickly and collect more quarters. Again, nobody back then objected that this was poor customer service, and an underhanded way to deal with customers. If you multiply those experiences ten thousandfold, you have an idea of the culture of corruption which is taking place every day in companies all across the country. That’s not to say there aren’t companies that still believe in customer service; there are, and I’m grateful every time I encounter one. But the corporate culture of America has become a culture of cheating, manipulation and greed. (The pay phone industry in this country is dead, by the way. Karma, as they say, is a bitch.)

4.) And then there’s the music recording industry.

Our idealization of greed isn’t confined to the business section of our newspapers. While white liberals decry the idealization of wealth, that’s not a new phenomenon either. In fact, it can be found in both lifestyles and the recordings of their own childhood musical heroes. “Money can’t buy everything it’s true, but what it can’t buy I can’t use…” There has always been a tension in popular music between the comfortable idealism of those who come from wealthy backgrounds and the aspiring materialism of pop musicians who were raised in poverty and/or financial insecurity. That latter list includes Elvis Presley, the Beatles, James Brown, and many of today’s hip-hop artists. As the seminal R&B producer, songwriter and performer Swamp Dogg put it in the 1970’s: “I’m not selling out, I’m buying in.” The best of those artists — the Beatles, Brown, and more recently Kanye West — have struggled to reconcile the drive which helped them escape poverty with the idealism that made them gifted artists. Kanye ran into some controversy with his track “New Slaves.” Many people were offended that he equated his own wealth with slavery and Jim Crow laws. It’s Kanye’s charm, as well as his curse, to speak everything that comes into his mind. But I think he was onto something with his line about “throwing back the Maybach keys” and his lyrics about the expectation that African-American celebrities will be excessive spenders.

Self-made celebrities often act as ritualized consumers on behalf of the general public. Their job is to swallow up the most excessive luxuries the wealthy lifestyle has to offer. They inadvertently use their power and influence to reinforce the corporate-driven, consumerist tropes that keep us enslaved to our own material desires. By naming the phenomenon and ritually “throwing the keys,” Kanye West is trying to break a pattern that has stretched from Tupelo in Mississippi to Compton in California, from Liverpool in England to Bed-Sty and Brownsville in New York.

5.) Insight and spirituality are being commercialized.

One of the most notorious examples of the commercialization of faith and spirituality is the “prosperity gospel”, which is being propagated primarily in Protestant, catholic, and non- or- interdenominational churches here in the US. As the late and well-known televangelist pioneer Oral Roberts once said, “If you have a need, you must plant a seed”. In order to obtain, we must first give, or so they say. But when we examine the Scriptures, we find this is quite the reverse of what Christ taught us in the Sermon on the Mount: “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’, or ‘What shall we drink?’, or ‘What shall we wear’? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6: 31-33, NIV) So, instead of “planting a seed” to get our needs met, if we have a need we should be on our knees in prayer, not giving some crooked televangelist all your grocery money. Even Eastern spiritual traditions like Buddhism are being co-mingled with idealized visions of what it means to be a billionaire. From TED talks to mindfulness conferences like the Wisdom 2.0 conference, the search for individual and collective insight is becoming increasingly identified with the desire to accumulate wealth. “You can have it all,” these events seem to say. “You can gain peace of mind, unlock the mysteries of human existence, and become a billionaire, all at the same time.” Some of these events even seem to argue that they are one and the same journey, which is a complete fallacy. It’s heaven and Nirvana, all in one ‘special’ package — with corporate sponsorship.

6.) Kindness and thoughtfulness toward our fellow human beings has become a commodity.

