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Free book excerpt #12 from pastor and Progressive Christian author Rev. Paul J. Bern

“The Apostles In Plain English Vol. 1: the Apostle Paul” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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Which Is Better, Being Lawful Or Being Faithful?

[Galatians chapter 3, verses 1-14]

As we begin this week’s study we’ll be looking at the first half of Galatians chapter three. In it the apostle Paul continues to take the church at Galatia to task because of certain heretical teachings that were going on at the time. Newly converted Gentile Christians were intermingling with newly converted Jews who embraced Christ as the Jewish messiah. Evidently the non-Jews were being instructed by unnamed Jewish converts to practice and live their new faith while also adopting the Jewish customs of their new brethren in Christ Jesus. Paul continues with his blistering criticism of this practice as we begin at verse one.

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’. [Genesis 15:6] Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the Gospel in advance of Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you’. [Genesis 12:3] So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Gal. 3, verses 1-9)

Here we see Paul summing up his point in one sentence when he wrote, “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” Since the observation of the Law of Moses – the first five books of the Old Testament – was fulfilled by the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Paul is simply stating that to continue observing the Old Law and its customs is both pointless and unnecessary. The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ is the embodiment of the new law, replacing the old. After spending all the time converting them and teaching them and founding a church, Paul is clearly exasperated with the church at Galatia because they had strayed from what he taught them was the Spiritual foundation of that church, none other than Jesus himself. It is not possible to obtain salvation through Christ by our good works alone, although it is good that we all do so whenever and wherever we can. We can do so only two ways according to Scripture; the first is by maintaining a totally committed faith in Christ and his Salvation, and the second is by grace that God bestows upon us through his Son. Grace is defined as unmerited favor, the spiritual equivalent of a free pass. Even though none of us deserves it due to our sins, grace is given to us freely as a token of God’s love for us when we accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. So if you ever need evidence that God really does love you, just think about His grace as you bask in its warm light. If you are already a believer, just focus on that in your mind. And if you aren’t yet a believer, now would be a good time to become one. Simply ask Jesus to come and live inside your heart, and to stay there forever.

The other thing the apostle Paul explains (or more likely reiterated) to the church at Galatia is the concept of unity between Jew and Gentile when he wrote, “Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith”… Paul is clearly citing this as another reason to put away the traditions of old and replacing them with the then-new concept of Jesus Christ as the Jewish and Gentile messiah and as the Son of God. If any of you read my studies on the book of Romans, Paul touched on that same topic when he wrote, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of Son-ship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ …” (Romans 8: 15-17) So you see, Paul was literally telling the Galatian congregation that they were already adopted into the family of God, and that there was nothing extra or special that they needed to do to join the family. Moreover, since our adoption into God’s eternal family is through Jesus Christ, whose lineage can be traced all the way back to God, that makes us all Jewish by adoption just as it says in Romans. I don’t know about you, but I find the prospect of being an adopted Jew quite appealing. If that is the genealogy of my Lord and Savior, then that is good enough for me. Let’s continue now and conclude today’s study beginning at verse ten.

All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ [Deut. 27:26] Clearly no one is justified before God by the Law, because ‘the righteous will live by faith’. [Habakkuk 2:4] The Law is not based on faith; on the contrary, ‘The man who does these things will live by them’. [Lev. 18:5] Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.‘ [Deut. 21:23] He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3, verses 10-14)

The apostle Paul repeatedly quotes the Old Testament – or more accurately the Law of Moses, which was still very much the religious tradition of that time in that part of the world – in order to finish making his point. Paul’s literacy was the exception rather than the rule in those days, and he uses his educational level to his advantage right here. Clearly, Paul writes, “ … no one is justified before God by the Law, because ‘the righteous will live by faith’…”. This is the crux of the matter, which is that no one can enter into God’s kingdom – or the third heaven, as Paul called it – based on their good deeds and legalistic achievements. The only way to salvation is through our uncompromising and undiluted faith in the saving power of the blood of Christ. There is no other way by which any of us may enter heaven, and there are no exceptions allowed based on the teachings of Christ. If anyone tries to tell you any different, get away from those people and those churches because they are teaching a false doctrine, and they will be held accountable. But it is the truth, Jesus said, that will make you free, and anyone who is free in Him is truly and irrevocably free. And that’s the best news of all.

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Explaining the Seven Trumpets in Bible Prophecy

The Book of Revelation: the Seven Trumpets Explained

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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I have decided to take time out this week to comment on part of the Book of Revelation that has to do with a series of end time events known as “The Seven Trumpets”. I will be quoting from chapters 8, 9 and 11 as I do my level best to explain the meaning of all these future events as they were written down more than 1,900 years ago. But I’m also going to dispel some myths and refocus some misunderstanding about the Book of Revelation and its meaning. There are widely varied interpretations of Revelation being disseminated by an equally varied spectrum of pastors and teachers, as you well know. Many of these various explanations are very accurate and scriptural, but many others not so much, and a few are downright silly. I will bypass commenting on any of these other interpretations for right now. All I’m going to do is explain the Seven Trumpets as best I can, and I have chosen this part of the Revelation because it is very relevant to the times in which we live. I will begin at chapter 8 and verse 6.

Then the seven angels who had the 7 trumpets began to sound them. The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees was burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.” (Revelation 8, verses 6-9)

Regarding the first trumpet, the majority of clergy and theologians believe this event has not yet occurred, but I disagree. Once before in human history a similar calamity overtook Egypt during the seventh plague (see Exodus 7, verses 14-24). The difference being that the Egyptian calamity was local, but this judgment will be worldwide. It will most certainly be so unusual that mankind will be forced to recognize that it is a divine judgment. As with all the seals, trumpet and bowl judgments, since the results are literal, the judgments will be literal also. The same can be said for the second trumpet, which describes an apparent meteor or comet striking the earth and landing in the ocean.

A word of caution here – this is not a prophecy of a planet colliding with the earth! Unlike what some are saying on You Tube and other social media, this is not a prophecy of “planet X” or “planet nine”, also called Nibiru (Who dreamed up that name? Sounds like a brand of Japanese car). While this planet does exist, its current location is estimated to be somewhere between Neptune and Pluto, the 2 outermost planets in our solar system. Since it takes approximately 165 years for Neptune to orbit the sun, if Planet Nine is that far out it will take at least half that time or longer to reach earth, if it reaches us at all. So you can all stop worrying about “Nibiru” – it is very, very far away and will do us no harm. Let’s move along now to the 3rd trumpet.

