Tag Archives: Christianity

Free book excerpt #13 from Progressive Christian author and blogger Rev. Paul J. Bern

“Sole Survivor” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Now available in print, digital and audio formats. Offered on Amazon or from our website

 

Sole_Survivor

Sole Survivor

Chapter 5

Restoration by God, Driven Away by Man

I finally got out of jail on the night of December 17th, 1999 after an agonizing 4 month wait to get my court case done and over with. The main thing I remember about that night was how incredibly cold it was. I had been arrested in early fall near the end of September, and all I had on were casual slacks and a polo shirt. After treating myself to a full sit-down dinner at an all-night restaurant across the street from the jail, I was forced to make my way on foot to the nearest place that I was sure would be open all night, which was the community hospital on the suburban east side of Atlanta about 2 or 3 miles away. So off into the freezing cold I went as I hiked over to the hospital. The two main things that motivated me to get there were the lack of outer clothing and the fact that I was already a nervous wreck from having spent those 4 months in jail without the benefit of my bipolar medication. The clinic there – and it barely qualified as such – were giving me 2 different medications that I had never heard of. They did just barely work, but they were a poor substitute for my regularly prescribed ‘meds’. I recall getting to the ER about 3:30 AM that morning. To make a long story short, I spent the next 13 days at an inpatient clinic right down the street from the hospital. While I was there I got stabilized on my regular medications, and I managed to get back in touch with the district manager where I had been working when all this mess first started. I had contacted him when I was first brought to jail, trying to raise some bail money. They could not help me with that, I was told, but my job would be kept open for me until I was released. They stayed true to their word and rehired me upon my release. That Wang Global district manager’s name was James Dean. God bless you, James, wherever you are.

I checked out of the hospital on a blustery Friday afternoon, and I started back to work the following Monday morning. This gives me pause with regards to God’s eternal mercy, the loving way He chastises us but then restores us – but not always immediately, because His timing is always perfect. Did you ever notice that about God? His timing is always letter-perfect and never too late. Had that gone any other way, when I got out of jail I could have immediately become homeless, wandering the streets without a coat when the outside temperature was around 35 degrees, and having lost the new job I had just acquired 5 months before. Instead, and by the grace of God alone, I had landed on my feet and I was able to miraculously pick up where I had left off before all the trouble started. I give Jesus all the credit for my success, and I give him all my praise, thankfulness, and honor!

I worked that entire year, right up until Christmas time. That’s when they laid us off. But it was the way it was done that bothered me the most. One day a month or two beforehand, a 15-passenger van pulled up and parked in front of the office, and these 15 technicians from the Philippines get out and enter the office conference room. The door gets shut behind them, and it isn’t until the next day that the rest of us found out they were there as our replacements. The senior techs, and by this point I was one of them, were instructed to train one of them apiece. One of them said it was unfair, and he refused to train any of them, saying he could make his job last at least a week longer by not having a replacement trained and ready to go. To no one’s surprise, he was fired on the spot, right where he stood, and it didn’t seem to matter to him. To this day I regard this as a good example of what can and should happen to racists in the workplace.

I spent the next six months searching like crazy for a replacement job. Unfortunately, the dot-com financial crash was happening right around this time, and the computer/IT industry had pretty much came to a standstill. So I did what lots of other technical professionals like myself were doing at the time: I went back to school to get my Microsoft certification. I already had my degree, plus an A+ certification and two Dell certifications, so for me the Microsoft certification made sense (remember, this was back in 2001). But instead of making me more marketable like I thought, what few job offers I did have seemed to evaporate. All together I went for over 14 months without drawing a paycheck. My saving grace during this time was that I had substantial savings, otherwise I would surely have been homeless by that time. But homelessness escaped me when I used the small pickup truck that I owned at the time to go to work as a private contractor for a courier company. I had to take a substantial pay cut from the $35.00 per hour I had been making as a Dell service contractor, but by now my savings balance was nearly depleted. By dodging homelessness the way I had, I thought I had dodged a bullet, but I had only delayed the inevitable for a few more years. I will have more to say on that in the next chapter.

This book is available on-line from Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta at www.pcmatl.org/books-and-donations (free shipping, tax deductible) for $12.95.

Or, get it on Kindle at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=sole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ&rh=n%3A154606011%2Ck%3Asole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ

Get it in audio format at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daudible&field-keywords=sole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ&rh=i%3Aaudible%2Ck%3Asole+survivor%3A+one+man%27s+testimony+for+Christ

Watch the video at http://youtu.be/5Bxi7x0nUc0 Thanks so much!

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , ,

Jesus keeps up with the times, but some churches are barely hanging on

Why Technology Is Reinventing

Church As We Have Known It

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in any browser, click here! 🙂

Don't Look Back
The celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible was back in 2011, and Bible publishers are still ostentatiously commemorating that landmark by producing an abundance of gorgeous hand-bound versions complete with illustrations – for a premium price, of course. The hoopla is entirely justified, since the King James Bible revolutionized Bible reading, bringing Scripture into a common vernacular for the first time for the English-speaking world. Although I personally use other versions (NIV, NLT, & Amplified), it is not too much to say that the King James Bible – mass produced as it was – democratized religion by taking it out of the hands of the clerical few and giving it to the many, thanks to a cutting edge technology from back then called the printing press.

 

Today, another much bigger revolution in the Church is underway. Today’s technology goes a giant step further, making Scripture – in any language and any translation – accessible to anyone on earth with a decent mobile phone. It need not be a “Smart-phone” anymore, just a basic one with a decent sized screen is all you need. Just like the 500-year-old Protestant Reformation, which was aided by the advent of the printing press and which helped give birth to the King James Bible, changes wrought by new Web-based technology have the ability to expand the reach and scope of the gospel of Jesus Christ like we previously never have. In the face of church leaders who claimed that only they could interpret the Bible for the common people, Reformation leaders like Martin Luther taught that nothing supersedes the authority of the Word itself. “A simple layman armed with Scripture,” Luther wrote, “is greater than the mightiest pope without it.”