The Clinton Global Initiative has continued to promote misleading deficit-reduction materials in partnership with the hedge fund billionaires. It featured a leader from Morgan Stanley — one of the institutions which was instrumental in causing the 2008 financial crisis — talking about how to recover from the financial crisis. It’s not just Bill and Hillary. In the midst of negotiating yet another multi-billion dollar fraud settlement, JP Morgan Chase was given the honor (and the public relations coup) of sponsoring the fund raising concert for victims of Hurricane Sandy headlined by the Rolling Stones. But then, the Stones have a relationship with big banks that goes back to their sponsorship deal with AmeriQuest, the mortgage company which was slammed for deceitful practices and discriminatory lending toward minorities. That’s not to say corporate charity, or for that matter the charity of billionaires, is a bad thing. Everyone should incorporate charity into their way of life, and those who are most fortunate should give the most in return. Nobody argues with that. The sickness comes when we allow certain types of charity to glorify the giver, or when it’s considered impolite to mention any relationship between, say, the excessive wealth accumulation of the givers and the need for charity in the first place.

7.) America’s Soul Sickness

Today there are countless signs that our culture is sick with greed. You don’t need to be told that. Just look around. I never was able to afford the Rolls-Royce’s and Jaguar roadsters of my childhood fantasies. But then, those things were only an expression of pain. They reflected a deep yearning to be somewhere else, to be someone else, to escape the daily trials of everyday existence and replace them with a fantasy bubble that kept me at a glittering distance from the sufferings of the real world. Today’s national culture of greed is also an expression of pain and fear. It’s more terrifying than ever to try to survive on a middle-class income. Most people live one or two paychecks away from utter disaster. Very few of us feel that we have any real control over our own fate. The lives of reality show stars, the Hollywood tabloids and dangerous drugs like ‘meth’ and ‘spice’ are some of the most obvious of our escapist fantasies. But as long as we live in a fantasy world, we won’t be working to change the real one. True happiness is found in a life lived with meaning. It’s not just that I can’t afford that car. We can’t afford it. We can’t afford to live in a world where our only aspiration is to accumulate wealth, regardless of how it’s accumulated – while ignoring the flourishing of the human spirit in its artistic, idealistic and intellectual aspects. The love of possessions is a sickness. People are losing their lives in the pursuit of wealth and possessions. They’re dying from gunshot wounds and heart attacks, in gang battles and in solitary hospital beds. And it’s getting worse. The symptoms are appearing, not just in ourselves, but in the planet we call home. If we don’t cure it soon, it could prove fatal for all of us.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

How Badly Have Our Politicians Lost Touch? This bad.

Five Biblical Concepts Our Political

Leaders Just Don’t Understand

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

open_minds

Right-wing Evangelical Fundamentalism, as well as much of America’s conservative political leadership, claims to return to the roots of Christianity. Few of these fundamentalists care much about the early church, the four Gospels, the apostle Paul’s letters, or St. Augustine. Rather, they blend Southern Conservatism, bastardized Protestantism, Aryan heresies, gross nationalism and a heavy dose of naive anti-intellectualism for a peculiar American strain of what I will tactfully call spiritual sophistry. As a pastor by the name of Reverend Cornell West has noted, “the fundamentalist Christians want to be fundamental about everything, except ‘love thy neighbor.’” I couldn’t agree more. So, I decided to make that this week’s commentary (I never liked the word ‘sermon’, it seems too stiff and formal to me). Here are some verses we liberal Christians wish they would get more “fundamentalist” about:

1. Immigration: The verse: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:33-34, KJV.

Bogus ‘Christians’ hate this verse because fundamentalists are almost universally xenophobic. The truth of the matter is religious fundamentalism is only a reaction to the multiculturalism of a liberal democracy, and particularly in multicultural churches. Rather than seeking a “brotherhood of man,” religious fundamentalism longs for a colonial community, without the necessary friction from those with foreign beliefs, cultures and customs, and especially with different skin colors. We are called to discern among “sojourners”. The original meaning of this word in this context is ‘those who move about from place to place’. This looks to me like a euphemism for what some call ‘illegal immigrants’. People looking for a home have been around ever since humankind began to explore the earth. (the New International version translates ‘sojourners’ as “aliens”, which has a more familiar right to it) There are currently 11 million illegal immigrants who want to become citizens, with likely an additional 20 million family members as new citizens within about a decade. What does God say about those who hate without cause and mistreat foreigners? “I will be a swift witness against… those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against … those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:5., KJV