The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water – and the name of the star is wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter. The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night. As I watched I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice, ‘Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!’”. (Revelation 8, verses 10-13)

Contrary to what some are saying on social media like You Tube, etc, this is not a description of a second meteor or comet. It is a description of an event all right, but this is completely different. You will recall the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in Soviet Russia, where a nuclear power plant overheated and exploded, blowing the roof off the facility. As some of you already know, ‘Chernobyl’ translates into English as ‘Wormwood’ (read more about that here), although the translation is not the same word-for-word. Since the Asian continent where Russia is located takes up one third of the land mass on earth, the references to “one-third of the rivers and springs of water” makes sense to me. The description of the fourth trumpet is different, however. Something is going to cause 1/3 of the planet to have no sunlight in the daytime, and no stars at night either. The best explanation seems to be a large volcanic eruption big enough to cover a third of the skies with dust, soot, ash and smoke, although I can only speculate about how long this will last because Revelation doesn’t say what duration this will be for. But if Revelation says it’s going to occur, you had best believe it will! What about the eagle, you ask? It is symbolism, most likely for the United States who emerges as the Cold War victor only several years following the Chernobyl/wormwood disaster. And now let’s have a look at the fifth trumpet, beginning at chapter 9 verse 1.

The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and the sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down upon the earth and were given power like scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not given the power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of a sting from a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.” (Revelation 9, verses 1-6)

There is a lot of symbolism here, starting with the ‘fallen star’, which is Satan or Lucifer. As you know, Lucifer and his band of demons, who were formerly one third of the angels in heaven prior to their insurrection against God and his place of supreme leadership, were kicked out of heaven for their rebellion against God. They were sent to hell or Hades, or the Abyss here in Revelation, to be punished eternally – forever banished from God’s presence! When the shaft of the Abyss is unlocked, smoke comes pouring out in prodigious amounts and demons in the form of locusts appear. These locusts are demons that rise with the smoke of spiritual error that ascends from the bottomless pit. As scorpions sting by raising their tails over their heads but do not kill, these exercise power to hurt men spiritually by raising religious tales contrary to faith and elevate false prophets above their rejected Head, Christ the Word. Their stings spiritually paralyze unstable souls with doctrine, which, like the bottomless pit, has no foundation in God’s Word. Lost souls become demons, like the 200,000,000 horsemen found in the next trumpet.

They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” This is a dual reference – first to those who have the “mark of the beast” or seal of the Antichrist on their foreheads (see Revelation 13, verses 16-18), but also to the 144,000 who receive the seal of God upon their foreheads (see Revelation 7, verses 1-8). “They were not given the power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months…. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.” Clearly, out of all the judgments – handed down in the form of trumpets which symbolize shofar horns, the ones the ancient Israelites used to call people to battle – this one is the most severe. These scorpions will inflict pain so extreme, people will want to die. They may even attempt suicide, but those efforts will be unsuccessful. They will all spend five full months writhing and screaming in agony. They will pump themselves up with opiates to deal with the pain, and most if not all will wind up being addicted as a result. And now let’s move on to the sixth of these seven trumpets, starting at verse 13.

The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice that was coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates’. And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.” (Revelation 9, verses 13-18)

In short, the 6th trumpet is World War Three. This should not be confused with the war of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38 and 39. That is a separate middle eastern war that will occur just prior to WW3, and a topic for a separate discussion for the sake of brevity. The “horns of the golden altar that is before God” is a reference to the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament (see Exodus 25 for a description of the ark). “’Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates’. And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number.” There are widely varying opinions on the meaning of this, but I happen to believe that the Bible is ultimate Truth. The fact of the matter is that the only nation in the world capable of raising an army of 200,000,000 is mainland China. And yet the “great river Euphrates” empties into the Arabian sea right on the border between Iraq and Iran. So the Chinese army will march to the west, cross the Euphrates river, and presumably march to the Mediterranean sea. The obvious reason is oil. This will be at a time when oil has become too expensive, too scarce, or both, and we’re nearly there now. But as to the exact timing of these series of events, no one knows for sure, and anyone who claims to know should be viewed with suspicion. And now let’s close out this week’s message with one final passage.

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for the judging of the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great – and for destroying those who destroy the earth’.” (Revelation 11, verses 15-18)

Hooray! The kingdom of the world has been replaced by the kingdom of God, administered by none other than Jesus Christ himself! No more rich elitist top one-tenth of one per center’s, no more brutal dictatorships, no more multinational corporations who are financially raping and pillaging the earth and their employees, no more military and no more pollution either. Now that’s what I call an ideal world! But who are the twenty-four elders? They represent the twelve tribes of Israel (the 12 sons of Jacob) plus the twelve apostles, with Judas Iscariot replaced by the apostle Paul. All the wars that will be fought have been fought by this point in time, and it is an era of complete peace throughout the earth. It is time for Judgment Day, beginning with those who destroy the earth through war and pollution, and ending with those who destroy other people – murderers, sex offenders, and other abusers. Even if they believe in Jesus, it will be just as bad for them on that day as it will be for those who don’t believe at all! So until next time, let’s keep ourselves together for Christ, acknowledging that one day soon, he will rule the earth and we will be his subjects as well as his peers. Enjoy your week, everyone!

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Banks are criminal enterprises. US government involved in dozens of wars globally. Police gone berserk. Children slaughtered in Syria. A world going insane. One man, one ministry confronting the madness, standing against war, social or economic injustice, crooked banks and every kind of corruption. Help us help America win this fight while standing up unashamedly for Jesus Christ. With a recurring monthly donation starting at only $10.00, you can help keep us on the Internet, fund some office expenses, help us buy a new or used van, and cover the monthly expenses of buying double cheese sandwiches and fries for the multitudes of homeless individuals and families in and around greater Atlanta. Please help Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta, Inc. (State of Georgia control # 15066742) by becoming a monthly partner today! http://www.pcmatl.org/donations-and-partners

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To All My Haters, This Bud’s For You

My Open Letter to All Offended “Christians”

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

open_minds

Dear Offended Christians,

 

All of my regular weekly readers know by now that I can – and have – posted commentaries on my blogs, my website, and social media that has been sharply critical of the mainstream churches – both Protestant and Catholic – here in the US. While I have received praise from many of my readers for these postings, I have also been on the receiving end of no small amount of vehement condemnation from numerous ‘religious’ individuals, combined with weathering criticism from many (but not all) atheists. I’ve been told I’m going to hell when I die, I’ve been accused of voluntary stupidity, I’ve been verbally assaulted and abused on social media, and I’ve even had my personal safety threatened. So far, nobody has made good on any of those threats, which doesn’t surprise me at all. Still in all, I’m terribly sorry that I hurt your feelings. None of us likes to be criticized, so I totally get it. I feel badly about that. I know I’ve said some pretty hard words to many of you “Christian” folks, and maybe I’ve been somewhat less than gentle in my delivery, but that happens when you’re tired. And I am really freaking tired! Allow me to list all of the ways I am fed up to here with the hypocrisy shown by so many ‘religious’ people!