 

In that vein, digital technology gives users the text, plain and simple, without the interpretive lens of established authorities. And it lets users share interpretations with other non-authorities, like family members, friends and coworkers. With the Bible on iPhone’s, iPad’s and ‘tablets’ of various kinds, believers can bypass constraining religious structures – otherwise known as denominations and brick-and-mortar churches – in favor of a more individualized connection with God. We can’t see God, and we can’t see the internet visually, yet people who have a hunger and a thirst for God – or at the very least some power greater than themselves – connect with God this way. This website is based on that fact, that there is an emerging new power outlet that we can plug in to that is like a direct link to God. Churches are getting on the Web in droves because they are discovering the same thing. There is an intensity now, a burning desire to bring ourselves as close as we can get to God, because millions of Christians all over the world are beginning to recognize that we are living in the Last Days. There is now a growing sense of urgency to get as many souls into God’s kingdom as can be because we are all running out of time! The more ways we can find to do this, the better.

 

This helps solve a problem that Christian leaders are increasingly articulating; that even among people who say that Jesus Christ is their personal Lord and Savior, too many folks don’t read their Bibles. Here in the 21st century, more than a third of those who self-identify as born-again Christians rarely or never read the Bible. They don’t even own one! Among ‘unaffiliated’ people – that is, Americans who don’t belong to a religious congregation – more than two thirds say they don’t read the Bible. Especially among 18-to-29 year old’s, Bible reading has come to feel like homework, associated with “right” interpretations and “wrong ones,” and accompanied by stern lectures from the pulpit. Today’s young Christians, or “millenials” if you like, have come to expect experiences that appear unscripted and interactive, which allows them to be open and honest with their questions. To put it simply, they are hungry and thirsty for an authenticity that can only be found by reading the Bible. If anyone reading this does not own a Bible because they can’t afford it, please send me your email addresses in the responses below, or contact me directly from this link.

 

This yearning for a more directly connected faith – including Bible readings and verses to inspire or console wherever and whenever they’re needed – is being met with an enthusiastic embrace. For growing numbers of young people, a leather-bound Bible sitting like an artifact on a stand in the family living room has no allure. It’s not an invitation to exploration or questioning. Young people want to absorb their spirituality the way they do their news or their music. They want to browse on Facebook, Tweet on Twitter, link up on Linked In, and Google whatever is left. They are also streaming Christian content on their various digital devices directly off the Web, bypassing cable TV and printed media completely. Thus we now have products such as “Youversion”, a digital Bible available for free on iTunes and developed by a 34-year-old technology buff and Christian pastor from Oklahoma named Bobby Grunewald. In an interview on a Christian TV channel recently, he said he conceived of it while on a layover at Chicago O’Hara International Airport, wishing he had a Bible to read. “What we’re really trying to address is, how do we increase engagement in the Bible?” he said. Now available in 113 versions and 41 languages, including Arabic, “Youversion” has a community component that allows users to share thoughts and insights on Bible verses with friends. It has been installed on more than 20 million Smart-phones since 2008.

 

Traditionalists (and I’m definitely not one of those) worry that technology allows young believers to practice religion without committing to what many churches call “a church home” – and they’re right. What they are really afraid of is that donations will falter as a result of this development. The very idea of not having the church participants right there with them so these hireling pastors can pass around a collection basket (or two) completely unnerves these types of ‘leaders’. That’s how you can tell if a pastor is in the ministry for the right reasons. Let me give you an example. I once watched a Michigan pastor named Rob Bell on a Christian video that I streamed off the Web. It was the eve of the publication of his new bestseller “Love Wins” (I don’t recall the date on the video, but it was a couple of years ago). It was said on the show that after the book-signing, many of Pastor Bell’s acolytes said they felt they knew Rob through his sermons, which they regularly downloaded off the internet, even though they had never met him. They hailed from places like Australia, South Africa and New Jersey. They listen to Bell while they’re working out, or commuting to work. They get their religion – like their meals – on the run. Pastor Bell is going about this in the right way, and traditional churches with their comparatively high overhead are being left behind in the dust of history.

 

The family Bible has long been given as a gift on graduation day or other big occasions and inscribed with special dates such as births, marriages, or deaths. Some of these Bibles would go on to become collector’s items that are treasured, protected and preserved. I can see a world in the not-too-distant future when the Bible may exist primarily online, or on a ‘thumb-drive’, especially due to the number of trees we must otherwise cut down to make the paper on which to print them. For right now, worship services and Bible studies are still done almost exclusively as public gatherings in a house of worship, or sometimes in a “home church”. But more and more people are beginning to trend towards Web-based Churches that offers a more personalized experience. As a result for some, the necessity of physically gathering each week in the same place with the same people becomes a traditional form of worship that has begun to fade into the past. Moreover, more and more people are getting by without the expense of owning and insuring (and fixing!) a motor vehicle. Without a doubt, these two trends represent a new crisis for organized religion if it has difficulty adapting to these new technologies that can reach audiences that number in the millions. This question already has organized religion seeking to redefine what it means to be a body of believers. Besides, with all this new technology, the faithful can now have church as little or as often as they want (but often is definitely better, even if it’s for only 5 minutes each time). Just remember to make sure your worship is as authentic as the Lord and Savior you worship! Search your hearts for the answer to this question. God sees all and He knows all. Above all, never stop praying and praising Jesus, because he’s coming back real soon.