2. Poverty: The Verses: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:24, NIV.

Now listen, 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 ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.” James 5: 1-6, NIV

To myself, at least, one of the most absolutely hilarious aspects of modern-day, far-right Christianity is its reverence of capitalism. That’s because Christ could be considered anti-capitalist, as well as Moses (see Exodus 22: 25-27, in any Biblical version you like). Consider that there is some version of the story of the rich man approaching Jesus that appears in every Gospel. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus tells the rich man, “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” (Mark 10:21) The story of Lazarus should similarly terrify modern day fundamentalists. Lazarus is a beggar who waits outside of a rich man’s house and begs for scraps. When both Lazarus and the rich man die, Lazarus ends up in heaven, while the rich man ends up in hell. When the rich man begs for water, Abraham says, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.” Luke 19:25.

So-called “conservative Christians” (the very term is an oxymoron) hate these verses because the only thing fundamentalists dislike more than immigrants is poor people. Seriously. A former Tea Party congressman once said he thought the government should cut food stamps entirely, “The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.” Former congressional representative Michelle Bachmann has also made a similar statement. The entire Tea Party movement is based on the idea that a huge portion of Americans are “takers” who suck the lifeblood out of the economy. Never mind the fact that the reason all those people aren’t working is because their jobs got exported overseas for pennies on the dollar, leaving them destitute. The majority of Christian “fundamentalists” insist that poverty be explained in terms of a personal moral failure, or even mass incompetence. They therefore hold that success should be described in terms of morality, when in fact the Bible says quite the opposite: “In the last days many will compare godliness with gain”. The poor are considered culpable so that they can be punished – like today’s cuts to food stamps or the public shaming of those on disability, welfare or unemployment.

3: The Environment The Verses: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:27-28

By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17

Why do so many fundamentalists twist and distort these verses? In Genesis, man is given stewardship of the Earth, God’s creation. Stewardship in the Christian tradition implies protection. Man should exist in harmony with the earth, not work against it. Jesus Christ once told his followers: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Luke 16:13. Increasingly, the religious right (which is neither, by the way) is trying to do exactly that, intertwining Evangelical fundamentalism with unfettered capitalism — with disastrous results for the earth’s environment and the US job market. Thus, American political life is increasingly dominated by Christians from the extreme right who reject the religious ethos in favor of capitalist ethos. It is these same Christian right wing nuts who seeks to discredit the threat of global warming. It also claims the threat of climate change is “alarmist” and fears that efforts to clamp down on emissions will hurt the poor (read: Fortune 500 corporations). In reality, climate change will have its greatest effect on people living on less than a dollar a day who can not adapt to higher temperatures. Conservative Evangelicals are not concerned with dwindling biodiversity, the destruction of ecosystem, rampant pollution, global warming and the numerous other environmental challenges we face. Rather they, with the business community, are only concerned with the bottom line. The future is irrelevant (unless we’re talking about government debt). Thus, the Biblical command to protect the environment is quietly swept under the rug.

4. War The Verses: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” – Matthew 5: 38-42, NIV “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5: 43–45.

As a religious and political movement, fundamentalists have defined themselves as a party of opposition, rather than of love, grace and mercy. Some scholars are erroneously calling this a “third great awakening”, even though it is different from the other two. This one is full of contempt disguised as piety toward those whose understanding of religion fails to meet their lofty standards. While past “Great Awakenings” have looked inward, seeing sin within the conflicted self, this new awakening looks outward, seeing sin in the wider culture. The culture, which is secular, is evil, while the church is sacred. This is why modern religious fundamentalism gravitates towards xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, etc. Fear and disgust are its motivating factors. This fundamentalism inclines some religious people toward a preemptive “war of religion” and a strong disgust (that sometimes culminates in violence) toward Muslims and gay people. Oddly enough, the Christian tradition has developed a theory of “Just War” (developed by Thomas Aquinas) which condemns war except when all other options have been exhausted and there is just treatment of prisoners (with a specific condemnation of torture). If only one of the past two “Christian” presidents had listened.