[1] You wrap yourselves up in the cross, your piety is second to none, and yet you have seemingly forgotten to read the Book you proclaim to set your moral compass to. I’m tired of hearing you telling gay people that they can’t simultaneously be both gay and followers of Christ. You quote Romans chapter 1, verses 26-27 and Levitical law when you condemn gay people, but you forget the counsel of the apostle James 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) Instead of judging gay people, why not show them some mercy and compassion? Moreover, I’m tired of you regularly dispensing damnation on the queer community, and then offering empty “thoughts and prayers” before resuming your normal schedule.

[2] I’m tired of arrogant pulpit bullies who believe they’re entitled to tell people where they can pee, who they can marry, and whether they really love Jesus or not. I’m particularly tired of your demands for 10% of my income. You’re not going to get one stinking penny from me! After all, you preachers spend much of your churches’ proceeds on yourselves and your wicked and vain desires. You buy luxury cars for yourselves and your wives and live in extravagant homes while people sleep in their cars as they and their children go hungry. Rest assured that your punishment is coming, and it will be most severe!!

[3] I’m tired of you being more outraged by red coffee cups at Starbucks, or school and department store restrooms, than by poverty, racism and America’s crumbling school systems. Ditto for the hypocrisy of your homophobia, all that institutionalized racism, and the anti-science sentiments of many Christian groups. God gave you a brain! Try using the damn thing once in a while! You’d be surprised at how well it works. Thinking with your emotions instead of your brain always ends badly for you anyway. If you were using your head, you would be able to remember that.

[4] I am thoroughly exasperated with your simultaneous condemnation of abortion while you beat your war drums. The US military has killed 2 million people in the Vietnam War and 1 million more innocent civilians in Iraq. The fact that all those dead Iraqis were Muslim is besides the point. Have you forgotten what Jesus said at the Sermon On the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”? (Matt. 5: 9) Yes, it’s true, there are roughly 50,000 abortions performed each year in the US alone, not counting the rest of the world. While I am by no means pro-abortion, I refuse to condemn those women who have abortions for the same reasons as #1 above. Why? Because there are two main reasons why women are having abortions. First, the last time I checked, a month’s supply of birth control pills costs many hundreds of dollars here in America thanks to our greed-based medical care system. Second, if America’s employers paid a living wage, a lot more women could afford to use birth control, hence fewer abortions. Oh that’s right – America doesn’t have any more jobs that pay a living wage because our brilliant leaders outsourced all the good-paying jobs overseas for pennies on the dollar so they could make a whole lot more money!!

Please excuse me, I just realized I probably hurt your feelings yet again, Mr. and Mrs. Churchperson. So I really do get that your feelings are hurt. I understand that you’re offended, and that’s not my intention. The thing is, if you’re going to tell an entire segment of the population that they’re going to Hell simply for existing, and if you’re going to continually target those people through the Church and the Law and your social media accounts, don’t get angry with me when I tell you you’re being hateful and judgmental and ignorant. It could be worse. At least I’m not damning you for all eternity. You know, like you do to others every day of the year?

Sincerely,

A Very Tired Christian

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What’s Gone Wrong With Our Churches?

Three Reasons Millennials Are Abandoning Christianity

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

live together or perish

Chances are that if you are in your 20’s or 30’s, you are not a church member. Polling is now a highly sophisticated industry, and religious organizations are being fed some irrefutable numbers about what is happening among their congregations. In a single generation, the Catholic and Christian church dropout rate across all denominations has increased five-fold. The Barna Group, a leading research evangelical Christian organization based in Ventura, California that focuses on the intersection of faith and culture, says 80 percent of the young people raised in a church will be “disengaged” before they are 30. The fault for this lies with those same denominations, and particularly their leadership as far as I am concerned. These churches – and I’m not going to name any denomination in particular – and their members spend every Sunday morning being religious for an hour, and then spend the rest of the week doing whatever suits them. They call themselves Christians while isolating themselves from the very people they are supposed to be ministering to! We as believers are charged with this very duty, as Jesus has taught us: “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark chapter 16, verses 15-16) As to whether one believes or not, that is between them and God. My responsibility lies with teaching about Jesus Christ and the Bible. I cannot force anyone to believe, since force is never the way of Christ anyway. But the outcome of disbelief is clearly spelled out.

In the past 20 years, the number of American people who say they have no religion has doubled and now exceeds 15 percent. Those numbers are concentrated in the under-30 population. The polling data continues to show that a dramatic exit is taking place from Christian churches, both in America and globally. Is it any wonder? There are too many churches I have been to that look more like fashion shows than places of worship. Many others insist that the members must “tithe” 10% of their income as specified in the Old Testament. Never mind what Jesus taught us, which was that he was the fulfillment of the Old Law (see Matthew 5: 17), the sacred Law of Moses, and that He continuously represents a new covenant between God and mankind. Yes, we should give to our churches as much as we can, when we can, but I disagree with the teaching that one’s donations must be exactly 10% each and every week. If that were the case, then only rich Christians could obey the law. That’s why I came to the conclusion many years ago that this teaching is a distortion of what the Bible says on this subject, meaning so-called tithing is a thinly veiled excuse for procuring the maximum amount of donations to church coffers. It’s all about the money. Then there are the Christian TV stations (speaking of money), which I used to watch some of them, where some of the women have enough makeup on for three people, and where some of the musicians are obviously gay and doing a poor job of hiding it. Still others are preaching the so-called “prosperity gospel”, which is a bogus teaching if there ever was one, and a gross distortion of what the Bible actually says about that topic.