 

 

Tagged , , , , , ,

An American Microcosm

A Microcosm of the USA and Christianity

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in your browser, click here! 🙂

Featured Image -- 1097

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 13:5

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

1 Timothy 6:10

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

Matthew 6:19-21

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

Luke 12:33-34

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

1 Timothy 6:17-19

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

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

Tagged , , , ,

It’s Been 50 Years, and Things Are Worse Than Ever

After Vietnam” 50 Years Later

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in any browser, click here! 🙂

MLK1

The fiftieth anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s much-beloved (right wing extremists excluded) speech, “After Vietnam” occurred this past week. To commemorate this famous speech I will be posting this slightly condensed version today, particularly in view of the fact that it is at least as relevant today as it was back then.

MLK’s “After Vietnam” Speech at Riverside Church, Harlem, N.Y. (1967)

I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers…. And of course, it’s always good to come back to Riverside church. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it is always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit. I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I’m in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on. And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burning of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: “Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church – the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate – leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight. I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in the successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans. Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor – both black and white – through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.

So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such. Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years – especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask – and rightly so – what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent. For those who ask the question, “Aren’t you a civil rights leader?” and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear….

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: ‘Vietnam’. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be – are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land…. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I’m speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men – for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?

And finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place, I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son-ship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers. And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization. After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States’ influence and then by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace…..

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor. Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak of the – for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours. This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:

Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism (unquote).

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:

[1] End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.


[2] Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.


[3] Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.


[4] Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.


[5] Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.

Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country, if necessary. Meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible. As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for them our nation’s role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection…. Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisers in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing – embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response…. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate – ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love.” “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.

We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message – of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history. And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when “justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Last Thing We Need Is More Nuclear Weapons. Time For a Reality Check.

Trump’s Demand for More Nukes, the Ongoing Obscenity of War, and Its Contradiction With Authentic Christianity

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

To view this in a browser, click here! 🙂

stopping_war

Just this past week, president Donald Trump stated that the US must be “top of the pack” in nuclear weapons capability. Trump has expressed concern that the United States has fallen behind in its nuclear weapons capacity and that he would like to “restore its supremacy”. In a Reuters interview conducted in the Oval Office this past Thursday, Trump said the US needed to revive its nuclear arsenal. “I am the first one that would like to see nobody have any nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power,” Trump said. The comments were his first on the US nuclear arsenal since taking office last month. In December – hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to enhance his country’s nuclear forces – Trump tweeted that the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” In that event, I think the first two people who need to “come to their senses” are Presidents Trump and Putin, and especially Trump. It is not hard to see why.

The war in Afghanistan lasted more than 11 years. The original reason for the US military invasion was to hunt down and capture or kill Osama Bin Laden as the chief perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks. The reason it took the US military more than a decade to find him was because they were looking in the wrong country. Oops, sorry Mr. or Mrs. taxpayer, we got the right guy but we had the wrong address. Oh well! At the height of its military operations, the United States was spending $60 billion per month on the twin wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is not counting all the other bases the US military now has in well over 140 countries around the world, such as Germany, Japan, Okinawa, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Diego Garcia and Kuwait, to name a few of the major ones. A stepped up nuclear arms program is the ultimate escalation. The main reason Hillary Clinton didn’t get elected was because people were so concerned about her being such a war hawk. Many were afraid she would have gotten us into World War Three. Could it be that president Trump is going to turn around and do the same thing?

This leads to a fundamental question; why is our country’s leadership (because it’s not just president Trump) doing this? Why take a chance on a nuclear conflagration ever happening in the first place? Have we become collectively suicidal and homicidal? Look at the world from the standpoint of armaments. The USA is the world’s #1 arms manufacturer by far. This leads me to the conclusion that most of the arms being manufactured by other countries, such as Russia (the #2 arms manufacturer), are in place to counter the American threat. Too many Americans do not realize how much our country has frightened and damaged much of the world. We have the military and our elected politicians to blame, this happened on their watch! And now president Trump wants to ramp up nuclear arms production? I rebuke that in the name of Jesus, who said, “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword”!!

The notion of America being a superpower is a 20th century notion whose retirement date has long since arrived. With over 7 billion people currently inhabiting the earth, waging war has become counter-productive. It creates more problems than it solves, both in terms of human lives and in damage to the environment, which is already severely damaged and in need of extensive rejuvenation. Moreover, wars are almost never being fought for the reasons stated to the public. Let’s take Afghanistan as an example. The US military was allegedly there to find Osama Bin Laden, but the truth is that Afghanistan is a country with vast untapped natural resources, including enormous copper deposits. Meaning, all the fuss about Afghanistan’s poppy seed crop being a target of the ‘drug war’ here in the US is just a whitewash job on the American public. Upon closer examination of what has been happening there out of sight of the American people, it becomes apparent that it is none other than the CIA running the show. So when you see teenage gang members selling heroin on any given street corner in America, you can thank the CIA.

This is a stark contrast to what I have been teaching about being a people of peace for the last 6 years. It brings the US “war on terror” into sharp focus and sheds light on the criminality of the American Empire’s military machine and its illegal incursions into countries where it does not belong. The truth of the matter is that the U.S. position with respect to the dictators in the Arab world has been one of pure hypocrisy. We have supported these tyrants in the name of “stability” and the “war on terrorism” in exchange for easy access to their oil, but it has been a policy that has contributed mightily to the oppression of the people in those countries. This is a betrayal of our own revolutionary past, not to mention our fight against tyranny, as well as exacerbating the Islamic terrorism being used against us. Contrary to what is being reported in the Lame Stream Media, populist revolts in the Arab world have been non sectarian, grass roots and non ideological in every country they have occurred. That fact would seem to expose and make America’s policy in the “war on terrorism” while initiating wars in the Muslim world obsolete and absurd. Regarding this, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said during Bush 43’s second term in office, “Any secretary of defense who advises a president to engage in land wars with vast armies in foreign lands needs to have his head examined”. So going nuclear is now the new way to wage war? Go to Japan and find a few of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and ask them whether nuclear war is a viable option, and see what they tell you!