5. Women The Verse: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” – Galatians 3:28

Although the right often claims the Bible supports their absurd ideas about gender roles, such sexist claims have been thoroughly debunked by theologians. Generally, when you’ll hear an explanation of why women belong in the home, it’ll rely on a misreading of one of Paul’s doctrines. In contrast to Paul, Christ rarely concerned himself with sexual mores, although he clearly was against divorce. He was far more concerned with fighting oppression and injustice. Fundamentalists want to keep women submissive and subservient, but Jesus won’t let them. In Luke, for instance, Jesus is blessed by a priestess named Anna. He praises a woman who stands up to a judge and demands justice. It’s worth noting that in a time when women could not testify in a court of law, all four resurrection stories have women arriving first to Jesus’ tomb. Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman at a well even though Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans, and he praises Mary Magdalene for listening to his words (see Luke 10:38-42). These verses are powerful and I believe that they should be carefully considered.

I’m becoming increasingly concerned that Christianity and religion in general is represented by its most ultra-conservative, fundamentalist elements. Remember that Karl Marx drew his inspiration for the famous quote “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” from the example of the early church (Acts 4:32-35). But once the moral potshots are finished, we all have to face the fundamental and aching deprivation of having been born. We can continue to have a fun time berating those who believe the Bible explains science. The Christian message doesn’t contradict science, and nor is it concerned with American politics. Ultimately, Christianity is about transcending politics and fighting for social and economic justice. Think of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Malcolm X – all of whom were influenced by their religion to change the world. Jesus saw how oppression and oppressors consumed the world. He has, as always, sided with the oppressed. This Johnny-come-lately of skewed fundamentalism I’m writing about is radically new and far removed from true Christianity. True Christianity offers us a far superior doctrine — one of social justice, love and equality. When we practice all of these, we are following Christ regardless of religious denomination.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Sorting out the 4 blood moons, the Shemitah, and rabbi Jonathan Cahn: is this the end?

Shemitah 2015: The Year of Release and

Coming Judgment For America?

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

Is everybody ready?

Is everybody ready?

Much is being made currently regarding the timing of the four blood moons, the Jewish Shemitah year, and the rise and fall of America’s economy, military, and federal government. The first blood moon occurred on April 15th, 2014, the second on October 18th of last year, and the third on April the 4th of this year. The fourth and final one will occur this coming week on Monday, September 28th. This upcoming week, as the end of the Hebrew calendar draws to a close at the end of September, speculation is practically running wild as to what the near future will hold for the entire world, particularly for the US, Israel, Russia, China and the entire Middle East. First, let me say I doubt that a comet or a meteor will strike the Earth anytime soon, so you all can stop worrying about that. The fact of the matter is that if a real meteor or comet were about to strike the planet, it would be visible to the naked eye since it would be so (theoretically) close by now, well within the orbit of Mars. So I’m only going to write about pertinent information regarding End Times prophecy, and it all revolves around the conjunction of the Jewish and Western calendars, combined with current events in the Middle East.