While denominations across the board are acknowledging loss of membership, it is worse than they are reporting. Many churches report numbers based on baptized members, yet actual Sunday morning attendance doesn’t come close to those numbers. Once baptized, always a ‘listed’ Christian! Simply put, denominations are no longer a reliable source of membership information. If they can’t even be trusted for something as basic as accurate reporting regarding their attendance, is it any wonder good Christ-seeking people are leaving in disgust? The mega-church movement also has flattened, with people leaving as fast as they are recruited. The only real growth among Christians appears to be in the home church movement in which small groups of independent believers gather in a house to worship. While the polling numbers are in, the debate about the reasons for lack of attendance is only just beginning. When a pollster asks if a person has left the Christian Faith and a church, the answer is answered “yes” or “no.” However, when the pollster asks “why?,” the answers become mushy and the numbers lose their significance. Why, then, are people leaving churches so fast?

I am not a pollster, but rather an observer of the religious scene looking in from the outside. Speaking as an independent minister who is unaffiliated with any denominations, entirely too many churches today – from the pastor on down – have a credibility problem because of all the things that I mentioned above. My impressions are anecdotal and in no way scientific. I receive personal responses to my blogs and other postings, and I carry on conversations with a steady flow of people by e-mail. I strongly believe we Jesus worshipers and especially the clergy need to look at ourselves for at least some of the reasons for the decline in membership, and probably most of them. Allow me to offer three observations:

[1] Churches are no longer intellectually challenging, if they ever really were to start with. I can still remember being sent to Catholic school as a child and being “taught” not to think for myself, or to just obey. Christians who think for themselves are considered weird at best, or dangerous at worst in today’s churches. Obedience is good and personal independence is (allegedly) bad. Organized religion has always been like this and critical, independent thinkers like myself are shown the door without just cause way too often. More and more of our young people are college-educated, and in the future an overwhelming majority and will accept the challenge of post-high school education. They are thinking people who are expanding the limits of their curiosity and knowledge. Some of them will be the first American generation to establish outposts throughout our solar system, and eventually beyond. I have often wondered what will happen to organized religion when life is inevitably discovered on other planets and their moons. It is no surprise to me that these young people often conclude that they are not willing to accept the Church’s rigid catechism, an educational method that teaches all the right religious questions and the correct answers. As an educational tool, private religious schooling has become outdated and provides no challenge to students eager to question and discuss. Ministers must take the responsibility to re-establish themselves among the leaders of the intellectual community.

[2] Churches are no longer leaders in moral and ethical discussions. Young people have grown weary of churches that cannot get past issues such as homosexuality and abortion. Although I personally am not in favor of either abortion or gay marriage, God has given me enough wisdom to know I can’t persuade everybody to think like myself. Instead, I choose to follow the Bible, which warns us not to judge others (see Matthew 7: 1-5; James 2: 12-13; James 4: 11-12) and to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2: 12)! My job is to bring the good news message of Jesus Christ to everyone I can. I cannot ‘save’ souls, only Christ can do that. Once I have presented the message of the Gospel, I have fulfilled my responsibility. If the Gospel is presented any other way but that, it starts to sound like a sales pitch. Moreover, millennial Christian drop-outs are still very interested in alternatives to the selfish, hedonistic and violent society we live in. More and more, they are catching on to something I have been preaching and teaching for years – namely the unilateral rejection of materialism and the trappings of wealth, and a rejection of violence and hate. Success in life is not defined by how much money and possessions we have accumulated! That type of “success” is only an illusion. Instead, success in life depends on what kind of legacy we leave behind when we’re gone. Justice, fairness and compassion are supposed to be high on our agendas, and looking for opportunities to serve as a way of worshiping God should be the priority of people of good conscience. Life is all about how we treat other people as well as how devoted we are to serving the less fortunate. It’s not just about religion. Today’s generation of young people want to be involved in solving environmental problems, ending poverty and homelessness and their root causes, and in peacemaking. “Blessed are the peacemakers”, Jesus said, “for they shall be called ‘sons of the living God’.” (Matthew 5: 9)

In contrast, pizza parties and rock concerts – techniques that have been used to make churches appear more relevant to the young – are not high on the agenda of young people concerned about society’s deep-seated problems. In other words, too many churches are concerned about the hot-button issues of today, such as same-sex marriage or abortion, when the preachers should be talking about the extreme immorality of waging war! Or, how about pointing out the extreme immorality of 50,000 children per day dying of starvation globally? What about the fact that fully one fourth of the world’s population has no access to clean drinking water or electricity?? If the same amount of passion were devoted to protecting and upholding the living as has been said and written about protecting the unborn, the world would be a markedly better place in which to live. As for same-sex marriage or abortion, Jesus never said anything about either. The Bible does teach that being gay or bisexual is wrong, but it also warns us repeatedly not to judge other people. I don’t hang around gay people, nor do I approve of their “lifestyle” – as they call it – but that does not give me the right to hate gay people, nor is it an excuse to hold them in contempt, and never to condemn them. “Love your neighbor as yourself”. By showing disdain for gay people, I would lose all hope of ever persuading them to believe in Jesus and all he stands for.

[3] Churches are no longer visionary for the reasons I have stated above. They have remained focused on offering rituals, dogma, pomp and circumstance, tied to perpetuating theologies while not bothering to explain to people how they should live once they have left church for yet another week. That’s because many of these theologies aren’t based on what the Bible says, and can even contradict it, and people who take the time to pick up their Bible and read it see right through that. Too much religion today is taught from the perspective and viewpoint of the extreme right-wing of American politics, and as before it is a glaring contradiction of the teachings of Christ. If the teachings of Jesus could be compared to modern political ideology, its closest comparison would be to what we call socialism today (see Acts. 2: 42-47; Acts 4: 32-37; 2nd Corinthians 8: 13-15). This is one Biblical fact that invariably infuriates the conservative extremists who have invaded America’s pulpits. Read the above passages of Scripture and you’ll see what I mean (If you have no Bible and want one, send your email address to webpreacher@pcmatl.org and I’ll send you a free one. Seriously.) People are figuring out that God is not a conservative Republican, and that he never was. For all these reasons, churches are no longer significant players in shaping the life of our communities. If priests, ministers and their churches will not lay out what the kingdom of God on earth might actually look like, young people will continue to look elsewhere for other models. In that sense, I don’t know who to be concerned about more – the young adults who are leaving churches, or the churches they are leaving behind. In the meantime, the rest of the world is rushing at top speed towards World War 3. Millions will be killed instantly in what is bound to be a nuclear conflagration, and then they’ll be out of time. Maybe we all will, who knows? The best we can do for now is to start praying – a lot – for peace.