The fact is Washington’s entire strategy of preemptive nuclear war and the whole “war on terrorism” is a ruse, a cruel invention concocted by neoconservatives and cold war warriors who were itching to replace the defunct Soviet Union with another enemy – otherwise the purpose for their existence would have to be called into question. Not only is the war on terror a reason for the American Empire to exist, it has become the only reason for its existence! It was and is a fantasy perpetrated by them and foisted on the American people. The ‘terrorist attacks’ perpetrated on 9/11 by rogue elements inside the US government has become the manufactured cause for endless war and is the real legacy of that fateful day. But in light of the unfolding “awakening” in much of the world, can there not be serious discussions in the White House and Pentagon of the absurdity of our continuing to fight wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Libya (not to mention the proxy war the CIA has been fighting against the Assad regime in Syria)? Secretary Gates’ comments allude to the insanity of fighting these wars (even if he put it in the context of new misadventures). From here it seems the U.S. resembles (in its ability to end its wars) a giant ship at sea that takes an excruciatingly long time to reverse course. Like the Viet Nam quagmire we seem stuck, committed to the non-winnable ‘endless war’ yet unwilling and unable to face reality. War is an ongoing obscenity, and America is addicted to it. It’s time for America, particularly those inside the Washington Beltway, to check it’s collective self into rehab. No more wars, and especially no more nukes!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Our new president, the Bible, and racism in America

President Trump, Racism in America, and the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

bigotry-is-sin

Lately I have received a little negative feedback from some of my Christian readers saying that I should not be trying to blend religion and politics because it causes too much controversy. Interestingly enough, I’m not hearing any of that from my secular readers on this blog, nor on my other one, the 99% Blog (on WordPress.com or Blogspot.com). Same thing goes for my website, if you’re not already there. I have thought about this issue with considerable deliberation, and I have gone back and re-read some of what my Bible has to say about that. I use three different versions to study from, too, just to make sure I get things as close to being right as I can. Let me sum up my conclusion to this issue in just this one sentence: The two primary reasons Jesus was put to death on the cross was because he preached against organized government and organized religion. For what other reason did he say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me”?

You may say to yourself, “That’s all fine, but what does this have to do with mixing religion and politics”? Well, in a way, my above quote covers the religious aspect of this. For a quote from the Bible about the political side of this, with religion blended in, let’s go over to Matthew’s gospel chapter 23, verses 2-4, and I quote: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on man’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Isn’t that what’s been happening today? Religious leaders demand ten percent of people’s incomes so they can afford to buy jet fuel for their planes and remodel their 50,000 square foot mansions. Police officers enforce the law on one hand while shooting unarmed people for committing minor traffic violations with the other. Our governments make the laws and administer our country, state and local governments, yet government corruption is well known, especially at the federal level. Jesus blended religion with politics, and there are many more examples besides this one. If Jesus did it then I as his follower, messenger and ambassador will do the same.

Which brings me to the topic of this week – our newly installed government. One of Donald Trump’s first appointees has been one Steve Bannon, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart.com, a right wing fringe website that can be so radical at times that it makes Alex Jones and Infowars.com look like child’s play. On CNN’s website Saturday morning, they had this to say, “Steve Bannon has no regrets. The ex-Breitbart executive, who serves as Trump’s chief strategist for the new administration, told The Hollywood Reporter that “darkness is good.” “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they (liberals) get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing,” he said in an interview published Friday, his first outside of Breitbart since the election.

Darkness is good? Satan equals power? Just as bad, this man idolizes Darth Vader and regards former vice president Dick Cheney as a role model?? I don’t know about you, but I am deeply concerned about Mr Bannon being in charge of anything in America’s government. What does the Bible say about this, and about people like Steve Bannon (and there’s plenty of them)? “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness instead of the light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done he has done through God.” (John 3: 19-21) Need more proof? You got it, and again I quote: “This is the message we have heard from him that we declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1st John 1: 5-7)

Now, let me tie all this together with one more quote from Scripture, this time from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” (Isaiah 5: 20-21) Although I have the greatest respect for Donald Trump, I have serious misgivings about his choice of Steve Bannon for his Chief of Staff, a man who is apparently quite proud of his ties to the so-called “White Nationalist Movement” and other right-wing extremist groups. The White Nationalists are basically the KKK with a fresh 21st century style makeover, and their political leanings are decidedly Nazi in nature. Many of these people openly admire Adolf Hitler, which tells us everything we need to know about all these people.

Steve Bannon is a demonic racist, pure and simple. Donald Trump knows that, or he certainly should, and evidently that does not bother him. Well, it bothers me a whole lot! The last thing America needs is a throwback to the bad old days of Jim Crow, the John Birch Society and the Ku Klux Klan. President Trump’s nomination of former senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general is nearly as bad. I grant you that Mr. Sessions is no neo-Nazi, but he’s still a redneck from Alabama who has little or no regard for people of color. The Bible has more than a few things to say about racism, and it’s all bad. Let me give you a couple examples: “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded him”. (1st John 2: 9-11)

OK, now that we have seen what the apostle John wrote about hateful people – and especially those who normalize that hatred and who try to make it seem acceptable – let’s see what Jesus himself had to say about it: “But I say if you are angry with someone you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. But if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” (Matt. 5: 22) So what Jesus was saying was these three things:

[1] Whatever level of anger we show towards our brothers and sisters, God will show right back to us.

[2] In whatever way we are abusive towards others whom we perceive to be inferior to ourselves, the ruling authorities will punish us accordingly in the same way, and deservedly so!

[3] When we curse others, we ultimately curse ourselves because the same God created us all in his image and likeness. Showing contempt for God’s creations is equally contemptuous in God’s sight.