The Sabbatical year, or Shemitah in Hebrew, provides a year of rest for the farmer and the land, since God commanded that no agricultural activity occur during the seventh year: Six years you shall sow your land and gather its produce, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow.” (Exodus 23:10-11) Rarely have modern Israeli farmers observed the Shemitah, due to the loss of income they would incur by leaving their fields uncultivated for one year. In the period when Kings ruled in Israel, disobedience to the Sabbatical laws brought Divine punishment. Israel’s 70 years in Babylonian captivity were, in part, due to the failure of the Jews to observe the Shemitah for 70 years. (2 Chronicles 36:20-23) An additional feature of the law waives all outstanding or personal debts between Jews (Deuteronomy 15:1-2) However, the Jewish Talmud disallows loan amnesty related to the Shemitah, except when the agricultural rules are also observed. But the Israeli government and Jewish religious leaders are hoping to reverse that historical trend. The Israeli government has reportedly set aside 29 million dollars (US) to encourage local farmers to honor the Biblical mandate to let their fields lie “fallow” for one out of seven years. The bulk of the appropriated funds will be used to support farmers who will suffer loss of income, but who nevertheless, choose to keep the Shemitah, allowing their fields to lie fallow in obedience to God’s law. Despite the government’s assistance , problems surrounding the observance of the sabbatical year are complex, and involve Jewish legal issues and opinions on how best to adhere to the command without negatively affecting the income of farmers who follow the Sabbatical law and to protect the fragile agricultural economy.

The current Shemitah (meaning, to release) began September 25, 2014, on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Another small portion of the budget will be used for the special ceremony that marks the end of the Shemitah: At the end of each seven years…on the festival of Sukkot, after the year of release, in the place He (God) will choose, you must read this Torah before all Israel, so that they will be able to hear it.” (Deuteronomy 31:10) That ceremony will take place at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, during the Sukkot holiday on September 27th (at sundown) until October 4th, and next year in 2016 from October 16th (at sundown) until the 23rd.

Many non-Jews first learned about the significance of the Shemitah year while reading the best-selling book, “The Harbinger”, by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. In “The Harbinger”, Rabbi Cahn reveals that the two greatest financial calamities in American history occurred on successive Shemitah years following the 9/11 Islamist terror attacks on the US. September 17, 2001, six days after the 9/11 attacks, the stock market re-opened and suffered the greatest point loss in its history, to that date. The market dropped 700 points, or 7% in one day. In response, the Federal Reserve slashed the nation’s interest rates, ushering in a period of economic devastation for the US. Seven years later, September 29, 2008, would prove to be even worse! The days leading up to September 29 saw the government bailout of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the two largest mortgage companies in the US, in a bid to prevent the collapse of the two. Shortly thereafter Lehmann Brothers, once considered the pinnacle of financial firms, reported losses of 45% and filed bankruptcy rather than accept a government bailout. The Stock market dropped 777.7 points or 7%, wiping out all gains of the past seven years. Thus making it the largest ever one day drop in the US stock market history! What followed was an implosion of the US and world economies, from which we have yet to recover.

Rabbi Cahn did not speculate on what might transpire in the US economy at the end of the Shemitah year ending this year. As of this writing, nothing has occurred at all. But, God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Meaning, God’s timing doesn’t necessarily correspond with ours. While Rabbi Cahn acknowledges that the US is not under the Mosaic Law, he asserts that the Shemitah can still serve as a sign of judgment on a nation that has rejected God. It is also of interest to note that the celebration of the end of this Shemitah year will occur on Sukkot, September 28, 2015, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. On that same day (local time), the fourth and final in the series of the 2014-2015 “Blood Moon” tetrad will occur, according to NASA. Jewish history reveals an intriguing correlation between the tetrad of total lunar eclipses and the Feast Days. What does this convergence of events portend for the future? The answers remain to be seen, but we do well to Be on the watch!” (Luke 21:36) Watch and pray!