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What Does the Bible Say About the Role of Government?

Dispensing Justice and Promoting Healing

Are the Government’s Biblical Obligations

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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This week I want to write about why implementing single-payer national health care is so important, and what the Bible says about that. The passage of so-called “Obama-care” a couple years ago makes this issue worse, not better. All the US government had to do was put the whole country on Medicare, and include all those on Medicaid as well. Then, we could just do away with Medicaid, saving the country roughly $650 billion per year! There is hardly a more controversial political battle in America today than that swirling around the role of government. The ideological sides have lined up, and the arguments rage about the size of government: How big, how small should it be? But I want to suggest that what size the government should be is the wrong question. A more useful discussion would be about the purposes of government and whether America’s is fulfilling them in a Christlike manner. So let’s put the politics to the side for the moment and look at what the Bible has to say about this topic.

The words of the apostle Paul in the 13th chapter of Romans are perhaps the most extensive teaching in the New Testament about the role and purposes of government. Paul says those purposes are twofold: to restrain evil by punishing evildoers and to serve peace and orderly conduct by rewarding good behavior. Civil authority is designed to be “God’s servant to do you good” as it is written: “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from the fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” (Romans 13, verses 3-5, NIV)

Today we might say ‘the common good’ is to be the focus and function of government. The Declaration of Independence defines this as being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The primary function of government is the care and welfare of its citizens”. According to the apostle Paul, the purpose of government is to protect from evil and promote the good, to punish the ‘takers’ while rewarding those who freely give. We are also obligated by law to pay taxes for those purposes. So to disobey, disrespect or circumvent good government is simply not a biblical position. Jesus summed this up very well during his ministry, as it is written: “Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap Him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher’, they said, ‘we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used to pay the tax’. They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s’, they replied. Then He said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar, and to God what is God’s.’ When they heard this they were amazed. So they left Him and went away”. (Matthew 22, verses 15-22)

First, government is supposed to protect its citizens’ safety and security. Crime and violence will always be a real and present danger in this world, and that’s why we have the police, who are meant to keep our streets, neighborhoods, and homes safe. Governments also need to protect their people judicially, and make sure our legal and court systems are procedural, just and fair. The biblical prophets regularly railed against corrupt court decisions and systems, in which the wealthy and powerful manipulate the legal processes for their own benefit and put the poor into greater debt or distress. The prophet Amos speaks directly to the courts (and government) when he says, “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts” (Amos 5:15 NIV). Again it is written, “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an honest or innocent person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous. Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.” (Exodus 23, verses 6-9)

But along with protecting, what should governments promote? The Law of Moses holds kings, rulers, judges, and employers accountable to the demands of justice and fairness, therefore promoting those values. And the Scriptures say that governmental authority is to protect the poor in particular. The biblical prophets are consistent and adamant in their condemnation of injustice to the poor, and frequently follow their statements by requiring the government to act justly. That prophetic expectation applies today to the governments of all lands and peoples. Jeremiah, speaking of King Josiah, said, “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.” Psalm 72 begins with a prayer for political leaders and the entire population: “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.”

There is a powerful vision here for promoting the common good — a vision of “righteous” prosperity for all the people, with special attention to the poor and to “deliverance” for the most vulnerable and needy, and even a concern for the land. The biblical understanding of justice is that the procedures must be fair and it demands unbiased courts (Exodus 23:2-8; Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17; 10:17-19). Immediately after denouncing Israel and Judah for the absence of justice, the prophet Isaiah condemned the way rich and powerful landowners have acquired all the land by pushing out small farmers when he wrote: “Now I will tell you what I am going to do in my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it. The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing: ‘Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants.’ (Isaiah 5:7-9, NIV). It is important to note that even though in this text the prophet does not say the powerful acted illegally, he nevertheless denounces the unfair outcome.

The real truth is that fair outcomes do not always match equal outcomes. The historical attempts by many communist governments to create equal outcomes in terms of social and economic status have dramatically shown the great dangers of how the concentration of power in a few government hands leads to totalitarian results. The theological reason for that is the presence and power of sin, and the inability of such fallible human creatures to create social utopias on earth. Yet the biblical prophets do hold their rulers, courts, judges, landowners and employers (even slave owners!) accountable to the values of fairness, justice, and even mercy. The theological reasons for that are, in fact, the same: the reality of evil and sin in the concentration of power — both political and economic — and the need to hold that power accountable, especially for the protection of the poor and the sick. So fair outcomes, and not necessarily equal ones, are the goal of governments. Governments should provide a check on powerful people, institutions, and interests in the society that, if left unchecked, might run over their fellow citizens, the economy, and certainly the poor. And coming to a better moral balance in achieving fiscal responsibility, while protecting the poor, should be a bipartisan effort. The radically anti-government ideology of the current right wing Tea Party/Republican ideology is simply contrary to a more biblical view of government. The need for checks and balances, the sinfulness of too much concentrated power in either the government or the market, and the responsibilities we have for serving the common good, are all the Biblical definitions of good and just government. Anything less is the same as poking your finger in God’s eye.

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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

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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!

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A Plea for the American Electorate

Four Good Ways to Turn the Tables on Tyranny

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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In the wake of America’s latest tragic example of how our voting system simply does not work, many of us are left scratching our heads asking, “What kind of democracy is this?” Well, simply put, it isn’t a democracy at all. It’s a tyrannical oligarchy of the worst kind; one that’s disguised as a democracy and hidden behind the smoke and mirrors of political propaganda. Just because governmental decrees are no longer issued by royal fiat but are instead issued by lobbying and propaganda, doesn’t make it any less tyrannical. It is nothing more than inverted totalitarianism. And it is our responsibility, if we would be proactive citizens, to stop this totalitarianism in its tracks. The 99% – that’s us – must turn the tables on the top 1% or we will simply not survive as a species on this planet. That’s how serious the American people’s predicament has become! It’s as simple as that. Our strategy should be not only to confront the American empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. How? With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe. “Resistance to tyrants”, Thomas Jefferson once said, “is obedience to God”. I think even the atheists would agree with that one, or at least up to a point. Here are four ways that I believe we can turn the tables on the tyrannical plutocracy that our government has descended into.