In closing, I will confidently predict this one thing – if the new Trump administration starts showing contempt towards or begins to mistreat minorities and people of color, or if any attempt is made to begin massive deportations of undocumented aliens back to their home countries, there is going to be major civil unrest the likes of which have not been seen in over a generation. If fact, these protests will rival, and probably surpass, the antiwar protests of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. So if the new administration doesn’t get its act together and stops staffing our federal government with a bunch of nasty haters, and if the minimum wage is not raised substantially, there may well be political unrest all across the country soon. People are hungry and thirsty for change, and they’re all tired of government corruption and ineptitude! The main positive thing I can truly say about the incoming Trump administration is his pledge to normalize US-Russian relations, a process that has already begun. As a result, America and Russia are both breathing a sigh of relief, and I suspect the Lord is too. But there must not be even the appearance of racism and favoritism in our incoming presidential administration, or president Trump will have to answer to the people for it!

Tagged , , , , , ,

This just arrived at the White House and every church in America, all at once…..

If God Sent An Email To Our Leaders

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

food-not-war

Given the state of affairs of leadership in general throughout the world, and particularly here in the US with the current crop of Christian “leaders” such as Sarah Pailin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckaby and Michelle Bachman, I can’t help but wonder what God must be thinking about all this. As you recall, Mr. Romney stated during the closing days of his 2012 presidential campaign that, if elected president, his first act as chief executive would be to launch an airstrike on Iran. Keep in mind that this is the same guy who is opposed to abortion and who calls himself “pro-life”. He fights for the rights of the unborn, but if you’re already alive and living in Iran, you’re toast. Go figure.

Of course, if you live in Syria, where the government is slaughtering the governed and where there is no oil, you’re on your own. Yet in Iraq, where there is plenty of oil, we have occupied that country since 2003 while killing over 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians, over half of whom were women and children. But that war was supposed to be different because we toppled a terrible dictator. Never mind that that same dictator, none other than Saddam Hussein himself, was a former CIA collaborator and “asset”. So much for loyalty among allies. Yes, that’s what our country has been doing in the Middle East since Gulf War 1 in 1990-91. And it is the American military-industrial-incarceration complex that has been doing this same thing throughout the globe since the Cold War of the 20th century.

Meanwhile here at home, one person in five depends on SNAP benefits to eat. Lots of people can’t afford medical care or insurance so they show up at emergency rooms, only when they absolutely have to, knowing that the medical bills they are about to incur will bankrupt them. Twenty four million Americans can’t find sufficient work (if any), but since they can’t afford to go back to school and get retrained because of the staggering cost of America’s for-profit higher education system, they remain stuck in their situation with no relief in sight. As I wrote in my first book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” (scroll down after clicking the link), our country has more than enough money to pay for lifetime medical care and higher education for every single American who wants either or both. All they have to do is call off all the endless wars and bring our troops home.

As I explained in this 2011 book, if the US government took all the money that is spent in just one day on the wars/occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan and put it into an interest-bearing bank account, there would be ample funding for 4-year college educations for every school kid in America from pre-K through high school, including tuition, books, housing, food and transportation. Internet too. Yeah, just one day’s war expenditures would do that. Besides, there is sufficient legal precedent in doing this very thing in the form of the GI Bill that was passed by Congress after the end of World War 2. If they could reeducate G.I.’s back then (and that law remains in effect), they can do it for everybody now.

But what do we have instead? Overseas military adventures purely for the sake of economic domination by the US against any country regardless of cost. This is not just unsustainable, it is sheer madness! Our government has been taken over by a bunch of psychopaths. They operate from behind the scenes bent on world conquest at any cost, failing to understand that the “superpower” era is over, and they are an integral part of the so-called “new world order”. Unless they are stopped they will take the world over the brink of the abyss of World War 3. Yet these people are, by and large, religious conservatives of one church denomination or another. Their counterparts in the Muslim world are similarly conservative religious fundamentalists. Only their names for God are different. Yet, as far as I am concerned, there is only one true God who is undoubtedly far greater than the sum of all the world’s different religious faiths combined. If this very same almighty God, who is “The Great I Am”, sent us an email about all this mess down here on earth, I think it would be worded something like this:

“My children, I appear before you now to bestow upon you a supplemental to the New Testament. I offer this directly to the peoples of earth, without intermediary, cleric, or agent of any kind. Circumstances have compelled me to sever all ties, contracts and assignments with my earthly representatives. I have been, in fact, very dissatisfied with their performance of their duties for some time. Children get molested in some churches, adultery runs rampant in others, while still others have turned their churches into businesses and have enriched themselves with material possessions beyond all reason. You pastors and evangelists who drive around in cars with six-figure price tags while flying around in your own jets, you know who you are. There’s nothing wrong with having a nice car and a comfortable house, but a good bit of that plane money should have been used to feed the poor and house the homeless, whom you are ignoring. But the rape of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and other crimes committed in my name by the USA, not counting the additional war plans they have made, has forced my hand. All my earthly representatives are now terminated! They no longer speak for me.”

“Humankind, however, remains in my affections and always shall. But it would be remiss of me not to explain why I have taken such drastic measures. War displeases me. Five thousand years of war among the humans over the right way to pronounce my name, not to mention the earth’s resources which I gave you, has exhausted my patience. I will no longer be responsible for any more murders committed under color of my authority. Although I do not require that you worship me in any certain way, I much prefer that you who claim to believe in me should put some legs on your faith. It’s good when you fast and pray, but it’s far better to go and find someone in need and doing whatever you can to help him or her.”