Tagged , , , ,

This was the week America discovered how bad its public schools have actually become

American Public Schools = Social Injustice:

High School Engineering Prodigy Suspended For Being Too Intelligent

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

fight_the_system

Social and economic injustice are my two pet peeves when it comes to life within these United States, and that’s exactly what has transpired this past week. On this past Monday, September 14th, Irving Texas high school student Ahmed Mohamed brought to school a clock that he was proud to have made on his own, and found himself arrested for what police initially – and falsely – said was a hoax bomb. But by mid-week, his face and name were splashed across traditional and social media, and he’d received thousands of tweets and Facebook posts of encouragement. President Barack Obama invited him to the White House and praised his love of science. Leaders at Reddit and Twitter offered him internships. Google executives said they were reserving Ahmed a spot at their weekend science fair and MIT asked him to visit the campus. The hash tags #IStandWithAhmed and #EngineersForAhmed have garnered hundreds of thousands of posts and tweets.

In an interview late Wednesday with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Ahmed said he was pulled out of class at MacArthur High School by his principal and five police officers and taken to a room where he was questioned for about an hour and a half. At one point he asked the adults if he could call his parents. “They told me ‘No, you can’t call your parents,'” Ahmed said. “‘You’re in the middle of an interrogation at the moment.’” They asked me a couple of times, ‘Is it a bomb?’ and I answered a couple of times, ‘It’s a clock.'” “I felt like I was a criminal,” the teenager said. “I felt like I was a terrorist. I felt like all the names I was called. Just because of my race and my religion,” he said, adding that when he walked into the room where he was questioned, an officer reclined in a chair and remarked, ‘That’s who I thought it was.’ I took it to mean he was pointing at me for what I am, my race,” the freshman explained. Mohamed, who immigrated to the United States from Sudan, and who is Muslim, believes that he was targeted because of his brown skin color and his religion. His father is still furious that the school didn’t contact him right away to tell him his son had been arrested. Instead, he first learned of what happened when police called him. His father told CNN he rushed to the station and saw his son surrounded by five police and he was handcuffed. The school later suspended Ahmed for three days, his father said. Mohamed said his son was at first embarrassed by what happened, but then was lifted and emboldened by the widespread support he has received. “I was scared at the moment, but now I feel really happy,” the young prodigy later told CNN. “I’m getting all this support from all over the world. And the support isn’t just for me but for everyone who has been through this. I will fight for you if you can’t stand up for yourself.”

Irving police had held onto the clock as evidence, but on Thursday, they told CNN that it’s ready for Ahmed to pick it up. Asked what his plans for the future are, he told GMA, “That clock was part of my future.” Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne defended the school district and police. “I do not fault the school or the police for looking into what they saw as a potential threat,” she said in a statement. They all followed procedures, she said. A spokeswoman for the Irving Independent School District said that the way the teen’s experience has been described in media reports is “unbalanced.” She declined to explain why, citing the need to protect a student’s privacy, but said more details would be revealed if the family gives written permission to discuss the incident.

So what’s wrong with our schools? Why did this latest episode between student and faculty occur? I contend that all this is happening to our children by design in order to make sure that the majority of us are programmed to be workers of all different types, so that every need of our current capitalist economic system (not to mention the numerous personal needs of wealthy business owners and their lobbyists, plus corporate CEO’s and their immediate families) can be met. Clearly our school systems are being managed this way by design in order to perpetuate our current hierarchical and authoritarian management structures within both government and the workplace. What the elitists don’t tell you is what happens to those who don’t seem to fit into our glorified capitalist economic system. They usually wind up as prisoners, mental patients or homeless, although there are rare exceptions. They are those whose teachers and parents gave up on them, which eventually teaches these hapless individuals to give up on themselves. Many are those who are labeled as “learning disabled” (whatever that is), people demolished by our rigged capitalist system in a way that starts when these pitiful souls were still very young. These so-called “failing” students are sent to ruin by those in positions of power and authority who love to micro-manage people’s lives just for sport. Unable to cope with being labeled as poor students early on, and with no one to rescue them, they crawl through life, wrecked by warped senses of self-esteem that condemn them to failure, filled with rage, until many of them become institutionalized one way or another. And all this crap happens because some corporate bigwig somewhere was afraid they wouldn’t be able to make enough of a profit from them, and that is brutal mass exploitation by any definition. It’s a gross human rights violation! Instead, I think it’s far better to define ourselves as Americans by how we treat our least fortunate citizens. In that regard I would say we have some improving to do.