1.) Mock Plutocracy Warren Buffett once said, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Wake up to the fact that the plutocrats have created their own economic apartheid. Money is the illusory carrot being dangled between you and the truth. The way the current oligarchy maintains its vice-grip on power is by making the people believe that it’s all okay because greed is good, and making money is very important, allegedly because with enough money comes the freedom to do what you want – like buying the rules made by government and funding lobbyists who significantly contribute to the laws that Congress writes and passes. While the world goes through the motions of getting poorer and poorer the moneyed elite are getting richer and richer, to the extent that it is costing people their lives. We must be able to muster the courage to put our foot down and draw a line in the sand. A people’s declaration of emergency is needed. Mass civil unrest is clearly called for in this situation in which we find ourselves, and the summer of 2016 is only halfway done!

One way to put our foot down is to mock the plutocratic entities that have a monopoly on power and to ridicule the cult of personality. Shame is a very powerful psychological motivator. The sooner we make them realize that they have to be morally responsible with their power, the sooner we will be able to bring balance to the world. And the way we make them realize it is through the stultifying effect of shame. Like Confucius said, “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” And have no illusions, countries the world over are badly governed. Through a healthy mockery of their power we will forcefully get power over the entrenched powers that be, and turn the tables on the power dynamic.

2.) Defy the Police State No longer do police act in the capacity of peace officers. Now they are simply hired thugs of a government that no longer has the best interest of the people at heart. A primary purpose of the police is to enforce the delusions of those with lots of pieces of green paper. Those without the green papers generally buy into these delusions almost as quickly and completely as those with. These delusions carry with them extreme consequences in the real world. Like George Orwell said, “The capitalist society is a police society where the number one goal is the protection of upper class property.” While the governments of the world have been taken over by corporate interests, bankers and special interest groups, our country have been turned into a police state, with the rest of the world soon to follow. Systems of control vainly attempt to keep everything the way it is, inefficient with a controlled obsolescence, so that “We the People” keep buying things we don’t need so that the rich can keep auctioning elections and buying laws to keep the poor suppressed.

Like Stefan Molyneux said back in 2014, “To efficiently control the human farm, you need a majority of broken, self-attacking, insecure, shallow, vain and ambitious sheep, forever consumed by inconsequential things like weight, how good our abs and those of celebrities are – and a minority of volatile, angry and dominant sheepdogs, which you can dress up in either a green (military) or a blue (police) costume and use to threaten and manage the herd.” Black-booted police state beware, your fascist violence is no match for our creative freedom, and your worship of financial gain is no match for the Son of God in whom we place our trust. The so called “herd” is methodically being populated with wolves in sheep’s clothing, and we will bite if we’re cornered. We can turn the tables on the police state by mocking it like Pussy Riot mocked Putin, and like Anonymous mocks power.

“History does not repeat itself,” wrote Mark Twain, “but it does rhyme.” And we’re here to bring an updated healthy rhyme to your outdated dissonant rhythms. Your watchdog heart and brainwashed brains don’t stand a chance against our compassionate hearts and open minds. Your days are numbered. Civil disobedience has always been a game-changer and the game is about to change. You might as well just toss those badges in the trash for all they’ll be worth. Better yet, join us. The thin blue line is an illusion at best.

3.) Ridicule the NDAA “The NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) is not about protecting us. It is about protecting the state from us. That is why no one in the executive or legislative branch is going to restore our rights. The new version of the NDAA, like the old ones, provides our masters with the legal shackles to make our resistance impossible. And that is their intention.” – Chris Hedges, Pulitzer prize-winning author and writer

When Adolf Hitler was in power in Germany he was quoted back in 1934 as saying, “What good fortune for governments that the people do not think.” Don’t be an unthinking citizen easily influenced by the likes of Hitler. Become a self-aware proactive citizen instead. Like Frederick Douglas wrote, “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.” Indeed, the more we know, the more capable we are of remaining free men and women. As it stands, The National Defense Authorization Act is the most diabolically authoritarian law to ever come down the governmental chute. It’s anti-freedom in the name of security, the most deceptive kind of law. The NDAA is a greater threat to our national liberty than the terrorism from which it claims to protect us from! It unconstitutionally impinges on legally guaranteed First Amendment rights and lacks sufficient protections to meet the requirements of due process. Simply put, it is an instrument for the government to restrain the people. The constitution used to be an instrument for the people to constrain the government, but with legislation like the NDAA and the Patriot Act, the instrument of the Constitution is useless and no longer holds true.

It’s past time that we, the American people, get out there to protest and litigate against the NDAA (could I please get a few attorneys to help out with this?). We must ridicule it. We must scorn it to the ‘nth’ degree. Blaspheme it in the face of the president if need be. Inform people about how corrupt it really is. People will remain ignorant as long as we allow them to be. Let’s not allow them to be; not only for the sake of their freedom but for our own, as well as for the freedom of our children and our children’s children. People are born to be free. Ridiculing acts like the NDAA, and attempting to abolish them, are ways of safeguarding such freedoms.

4.) Challenge the Mass Surveillance State Beginning with the adoption of the Patriot Act in 2001 (The government’s backbone-less, scared-stupid response to 9-11), the floodgates opened for covert government surveillance not only for the NSA, FBI, CIA and Homeland Security but for hundreds of municipal and state governments – a green light to infiltrate and spy on millions of American citizens without cause! Now FISA is a dead horse that’s been beaten beyond recognition, because it has been morphed into a vehicle of covert means shielded from effective oversight through countless amendments by the Bush and Obama administrations. And now congress itself is hung-up on the fear-mongering tactics of the War on Terror.