“Someone who goes to church every Sunday but does nothing more during the week is not as faithful in my eyes as someone who donates to charity, who volunteers their free time, who is a role model for the fatherless, or who visits the sick, the elderly and the prisoner, and someone who is a defender of the widow, the orphan, the homeless, the mentally ill, and other vulnerable individuals. I created you with a divine spark, in my image. But you persist in snuffing out that spark and destroying that image in those who don’t agree with you about whether or not it is permitted to draw my face. Until you prove you can worship the divine spark I put in all of you, and desist from the mayhem and slaughter that you love more than me, I will summarily reject and disallow all your claims to my providence.”

“You have banded yourselves into tribes, nations and races and the results have not been pleasing to my eye. I take some responsibility for this distressing development; I should not have given you an earth so large. But had I started with a smaller Eden, you would have corrupted and polluted it until it became uninhabitable millenia ago. You have proven your refusal to understand the panoply of laws and wisdom I laid down for you when I set you upon the earth. I have been mistranslated by your spirit guides and abused by your leaders. Perhaps I was too complex. Let us try to simplify. Respect my creation and all the inhabitants thereof. Any so-called religious leader who tells you otherwise is a false prophet and does not represent me, my brethren or any part of my Kingdom which is to surely come.”

“Those of you who find comfort in organized religion may continue to do so. I understand – I created you as vessels for love and love rejoices in the presence of others. Keep your churches, mosques and synagogues, but cease your bickering. And remember, when you engage in bloodletting in My name, you commit blasphemy. I realize that in severing my ties with so many of the sects, denominations and “holy men” that you rely upon for moral guidance, I have created confusion where there was once certainty in your souls. But that cannot be helped. Your certainties were almost certainly wrong and most certainly misapplied.”

“But do not despair, my children, for I have not abandoned you. There is a little piece of me inside all of you, a fail-safe guide to good and evil, a moral compass that never leaves you, a true voice you can hear amid the storms of fire that drive you mad with hatred and confusion. It is called your conscience and it always points upward. Follow it and you will be walking in my light. Ignore it and you’ll be lost in the darkness cast by your own shadow. Here is your New, New Testament, starting with Commandment One:”

I have given you a conscience. Use it.”

Sort that out to my satisfaction and maybe next millennium we can talk about the dietary laws.”

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Bogus Prophets and the Truth

Wars, Rumors of Wars, and the Truth

by Pastor Paul J Bern

new-world-order

One of the things I did on my own behalf five years ago as I was looking for ways to cut my expenses was canceling my cable TV subscription. My reasons were partly economic, partly practical, and partly because of my Christian faith. I also had practical reasons. I was just getting started with my writing and blogging, so I no longer had time to watch TV. To me at least, there’s really nothing much on there worth watching, so why bother? Plus, the news and information channels such as Fox, CNN, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and so many others are filled with misinformation at best, and propaganda at worst. So, I started streaming videos off the Web, mainly from You Tube, Mypeace.tv and a few others. I have intentionally cut myself off from much of the world, just as it is written: “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world….” [John chapter 18, verse 36]. It is also a fact mainly known to Jesus followers that real Christians define intelligence differently than anyone else, as it is written: “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight…..” [1st Corinthians chapter 3, verses 18-19]. The apostle John, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, also had a comment or two in this regard when he wrote, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” [1st John chapter 2, verses 15-17, NIV]

These are the underlying reasons, my dear readers, why I have disconnected from the world (I no longer own a radio for the same reasons). There is one very noticeable difference between cable and network television and what’s being shown on the internet, besides the fact that much of it is free. I can sum it up in one word – truth!! The contrast between the news, information and even the entertainment on the Web compared to commercial TV and the movies is pretty stark. One of the most worrisome trends I’m seeing on the internet, however, is those who go overboard in search of the truth to such an extent that they damage their own credibility due to excess speculation about humankind’s future. The wild speculation about the timing of World War Three and with regard to End Times Prophecy are the two examples of what I mean by “worrisome trends”. Never mind all the misinformation. Let me set a few things straight.

First, and much to the discredit of organized religion, or “Christianity, Inc”, I often wonder why some of the answers to these questions are not being discussed in churches. All I hear in the majority of them are false doctrines such as the “pre-tribulation rapture” and the bizarre idea that Jesus wants us all to be rich. I can hardly find a church these days that teaches the truth of all these things except on the internet. The ugly truth is far worse than what is currently being ‘taught’. No wonder the church is not mentioned in Revelation directly, just the tribulation saints (see Rev. chapter 7, verses 9-14). The rest are being consumed in the great apostasy that will hit a peak once the Antichrist governmental system gets into full swing, and that will be happening in the near future. Have any of you other Christians brought up these subjects in church? I have and it does not go over well, but that doesn’t matter to me. Now is the time to speak out and expose false teaching on these subjects. One prime example of what I mean can be found in scripture in Revelation chapter 13, verses 1-5: “And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he gave great authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?’ The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months.”

Don’t worry, I’m not going to confuse or confound anyone with any long, drawn out explanations because none is necessary. “The Beast” symbolizes an extremely powerful nation. “The Sea” is a biblical metaphor for the sea of humanity. The “10 horns, 7 heads and 10 crowns” refers to a large international organization, most likely the countries that are the primary or founding members of the United Nations. “The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion.” What modern countries use those animals as their national symbols? Germany, Russia and Great Britain, in that order. The “fatal wound that had been healed” is presumably Germany, who lost WW2 but has since been rebuilt and revitalized. “The Dragon” is a synonym for the devil, or Satan. And who is “The Beast”? What does it say? “‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” This is a clear reference to the largest and by far most powerful military force the world has ever known – the United States!

What else could this be? “The beast” in the Book of Revelation is none other than the United States military, the American Empire, the US military-industrial-incarceration complex, or all of the above! I mean, it does not take a seminary or a university graduate to figure this stuff out!!