Our American public school system is so inferior that it requires total replacement with a digitized system of Internet-based computer learning to bring it up to 21st century speed. This issue is about nothing less than the fundamental right to unrestricted public education from the cradle to the gravestone at little or no cost. What are today’s children subjected to instead of quality education, you may ask? As I write this, on average an American child is neglected or abused every 36 seconds, born into poverty every 41 seconds, and born without health insurance every 59 seconds. These same children are killed by gunfire once every three hours, while yet another hungry, innocent baby is born to a new teenage mother every 60 seconds. Shall we pass judgment on these disadvantaged children as is often the case today, citing so-called “moral” reasons in order to limit their chances of success? Or will we write off these at-risk children as inferior, or as being “not worth the effort”, as is so popular among certain religious conservatives and other bigots? Before you answer any of these questions, let me introduce you to someone who knows what is wrong with education in America. In 1991, a gentleman by the name of John Taylor Gatto won the New York State Teacher of the Year award. His now-famous, even legendary response was to quit, terminating a 30-year career. In a guest column written later in the Wall Street Journal, Gatto said he “didn’t want to hurt kids anymore”. Let me quote briefly. “I’ve come slowly to understand what it is I really teach: a curriculum of confusion, class position, arbitrary justice, vulgarity, rudeness, disrespect for privacy, indifference to quality, and utter dependency. I’ve been teaching kids how to fit into a world I don’t want to live in. Just because your kids are being schooled doesn’t mean they’re being educated. Schooling is given or imposed, but an education is taken by the student. The child is 90 percent sovereign in it. The kid should be the director of his/her life.” Now that’s what I call radical!

“There’s a genius in every child”, Mr. Gatto continued, “but it hardly ever regrows once it’s stomped out. Schools turn out incomplete people, people that have to be connected to some other source of meaning because they can’t generate meaning from the inside. Schooling as it exists isn’t nearly the most efficient way if you want mental development, and it’s a catastrophe if you want moral development…The mass of kids learn, quite deliberately, to be bored. There’s a reason for that. The truth is that bored people detach from their minds and connect with their appetites. They’re desperately searching for something to put in their mouths, or to kiss, or to throw rocks at, or to kill. Bored people aren’t serious competition. They don’t gather together and form organizations to overthrow the leadership. They’re seeking some kind of solace and relief from their boredom, so they become the most dependable customers of all.” Is the school system, then, designed to produce formulaic, obedient, predictable, dumbed-down, conformist consumers and workers and, more nefariously, to discourage dissent? If this all sounds conspiratorial, turn to history. Here’s three samples of what was being written down about education over a hundred years ago:

The raw products, children, are to be shaped and formed into finished products, manufactured like nails, and the specifications for manufacturing will come from government and industry”. Ellwood P. Cubberly, dean of school of education, Stanford University, 1905.

We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and to fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.” Woodrow Wilson, from an address to the New York City High School Teachers Association, January 9, 1909

Somewhere between the ages of 11 and 15, the average child begins to suffer from an intellectual atrophy, the paralysis of curiosity and the suspension of the power to observe. The trouble I should judge to lie with the schools.” Thomas Edison, circa 1900