It is now up to us, “We the People”, to challenge this surveillance state, unless we inadvertently become what George Orwell warned us against in his novel, “1984”. Leaking information has become the civil disobedience of our age. The late historian and activist Howard Zinn described the act of civil disobedience as “the deliberate, discriminate violation of law for a vital social purpose… Such acts become not only justifiable but necessary when a fundamental human right is at stake and when legal channels are inadequate for securing that right.” Even Thomas Jefferson realized it, writing, “If a law is unjust, a man is not only correct to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.” Snowden, Manning, Assange, Jeremy Hammond, the late journalist Gary Webb, and the late Aaron Swartz have all continued the tradition of civil disobedience by revealing the details of global mass surveillance programs. It’s time to change the tune. It’s time to interrupt their corrupt dance. It’s time to challenge the powers that be. Nothing short of the survival of the human race is at stake. If we are going to proclaim ourselves Christians, then we have a responsibility to oppose that which is corrupt, unjust, unfair and which poses a clear and present threat. Evil must at all times be resisted with good. Not through some imaginary fist-fight between good and evil, all that is just so much Hollywood ‘BS’. I’m talking about resisting evil in the Spiritual realm through prayer, faith, love and good works whenever possible. Passive resistance works as well in the Spiritual world as it does in the physical, so use it whenever possible. “The prayers of good and sincere men and women”, wrote the apostle James, “are powerful and effective”. If you’re not praying for this country, and for God to show you a way to fight back without killing cops from a sniper’s nest, right now would be a very good time to start. Let’s take back our country, and let’s do it peacefully if at all possible. Oh yes we can!!!

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It’s time for America to get a grip already!!

All Right Now, That’s Enough!!

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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As I begin to compose this week’s message, I find myself shaking my head as I struggle to find a comfortable place to start. I saw video of a white cop shooting a black man to death for selling CD’s and resisting arrest. Yes I know, he was armed, but if you watch all the videos taken of the incident (which I admit are hard to look at), Alton Sterling’s gun came out of his pocket during the scuffle, but he did not attempt to shoot at either of the officers. Alton Sterling was executed. The video of Philando Castille getting shot to death when he reached for his wallet – not his gun – is even harder to watch. Hearing his fiancee’ plead with the police officer for her life, while asking the officer why he had just killed Mr. Castille in that calm, even voice of hers is truly unforgettable. That is one strong lady, and she has my heart-felt sympathy and especially my deepest respect.

Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. This past Friday 5 cops who were just doing their jobs were shot to death in the line of duty, and seven more were wounded. As of this writing I think there are 3 still in the hospital, and I pray fervently for a speedy recovery for them all. Now – let me be clear. Was it a miscarriage of justice that Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castille wound up dead for what amounts to petty stuff? Yes, absolutely, and I predict that one or more of those police officers will end up facing charges for their mishandling of the incidents. But under NO circumstances did that justify setting up a clever little sniper’s nest down in Dallas the following day for the sole express purpose of picking off police officers in retaliation!! I am deeply, very deeply upset about the assassination of these cops and the wounding of seven more. This, my dear readers and social media followers, is not how Americans are to be settling their internal problems. I even saw a preposterous video posted on You-tube just last evening about people wanting to start a “race war”. Let me point something out to the people who want a “race war” in America: We’ve already been there, done that, and bought the stinkin’ T-shirt! It was called the American Civil War of 1861-1865, and there were 620,000 American soldiers and civilians killed in that conflict. Understand now – the population of the United states at the end of that war in 1865 was approximately 32 million, slightly less than one tenth of America’s population today. So if a second US civil war were to actually occur with the population being ten times greater than the first Civil War, then it is reasonable to conclude that the casualties from such a war would be ten times as much as the first, or 6.2 million people. Does anyone reading this seriously believe a 2nd US civil war in which 6.2 million Americans died would be good for our country?? If so, then go ahead and fight your damned-to-hell civil war, but consider this before you proceed. When all the killing and the carnage is finished, the perpetrators of this 2nd US civil war will be hunted down, rounded up, and sentenced to hang from the gallows. If there is none handy, Mr./Mrs./Ms. “race war” fighter, then we will build one immediately, just outside your jail cell. Then, maybe at long last, the rest of us can finally have some peace and quiet!

So what’s the root cause of all these shootings? Is it because we have too many guns, or is this problem due to lax gun laws, as some people say? There can be no question that the gun control laws currently in place could be strengthened, and that background checks could be strengthened as well. But the right to own hand guns and long guns is clearly defined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, and the clear purpose of that particular amendment is to give the US populace a right to defend themselves against intruders for whatever reason, as well as to defend ourselves against the government, should things in Washington get out of control. And, when it comes to Washington being out of control, we’re already there. So gun violence is a symptom, but it’s not the problem. What about the police? Why are all these cops so trigger-happy? Is racism a part of it? This is unquestionably true, and racism – sad to say – remains deeply embedded in American culture. I also suspect there is some job frustration on the part of some police officers, but there is also a significant amount of racism as well.

So, we’ve touched on the cops shooting civilians and on civilians assassinating cops, plus we’ve touched on race. All three of these played a major part in the recent wave of shootings, but they are not the sole cause. The root cause of all the violence that has wracked America is – to sum it up – poisoning. Some of this systematic poisoning is spiritual in nature – such as all the distasteful shows on TV and at the movies, the super-violent video games, the subliminal messages contained in popular music as well as TV, and particularly all the pornography, which America seems to be flooded with. Other sources of this spiritual poisoning can be found in certain churches that preach false doctrines, such as the “prosperity gospel” and the “pre-tribulation rapture”. Although I’m not going to expound at length on any of these topics for now, I have done so in the past in some of my other postings dating back to 2011 or so.

So, we know that part of this ‘poisoning’, as I call it, is spiritual, but it’s equally important to know that the rest of this systemic poisoning is purely physical in nature. America has been fluoridating its water supply ever since the end of WW2. Consumption of fluoride was proven as far back as 50 years ago to be toxic to humans. Moreover, consumption of fluoride, even in small amounts such as toothpaste, has been proven to lower the IQ of any given human being by about 10 percentage points over the course of a 70-year human lifespan. So there we can see our water supply has been poisoned. Then there’s humankind’s air supply, which is bring polluted by “chem-trails” to humankind’s detriment. These “chem-trails” are being sprayed from ordinary jet aircraft, and they contain mainly aluminum particulates that are designed to block out the sun and slow global warming. Unfortunately for folks like you and I, these aluminum particulates are carcinogenic to humans, but the government keeps paying subcontractors to do this “dirty work” anyway. Last but not least are vaccines – all of them, which have been linked to autism, ADD, hyperactivity in children and other behavioral abnormalities, all of which have lasting effects into adulthood.