There is much talk today about war being imminent. Granted, when it comes to the Middle East, war could break out at any time, nobody knows for sure. So you can forget about those who say they know the date of Jesus’ return, or that WW3 or a colossal economic crash is going to occur on a certain day. They either don’t know what they’re talking about, or they have ulterior motives for saying such things (like selling books, for example). Let’s not forget what Jesus taught: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels of heaven, or the Son, but only the Father”. (Matt. 24:36) But there are several other quotes directly from our Savior that may offer a clue about a certain time frame regarding Christ’s return. Jesus also said, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”, and, “The Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him”. Moreover, when Jesus taught the parable of the wedding feast (see Matthew 22, verses 1 to 14), the groom arrived at midnight, and everyone had fallen asleep. When I combine the above quotes, the message is clear. He will arrive in the middle of the night to take his Bride home, and the world will have fallen asleep because it’s taking 2,000 years for this scenario to play itself out so that all prophecy can be fulfilled. Problem is – and this is where it gets interesting – if Christ comes in the middle of the night in Jerusalem, when I add up the time zone changes from Israel to the US, He would arrive here during afternoon rush hour. Wouldn’t that be something!

Tagged , , , , ,

The National Election and the American People — On the Same Page?

One Web Pastor’s Biblical Argument on Why Sanders

Should Have Won, and What Would Have Happened

If He Did

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

U_R_socialist

With both of the conventions that nominated America’s next presidential candidates having concluded, I have already come to the conclusion that this year’s choice for presidential candidates is really no choice at all. We the 99% have two candidates to choose from who are both from the top .1% in America’s economic pecking order, candidates who are clearly bought and paid for by Wall Street, corporate America, and the military-industrial-incarceration complex. “We the people” have the worst choice of candidates since Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Johnson way back in 1964! When Bernie Sanders ran for president he was hoping to initiate what he called a “civil discourse.” He has done far more than that. He inspired a cross-section of American generations who plainly see that our country can do far better than it is, and he inspired this Web pastor, published author and blogger to write this week’s message stating such because I stand with Jesus Christ, and I also stand with Bernie Sanders. My biblical argument lies with two rather unconventional Jews. When I saw Bernie Sanders on stage, I saw someone akin to John the Baptist. I saw the wild-haired, roughly-clothed John the Baptist, eating honey and wearing camel’s hair, and crying out to the religious leaders, the Pharisees of his day, calling them corrupt and complicit with those who have all the power and all the money and all the wealth, and for abandoning the people that God loves, that God cares about.

Never mind that Sanders supports a woman’s right to choose, to have control over her own body, as well as supporting gay rights and cannabis legalization. Those evangelicals who would have others believe that that’s what Jesus cared about most have simply have never read the Bible. If they had, they wouldn’t dare say such things about our Savior. Sanders said: “The great irony is if you read the red letters of Jesus, there are no statements on abortion. There are no statements on gay marriage. Now, that’s not to say the Bible doesn’t speak about these things, but it certainly is to say that Jesus, founder and master of our faith, did not see fit to make these high-priority topics.” There is one thing — one major thing — that Jesus did care about. The Jewish prophet John the Baptist cried out in the desert to warn the Pharisees, “ Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord, and make straight paths for him” (Matt. 3: 2-3) I have often tried, sometimes fruitlessly, to point out to the religious right that they have strayed far from the path, and the words, of Jesus. I make a point of bluntly confronting them with Jesus’ own words and have lately begun to equate that with Bernie Sanders’ words, or maybe vice-verse. Sanders said on stage during a speech at Liberty University, “I believe that my views are 100% consistent. And so I think that the shock value for that comes in beginning to appreciate that the Bible and Jesus, in my opinion and in my very moderate reading of the Bible and the words of Christ, leads us to a Progressive worldview.” The words of Jesus resonate in the words of Bernie Sanders. He quotes Jesus from the Book of Luke: “I have come to bring Gospel — good news — to the poor.”

But there is more, so much more! Jesus taught in all four gospels, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” But He didn’t stop there, he went after the religious leaders. “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them’…..’Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.’” (Matthew chapter 23, verses 1-4; verses 23-24)

Those were the words that came to my mind when I watched Sanders on stage, calling out evangelical leaders for abandoning the poor. It was a trans-formative moment for American politics! We commit to the mental gymnastics necessary that allows us to abandon “the least of my brethren”, to abandon the poor, to abandon the immigrants, to abandon those who are in prison, to abandon those who suffer from mental illness or addiction. As I watched Bernie Sanders, he said he wanted to welcome the immigrants and give them dignity. He said he wanted to care for the sick children, and their mothers and fathers, who do not have health care. He said he wanted to decrease the amount of human beings who are corralled like cattle in our for-profit prisons. He said he wanted to end this extortion racket known as for-profit education, and make higher education freely available to all without qualification. He said he wanted to do justice for those who have nothing and live homeless. All these things are the things Christ would be doing if he returned today. The wonder for the rest of us may be that it has taken so long – not for an evangelical to come to this moment, but a Jewish gentleman to realize that the poor, the sick, the homeless are the true mission of Christianity and of America. “The first job of any government”, said Thomas Jefferson, “is for the care and well-being of its citizens.” But those layers of defense, those mental gymnastics that the faithful have labored under for decades are heavy and thick. It’s no wonder, after all the reinforcement from their so-called ‘leaders’, that the light of realization has failed to penetrate.

This kind of breakthrough and willingness to speak out are not only invaluable, but demonstrate the ability of Bernie Sanders to draw together a diverse base of support. That base had, and still has, one thing in common. Religious or not, its members have heart, and compassion, and want the country to be a compassionate, loving, and forgiving place. When we choose to follow Jesus we decide that the Kingdom of God, and the men and women and children of this world contained therein, are more important than the individual. Moreover, that accidentally makes us all Progressives. The day we decided to follow Christ, and the day we decided that we value other human beings more than ourselves, we accidentally became Progressives, or maybe social democrats like in Europe. Accidental perhaps, but we are all Progressive Christians as a result of our faith as well as our politics. It’s a concept whose time has most definitely arrived.