Just why is it that we warehouse our children in cell-block-style classrooms five days a week for twelve years, force-feed them a standardized diet of what we think they need to learn, and move it all along with boredom, bells, and tests? Who came up with this system of forced confinement learning? Has it just devolved into easy daycare? No, in that case the school boards simply did away with recess so no one could accuse them of that. I understand kids learn things in school, they get to socialize, and get a needed break from their parents. But much of a child’s time in school is squandered, and worse, the process itself has some ill effects. Is school a waste, or even a theft, of childhood? What are the real skills that actually get us through life? Self-confidence, strong character, free and independent thought, autonomy, a passion for learning and enrichment – are these things being taught or stifled in school? The fact that we tell students what they need to learn rather than allowing them to direct their own study, doesn’t this derail a child’s natural ability to think for him or herself – one of the main skills necessary for survival? The American approach to education is so full of anomalies; horrible diet, too many prescribed drugs, and corporate penetration of the sacred learning environment, are three that I can think of. Kids are looked at as corporate targets. They’re being taught math with Hershey’s kisses and M&M’s. It’s in the textbooks! While there was absolutely no conspiracy to do this, there is a completely uninhibited sense of the mission of the school as virtually having nothing to do with education and a tremendous amount to do with the management of populations. The US public school system is not a repairable engine because it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. It is an engine of restraint and restriction and management. No one in authority wants to fix it because they think it’s working just fine.

Here’s what all this boils down to. If anyone were to release all the genius that is pent up in any human being, we’d have a hard time maintaining the current economic system. This terrifies the people in charge, from the White House on down, as well it should! So no, they don’t want to ‘fix’ schools! Consider standardized testing, for example. From school principals to parents to students, the most common complaint that I get about the US public education system from a human rights standpoint is regarding the emphasis on tests, like the Regents exams and Sat’s, which many believe only serve to reinforce the class system. Curricula are routinely shoved aside to focus on training students in rote memorization, how to take and do well on tests. It’s all data-driven. They don’t give a rat’s ass about individual needs! You or your kids must either pass these standardized tests or you don’t get your diplomas. It’s a corporate mentality. There’s no debate about it any more because they don’t allow it!!

In a report released by the US Department of Education in late September 2003, it was lamented that too few Americans were going to college. The report showed a huge gap between what students say they want, and what they actually do. When students enter high school, 91% say they plan to go to college, according to this federally funded report. But, by the time those same students are 19 years old, 30 out of every 100 who entered ninth grade have fallen behind or dropped out, and only 38 of the 70 who earned high school diplomas enroll in college. The United States, once first in the world in college participation leading to a bachelor’s degree, now ranks 11th. While the proportion of degree-seekers has stagnated in the US, other industrial nations, such as Canada, have invested more in their systems of higher education and vocational training. It is apparently no longer true that each succeeding generation of Americans will be better educated than the one that preceded it.

The real truth is that the needs of America’s job market are changing so rapidly that a system of continuous Internet-based education for America’s entire work force and their children, one whose curriculum can be edited at will, and one that can be accessed from any Internet connection, will be essential to maintaining and enhancing the standard of living for 21st century Americans. Going to college and getting a four year degree doesn’t work like it used to, mainly because the vocation that one may be training oneself to perform may be off-shored or right-sized to the third world for only pennies on the dollar within four years or less from today. On the other hand, various accredited courses dedicated to relatively short-term Internet-based vocational education where American workers and their children can get a new degree, diploma or professional certification in only months instead of years will be far more useful than the antiquated educational system that we are all currently stuck with. Workers and managers both need to have an ongoing and continuous national education system available to them at will, so that they may compete on a global scale for jobs in the global economy of the 21st century.

Liberal education being equally and unconditionally available to everyone causes all citizens to become peers and equals, with little or no social distinction between incomes, classes and occupations. Formal or vocational education that becomes equally available to all at nominal cost via the Internet eliminates social, class and economic barriers that have existed for centuries. Unconditional social and economic equality in the 21st century includes the death of hierarchy and bureaucracy as we have known them, with the added benefit of putting the final nail in the coffin of dictatorship. With every US citizen being able to obtain advanced education repeatedly and at will regardless of economic status, the need for close employee supervision and for tiered company management within large bureaucracies will fade into history. It will be a brave new world, that’s for sure!

Tagged , , , , ,