With these facts staring us in the face, is it any wonder that people everywhere are simply starting to snap? If I load a program on my computer that has a virus, won’t my PC workstation start acting crazy? The human brain is like a computer, but with a bio-electric-chemical compound interface. If we allow bad programming – violent TV and video games, pornography and the like – to get into our heads, or if we let our kids listen to all that junk on commercial radio, it won’t be long and those individuals are going to sustain heavy psychological damage. Everybody the world over has sustained serious physiological damage from environmental pollution, fluoridated water, lead and mercury poisoning, etc. Add to that the inescapable fact that people nearly everywhere are in a life-and-death struggle with their finances – unless, of course, you’re in the top 1% income bracket in America. Being under pressure from all sides financially, while imploding on the inside from a slow but systematic poisoning, leads to a personal meltdown! That’s why people everywhere are exploding with rage! And if you’re African-American, you are dealing with all of the above combined with being under a constant state of siege from the police. That is enough to drive anybody insane, even the very best of people and regardless of race!

Ladies and gentlemen, my dear readers whom I love so very much, the moment has arrived where we must come together collectively as a people and say, “no more”! Either we stop the violence or it will eventually consume us. But, in an effort to stop that from occurring, the government will undoubtedly step in at some point, “to restore order”. That, of course, will be the government’s brand of order – the New World Order. Let’s not go there, people, let’s not allow ourselves to be enslaved so we can have so-called “security”. There is no such thing as real security except in the loving arms of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Other than that, we take a risk just by getting out of bed each morning. A tree could fall on us and crush us while we’re in the bathroom, before we even make it out to the kitchen. We could step outside our door and get hit by a bolt of lightning, but we go anyway. As it is when we take charge of our lives and accept the risks involved, so it is when we have to physically step in and stop the violence, or when we stop others from doing so. It is up to each and every one of us to take responsibility and to take charge of our country, especially since those in charge are in power for all the wrong reasons. No wonder nothing significant ever gets done in Washington! It’s time to collectively tell everybody inside the ‘beltway’, “You’re fired”! It’s time for “we the people” to retake control of our country. If we can’t do this at the ballot box this fall, more drastic means will have to be employed. Do we want our country back, or do we want to be slaves? Time to go to ‘red alert’.

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Losing our independence on independence day?

Taking a Stand Against Perpetual War

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

endless war

Here we are, celebrating yet another July Fourth holiday weekend in America. I find it ironic that we call July 4th “Independence Day” when the American people are gradually losing their Constitutional freedoms bit by bit. There can be no doubt that this country has been turned into a police state, a process that started back in the 1950’s. The fact of the matter is, if you are a Constitutionalist, an evangelical Christian, a ‘prepper’, a conspiracy theorist, a Bernie Sanders supporter, or if you are opposed to economic inequality, you are classified as a ‘domestic terrorist’ by the Department of Homeland Security, and you are likely under surveillance. On the flip side of this coin, the US military has somewhere between 700 and 1,000 bases globally, depending on whose figures you believe. As if this were insufficient, President Obama has spoken to the nation in the past about the need to undertake still more wars while dodging the domestic gun violence issue. First there are the frequent drone strikes around the globe, next we have NATO encircling Russia, then again in Syria until overwhelming public opinion against another war forced Obama to change his mind several years ago, and most recently when he informed Congress and the American people that US troops will be in Afghanistan until as late as 2024. I recently streamed a CNN video where the terrible problem of rape in U.S. prisons was exposed. Violence surrounds us. It is ingrained into and embraced by U.S. society. This needs to change if we’re sincere about wanting a better country.

More than 50 years ago, President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the growth of the military-industrial complex. He cautioned us about the need to guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, “whether sought or unsought,” by the military industrial complex. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist,” he said. More than 60 years ago, George Orwell wrote of “perpetual war,” a situation in which war operates as a means of controlling the population by constantly rallying them against a common enemy. It matters not whether a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House; wars go on and on and on, perpetually it often seems. World War Two lasted four and a half years for the US and six years for Europe, yet US troops have been in Afghanistan since October of 2001.

Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Qaddafi was the longest-serving ruler in Africa, having taken power in 1969. He was a strange character, noted for many eccentricities. He also has supported horrible terrorist incidents over the decades. The United States wasn’t really sure who to side with against Qaddafi. Libya is a complicated stew. As the winds of change blew across the Middle East, many in Libya seized the moment to revolt. At first, it appeared the momentum of their rebellion would carry the day. Sadly, Qaddafi unleashed his military forces against the rebels, and the rest is history. Obama administration officials maintained that United States decided to wage war on Libya because of the threat the horrible Qaddafi was to his own people. Then why not attack Bahrain or Yemen or Somalia? Tyrants in those countries are committing similarly repugnant acts against their citizens, maybe even worse. But they decided to ‘bump off’ Qaddafi instead.

It’s a good thing that America decided not to attack Syria. It could easily have started World War Three. Had America bombed Syria from the air, Syria would have called in reinforcements from its allies Russia and Iran, and it would have been only a matter of time before the nuclear weapons started flying. For this reason and more, I am excited that ordinary people are rising up, first across the Middle East to cast off autocrats, tyrants, kings and dictators, not to mention the secret police who harass the citizenry daily, in America with the formation of the Occupy and “the 99%” Movements, and most recently with the Bernie Sanders presidential primary campaign. The most damning thing about our federal government is the recent disclosure of an out-of-control foreign and domestic spy network, which proves to me that the US presidency has been remade into something tyrannical. People want peace and justice, not war and violence. We’re all sick and tired of all the fighting, all we want is some peace and quiet for a change!

In the United States, including right here in Atlanta, many leaders and members of churches constantly, loudly lament about a shortage of money. There is a reason for that – vast sums of the incomes of their members are being drained off for war, death and destruction. These are people who become enraged over an aborted fetus (which I agree is bad enough), but who have no problem going overseas to kill oftentimes innocent strangers. To call this a glaring contradiction would be an understatement. At any rate, and given the near silence of America’s pulpits in the face of the violence and war that surrounds us, the exertions of our theologians in justifying war, the devotion of denominational members to the myth of redemptive violence, it is certain that future historians will view organized religion as a slave to the vast war machine that engulfs us. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. prophesied, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” It looks to me like the USA is already there due to the fact that America spends more money locking people up than is spent on educating them. Will we rise up against this madness of violence and backwards priorities, or are we dead already? The outcome of the upcoming Democratic and Republican political conventions will be a key indicator for America’s future. It is up to us, the American people, to force things to change for the better.

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