Tagged , , , ,

It’s Time for Churches to Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

Seven Hard Truths Pastors and Their Churches

Need to Hear

By Rev. Paul J. Bern

dead men in pulpits

There were once two parents with a little secret. They managed carefully to hold this secret down for several years. “Santa is coming!” their children sang. “It’s almost too good to believe!” With their mouths, the parents said, “How exciting!” But with their minds, they said, you’ve got the right idea: It is too good to believe. Then one day, the children came home with tear-streaks. They knew the truth. Lots of parents don’t tell their kids that Santa isn’t real. They don’t tell their kids the hard truth because they’re concerned: can their kid can handle the truth? You have undoubtedly noticed that our government teats us the same way about just about everything. Like kids that believe in Santa, people believe certain things about God because that’s what they’ve always been told – or because they want them to be true. You know, like, “God is good all the time”. But eventually, plodding through the mud of life, we discover the real truth: life is hard, and not everything is as it seems. Was God good when over 1,800 people drowned during Hurricane Katrina? Is He good when somebody’s child dies? No, but God allows tragedy and sorrow to occur because it is in the most difficult times that God uses our misfortunes and our tragedies to strengthen us and to build our character. In the same way, at some point as a parent, you have to tell your kid the hard truth that Santa isn’t real. And at some point, as pastors, we have to tell our congregations (or our readers in this case) the hard truths about God.

1) God isn’t Santa

Dr. David Pendergrass articulated this hard truth well: God is not a cosmic Santa Claus. You don’t get put on a nice list for doing the “right” things and, in turn, get whatever your heart desires from God. Whenever we feel entitled to a reward, or to “what we deserve”, we cease to view God as the King of the universe and begin to view Him as our personal Santa.

2) You Won’t Always Be Healed

There is so much good in praying for healing – healing for others and healing for ourselves. And while it’s true that God is able to heal, he’s not obligated to. (Click to Tweet) Think about it: if God were obligated to heal and answer every prayer of healing, no one would ever die. The hard truth is that at some point, this life will end. But that’s not the end of the story. There is hope. Our great hope is not that we won’t experience death, but that death is not the end of life – it’s the beginning. (Click to Tweet)

3) You Won’t Always Be “Blessed”

When someone says they’re “blessed,” they usually mean that they’re doing well financially or their kids are on the honor roll. The implicit suggestion is that they’re “blessed” because those things have happened. Conversely, if those things weren’t true, they would not be “blessed”, or at least not by human standards. Though there was a time that “blessing” and “wealth” and “good living” were tied together, I seem to recall this lesson from a Master Teacher about 2,000 years ago: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Matt. 5:11, NRSV) Or when this same teacher’s cousin asked for Him to save his life, and He didn’t. But instead Jesus sent word in Matthew 11: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” The hard truth is that “blessing” is not about what we have accomplished, but what God is accomplishing in & through Jesus, who resides in the hearts and minds of all who truly believe. (Click to Tweet) We’re truly blessed when we are used by God for the betterment of all.

4) Church Isn’t About You

It’s so easy for churches to become like country clubs. Not in the stuffy, elitist sense. But in the “church is for us” sense. It’s about what we want – our preferences, our comforts. It’s our little world that we control, and we determine who gets in and who stays out. But Pastor Jordan Easley says the hard truth is that church isn’t about us and our ‘holy huddles’. It’s about seeking and healing the lost. The church should be a refugee camp for the lost and those who are hurting. That in itself is a whole lot of people! Church is supposed to be a place where hurting people are brought in to be made well, and then sent out to bring others who are hurting back in. We weren’t brought in to simply socialize.

5) Silence is OK

Christians like the celebration of Sunday’s resurrection. After all, it’s the reason Christianity exists. That said, there is great value in the silent awkwardness of Saturday – you know, the time when Jesus was in the grave, his disciples were scared out of their minds, and they all thought they had wasted the last three years of their lives backing the wrong messiah. Sometimes God is going to be silent. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t “Christian enough” or that you are somehow “broken.” It means God is being silent. And the hard truth is that silence from God is OK.

6) Christianity Isn’t About a Feeling – It’s About Choices

How many times have you been asked, “How can I get that fire back? I just want that awesome feeling of being connected to God!” That question usually follows some awesome spiritual experience. This question isn’t all bad – it just misses the point. When we pursue and desire the “feeling” of being on fire for God, we begin to worship that, and not God. (Click to Tweet) The hard truth is that being a Christian isn’t about getting warm fuzzies when the band is rocking, or the pastor preaches an exciting sermon. It’s about daily choosing to pick up our cross, even when we don’t feel like it.

7) There is No 3-Step Formula to Guarantee a Certain Outcome

I get it: it’s easy to help people remember and understand things by formulas and clever mnemonics. They have their place. But we must be clear: there’s no guarantee to happiness, success, a great prayer life, or anything else. The Bible doesn’t offer “a good/efficient/successful/rich life”, but “new life.” And the hard truth is that that “new life” might look different than what we might expect. We might do everything the Scriptures say and have a business fail, be poor (which is no sin), struggle with depression, and/or not become the “next big thing.” What Scripture does say is God will not leave us as orphans (John 14:18). That whatever we have to go through in life, we won’t have to go through it alone. That’s the kind of guarantee we can count on.

In closing, parents make excuses for not telling their kids about Santa – and they feel good about it. But the hard truth is this: they are lying to their kids. ? And pastors, no matter what reasons they have for not telling their people these hard truths – the end is the same: we’re lying to them. They’re going to find out eventually. The question is this: Do you want to tell them the hard truth? Or do you want them to be blindsided by it?

Tagged , , , , , ,